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Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

Cheating is as common as fidelity.

Key points

  • Fear can facilitate affairs.
  • Talking about your feelings builds intimacy.
  • Make it OK to talk about temptation before it becomes real temptation.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, one (or both) spouses admit to either physical or emotional infidelity in 41 percent of marriages—with 57 percent of men and 51 percent of women admitting to infidelity in any of their relationships. The disheartening conclusion: Cheating is as common as fidelity.

How Fear Can Facilitate Affairs

Ironically, the steps we sometimes take to protect ourselves serve to facilitate affairs. Many of us deploy the “scared straight” strategy: We let our partner know that if they ever cheat, it’s so over. This may appear to work, as fear may keep someone from talking; however, not knowing about an affair doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

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Men vs. Women

Men have affairs mostly for recreational sex, and women have affairs most often to find love and connection. These general trends may not cover every specific instance, but, in general, if we want to affair-proof our marriage, we need to develop more self-awareness.

Techniques to Affair-Proof Your Marriage

  1. Be yourself and do the best you can to be loving in a way that works for you.
  2. Acknowledge that neither you nor your partner ever stopped being sexual beings. (You’re both still sexually attractive—and attracted to others.)
  3. Make it OK to talk about temptation before the temptation becomes real.

How to Talk About Your Feelings

If my wife is attracted to a certain graying middle-aged movie star or the latest boy band singer, I want her to feel comfortable talking about that with me and to make it playful and fun and not as if she were making a tearful confession. Similarly, if she thinks I'm attracted to the new hottie down the street and playfully announces that she’ll no longer need to worry about my being alone if she becomes a widow, well, let’s encourage that sort of disclosure.

Our talking about these sorts of feelings dramatically increases the depth of intimacy in a relationship so that we both feel safe in sharing who we are with one another. Sharing secrets builds closeness, whereas keeping secrets builds distance.

No Guarantees

Affair-proofing a marriage is like fireproofing your home. No home is ever made truly incapable of burning down—we only reduce (rather than eliminate) the risks of such a disaster by taking proactive measures.

In other words, implementing these steps to affair-proof your marriage won’t guarantee against catastrophe, but they’re a great insurance policy. And if you believe the numbers in the opening paragraph, that’s a worthwhile rider to add to your policy.