In part I of “Affair Proofing Your Marriage” we discussed: being introspective, and developing greater self-awareness; avoiding selfishness; communicating openly in marriage about anything; acknowledging and discussing attractions to others with your spouse; and avoiding secrecy.
In this segment we will continue our discussion of how to affair proof your marriage by addressing an additional seven areas. These include:
- Working to meet each other’s needs
- Developing a satisfying sex life in your marriage
- Dealing with personal insecurities and issues from your past
- Setting mental boundaries
- Avoiding personal relationships with others of the opposite sex
- Building friendships with persons of the same gender
- Building a personal protective relationship with God
Seven Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage
1. Work to meet each other’s needs.
Marriage is about meeting each other’s needs as best we can. No spouse is perfect, nor will they ever be able to meet all of our needs. But we must be aware of what makes each other feel loved, and strive to do those things regularly.
Your homework here is for each of you to make a list of the top ten things that make you feel loved and cherished, and work on doing those things for each other every day.
Some of the important needs we have in a marital relationship are respect, admiration, and fun! We can learn to look at each other more lovingly and longingly by consciously focusing on the good things about our spouse, and communicating that with our eyes.
It’s necessary to make time for some fun and playfulness as well. Regularly scheduled date nights are a great way to do this.
Certainly it’s important to strive to meet each other’s needs, but we don’t have to be “super-human need-meeters” in order for our spouse to not have an affair. It’s never correct to assume it’s the other spouse’s fault. We are all ultimately responsible for our own actions.
2. Develop a satisfying sex life in your marriage.
Meeting each other’s intimate needs isn’t an area of marriage that can be ignored, nor should it be an automatic excuse for having an affair.
It reminds me of the wife who felt like they had a great marriage except for the sex. She wished she could just get rid of that aspect of marriage or make it “go away.” But you can’t just ignore one dimension of marriage that you may not like.
Basic steps for improving the sexual relationship in marriage include: (1) making the intimate relationship a higher priority; (2) getting better educated about sex, intimacy and marriage; (3) openly and honestly discussing your sexual relationship; (4) overcoming inhibitors, such as negative thoughts, fears, or relationship issues; and (5) relaxing, having fun, and being playful with each other.
3. Deal with personal insecurities and issues from your past.
This issue goes along with the notion of being more self-aware and introspective. We all have issues. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have unmet needs that we bring into marriage from our past that can also make us vulnerable to temptations and other outside influences.
Anne Bercht, current director of the Beyond Affairs Network (BAN), believed that if someone had asked her about issues from her past, and what personal insecurities she had that might be affecting her and her relationships she believed that may have been enough for her to wake up to the potential dangers that existed in her marriage.
Looking back from an affair, another woman could see that the need for affirmation and validation became a hole in her heart that produced a susceptibility in succumbing to temptation. She was 15 years old before ever hearing a compliment from her father, creating a hunger for male attention.
Working on our personal stuff and becoming more whole as an individual is time well spent to safeguard our marriages. We can all benefit from an indepth, ongoing effort at personal growth to continually root out our imperfections and strengthen our weaknesses.
4. Set mental boundaries.
An affair doesn’t begin in a bedroom. It begins in the recesses of the mind. As you preventatively set a mental filter to reject any sexual thoughts or inappropriate imaginings of another person that isn’t your spouse, you safeguard your marriage from the destruction that inevitably accompanies infidelity.
Do not even entertain thoughts that put you with anyone but your spouse. If you are really trying to be accountable to God then He’ll let you know when you are in dangerous territory.
I remember once having a passing thought about someone that was probably inappropriate. I had an immediate flash feeling that God was aware. I felt like I heard the words, “Laura, come on, you know better than that.” I was duly chastised and immediately vowed to be more diligent with my thoughts.
If we pay attention to our conscience it will let us know when we are wandering into dangerous territory. But if we ignore it, we will lose the ability to hear it and heed it.
5. Avoid personal relationships with others of the opposite sex.
Having vulnerability plus opportunity can lead to affairs. Cut out any chance for inappropriate intimacies to occur. This would include avoiding personal relationships on the Internet, and maintaining professional boundaries with friends or co-workers.
Affairs don’t just happen out of the blue. A lot of small choices have to be made before an affair can actually occur, such as responding to an email, having lunch together, text messaging, etc. Stay away from anything that could give infidelity a chance. Prevention is much better than repair.
There was a time in our marriage when I struggled with postpartum depression. I’m sure my husband’s needs weren’t being met very well during that time. I asked him what he would recommend if a husband felt some attraction during a difficult time in his marriage. He said that’s when you make sure you aren’t doing things that would create an opportunity.
If you’re vulnerable, make sure you don’t have opportunity, and if you have opportunity make sure you’re not vulnerable.
6. Build friendships with persons of the same gender.
Good friends can be a great resource for helping you to avoid doing something stupid that you’ll soon regret. But these relationships need to be more than just superficial in order to be effective. Good friends can also meet some of our needs for companionship and emotional connection.
7. Build a personal protective relationship with God.
Having a commitment to something greater than yourself, or even your spouse, is a significant protective factor in marriage. Having a marriage where you are both accountable to God makes it easier to make good choices even when your needs aren’t being met. God can always make up the difference.
This is where beliefs plus behaviors must be in alignment. A desire to do what’s right coupled with actions to avoid opportunities and vulnerabilities is how you keep behaviors in line with beliefs.
Affairs Are a Counterfeit
Without the fullness of marriage, an affair is nothing but an incomplete counterfeit of the real thing. Marriage can never compete with the fantasy world of infidelity. In marriage you have to deal with the full package of life, whereas an affair allows temporary access to an illusion.
It reminds me of a movie where the husband was having an affair with a woman that he perceived to be “all that.” It wasn’t until he had lost his wife that he realized all her good qualities that he missed. He also began to see all the negative characteristics of the “other woman.”
I’m a huge fan of marriage and all it’s exciting possibilities. We must protect our precious marriages from the vulnerabilities and opportunities that Satan will use to ensnare us.
You CAN avoid being the next casualty in Satan’s snare of infidelity. These are some of the necessary safeguards to affair proof your marriage:
- Be introspective. Develop greater self-awareness
- Avoid selfishness
- Communicate openly in marriage about anything
- Acknowledge and discuss attractions to others with your spouse
- Avoid secrecy
- Work at meeting each other’s needs.
- Develop a satisfying sex life in your marriage.
- Deal with personal insecurities and issues from your past
- Set mental boundaries
- Avoid personal relationships with others of the opposite sex
- Build friendships with persons of the same gender
- Build a personal protective relationship with God
Your Marriage Protection Homework
I challenge each of us to choose just one thing we can do to build up our marriage. Some of the specific suggestions you could consider in affair proofing your marriage include:
- Sharing with each other a list of the top 10 things that make you feel loved and cherished.
- Training yourself to think more about your spouse’s needs and welfare than your own.
- Regularly sharing thoughts and feelings with each other in an open and honest way.
- Looking at and thinking about your spouse more admiringly.
- Finding ways to add more fun and playfulness into your relationship.
- Working on improving your sexual relationship, so that both of you enjoy the passion available there.
- Thinking about past hurts you may have, and ways you can share your insecurities and vulnerabilities with your spouse. This could be done with the help of a counselor or through journal therapy.
- Maintaining a constant self-improvement focus in your life.
- Avoiding relationships with people of the opposite sex.
- Building friendships with members of the same gender.
- Disciplining your mind to reject any inappropriate thoughts.
- Deliberately improving your spiritual connection to God.
Marriage is worth our best efforts. God bless us all to safeguard our marriages from sin, and create the joy and fulfillment that this sacred relationship affords.
Dear Laura, I really appreciate your articles concerning marriage and fidelity. I feel that there has been a lot of publicity giving to divorce in recent times, such as
Sandra Tsing Loh’s article in the Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200907/divorce,
and not enough discussing how to prevent it. Thank you! I also found this interesting quick list on relationships, although it has more to do with dating: http://www.ranker.com/list/the-seven-deadly-sins-of-dating/litgoddess
However, I found that I often (even in my long term stable relationship) have a tendency to get too clingy rather than just relaxing and knowing that my partner loves me! It’s sometimes so hard to just relax and take a deep breath.