Affair Proofing Your Marriage, Part I


News of marital infidelity among politicians, celebrities or anyone, for that matter, is heartrending. Hearts are broken, and lives and careers are destroyed. Everyone involved ultimately suffers.

It’s not just the news that attests to the need for some discussion of this subject. It’s also happening to those around us. No one is immune to the temptations of the adversary. Monogamy in marriage is certainly possible, but effort on our part is needed.

Satan’s Great Counterfeit


Extramarital affairs are Satan’s great counterfeit of the real thing found only in marriage. He deceives many into believing that the grass is greener… It’s a big bold lie leaving many casualties in its wake.

In defining this relationship counterfeit, Peggy Vaughn, author of Preventing Affairs and the founder of the Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) states, “Any outside relationship with a sexual or an emotional connection that is kept secret from the spouse is a threat to the marriage and can legitimately be defined as ‘an affair.’”

It’s Not Enough


Some believe that having a good marriage is sufficient protection, but that alone is not enough to prevent potential pitfalls. Unfortunately, serious marital problems need not be present for affairs to happen. Allowing certain circumstances can make you easy prey for Satan’s deadly snares.

One of the biggest dangers is the common assumption that infidelity could never happen to you. That belief keeps couples from actively working to strengthen their marriage and prevent infidelity from attaining power. It’s important that couples understand how and why infidelity happens, and do what it takes to prevent the circumstances that lead to one’s succumbing to temptation.

Anne Bercht, author of My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (and current director of BAN) experienced first-hand the pain of her husband’s infidelity. She shares both what is not enough to prevent infidelity, and offers suggestions to safeguard our marriages.

One of the myths about extramarital affairs is the idea that it is sufficient to simply have certain attitudes and beliefs. Appropriate attitudes and beliefs are needed for marriage protection, but these things alone leave out the necessary component of taking action on our part.

Anne Bercht suggests the following eight attitudes and beliefs that alone are insufficient to protect your marriage from infidelity:

  1. Being in love with your spouse. That’s not enough.
  2. Having similar backgrounds and values. That’s not enough.
  3. Having high moral principles and/or strong religious convictions. That’s not enough.
  4. Having mutual trust. That’s not enough.
  5. Taking your marriage vows seriously and intending to be faithful. That’s not enough.
  6. Having children together and being a devoted mother/father. That’s not enough.
  7. Concerns about consequences, such as hurting others or getting caught. That’s not enough.
  8. Having no apparent opportunity for infidelity—including no free time, never traveling for work, etc. Not having opportunities is still not enough.

These eight items are not enough to prevent the possibility of infidelity. In Part I of this article we’ll discuss the following five actions that must be added to the mix in order to affair proof your marriage. (In Part II, we’ll discuss additional safeguards.)

  1. Be introspective. Develop greater self-awareness
  2. Avoid selfishness
  3. Communicate openly about anything
  4. Acknowledge and discuss attractions to others with your spouse
  5. Avoid secrecy

5 Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage


1. Be introspective. Develop greater self-awareness.

Both husband and wife need to consciously work at understanding themselves better. You can ask yourself questions such as: “Why do I feel this way?” “Why am I unhappy?” or “Where might I have some vulnerability in our relationship?” Learn to be honest with yourself, so that you can be honest with your mate.

Anne Bercht shared the following interchange between her and her husband about the importance of being self-aware enough to understand each other’s needs, and be able to communicate them clearly to each other:

During the process of our healing one day Brian asked me, “Remember when I told you that the reason that you never had an affair was because I had been a good husband, and the reason why I had an affair was because you were a bad wife?” I remembered, clearly. “Well, I was wrong,” he said. “It was easy for me to be a good husband because you understood yourself and were able to communicate your needs to me clearly. You never stood a chance of being a good wife, because I was not able to communicate my needs to you.”

2. Avoid selfishness.

We live in a Me, Me, Me society that promotes self-fulfillment and self-interest. We keep hearing that we need to do what’s best for ourselves with little regard to what’s best for one’s marriage or one’s family. We rarely hear the call for self-sacrifice and making choices based on the greater good. Thinking of others and their needs is an important ability for husbands and wives to develop.

Think about how much time and energy you spend thinking about and doing things for your own benefit, versus how much you think about and do things for others (especially your spouse). Selflessness is a learned behavior. It doesn’t come naturally for most of us.

3. Communicate openly in marriage about anything.

Ongoing honest communication is needed about all marital issues—not just the easy stuff. If this honest interchange is difficult for you, or is something you haven’t been doing in your marriage then you may need to start out with an easier approach like communicating other less threatening thoughts and feelings through writing (letters or email). You might also utilize the helpful little book 365 Questions for Couples by Michael J. Beck.

In many marriages couples learn to be dishonest with each other. They withhold sharing important information about themselves, because of the response they get. If you or your spouse responds with anger, resentment, or the silent treatment then the other will certainly learn not to ever be honest again.

Do all that you can to allow your spouse to be honest with you even if you may not initially like what you hear. Learn to compassionately share yourself and receive your spouse’s true feelings as well.

4. Acknowledge and discuss attractions to others with your spouse.

It’s important for both husband and wife to know that attractions are pretty normal, and fairly likely to happen. Period.

As I’ve previously mentioned, you might not want to start “opening up” to your spouse by mentioning that you are attracted to someone at work or church. You might begin by seeking to learn more about the inner experience of your spouse by sharing your personal thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to think about how your spouse might receive such information about being attracted to someone else, and what you can do to soften the pain that may occur. As difficult as such disclosures may be they are a lot better than disclosures that will inevitably occur should an affair happen.

How might you go about discussing attractions with your spouse? You might mention reading this article and the suggestion to share your vulnerabilities and potential attractions. You could either ask them if they’ve ever felt attracted to anyone else, or you could share an occurrence that you have had.

One woman told me she had a friend that her husband was working with in a church assignment. She wondered if there could be a possibility of some feelings there. So, one day she teasingly said to her husband, “Now if you ever start having feelings for so and so, I hope you’ll let me know…” then she paused before adding with a smile, “so I can beat her up!” They both laughed. She said that really set the stage for them to be able to discuss such things without it being too intense.

Remember that attractions are pretty natural, and may occur, but that doesn’t mean you are headed for an affair. It’s what you do about it that matters.

5. Avoid secrecy in your marriage.

Secrecy is to infidelity, what sunlight and water are to plants. Secrecy breeds and empowers infidelity. This is why it is so important to be able to share your attractions or temptations with your spouse. Obviously, this takes a healthy level of intimacy to share such information, but that is also what helps to affair proof your marriage.

My husband and I were talking about this some time ago, when he asked if I had ever felt attracted to anyone. It was a little weird to consciously think about it and to share a time or two when there may have been some attraction. But somehow in the process of having the discussion any energy associated with it was gone.

The light really has power over the darkness. I could certainly see how such discussions could have a protective factor, and help couples avoid inappropriate intimacies.

In the next part of this article we’ll discuss additional actions you must take to safeguard your marriage from infidelity. Extramarital relationships may be enticing, but they are nothing more than Satan’s great counterfeit of the real thing in marriage. Do what you must to strengthen and protect your marriage, and keep it alive and thriving.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Affair Proofing Your Marriage, Part II”

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  • JustMe July 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm


    I realize the focus of this article is protecting our marriages against actual affairs, but I’ve been thinking about other, less sinister ways that we may sometimes be unfaithful to our marriage covenants, and I would be interested to get your opinion (as well as that of others) about this.

    Obviously actual affairs can and do happen, and I am sure that the results are devastating to all involved. I wonder though if other, more subtle types of affairs are much more common. Perhaps this view is too extreme, but any time we routinely seek beyond our marriage (whether with the opposite sex or not) for greater companionship, consolation, connection, bonding, etc. than we experience within our marriage, is this not also a type of infidelity?

    I wonder also if the benign appearance of this type of scenario lulls us into thinking that it is ok when in reality it can be and often is damaging to our marital relationship.

    My premise is that the majority of our needs can and should be met within the marriage relationship. I realize that it is unrealistic to expect any partner to meet all of our needs, and I understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying companionship, connection, etc. outside of marriage. I would not equate an actual sexual affair with this type of “emotional affair.” But I believe it is the degree to which these needs are met within or without marriage that can lead to problems.

    What do you think about this? Is it realistic for me to expect that my wife would look first to me for the majority of her emotional needs (and vice versa)?

    • Laura M. Brotherson July 15, 2009 at 11:32 pm

      Hi JustMe,

      You are correct that there are various ways to be unfaithful to our spouse. Referring to the definition of an affair I used in the article, “Any outside relationship with a sexual or an emotional connection that is kept secret from the spouse is a threat to the marriage and can legitimately be defined as ‘an affair,'” we must consider anything that we have a secret emotional or sexual connection to as a problem.

      At times I worry about some who frequent sex-focused email groups or websites (even like mine) if they are somehow using it as a substitute for the relationship that should be happening in the marriage. Of course, as we’ve seen many times here in readers’ comments, intimate relationships are often less than ideal.

      It is up to each of us to determine if any of our activities are inappropriate. Hopefully those who come to sites like this are seeking and finding hope, insights, and inspiration to do what they can to make their marital relationship better.

      Obviously no one can expect all of our needs to be met by our spouse alone. I think many of us are lacking in the ability to tangibly turn to God for fulfillment of our unmet needs. It’s a difficult thing to get our tangible needs met through a somewhat intangible God. I can’t help but wonder if learning to connect more completely with God is not the purpose of the unmet longings that beset the human condition.

      Your question about expecting your wife to look first to you for the majority of her emotional needs (and vice versa) is an interesting one. Certainly that is the general ideal that we look to our spouse for the majority of our needs, but what if a spouse can’t or won’t meet some of our needs? What then?

      I think any of us are welcome to have whatever expectations we want, but the reality is that we must work from a place of what “is” at the moment rather than what we would wish. None of us are perfect people with perfect marriages. We all have to work at it. We all have to learn to stretch and be self-sacrificing sometimes.

      One of the ways we safeguard our marriage is to develop a level of selflessness that eases the personal pain when some of our hopes and desires aren’t being met. As we become more consumed with meeting our spouse’s needs, we become less aware of the needs they may not be meeting for us.

      Not only does this route free us from the bondage of self-seeking motives, but it is also the most likely way that, in time, those very needs and longings we have may someday be met.

      Nothing is so much calculated to lead a spouse to want to meet your needs than for you to selflessly focus on loving and cherishing them instead. Over and over I have seen the loving and selfless reaction of a spouse (who may feel neglected) to their “undeserving” spouse as the means for them to find the will to change. I have experienced this (as the “undeserving spouse” myself).

      I hope these thoughts have addressed your true concerns and provide some insight for you to consider.

      • JustMe July 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm


        Thanks for responding- I appreciate your perspective.

        From my perspective, the dilemma is that my wife is much more independent than me. She gets much satisfaction from her many friends and various other activities and responsibilities. It appears to me that marriage for her is little more than some companionship, and besides this, she seems to not need much from me (except to have me provide financially and to help around the house, which I make an effort to do). It is hard for me to not feel as though she gives her best self to others and that I get whatever might be left.

        So, although I would love to focus on her needs, this is difficult when she doesn’t seem to need me directly (in our own relationship). Her main need seems to be for me to allow her plenty of room do what she wants, and while this is fine some of the time, there are times when this need is directly opposed to my need for a more close, connected relationship.

        Anyway, I have tried to see this from every possible angle, and there is no easy solution. Marriage requires patience, selflessness, and unconditional love, and at least for me, these things require time, effort, and practice to develop.

        Also, I don’t mean to convey that my marriage is completely miserable. It’s just very average- we are far from the type of thriving, vibrant, learning, growing, progressing relationship that I would like to have, but maybe this just isn’t realistic.

        Thanks again for your comments.

        • Laura M. Brotherson July 29, 2009 at 7:15 pm

          Hi JustMe,

          It can be difficult to feel like your spouse can function fairly well without always needing your direct attention. The thing to remember about marriage is that the ideal relationship is that of two strong interdependent individuals who “choose” to be with each other rather than because they are “needy” of what the other can provide them.

          The ultimate state of being we are striving to create in marriage is that of ONEness. Oneness is created from two “whole” complete individuals that come together to create a stronger “one” than either could be on their own. We often mistakenly believe that marriage is about about two “halves” coming together to form one “whole” as in 1/2 + 1/2 = 1. What we instead want is 1 + 1 = 1 (a stronger “one”).

          My gut feeling is that you would make much more progress in your marriage if you were to develop more of your own independence than continuing to pursue and rely on her for your needs. There’s nothing like a strong, independent man to remind a woman how much she wants and needs him. If he’s always hanging around like a little puppy waiting for scraps the attraction can easily wear down because it is based on neediness not strength.

          Consider selecting some hobbies or talents that you would like to develop–not to spite her and her independence, but to develop more of your own. It’s just the kind of dynamics that can create the “coming together” you ultimately desire.

          Rather than resenting the time and space she is giving you, take advantage of the opportunity to develop yourself more fully and to serve others. Get out and play basketball with the guys on Thursday nights. Take the kids out to do stuff more often. Start a project with them. Grab a teenage son or daughter and take them jogging/hiking, etc. Put a little more time and/or effort into a church calling or other efforts. Find some things you can do to develop other important relationships and to exercise your strengths rather than exhibiting neediness.

          I have a feeling that your wife will be more likely to want to be with you when she sees you moving forward in life, and sees you not being quite so readily available. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about manipulating her or your situation, but I am talking about becoming your best self. I imagine it has the potential to make you even more attractive to her than you can currently imagine.

          There’s something sexy about a man who doesn’t really “need” you, but loves you anyway. It kinda goes back to the laws of economics, and supply and demand. When the supply is high the demand goes down. When the supply diminishes the demand goes up. Give it a try and see what you think. Just be genuine in your desire and efforts to improve yourself rather than trying to “get something” for your efforts.

          I think as YOU become a “thriving, vibrant, learning, growing, progressing individual” that you will begin to see your relationship follow suit. I’m excited about the possibilities for you. I wish you well in your new endeavors. Could be very fun!! : )

          • JustMe July 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm

            Hello Laura,

            Thank you for responding.

            You mentioned that the ideal is for spouses to choose each other because they like each other- they are hopefully best friends and simply enjoy being together- not out of neediness but out of the happiness that they experience together. I agree wholeheartedly.

            It is counter-intuitive to think that a smoldering friendship could be rekindled by pursuing other interests, but I will certainly give this more thought.

            For me, I think the key is developing an inner strength. This is hard when I believe I have developed such a tendency to react/respond and to acquiesce instead of choosing and acting from my own convictions.

            I definitely like the idea of synergy in marriage- that husband and wife combined are stronger/better than the sum of their individual strengths. I agree that it is healthy for both husband and wife to have outside interests, but I think we have to be very careful to strive for the right balance. In my opinion, over time, too much activity (by either or both spouses) outside the marriage could lead to a deterioration of that relationship. On the other extreme, it isn’t healthy for either or both spouses to rely exclusively on their partner for their fulfillment. As with many aspects of life, the key, I think, is to find that healthy (and often elusive) balance.

            Also, I do disagree slightly with the comment that each marriage partner should seek to be whole in and of themselves. I don’t think we can be truly whole as individuals, and although we can and should develop ourselves individually, I think to attempt to be whole by ourselves is a futile exercise and somewhat counter productive to our marital relationship. If we could be whole as individuals, there would be no need for marriage. It was not good for man to be alone, so woman was created as man’s companion and help meet. Man gives to woman and woman gives to man something that neither can achieve alone. This is definitely true in the gospel sense of perfection and wholeness being synomonous. Man cannot be exalted (perfected, whole) without his wife, neither can woman be exalted without her husband.

            I welcome any other thoughts or ideas that you or anyone else might have.

    • JustMe August 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm

      If you haven’t yet read “Fidelity in Marriage” in the September 2009 issue of Ensign, please take the time to read it. It addresses the exact issue that I attempted to address in my original comment above.

      Here is the link to the article:

  • jmdeshazer July 7, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I don’t claim to be an expert on marriage, but I have learned a thing or two in 8 years of being married. These are the things that have affair proofed my marriage and strengthened our relationship:

    1. Regular prayer as a couple. We were bad about this for years, but as soon as we started doing it again, our relationship blossomed almost immediately.

    2. Regularly date on a weekly basis. That means spending time to court her/him as if you were single again. That means without children. Team up with other families in your ward and trade babysitting duties if you need to. We team up with 4 other couples and have a Friday date night 4 out of 5 weeks. It’s been wonderful.

    3. Regular Temple attendance. This benefits in so many more ways than just people who are married.

    4. Have regular sexual relations (1-3 times a week works for us). Even my wife, who is the less sexual of the two of us has a renewed vigor in this area of our life. But it wouldn’t have happened were it not for us committing to do the first three things.

  • CarsonW July 13, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    My sister and I have been discussing affair proofing your marriage and especially secrecy in marriage. My sister and I have had a disagreement on remaining friends with men from your past. I feel that marriages need boundaries and that remaining friends with an ex is stepping over the marriage boundary. My sister was very promiscuous in high school. She became pregnant when she was 16 years old. She turned her life around after her pregnancy and gave her life to God. She met her husband when she was 18 years old and married him two months after meeting him. She really loves her husband and they have a great life. My sister is now 28 years old and has three beautiful children. The only concern I have is that my sister is always talking about things going on with past boyfriends. She e-mails these men all the time. She says that she wants them to see how Christ has changed her life. My sister recently joined Facebook and the first 10 friends that she added were guys that she dated (and slept with) in high school, including the father of her oldest child. I am sure she is not involved with any of these guys, but I am afraid that she is setting herself up for something to happen and that she is not affair proofing her marriage. I cannot understand her need to keep these men in her life. We have talked about it and she thinks that I am crazy. I asked her if her husband knows about her “friendships” and she says that he would not care because their marriage is very secure. Do I have reason to be worried? Can someone give me some words of wisdom to help my sister?

    • Laura M. Brotherson July 16, 2009 at 12:10 am

      Hi CarsonW,

      I would certainly not be an advocate for keeping up “friendships” with former boyfriends. The question is why would you? Some relationships may not be a big deal or a major problem, but especially when sexual intimacies have been shared in the past, it’s definitely not a great idea to maintain or cultivate such relationships.

      My bigger concern would be why your sister feels a need to keep up those relationships. Does it make her feel young? Does it make her feel attractive? Do those guys meet a need that her husband doesn’t. These are questions for your sister to ask herself.

      It could simply be a lack of maturity that she has not fully cut the apron strings to those who have held her heart in the past. It’s dangerous territory to be sure. But she may or may not be convinced of that though. You might try sharing this “Affair Proofing” article with her and see if she cares to have a conversation about it. Remember that she would need to come to a realization on her own of the short-sightedness of holding onto such relationships for her to do something about it.

      This issue is one of the reasons I haven’t been a big fan of social networking sites, such as Facebook, etc. They may have many advantages, but my concern is first for marriages, and I can totally see how Satan uses something “harmless” such as a website “to connect people” as an easy snare for the inevitable times when marriages struggle. When it is so easy to access old flames and old feelings of romance, it’s nothing but a recipe for disaster especially given the inevitable ups and downs of marriage. But that’s sort of a separate “soapbox” issue…! : )

      I wish you well in your efforts to reasonably share your concerns and to help your sister consider choices that will have a more positive long-term effect on her marriage.

  • bdonovan.mft July 22, 2009 at 12:35 am


    I love your site on marriage and especially love your insights on the sexual union between a husband and wife. I have had the privilege of meeting Anne Bercht at the 2008 Smart Marriages Conference in San Francisco. She is a great speaker and has first hand experience on overcoming affairs and improving her marriage. I would love to know if you are ever speaking at a Smart Marriages Conference or any other conference for that matter. I have also since started my own blog at I welcome any suggestions you might have. Thank you again for your dedication to strengthening marriage.

    • Laura M. Brotherson July 29, 2009 at 7:24 pm

      Hi bdonovan,

      Thank you. How awesome that you attended the 2008 Smart Marriages conf. I’ve attended a few in the past, but have had to stop the last few years due to schooling commitments. After I finish graduate school I will again be regularly attending the Smart Marriages conferences ( and hope to be able to speak there as well. I have cut back on most all speaking engagements lately because it takes so much time that I don’t currently have, but I will likely be speaking a lot more again once I have the time. It’s always great to hear from fellow marriage strengthening advocates. I wish you well in all your endeavors.

  • Xenon July 27, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Sometimes I really think there is something fundamentally unfair about the sexual relationship issue.

    What I mean is this …

    If my wife has interest in Opera, and I am not as interested in Opera, she has lots of options…

    She can go alone, or she can go with friends, or she can ask me to go with her even though it is not my favorite, or she can rent an Opera DVD, or any of other options.

    If I like college football, and she doesn’t, I have lots of options…. I can watch by myself, I can dvr the games and watch after she goes to bed, I can go with friends, I can read about the scores online, or I can try to talk her into going with me even though it isn’t her favorite.

    That is true for almost everything else … I know couples where one is a vegetarian so they have very different desires in terms of foods, but eating alone or eating with friends what is not interesting to their spouse is OK. I know couples where one is very outgoing and friend oriented, and the other is quite shy and private, but the outgoing one going to parties without the reserved one is OK. Reading Books, Watching TV shows, Running or Jogging, even going to church,… if the “drive” of one spouse is very different than the “drive” of the other, doing it alone or with friends is just fine. Yeah, one could probably take it “too far” and that would be bad, but most people would find most options acceptable.

    Sexual Relationship is totally different … there is no acceptable option that isn’t both of you together. Man that is hard!! Perhaps it is so much of a challenge because it is soooo unique in that respect.

    You know, I KNOW that I have the “low drive” in our relationship for just “sitting and talking about stuff and laughing together”. I try really really hard, but my interest level is just not the same as my DW. I know that, so I encourage her to go to “girls night out” with her friends to meet that need for her. And the visa versa? Well, no.


    PS – why are the comment options turned off on all the other articles by this one? Just wondering …..

    • SirJohn July 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm


      Something about this way of looking at the issue rubs me the wrong way. I have been thinking about it for several days now and I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it still pricks me continually so I want to try and put my thoughts and feelings into words. I’m sorry if this post ends up rambly or disjointed.

      I agree that it’s unfair to drastically limit the sexual relationship in marriage. But it’s not the sexual relationship that is fundamentally unfair. Nor is it the social or religious rules of exclusivity that make it unfair. Neither is sex in marriage the only aspect that shares the rules of exclusivity and the associated potential “unfair” denial of one spouse or the other.

      Part of what has been troubling me is that the way you phrase this seems to objectify sex as a need. Sex as a purely physical act, separate from the complete relationship, is not a need. In fact, taken to it’s extreme, this is the basis of all sexual sins: adultery, masturbation, pornography, rape, etc. There is a physical drive to “have sex” in any form, but I don’t see this as a human need. In fact, if given full reign, I would describe it as an inhumane perversion. Please don’t take offense at this. I know that you do not intend to objectify and isolate sex in this way, I’m just trying to express in words what is bothering me slightly about your post. I too feel a strong urge to objectify sex for sex’s sake after I have been in a long dry spell, but I believe that these feelings must be guarded against strongly.

      I believe that all human beings have a need for a deep and satisfying intimate relationship. This intimacy includes sex, but if it is limited to sex it dies. It seems to be more common among men for this need to be misinterpreted as a simple need for the mechanical act of sex. Those who seek to feed this presumed need never arrive at a place of peace, happiness, or fulfillment. I do not see this as unfair. Unfair seems to imply an arbitrary set of rules.

      It’s pointless to call gravity unfair, it simply is. It may seem unfair that I can’t fly, but it’s highly unproductive to waste time complaining about it. Exclusivity in marriage is the same way. It’s more a law of nature, than an arbitrary set of unfair rules. It’s just simply impossible to obtain the surpassing joy and happiness that comes from a deep intimate relationship any other way. God, in his wisdom, explained an eternal truth when he established the guidelines. He did not create the rules any more than Sir Isaac Newton invented gravity. It’s not fair or unfair, it just is. It’s not fair if someone drops a bowling ball on your head, but it’s not gravity that’s unfair.

      There is also a fundamental need for a deep emotional connection between spouses that cannot be filled from outside sources. While it is good and appropriate to encourage a spouse to spend time with their friends, this cannot fill their need for a deep and satisfying emotional connection with their spouse. It cannot replace “sitting and talking about stuff and laughing together” as a couple. It’s not unfair that this need exists and can only be filled within marriage, but it is unfair if someone arbitrarily and drastically limits this emotional connection. Time with friends fills an entirely separate need.

      I don’t know if this adequately expresses my vauge negative reaction to this post or not. Perhaps it will inspire others to post clearer thoughts on the topic.

      Sir John

      • Xenon August 1, 2009 at 9:06 am

        Sir John,

        Certainly no offense taken at your negative response to my comment. I’m not sure I said it in quite the right way (and I was definately in a foul mood when I wrote it!)

        I think a different way to say at least part of what I was getting at is this ….

        Because the sexual relationship is one of very few issues where the rules are that you have only one allowed option, it is extremely hard to deal with using experience from other parts of our lives. If there is something in my DW’s life that she wants and makes her happy, but I don’t share that interest, she can (and does and should) fulfill the need with other people. IF, for example, there was a rule that said she could only eat when and what I eat, and we had very different tastes, then she would learn from that relationship issue very different coping skills. And those coping skills would be more applicable to my struggles with the sexual relationship, and might give her more sympathy for my struggle.

        I have tried a couple of different times to come up with analogies that might make sense to her. I have never found one. Some have made analogies to eating, to sleeping, to talking, to whatever else. But the point is, none of those analogies really work, because the sexual relationship has such a unique set of rules. And it is “unfair” (and you are right, unfair is probably not the right word) that because there are no other relationships issues (or very very few) that have that same restriction of only one other person to express that need with, there is no good way for the “other person” to understand and sympathize and perhaps be motivated to change.

        Ok, perhaps another way to express it ….

        We all learn coping skills and empathy skills from our experiences in life. And the key is often to take those skills from our personal experiences, and be able to extrapolate them and apply them to other people and their experiences. As an example, I have heard some people advocate that one way to help a small child not to bite is to bite them back just enough for them to see that the result is pain. You can then help them make the connection that bite=pain, and they can make the leap to understand that bite=pain for the other person.

        That is true, at least in principle, for lots of areas of our relationships … with our spouses or with our kids or with our neighbors. We can take our experiences with how it felt when someone said something nasty about us, and use that to learn not to say nasty things about others. Also, we can take the experience of having had something mean said about us, learn from it how to cope with disappointment and with betrayal, and use that to deal with something else the next time.

        I am arguing that the Sexual Relationship, because is so many ways it is so unique and has unique rules, is extremely difficult to do that kind of “experience transfer”. My DW, I don’t think, has any idea how much it hurts when she rejects me and says I am a dirty old man, because there is nothing in her life experience that has anything like a common reference frame. And that is “unfair”. Again, unfair is probably not the right word — uniquely challenging? especially difficult?

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