10 Ways to Prevent an Affair
It seems as if each day brings breaking news of yet another male celebrity philanderer, and we have to admit it makes us a little nervous. Still, we're not buying the excuse that men aren't wired for monogamy, which is why we liked these man-devised tips that provide an even-handed approach as to why affairs happen — and how we can prevent them in our relationships. —Glo
By Brendan Tapley for Woman's Day
1. Appreciation, Not Apathy
Vowing “'til death do us part” doesn't mean throwing in the towel when it comes to appreciating your spouse. That kind of complacency invites an apathy that slowly takes your bond for granted — and being taken for granted often leads to seeking value elsewhere. One of the smartest things a couple can do is to recognize that their relationship could end at any time. Internalizing this perspective cultivates an active gratitude, one that inspires a healthy urgency to show our loved one just how much we care. To help change your perspective, try asking yourself each morning: “Why do I value my spouse, and what one thing can I do today to show him?” It could be as simple as a spoken compliment, a short email to let him know he's in your thoughts or an impromptu dinner date for just the two of you. If you feel underappreciated, ask your husband to do the same. Don't go a single day without asserting your value to each other in some small way, and see what results.
2. It's Never Just About the Sex
The media portrays men as slaves to their libido, but most affairs are born out of a man's desire for emotional intimacy, not physical sensation. That said, the two have an interesting link for guys. “Some men do not develop a deep emotional connection [when it comes to sex],” says Ronald Levant, Ed.D., a gender researcher. “So a guy's only connection to intimacy may remain physical.” This is why when men crave more intimacy, they may turn to sex to fulfill that craving. How can you turn a man fearful of true intimacy into one who seeks it? It sounds simplistic, but try initiating sex. Being physically intimate with a man can serve to open him up emotionally.
3. Have an Empathetic Ear
While you may be used to saying whatever comes to mind with your best girl friend, men may feel more vulnerable sharing deeply personal thoughts and feelings. Women can cultivate what Andrew Irwin-Smiler, a psychologist studying masculinity, calls “camaraderie.” A masculine variation on intimacy, camaraderie assures a man that his masculinity will not be compromised if he is emotional. If you sense your partner wants to open up, but fears he may be judged for having these types of feelings, try imitating the masculine by stating you'd like to listen to him without bias. Then, really do that, no matter how tempting it is to react or give advice. Instead, ask follow-up questions. You might be surprised at the resulting closeness.
4. The Friendship Factor
Along those lines, another essential relationship for men that can reduce the temptation of infidelity is the male friendship. “We don't talk to boys about relationships, so guys have a smaller vocabulary for those connections,” says Irwin-Smiler. But they do speak the same language. Women can protect their relationships by supporting their husband's friendships with other guys. It expands the vocabulary men have for the important bonds in their lives and fills the vacuum of intimacy that is often compensated for with inappropriate romances.
5. Grow (Up) Together
Just because you've been with each other since your early 20s doesn't mean you've both developed together — or at the same pace. In many cases of infidelity, couples “have not helped each other grow up,” says psychologist Sylvia Lafair. One easy way to mature with your partner is to make (and meet!) goals together. For example, if you've lived in the same house for decades and you're both tired of doing housework every weekend, start a discussion about moving to a new place — you never know, he may be feeling the same way. And advocating for his aspirations will make him feel seen in a different way, something an affair often promises.
6. No Subject Should Be Out-of-Bounds
A chief temptation for men is the confidante. Someone who really “gets” him. (Granted, this can be a delusion, since the one who truly gets him is probably at home.) But the novelty of being able to discuss topics that cause marital tension is hard to resist. Avoid having off-limit subjects in your relationship — and don't be afraid to call his bluff by asking the tough questions: How do you feel about our sex life? What would you like in our marriage that you don't already have? A relationship immune to tension is impossible, but tensions from topics that have become off-limits can be detrimental. Putting things back on the table goes a long way toward keeping you as his confidante.
7. Talk Is Good, but Action Can Be Better
Women have a tendency to want to talk things out. This is wise in principle, except for when it becomes all you do. For men, relief from that cycle can be found in a person who replaces analysis with joyful activity. Women should not censor themselves to maintain a relationship, but substituting talk with an activity you both love is a powerful reminder of unity, one that can reignite the reasons you chose each other. Change things up a little; instead of talking about how you feel like the two of you aren't connecting lately, make a connection happen! If you both love food, try registering for a couple's cooking class with a type of cuisine neither one of you knows anything about. You'll both start at the same level and have to look to each other for guidance and support, which is a new way of connecting for both of you.
8. Reimagine Masculinity
Many of us — both men and women alike — grew up with an idea of what maleness is: often characterized with terms like aggressive, unemotional, dominant, fearless. But just as women's roles in society have changed over the last 50 or so years, it's important to recognize that men's have as well. If you're constantly knocking or teasing a guy for doing something “un-guylike,” he may search out someone who lets him be himself. Try rethinking what makes a man masculine and encouraging his unconventional qualities, such as a passion for poetry, gardening or interior decorating. Such encouragement may eventually make him more unconventional in terms of intimacy, too.
9. Do Not Fear Your Dark Sides
Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung believed delving into one's shadow side — not fleeing from it, as we typically do — held great potential in helping people reach wholeness. This same idea can be applied to relationships. The shadow sides of a partnership (i.e. the areas we avoid going to in order to stay in our “happy” place) are often what will push a spouse to seek a corrective outside it. Ask yourself where you and your spouse are most at odds. Next, identify those qualities that define the polarization, noting the ones that cause you the most resentment. (Often, these are the same qualities we need to cultivate in ourselves.) In addressing those, you begin to balance yourself, freeing your partner from doing so and eliminating the dependencies that hinder a marriage's wholeness.
10. Absence Does Make the Heart Grow Fonder
Diamonds, delicious nonfat ice cream, a quality chick flick ... women like what's rare in this world. Yet, they rarely appreciate scarcity in their relationships. Sometimes, the best strategy to ward off a wandering eye is to give your partner the opportunity to miss you. So, go ahead — take that yoga class or volunteer, even if it means he's by himself a couple of nights a week. Just like women need to sample the occasional rarity to make life valuable, men better understand value when sampling a little competition — even if it's just in terms of the time they get to spend with you.
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One way to prevent an affair: Never take your partner for granted.Emely/cultura/Corbis
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