There are no guarantees BUT you can load the dice to reduce the odds of an affair. Steven Lake shows us how to roll and win.
I was staring at the computer screen wondering what to write this week so I asked my wife. She said, “What do your clients come to you for?” I thought for a second and realized that many couples see me after an affair has occurred. Very few come to me when they are thinking of having an affair but before taking action. Too bad.
Trying to fix a relationship or marriage after an affair is extremely difficult. The betrayal, hurt, anger, disbelief, and sadness is so overwhelming that recovery from this trauma and achieving forgiveness is rare – not impossible – just rare in my experience.
It is a lot easier to have systems in place that keep both partners connected and honest with each other so that issues are dealt with and not swept under the carpet; where people’s needs are addressed and decisions are made together.
Not all relationships will succeed. If it is going to fail, it will be painful, but less painful than with an affair.
Below are 12 steps you can take for increasing the odds an affair will not occur in your relationship.
1) Talk to each other.
I could go on at great lengths about the importance of effective communication between couples. In fact, I did in my book talk2ME: How to communicate with women. I have been counseling couples for twenty years and I am still flabbergasted at how incapable men and women are at communicating when conflict and emotion are heightened.
Talking, or not talking, isn’t always about conflict situations. It starts at the beginning of a relationship when you share interests, hopes, and dreams. It continues when you move in together and discuss furniture, colors, and budgets. It continues as you talk about work, family and savings.
How and how much communicating is occurring in the relationship is a barometer of how well things are going. If you are not communicating or communicating poorly, don’t fall into apathy while maintaining the status quo.
Change begins with sitting down with your partner and having an honest talk. Because, if you don’t talk to your spouse, one of you will find someone else to talk with.
2) Be in touch with your needs.
This is a tough one for some of us. Whether you have been taught not to have needs, or to sacrifice your needs for your spouse and children, identifying and taking actions on your needs is not second nature.
The problem with not knowing or getting your needs met is that they don’t go away. Whether conscious or not, needs have a way of driving behavior. So if you don’t want to find yourself getting cozy with an office worker at the bar or picking someone up at a hotel when on a sales trip—know your needs and share them with your partner.
3) Be in touch with your partner’s needs.
Likewise, know your partner’s needs. If you don’t know ask (back to communication). Maybe you do know their needs but feel they are unreasonable (this could be from amount of time spent together to how frequently you are having sex).
Taking the time to understand your partner’s needs does not have to be a threatening experience. It can be seen as going deeper, creating intimacy and appreciating the person at a deeper level as you come to understand who they are and what they need to be happy.
A word of warning. Having been in a longer relationship, I have learned that needs can change. In the early days we had more of a need to party. We still like partying but not as hard or as late into the evening. Make sure you stay attuned to the changing dynamics of your relationship.
4) Take holidays together.
I love holidays with my partner, whether a micro-vacation or a longer one. That doesn’t mean every day is golden. Holidays can be trying at times and test your patience. Throw kids into the mix and you will have a better concept of the word “circus.”
That said, holidays take you out of the familiar and you have the opportunity to see your partner in new circumstances and from a new perspective. If you are without kids, there is freedom to explore new ways of relating to each other, both emotional and physical. There is time to talk, to touch, to look into his or her eyes.
I love it when I see my partner with fresh eyes as can happen on holiday. We have eaten great food in exotic locations and been robbed on the highway. Running around a foreign country with no passports and no money brought us closer together as we learned to rely on one another in ways we had never before experienced.
5) Have a good same sex friend.
Your partner can’t be expected to be everything to you. They are human and have limitations. Sometimes, you just have to hang with the guys or gals to get that same sex energy.
If you have at least one or more close friends, so much the better. If you don’t, start developing them. If you are not sure how, join a men’s group. Get down, get dirty, and get real. Your spouse will love you for the energy you bring back into the relationship.
My best male friends are a source of strength during tough times. They are my playmates, they challenge me, they are my business consultants and life philosophers. They are my brothers.
6) Take time to play together.
Are you and your partner playful with each other? I sure hope so. My wife plays both formally, tennis for example, and informally, dancing spontaneously in the living room. We hug each other unexpectedly, make jokes, or share cool quotes or funny jokes we find on the Internet.
Play is not just action or behavior. It is a state of being as well. To be in a playful mood lightens up the day and encourages your partner to play with you. Being playful allows the light to come into the relationship and warm our hearts.
When life gets too serious for too long you will notice that play has gone somewhere else. This is when you need play the most. If there is no play between you and your loved one for too long, the likelihood of someone else playing with your partner increases. Play is a good protective factor against an affair.
If you need help in how to have fun and be more like a kid, check out this article.
7) When in conflict know how to fight fairly.
I will keep this one short. If you don’t fight fairly and make your partner feel like a piece of shit on a regular basis, I guarantee that one day someone will come along who makes them feel good about themselves. That day you will lose your lover.
If you are on the receiving end of unfair fighting, you will need to have a conversation, set boundaries, and stay true to consequences you have set. Essentially, you will be requesting, and insisting, on a radical change in how the two of you relate.
Better you initiate change from the inside with a clear head rather than have an outside force (another man or woman) complicate an already fragile situation.
8) Discuss how the relationship is going on a regular basis (a couple of times a year minimum).
This is the maintenance part of protecting both yourself and the relationship. It is a simple check in. Taking the time to sit down and examine what you and your partner think and feel about how the relationship is going.
It is easy to forget this with all the day to day stress and demands of our hurly-burly world. Don’t make this mistake. Small items of contention can grow into large resentments over time if not addressed. This is more likely to happen if you are an introvert, a nice guy, or conflict avoidant.
If I took my own advice, I would treat my marriage like a corporation and have a quarterly report.
9) Take an active interest in your partner’s life (career, dreams, projects, goals, day-to-day stuff).
Your partner has a life. If you want to have a life together it serves you well to know about their life. It does not matter whether you have a particular interest in whatever they are talking about, the mere fact that you are giving your time and attention to what they feel is valuable, or just need to talk about, is what counts.
When you give your attention, your partner feels that you care about his or her life and if you love her, why wouldn’t you put aside your judgments and opinions and just be there offering support with your presence.
When you take an active interest in your partner’s life, not only will they feel supported, you may discover some wonderful things about her that you didn’t realize. If you don’t know about her life, you will probably be confronted with some unsavory facts when you least expect them.
10) Have non-sexual touch daily.
Hugs, caresses, a gentle kiss, all reinforce your connection. This is not some esoteric idea, science now confirms what common sense tells us and all children know, a long hug feels good. It not only feels good it is good for us. It helps us cope with stress, strengthens the bond between people, and improves health.
By the way, to get the hit from all those hormones, the contact (hug) has to be for a minimum of twenty seconds.
Recently, my wife and I have instituted the twenty second minimum once a day hug. I am pleased to report that it is having the desired effect. We feel closer, literally, and emotionally, and definitely feel when the chemicals hit. It’s a pleasant feeling for sure.
11) Know you will be attracted to other people and you don’t have to act on it.
It is the person who says, “No way, I have eyes only for my beloved,” that is shocked the most when they are overcome with feeling for another that they cannot explain.
This arrogance, or self-righteousness, leads to a sudden and precipitous fall from grace when circumstances rudely intrude into their life. Swept up in a tidal wave of confusion and emotion, this person is susceptible to behavior they would have sworn impossible to conceive, let alone do, only moments before.
If you are human you are going to notice other people. Some of them you will find incredibly attractive. Some of us will have no problem letting the moment slide by. Others will be sorely tempted.
Knowing you are human you will not be surprised when this happens. Indeed, you will see it as an affirmation that you are alive sexually. Good to know. As you are not threatened by this energy, you will be able to harness it and bring it to the relationship rather than acting out.
12) Maintain your sex life for as long as possible.
Like physical touch, which is obviously included in the sex act (unless you are into certain forms of tantra, where it is optional) sex is an incredibly powerful relationship bonding experience.
That does not mean that someone with an active sex life with their spouse will not desire or be able to have another, or many, partners outside the primary relationship, BUT, without sex, or a poor sexual relationship, the probability of one or both partners seeking outside relationships increases.
The amount and quality of sex often comes up in my therapy practice. But sex is rarely the primary issue. It tends to be a symptom of other issues like feeling disconnected, not heard, or a lack of appreciation.
Sexual compatibility is a complex topic. Simply put, most people tend to come to some sort of compromise that both parties can live with. Never let it fall below this point (not withstanding illness, disease, or accidents). This bottom line is critical to maintain.
The sexual act is powerful. It bonds people even when they don’t want to be connected (ever been in a relationship you can’t get out of because the sex is so good?). Use this power for the relationship. Make a point of making it happen—you will be glad you did.
That’s it. This list is different than others where you might take a few examples and apply them to get the desired results. In this list, to get the most protection from an affair, you need to do, or take into account, all the suggestions.
Also by Steven Lake
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