How To Affair-Proof Your Marriage

by Kirk VanOoteghem

A tragic reality of our society is that more marriages encounter infidelity than those that do not.  Research on the subject estimates that at least one spouse in up to 75% of all marriages in the U.S. will be unfaithful to their partner at some point during the union. The problem has reached epidemic proportions. You can bury your head and the sand and believe that there is no need for reasonable precautions. Or, you can exercise due diligence to protect yourself and your marriage from potentially harmful or compromising circumstances.

Here are some suggestions to help you affair-proof your marriage…

(1) Recommit to marital faithfulness. Do you recall your wedding vows? They should have included a statement about forsaking all others and keeping yourself only unto your mate. This includes both sexual and emotional exclusivity. Remind yourself of this pledge and recommit to it frequently – to yourself, to your spouse, and to God.  Do something every day that reflects your continued commitment to fidelity.

(2) Invest in your marriage. Unsatisfying marriages are breeding grounds for infidelity. Like anything in life you get out of it what you put into it. If your relationship seems to no longer hold the same satisfaction that it used to then it is clear you are not investing into it like you once did. It is absurd to believe that your relationship will continue to be fulfilling without taking proper steps to preserve and enhance it.  A certain degree of change in intimacy and bondedness is normal and should be expected in all marriages.  But this is no excuse to neglect the relationship or take it for granted. The experiences that caused your love to flourish when it began must continue consistently to maintain a successful union.

(3) Realize the costs of having an affair. The overwhelming majority (about 65%) of marriages that encounter infidelity end in divorce.  The dissolution of a marriage is reported by many to be the most difficult experience that a person can encounter in life.  Infidelity – with or without a divorce – leaves destruction in its wake for both spouses. About half of the marriages that somehow manage to remain intact following infidelity are reported to be destitute or under considerable distress – sometimes indefinitely.  The consequences of infidelity are devastating.  Never forget this fact.

(4) Know the warning signs of potential infidelity. An acquaintance does not become an affair overnight.  It starts with an association of some sort. At some point there is a physical and/or emotional attraction. Communication and exposure increases and eventually rises to inappropriate levels. The attraction and interest escalates and culminates in the emotional or sexual betrayal of one’s spouse.  But, even early in this process there are warning signs involving your feelings and thoughts that should prompt you to take precautionary measures. These signs include: thinking about another person, making mental comparisons between another person and your spouse, desiring to impress another person, picking fights with your spouse, avoiding going home, and so forth.

(5) Distance yourself from compromising relationships. It is foolishness to expose yourself to connections with others that have the potential to undermine your commitment to your spouse. Don’t wait until temptations become strong or things get out of hand. Make it a point to distance yourself from anyone who poses even a possible threat. Certainly someone who flirts with you or otherwise shows interest in you is a person whom you should not be around. It is also a bad idea to be in contact with anyone with whom you have had a past relationship.  When it comes to determining whether or not an outside relationship could conceivably harm your marriage it is best to err on the side of caution.

(6) Build in relational safeguards. Complete honesty and openness regarding all relationships with other people outside of the marriage is an absolutely essential component to establishing and maintaining trust between spouses. Mutual accountability regarding the details of your life outside of the home is also critical to a healthy relationship. It is wise to have explicit, agreed upon boundaries regarding interactions with people of opposite sex (i.e. coworkers, mutual friends).  For example, suggested boundaries may include: never having lunch, sharing rides, or otherwise be alone with members of the opposite sex; never having a “friend” of the opposite sex outside of those people who are friends with both of you as a couple; avoiding social network connections with people whom you had a former relationship; and so forth.

Kirk VanOoteghem serves as Executive Pastor of River of Life in Muncie, Indiana.  He has many years of experience as a marriage counselor and educator and is the founder of MarriageMoment.org – an online ministry dedicated to protecting and strengthening marriages.

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