When you recite your wedding vows, your expectation is the same as a lot of couples: to live a long life together. Previous generations often take time to provide words of wisdom to newly married couples and encourage them to partake in positive habits that promote longevity of love and understanding. This wisdom is not inherited but rather is the result of long years mutually working toward the common goal of remaining married for life. In recent history, the idea of divorce and remarriage have become less taboo and more accepted. There are many reasons a couple may choose to end their promise to live life with one another: financial issues, violence, differences too great to overcome, resentment, anger. Unfaithfulness, though not the primary factor in all divorces, can be a stumbling block so large that cannot be overcome.
The question then, is how do you identify and protect your marriage from possible infidelity? What can you do to prevent your spouse from seeking fulfillment outside of the marriage?
1. Lack of intimacy
It is not abnormal for couples to experience times of decrease in physical intimacy. The household, children, jobs, and a busy schedule can limit the time spent alone with one another. This lack of intimacy often creates a void in the marriage, a hole that only deep connection can fill. Typically, this period of time does not last very long. Strong couples are able to quickly recognize the deficit and make up for it by being intentional with their time together. However, this lack, if avoided or ignored, can widen the divide between two people and create a breeding ground for resentment and unfaithfulness.
2. Emotional insecurity
It is important for each couple in a relationship to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Part of mastering assertive communication is the willingness to admit weakness and mistakes and to be open to change when your partner identifies problems. Without this willingness one or both individuals in a marriage may face emotional insecurity. A husband or wife may feel as if he or she is not good enough or may feel as if the partner does not care as greatly about a particular issue. This imbalance of emotional connection can alter how each partner sees the other and can create a sense of insecurity in the relationship. The level of trust in one another decreases as does the willingness to put forth effort toward creating a lasting, loving relationship.
3. Looking elsewhere for connection
If a person is already experiencing a lack of intimacy and emotional insecurity with their partner, the opportunity for unfaithfulness is likely close at hand. Keep in mind: infidelity does not just come in the form of physical intimacy or sex with another person. An affair can be emotional or physical; any connection you share with another person that should be shared only with your spouse can be considered unfaithfulness. A person who seeks intimate connection with someone other than their spouse has already violated the marriage vows. “To love, to honor, and to cherish…” These words are often lost for those feeling disconnected from the person to whom they were spoken. Physical intimacy, though not the only component of a healthy marriage, is the embodiment of emotional security and trust in another person. Without it, many are tempted to seek this connection from someone outside of the marriage.
4. Repairing after an affair
Repairing a marriage after an affair has been found out or confessed is often difficult. Many couples do not survive the part of the process. If it has gone that far, many do not have trust in their partner any longer and choose not to continue the marriage. Affairs involving physical intimacy or sex outside of the marriage are often more difficult to overcome than those involving emotional intimacy with another person. As mentioned before, physical intimacy is a reflection of and outward embodiment of the emotional connectedness. While an affair may not progress toward the physical, it is often difficult to divide the two as separate elements.
Forgiveness is hard; it is made even more difficult when an affair has created division. Some couples will never recover from this kind of event. Some will forgive but not foster growth in the relationship and live through a similar situation down the road. Others, still, will forgive and move forward, learning from the experience and growing closer together as a result. While forgiveness and restored connection and faith are possible, the better alternative would be to protect your marriage by being intentional and consistent here and now. Do not allow your relationship to fall victim to infidelity on your watch – encourage growth and understanding in your marriage; be intentional with your time together; spend each day loving one another wholeheartedly and unconditionally.