Recent studies estimate that 45 percent of married women and approximately 54 percent of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their marriage, according to Hitched. Shocking, isn’t it? Nothing destroys a marriage faster than marital infidelity, and these statistics are truly frightening. But it is possible to “affair-proof” your marriage, says Sharon M. Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T. In order to make that happen, you need to know what can cause an affair in the first place.
Rivkin explains that an affair does not happen “out of the blue.” Rather, it is an extreme symptom of a relationship that has been in trouble for some time. Cheating in a marriage is the result of one thing: “Lack.” A lack of love, attention, sex, recognition, respect, communication, or connection, that builds up over the years, can become so painful that a person will often act out by cheating.
So, how do we avoid getting to this point in our marriage? Below are Rivkin’s seven steps to avoid the lack and a potential affair:
1. Avoid complacency: Don’t ever take your relationship for granted. Relationships need to be nourished daily by a kind word, appreciation, a loving kiss, a smile. Complacency is a warning signal that you and your partner are out of touch with each other.
2. Keep the lines of communication open: Don’t sweep issues under the rug. They won’t go away! Learn ways to resolve arguments so recurring arguments don’t continue.
3. Pay attention to your gut: If you’re feeling something isn’t quite right in your relationship, 99 percent of the time you’re correct. Find a way to approach your partner to talk about things. Keep your relationship current by checking in on a weekly basis to make sure things aren’t building up.
4. Find time for each other: Don’t get so busy that you forget to have a date with your partner. Make time away from the kids, chores, work, etc., to renew your loving feelings. Remember how important your partner is to you. Tell them, by making time for them.
5. Know when it’s a time of stress and pay attention to your partner even more: Some common trigger times for extra stress in a relationship are having a baby, buying a house, changes in finances, empty nest syndrome and death of a family member or friend. During these stressful times, pay extra attention to the marriage. Let your spouse know you’re there and make even more time to connect with each other.
6. Understand the real issues in your relationship: Learn tools for resolving arguments. Avoid blaming, shaming and the need to always be right in an argument. Learn what you’re really fighting about so that you can resolve your issues. If you’re fighting about the wrong thing, you’ll never resolve the arguments.
7. Always remember what it was that made you fall in love with your spouse: Too often we allow our disagreements to cloud our love for our partner and we forgot why we even fell in love! Keep your sense of humor. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and don’t make them your enemy.
For more on love, sex, and marriage, visit Hitched!
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