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Eight Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage

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This is part three of a three-part blog on infidelity. Visit previous blogs for parts one and two.

The Reasons for Infidelity

People often say that their marriage ended because their spouse had an affair; however, infidelity isn't always the cause of marital breakdown. Usually, it's a symptom of a relationship that is already unhealthy and unhappy in some way.

If a person is not getting what they need from the marriage, they may go outside the marriage to have their need(s) met. This does not excuse infidelity. There is no excuse for it. But there may be an explanation that can help couples understand why it happened. You can't rebuild a relationship until you know why it fell apart in the first place.

Trying to figure out why a spouse cheated can be a confusing, gut-wrenching process. There are three questions that, although simple and broad, can help bring some initial focus and structure to the process. After all, you need to start somewhere.

The first question is: What complaints has my partner expressed about our marriage?

People often say their partner's affair "came out of nowhere" or took them by "total surprise." Yet when calm prevails and they are willing and able to look back at the marriage, they will often admit that there were problems. When gently questioned, they will recall a spouse's past complaints. A wife might say, "He complained that we weren't having as much sex," while a husband might say, "She complained that I never listened to her or helped around the house."

This question isn't meant to suggest that the betrayed spouse is to blame for the affair or that his or her complaints are less important. It is meant to help a betrayed spouse discover why his or her partner turned outside the marriage.

The second question is: Was this an emotional affair, a physical affair or both?

It is a stereotype that men usually have physical affairs while women usually have emotional affairs. The truth is, both sexes have both types of affairs. And both can be very difficult to get past. An emotional affair can be particularly challenging to overcome if the cheating spouse feels that he or she is truly in love with the other person.

A physical affair can be difficult to overcome if the betrayed spouse feels sexually inadequate or cannot get the sexually explicit "visual" out of his or her mind. Nonetheless, the distinction between an emotional and physical affair is important to make, as it may lend insight into what was missing from the marriage.

The third question is: What was so appealing to my spouse about that situation?

In many cases, a cheating spouse isn't drawn to a specific person. The affair may have had little to do with physical attraction, true love or natural compatibility. It may have had more to do with how the other person, and the entire situation, made him or her feel.

This is a critical distinction to make, since it can "depersonalize" the affair to some extent, thus allowing both spouses to understand it more clearly. The focus is brought back onto the marriage, and the Other Man or Other Woman becomes powerless and inconsequential.

This distinction may also help the betrayed spouse stop himself or herself from contacting the Other Man or Other Woman, a move that -- although tempting -- is almost always a mistake. When a betrayed spouse contacts the interloper, he or she inadvertently gives the interloper "third person" status in the marriage. The sooner all contact with the other person is cut off, the better.

The above nothwithstanding, infidelity doesn't always stem from a weakened marriage. Sadly, some people are just untrustworthy and self-indulgent. If it feels good, they'll do it. Serial cheaters fall into this category. If your partner has cheated more than once -- or if your partner refuses to be accountable for his or her actions -- you're better off booking an appointment with a divorce lawyer than a marriage counselor. It just ain't worth it.

8 Tips to Affair-Proof Your Marriage

1. Don't ignore your partner's complaints. It is foolish, short-sighted and selfish to shrug off a partner's complaints, whether they are about housework, money, a lack of affection, in-laws or texting. It is even worse to become ignorant or defensive when your partner tries to express the reasons for his or her unhappiness. You don't need to agree with what he or she is saying. But you do need to listen, care and do something to improve the situation.

2. Don't let sex fall off the radar. Sex is a big part of marriage. In fact, regular sexual intimacy is a prevailing reason to get married. Order-in supper more often, put the kids to bed earlier, chew on a handful of chocolate-covered coffee beans before bed -- do whatever it takes to keep some energy for sex. If you are having relationship problems that are standing in the way of a healthy sex life, fix them. Get professional help if you must. But stop making excuses.

3. Show interest in your partner's life. Ask yourself every day, "What can I do to make my partner's life happier and easier?" If both partners are doing this, you have it made.

4. Have fun together. When was the last time you and your partner shared a good belly laugh? When was the last time you couldn't stop smiling? If it's been a while, you need to "lighten up" your relationship. People are naturally drawn toward those who are fun to be around.

5. Appreciate your partner. Not a day should go by that you don't express appreciation for your partner in words and deed. Feeling unappreciated is a major complaint in almost all troubled marriages.

6. Put technology in its place. Translation: Put down the damn phone and talk to your partner! Nothing is more irritating than feeling second-place to a smartphone.

7. Talk to your partner like he or she is someone you love. Be vigilant of your voice tone and manners. Keep contempt, defensiveness, criticism and rudeness out of your marriage.

8. Create shared rituals. Whether it's Walking Dead Sunday nights or Sunday night walks in the park, it is important for couples to have traditions. These give couples a sense of identity and continuity as a couple.

Visit MarriageSOS.com for relationship help.

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