Infidelity: What can a couple do to inoculate itself against cheating?
An affair can be extremely damaging; in fact, the single most common way for a relationship to end is for one partner to become involved with another person. People cheat for a variety of reasons, but one commonality is that the cheater feels that the new partner will meet more of their needs than their current partner. While most marriages survive an extra-marital affair, it is much better to take steps to prevent it, rather than have to heal the hurt after it happens. What most people don’t know is that there are some simple steps that can be taken to stop an affair before it occurs.
1. Engage in an open conversation. Most couples do not have an explicit discussion about affairs until one has already occurred. Affairs are a contentious matter that can be uncomfortable to talk about. However, taking the time to have a talk and create a Primary Prevention Plan can save you a lot of strife in the future.
2. Understand that it could happen to you. Extra-marital affairs are more prevalent than you might think. At least 80% of people start out their marriage with the belief that it will be a completely monogamous relationship. However, 35-45% of marriages involve an affair of some sort. Furthermore, while people tend to think that affairs are endemic to old or unhappy marriages, they are in fact most likely to occur in the first 5 years of marriage, with the highest rates occuring in the first two years. Avoiding denial is an important step toward making an agreement that can ultimately prevent an affair.
3. Identify vulnerabilities. Each partner should reflect on what situations would make them more likely to cheat, and share these vulnerabilities with the other. They should then agree to let each other know if they’re in a potentially tempting situation rather than acting impulsively. This makes affairs less likely by taking away the edge that they get from being spontaneous and secret.
4. Commit to honesty. Agree that you will tell each other within 72 hours if an incident of cheating occurs. Hiding what’s happened is usually more harmful than the incident itself. Covering up infidelity leads to feelings of betrayal which only grow with time. Honesty prevents an affair from becoming a bigger problem than it needs to be.
Keep your relationship fresh and exciting!
The problems that lead to explosive breakups or divorces often begin as small annoyances. Thus, it is extremely valuable to develop skills for coping with small disagreements before they become big problems. Any relationship can benefit from concerted efforts to keep it healthy and exciting. Here are some exercises you can do with your partner to help maintain harmony in the relationship.
- Take time to talk about what’s bothering each of you. Ask what you have done to make your partner feel disrespected, unloved, or under appreciated. Rather than responding defensively, respond with understanding in order to keep communication flowing and nip problems in the bud.
- Have an Honesty Hour. Set aside a specific time when you can each share how you truly feel about certain aspects of the relationship with complete immunity. This way, you each build respect for each other’s opinions, and there are no festering resentments.
- Don’t go to into bed angry. The longer an argument lasts, the worse it gets. Agreeing to resolve conflicts on the same day they arise (if possible) can prevent conflicts from turning into bitterness.
- Plan fun activities. List fun things you want to do together and agree to do at least one each month. Sharing positive experiences is an important part of making a happy relationship last.
- Eat dinner together. Even in the midst of an argument, pausing everything else to share a meal is a great way to enjoy each other’s company.
- Share Friends and Commit.
How to prepare for a difficult conversation with your partner
Communicating can be very difficult when you are preparing to have a difficult conversation with an individual or group of people who you know most likely will have mixed reactions and emotions regarding the subject. Most People find it easier to avoid communicating something that they think is going to be controversial or unpleasant, which results in halting the communication and letting the situation linger. It’s usually embedded in people to avoid confrontation conflict and stressful situations.
“Learning how to have difficult conversations at work or in personal relationship’s boosts one’s confidence, increases one’s self-awareness, and gives one the sense of being in control of one’s own life. What stops us from having that difficult conversation we should have?”
Fear is usually what stops a person from confronting a difficult situation. Fear can arise when facing a difficult conversation because you may be afraid that you will hurt someone’s feelings, fear losing people you love, or fear of incurring in those we love or want to impress, “we fear the consequences of engaging in a difficult conversation”.
Some tips on preparing for a difficult conversation:
- Don’t delay the conversation any longer and provide reasons for why it needs to happen: Delaying conversations just makes the situation more dramatic and can even lead to failing to ever resolve the conflict. Being honest and confronting the person/ group and giving them a reason to see why you would like to discuss the issue, this will optimistically lead to a respectful conversation between both parties.
- Stay connected when communicating and encourage Questions: Each of us communicates in different ways; staying open-minded when communicating with the person or group and encouraging questions by the other person, may help the flow of communication and help to get a better understanding of how the individual or group feels about the subject at hand. It will encourage them to share their perspective. Do not focus the whole conversation on yourself; you should be interested in the other person’s opinions too. It is healthy to express your feelings but this is about you conversing back and forth, not one way.
- Resist making fast assumptions; Think before speaking right away: Listen to the other person and assess the situation fairly. Many people have a hard time seeing things from the other person’s point of view. Before making assumptions about the situation, listen to the individual/group and then arrive at a conclusion because it could be that the situations that lead to the conversation was just a misunderstanding. Hopefully this will result in figuring out a solution to the situation/conversation or coming to a mutual agreement about what the future holds after the discussion.
- Don’t Rehearse: Be genuine; if you are not you should not expect a sincere response. If you want to confront a situation that is bothering you, explain exactly how you feel honestly without sounding like your reading off a projector screen. Correct communication is the key to opening up new ways of approaching tough topics.
If you are struggling with communication issues, problems confronting a difficult situation that may concern you or anxiety, feel free to contact our Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists for an evaluation.
The Unemployed Partner
In some instances a spouse is unable to get a job creating tension within the marriage regarding financial matters and responsibility to the household. When one partner is unable to work resentment and guilt are often the result. The unemployed partner can develop feelings of worthlessness because he or she can not provide for their family or spouse.
The Stay at Home Parent
When one spouse in the relationship does not work there is often increased pressure and tension within the relationship. A stay at home partner is expected to handle all tension within the relationship. A stay at home partner is expected to handle all household endeavors and family issues. Because the domestic partner has no other job besides household duties the working partner takes this for granted. What the working partner sometimes does not comprehend is that household duties and family issues are a twenty four hour job with very little rest, praise, or reward. It is a job that often goes unnoticed by the working partner and the family. When there is little thanks, resentment and frustration can build within a marriage. This causes tension and marital dissatisfaction.
Married to a Workaholic
If you or your partner has trouble balancing your career life and your home life, marriage therapy can be extremely helpful in creating realistic goals to help improve the tensions that ensue. Many couples have difficulty balancing their home life and work life. Such a balancing act often increases stress within the martial relationship and within the household. Due to the fact that American households are mostly two-income, many couples have difficulties balancing their home life with their career. When one spouse is forced to work longer hours because of his or her job, tension can develop within the relationship. If a spouse loses a job or if the spouse’s salary seems insignificant to his or her partner, then conflict and stress often arises. In many instances being successful at work means giving up family responsibilities which can jeopardize one’s home life. In order to be successful, an individual is required to work a full time job, and then go home to handle all the domestic duties. In order for there to be harmony in the marriage, domestic responsibilities should be shared in a dual income household.
Signs of Trouble! Get the guidance you need!
Research shows that marital problems do not spontaneously improve. By the time couples separate or divorce, they have experienced on average 6 years of relationship deterioration. Those couples who seek marriage counseling and spend time improving their relationship when problems first develop have a better chance of having a successful relationship. Marriage counseling or couples counseling can help steer the relationship in the right direction.
The right communication and listening skills is important in maintaining a healthy relationship.
In some long term marriages an individual may believe that their spouse no longer understands them. The partner will complain of a severe lack of communication involving their children, work, or home lives. Some couples even report losing interest in activities that they used to find enjoyable to do together. It has been reported 12% of couples who seek marriage therapy feel alone and feel as if they can not confide in their partner anymore. Without open communication the marriage and the family will suffer.
Some partners even expect their spouse to have the ability to read their mind. This expectation is very unhealthy and stems from the belief that a married couple should know everything about each others needs and desires. The longer two people are together the better they know one another, however, reading each other’s mind is an unreasonable expectation. The concept of mind reading often appears in the situation where a couple exchanges gifts. For example if a wife is constantly disappointed by her husband’s gifts she blames him for not understanding her desires or not caring about her. Because if he truly “loved” her he would know exactly what present she was expecting.
Some spouses expect their partner to give them constant praise throughout the day. When they are denied this praise marital conflict occurs. Communication difficulties arise around many areas including but not limited to overspending, financial matters, outside friendships, infidelity, online addiction, online infidelity, substance abuse, and parenting concerns. A spouse who spends most of their time at work can often lose the ability to communicate with his or her family. Marriage counseling helps couples rebuild trust and open communication.