Can you affair-proof your relationship? Infidelity can be tough to talk about, but being honest about the temptations that we all face once we have committed to an intimate relationship can be a powerful form of prevention.
Family Institute Staff Therapist Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, offers four ways couples can proactively stack the deck in their favor.
1) Talk about sexual monogamy. For those who choose it, sexual monogamy is a high bar for a relationship, and we as a society are reluctant to talk openly and honestly about what is actually required for a couple to be happy and Couples who are able to talk with each other about their sexual needs and desires are the ones who are most satisfied with their sexual relationships. Talk openly together: Why you are choosing to be sexually monogamous? What does each of you need in order to feel good about your choice? What does the relationship needs in order to thrive? Making this explicit rather than assumed goes a long ways toward preventing infidelity.
2) Surround yourself. Even if you feel content in your intimate relationship, chances are good that you will find yourself feeling attracted to other people. It’s all about what you do with those feelings. Your friends can affect how you feel in your intimate relationship, so surrounding yourself with friends who support your intimate relationship can help you keep choosing fidelity.
3) Stay engaged. Infidelity does not happen “out of the blue.” A common storyline is that one or both partners disengaged emotionally and/or physically from the relationship prior to the infidelity. Staying engaged with each other requires actively tending to the relationship: spending time together, being curious about each other’s worlds, connecting physically and sexually, and setting goals together. If you or your partner feel disengaged, working with a couples therapist can be a great way to reconnect and reduce the risk of betrayal.
4) Don’t think you’re immune. I have heard over and over again in my therapy office some version of: “I never thought it could happen to us,” “I am not the kind of person who cheats, but here I am,” or “I have no clue how we got here.” Stay humble. Relationships are complex and mysterious journeys. Effort and care are required … always.
Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. She’s writing a book about relationships that will be published by New Harbinger in February 2017.