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This week New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced to confess his involvement in a prostitution ring. The story has been all over the media and many blogs have done posts compiling lists of other prominent men’s fall from grace. But some of the most important questions aren’t being asked. Mainly, how does this happen, especially to a man who has spent his life crusading against corruption? And how can other men avoid falling into the same trap?
The Sptizer case, while certainly high profile, is hardly a rarity. 25% of all American men (and some studies put the number even higher) will have extramarital affairs during their lifetime. Will you be 1 of the 4? Or will you be able to stay true?
Many people look at infidelity as if it was a natural disaster; no one could see it coming; it just inexplicably happened. Perhaps this is because we are a country that has abdicated its belief in personal responsibility. The truth is that not only can men see it coming, they can prevent it from happening as well.
It is possible to affair proof your marriage. Will it be a lot of work? Yes. But that’s what you signed up for when you decided to marry your sweetheart.
What is cheating?
Before we begin our discussion on how to immunize your marriage against infidelity, we should establish what constitutes cheating. Having sex with another woman other than your wife is obviously cheating. But it’s also possible to be unfaithful without having to go that far. Infidelity has shades of gray that should likewise be avoided. It is possible to be emotionally unfaithful without crossing any physical boundaries. A perfect example of this is online infidelity. More and more married men are having online romantic and sometimes sexual relationships with women other than their wife. While there’s no physical contact, I would definitely say this is cheating. Men who “date” online are violating a trust that their wife has put in them to be faithful-both body and mind.
Now let’s get down to business. Here are 14 ways to affair proof your marriage:
Make your Marriage Your #1 Priority
This past summer my wife and I spent a week in Montpelier, Vermont. If you were to picture the ideal small American town, Montpelier would be it. It’s an absolutely charming place. One of the town’s tourist brochures carried the tagline: “Places like this don’t just happen.” The citizens of Montpelier have put in a lot of work to maintain the town’s magic.
Similarly, successful marriages don’t just happen. You have to be willing to put in the effort. This is especially true as couples get busier with careers, kids, or community activities. Those things are important, but if you want a strong marriage, your wife must come first.
Keep dating your wife. We’ve written about this before, but it deserves repeating. Establish a weekly “date night” with your wife and treat this time as sacred. Your dates don’t have to be fancy, but you do need to work to keep them fresh. A recent study showed that injecting novelty into your dates can bring back the butterflies you experienced when you were first courting. So visit a new restaurant, try a new hobby, or take a class together.
Quit the porn. Bringing porn into a relationship is not healthy. It’s like bringing another woman into your marriage, except she’s glossy and airbrushed. Porn will only create an unrealistic expectation in your mind about your spouse’s libido, body, and comfort level with weird sex positions. Pretty soon you’ll find that your wife isn’t satisfying you and your eyes will start to wander. Dump the porn.
Focus on being romantic. Any woman will tell you it doesn’t take much to be romantic. A romantic letter or email only takes a few minutes to write. Flowers are always welcome, even if you picked them up from the grocery store on the way home. These small gestures show your wife that you’ve thought of her and help you reinforce your commitment to your wife.
Initiate affection. Studies show that couples who are affectionate with each other stay together. Make an effort to initiate spontaneous affection with your wife. Give her a hug or surprise kiss and tell her how much you love her. Hold hands with her when you’re out together. Also, don’t make your wife cuddle-rape you. Invite cuddling with her without making it a precursor to sex. These small gestures will help strengthen the physical connection that every relationship needs.
Have sex regularly. Many men stray because they’ve gotten bored with their sex life with their wife. It’s pretty easy to get into a slump in your sex life when you’re married. Things just get busy and by the end of the day, couples are just too tired for it. Make sex with your wife a priority. It doesn’t have to involve kama sutra and edible underwear. Just do it. Frequent sexual encounters with your wife will strengthen your emotional and physical attraction to her.
Spend time just talking. Find some time each day to have meaningful conversations with your wife. If you have kiddos, do it after you put them in bed. Talk about what you did during the day. Discuss what you’ve been thinking about lately. Share your dreams with them. The idea is to deepen the bond between to you and your wife. It’s harder to cheat on her when you’ve made such an emotional investment. Deposit into this investment by frequently engaging in meaningful conversations.
Share a common interest. A big reason men stray from their wives is that they begin to find less and less in common with them. When you first started dating, you probably had everything in common. Well, at least you thought you did. So you would spend lots of time together doing things you both enjoyed. Then you got married and started working and your wife either started working too or stayed home to take care of the kids. Pretty soon there begins to be much fewer areas in which your lives overlap.
Avoid this by maintaining a common interest or hobby with your wife. For example, my in-laws do ballroom dancing lessons. Every weekend they’re out dancing. When they’re at home in the evenings they practice in the living room. My wife and I have made it a goal run in a 5K and we’ve started to run together. We also have this blog that we do together. Just find something that both of you can enjoy and participate in it together.
Have a sense of honor and duty. Remember that when you got married you made a sacred promise or vow that you would be faithful to your wife. There was a time when a gentleman was judged on whether or not he was a man of his word. Sadly, people today don’t take those sorts of things seriously. Many people feel justified in breaking their promises when something stops being easy and pleasurable. Buck the trend. Be a man of your word. The honorable thing is to fulfill the duty to your wife that you freely took upon yourself the day you got married. I know some will say, “You shouldn’t stay in a terrible marriage just to avoid breaking your vows.” Perhaps not, but you do have the duty to do everything you can to save that marriage before calling it quits. And I mean everything.
Many men feel they are manly enough to handle any situation with a woman. For them, setting firm boundaries reeks of weakness or unnecessary zealotry. But that is what every man thinks right before they take it too far. Far better to be safe than sorry. If people think you are a prude, so be it. You are prude going home to the love of your life each night with a head held high.
In your quest to avoid temptation, it should be understood that there’s nothing wrong with having friendships with other women. In fact, it’s inevitable. You probably work closely with other women at work or school. The key is to know where to draw the line and then to stay as far away from it as possible. This will require you to do some serious introspection and figure out what your boundaries are. Here some things you can do to help you in that process.
Establish boundaries with your wife. Sit down with your wife and find out what she’s comfortable with in regards to your relationships with other women and vice versa. It will be different with each couple. For example, you might make it rule that neither of you will drive or ride alone in a car (unless absolutely necessary) or dance with a member of the opposite sex.
Evaluate your vulnerabilities. Sit down with your wife and evaluate your vulnerabilities. Many people don’t realize that they may have personality traits that open themselves up for infidelity. These traits don’t have to be bad either. For example, you might naturally be an empathetic listener. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some women may take this attention the wrong way.
How do you know if you’ve crossed the line between friendship and something more?
There are three signs that indicate that you may have crossed the line into infidelity:
1) Emotional intimacy
Do you find yourself sharing more of your feelings and thoughts with your female friend than with your wife?
2) Sexual tension
You instinctively know when it is present. Huge red flag. Don’t rationalize it away.
Do you close your email window when you wife walks by? Do you leave out details of your day because they include encounters with your friend? The minute you fudge anything about your relationship with your female friend, you’ve stepped over the line.
If you see any of these signs, it’s time to re-evaluate your friendship with that other woman. You may need be broaden your boundaries in order to avoid any temptation in the future.
Meet in groups, if possible. If you know you can’t handle situations of being alone with another woman without it crossing the line, avoid being alone with another woman.
Avoid frequent conversations about your personal life. Many an affair begins when people start talking about their problems with another woman besides their wife. They feel like the other person understands them better than their wife. They feel a closer connection with them, so they start spending more time with them. If not checked, it may eventually lead to infidelity. Not always, but why risk it?
Stay away from online dating sites. A recent study shows that a large percentage of men who surf online dating sites are married. Virtual affairs are still affairs.
It’s harder to cheat on your wife than stay faithful
Think about the consequences. It’s actually much harder to cheat on your wife than it is to be faithful to her. When you’re unfaithful, you have to start sneaking around, hiding phone calls, and lying. That’s a lot of damn work. While being in a committed relationship takes a lot of work too, it pales in comparison to the rigamarole you’ll have to go through to have those few moments of excitement with another woman.
Another way cheating makes your life harder is having to deal with the consequences when you’re finally caught. Imagine having to face your children and tell them you haven’t been completely faithful to their mother. Imagine the look of hurt and sadness you’ll see in the eyes of the woman you told you would love forever. If that doesn’t make your stomach sink a bit, you’re a giant douchebag.
Making your marriage affair proof requires a large investment of time and emotional capital. But the investment is well worth it. Set high standards for your marriage and for yourself. Man up and you’ll never stray.