After an affair, couples often feel blindsided by the betrayal. “I have no clue how we got here,” one partner will say. “I can’t believe this happened to us.” But therapists who counsel couples in such a position usually have a good understanding of why it happened. We have consulted with such therapists, and now offer seven ways to minimize their risk of infidelity.
1. Don’t think you are immune to an affair.
If you think infidelity is something that only happens to other couples, think again. Accepting that an affair can occur in any relationship ensures that you’re better equipped to see the warning signs, said Alexandra H. Solomon, a clinical psychologist and the author of Brave, Deep, Intimate: 20 Lessons to Get You Ready for the Love of a Lifetime.
2. Recognize and tend to the needs of your relationship.
People who cheat often talk about how their affair partners simply fulfilled a need their spouse couldn’t, be it physical or emotional. To sidestep the same fate, clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark said you need to fiercely guard the connection that initially brought you two together. At the same time, check in occasionally to make sure everything is still okay on your partner’s end.
3. Define what monogamy means to you.
Talk openly and honestly about what kind of behavior isn’t acceptable outside the confines of your relationship, then set some clear, mutually agreed-upon boundaries, said Solomon. For example, you might think your borderline flirty behavior at dinner is okay, but your partner may think you need a reality check.
4. Close the door on old flames.
With Facebook at your fingertips, it’s all too easy to reconnect with an old boyfriend or that girl from biology class you always had a thing for in high school. It only takes a click to add him or her, but you ask yourself, “Is it really worth the temptation?” If you’re already having problems in your relationship, your answer should be a clear-cut no, said Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and author.
5. Make time for sex.
It’s natural for your sex drive to wax and wane in a long-term marriage. But if you can’t recall the last time the two of you were intimate, you may want to address this issue, said Clark. “The truth is, touching and sexual activity drive up chemical reactions in our brain that promote feelings of connection, attachment, and desire.”
6. Don’t confide in someone other than your spouse (especially an attractive someone).
It’s fine and healthy to have close friends and family who listen to your relationship rants. But discuss your relationship problems with someone you’re drawn to in a physical way and you could be well on your way to an emotional affair, said Saltz.
7. Actively show how much your partner means to you.
The love you feel for your partner may be more than you ever imagined possible, but don’t assume he or she knows that. Your partner wants to feel wanted; make a point to prove your feelings to them on a regular basis, writes Clark.
About the Author
Brittany Wong is the Relationships Editor for The Huffington Post.