According to Peggy Vaughan, the author of “The Monogamy Myth,” 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage. In other words, the person who stays monogamous within her marriage is among a growing minority.
Twelve years into my marriage, I can appreciate that statistic. Eric and I are getting to the hard part, where the pressing responsibilities of raising kids and growing two careers could easily blow apart the vows we recited on our wedding day.
Because I want my marriage to stay on the happy side of the statistics, I’ve gathered these tips for how to make marriage affair-proof.
1. Nurture Safe Friendships.
This is the most important affair-preventer in my life. No marriage can give you everything. A husband is going to have interests that his wife will never care about like fishing, hunting, or golfing. So he’s less likely to stray if he can find some good guy buddies with whom to fish, hunt, and golf.
2. Recognize the Drug.
Depressives and addicts are especially prone to affairs because of the head rush that comes with infatuation. The spikes in dopamine and norepinephrine we experience upon connecting with someone new fools us into thinking that the sexy man or attractive woman at the bar holds the key to our nirvana and the end to our problems. This is the same as, say, the high from cocaine. Recognizing that that rush is not real, meaningful, or lasting can help a married person to “just say no.”
3. Keep Dating.
I’m serious here. Visiting with your spouse with some regularity–just the two of you and no one else–will bring some very definite rewards to a marriage. By dating, you will learn how to talk to each other again.
In her book, “Mating in Captivity,” Esther Perel urges a client to imagine her spouse as if she has just met him, to put him into that mysterious category again. This is really hard when you’ve got a little one screaming, “Wipe me!” from the bathroom. However, when you can pull it off, I find her theory very effective.
4. Find a Creative Outlet.
People get lured into emotional and physical affairs because the infatuation provides an exciting, stimulating place where they are energized.
So to stay affair-proof, you have to find other sources of stimulation and excitement. For me, my blog is that outlet. I can’t wait to log on each day to see what all of my dear readers have to say. When I get overwhelmed by the domestic chaos of our lives, Beyond Blue provides me that outlet where I can create something new, where I can run away, however temporarily, from the stress.
5. Hang Out with Happy Couples.
If you’re hanging with a bunch of guys (or girls) that see nothing wrong with sleeping around, you are much more likely to do it yourself. The good news is that the opposite is also true. If you have a set of friends committed to their marriages, you will be less likely to cheat on your spouse.
6. Learn How to Fight.
Wait before saying something really ugly, and make sure you weren’t tired or hungry, or in a stressful situation. I’m not saying that you can’t confront your spouse if you’re tired, hungry, or stressed, because then we’d live in a silent world. But it’s a good idea to recognize situations that tend to accelerate arguments.
7. Be Nice and Listen.
“Duh,” you’re saying to yourself. But think about it. This is the hardest part about marriage.
Listening. Keeping your mouth closed when the other person is talking.
In my conversations with men and women who have had affairs, the number one reason for pursuing the affair was this: “She listened to me. I mattered to him.”
8. Remember These Tools.
Never forget that you have a toolbox of resources to draw on when you feel tempted by an extramarital affair. Here are some tools offered to me by those healing from affairs, insights to keep in mind when you feel that familiar head rush and are tempted to abandon logic for a thrill:
*Don’t go there: Don’t put yourself in a threatening situation. Skip the conference in Hawaii with the colleague who flirts with you. If you absolutely have to go, avoid all opportunities to be alone with him.
*You’ve got mail: When you don’t know if your email crosses the line into inappropriate language, send it to yourself first. Read it again, and ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable showing this to my husband?
*Dress with intentions: One woman told me that she saved her lingerie for her husband, and wore the ratty old underwear to the high school reunion where she’d see a flame from the past.
*Talk about your spouse: A guy friend told me that whenever he is alone with a woman he finds attractive and things are getting uncomfortable, he’ll start talking about his wife–what her hobbies are, and how much he loves her. It immediately kills the mood.