While it is no secret that a happy, long-lasting marriage takes work, many couples are surprised at how much work. Expert Rachel Weinstein offers us some invaluable advice on keeping love alive through fidelity.
As you moved from adolescence to adulthood you probably realized that you’re not as equipped to handle some real-life challenges as you’d wish. Do you wish they’d taught you how to balance a checkbook in Home-Ec? Or maybe basic auto-maintenance would’ve helped you out of a huge repair bill later in life.
Well this is Fidelity 101: the class I think all folks getting married could use to give themselves the best chance at having a safe, loyal marriage.
Pop-quiz: which categories would you choose as being most commonly linked with infidelity? sleaziness or upstandingness? miserable marriage or happy one? men or women?
Most of us would probably pick the former from each of the pairs and feel protected by falling in (or being with someone in) the latter categories—but that gives us a false sense of security. In fact, as Shirley Glass states in Not Just Friends, “Good people in good marriages are having affairs.” And a lot of them—an equal number—are women. A false sense of security keeps you from taking the simple steps necessary to protect your marriage.
So here are some tips. (And just as an aside: none of the below applies to abusive relationships—those need more help) In the spirit of connected, committed and loyal marriages/partnerships:
1. Say “No” to Secrecy
If you are relating to someone in a way that you wouldn’t want your spouse/partner to know about, stop. Your intuition is telling you you’re crossing a line. Many affairs start as (and may even never get beyond) emotional cheating. It’s a slippery slope.
2. Apply #1 to Being Online
The internet has added drastically to our susceptibility to infidelity because now there’s a whole arena within which to interact behind a password no one else may know. We can seem like we’re just working on a document at work and actually be flirting with someone other than our spouse. We’re also re-connecting with long lost friends and lovers through social media. Don’t underestimate the enticement of that unrequited love from college. Refer back to number one.
3. Don’t Convince Yourself of Self-Control
Don’t tell yourself “It’s okay because I would never actually do anything.” You may start out innocently enough—most of us aren’t ever intending to cheat—but when you find yourself sliding into an infatuation phase, your brain just isn’t functioning with its usual rational thinking. The brain of someone in love or lust actually lights up (in an EEG) similarly to the brain of an addict. You have to use your willpower before you think you have a problem.
4. Avoid the “Soulmate Trap”
Don’t convince yourself you’ve made a mistake by choosing your spouse and that your potential affair partner may actually be your “soulmate.” Sorry honey, but if you’ve gotten this far in your thinking you’re already in too deep and aren’t a good judge of your spouse or your affair partner. You’re comparing apples to oranges and the comparison won’t work. You’ll be able to read more about this is my forthcoming book, but for now go on to number five and try to take my word for it.
5. Prioritize Self & Marriage
Work on your marriage. Work on yourself. Be what Christine Meinecke in her book Everybody Marries the Wrong Person calls the “self-responsible spouse.” If your marriage leaves something to be desired (and first ask yourself if your desires around marriage are realistic), talk about it, work on it, plan it, play it, become it. It’s not easy and it’s not a quick fix, but it’s almost always possible with two committed partners. Are you communicating your needs to your spouse? Does he or she know how important those needs are to you? Go to the person with an open heart and get down and dirty creating the marriage you want.
There’s a reason that the statistics for divorce go from 50 percent in first marriages to 66 percent in second marriages and then up to 75 percent for third marriages. If you think someone else is going to make you happier than your spouse does, most likely you’ve got to look in the mirror and fact the facts.
From the kindness of my heart: it’s up to you.
[image: via Exper Giovanni Rubaltelli on flickr]