There in the counseling session, Kim’s emotions ricocheted from hot anger to numb stupor to intense heartache as she poured out her story and tears, recounting how she stumbled upon a sext on her husband’s phone, sent to him by a woman at his office. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” she said. “Her advances and his coy replies. And further up the thread I saw the romantic crap he had texted her in the weeks prior.” Kim stopped and broke into uncontrollable sobs. After a few moments, she collected herself and sighed, “I knew Rich and I had been kind of distant recently, but I never would have thought he would do this to me!” The anger shot back into her face as her muscles tightened and she hissed through her gritted teeth, “I don’t think I can ever forgive him. How dare he!!”
Sadly, this story is all too familiar. Credible research indicates that infidelity touches over 50% of marriages. That’s not a typo. Before the age of 40, 50-65% of married men and 45-55% of women report that they have strayed outside their marriage. Because of the sensitive nature of the survey topic, it’s likely this number in underreported, especially among people of faith.
As you might imagine, there are a myriad of reasons why that number is astoundingly high. Yet, at the core, we see some common denominators. Men who strayed point to sexual disappointment or dissatisfaction, while the women felt unhappy and disconnected in their marriages prior to the affair. We tend to think that affairs are all about romance and passion. That’s what we may see in text messages or hear in phone messages, but behind every affair is a search to meet the deep need to be unconditionally loved and cared for.
You may have said to yourself at some point, “That won’t happen to me. I’ll never cheat.” Let me gently break it to you- except for sex addicts, everyone else who had an affair said the same thing. Everyone is susceptible at some points in their marriages. Given the right (or wrong) mix of circumstances, it could happen to you.
Enough bad news. An affair doesn’t have to be your story. With the proper care and maintenance, you can be part of an affair that never happened.
Three “Bs” that can prevent infidelity
1. Be intentional
Most couples I meet in the counseling office seeking to repair or rescue their marriage acknowledge they got busy with other things, and looking back, see that they lost focus on their spouse. Not intentionally, over time the job, the kids, Netflix, the latest gaming app slid into the space they used to reserve for one another. A huge part of the successful marriage solution is carving out time to connect on a regular basis. Profound, I know. It’s not necessarily the amount of time shared, it’s the act of the time shared. One helpful idea is to create a “reconnection ritual” you can look forward to each evening after returning home. It can be anything from sharing a glass of wine together to trading back rubs to watching a funny video to relax. Have fun and see what ideas will work for you and your spouse.
2. Be available
This “be” follows naturally from the first. Make wise use of the moments you’re together under the same roof. In today’s technologically centric world, we have one more “thing” we can do that makes us look busy to our spouses. Often, we don’t want to interrupt (or we do, but fear the repercussions) so we spend lots of time in silence, waiting for an opening, or we get busy in our own little world. I call this being unintentionally unavailable. Risk it- let your spouse know you’d like to connect! If your talk time is mostly organizational about schedule and responsibilities, you’ll find it’s not enough to feed the relationship well. Women often complain that they don’t feel their husbands listen to them when they try to bring up what’s important to them. Us guys often see such spouse conversations as an invitation to fix the problem and save the day, missing the wife’s reason for even bringing up the subject. View conversations as opportunities to hear the state of your union from your spouse’s point of view. The goal isn’t necessarily agreement, it’s availability. I like to say, “The sexiest trait in a mate is the willingness to change.” Often when spouses feel they can share their hearts AND be heard, change happens.
As if we needed Ashley Madison’s tag line “Life is short. Have an affair,” to remind us that marriage is not held in the same high regard as it once was, take it upon yourself to defend your marriage, from enemies foreign and domestic. When you’re apart, watch your step. Affairs don’t begin with giant steps, but baby steps. Keep good company. Spend time with friends who value your marriage. If your friends don’t, you can find some that do. We all need a wingman or wing gal to help us fly right sometimes. Now about those domestic enemies, otherwise known as children. You’ll have to prevent them for stealing your couple time because they will take everything you offer them. Set boundaries about interrupting during waking hours and staying in their rooms after bedtime rituals. They can figure it out, and you’ll send them a great message about how to do their future marriage one day.
These three “be’s” are a good place to start to keep your marriage well nurtured and solid. Hey, marriage works if you work.
So how are you doing in your marriage? Click here to download my free relationship assessment to get the conversations started.