Unfortunately, infidelity in relationships may be more common than we realize. The numbers do vary somewhat depending on what studies you look at but an anonymous survey by YouGov in 2015 found that about 1 in 5 Americans admitted to cheating on their partner. Assuming this number is fairly accurate, it is likely that you or someone close to you have cheated or been the victim of infidelity in your relationship. Furthermore, if it hasn’t happened to you, it’s likely if you aren’t vigilant about keeping your relationship strong. Let me first clear up some myths about infidelity cited by the Zur Institute.
Common myths about infidelity:
- An affair inevitably destroys a marriage.
- Men initiate almost all affairs.
- Men’s affairs are more physical and women’s are more emotional.
- An affair always means there are serious problems in the marriage.
- Internet sex or “sexting” are not considered extramarital affairs
It is important to clear up the myths about infidelity because if we have inaccurate assumptions about affairs, we cannot do the best job possible at preventing infidelity in our own relationships. Now, let’s address some of the facts about infidelity:
Facts about infidelity:
- Most couples survive the affair, rather than ending up in divorce.
- Society may say that they support monogamous relationships, but popular media actually supports and models affairs.
- Infidelity is a choice.
- No marriage is immune from affairs.
- People having affairs tend to justify and rationalize their behavior.
Now that you are more educated on the research on affairs, let’s talk about how we use this information. Here are some important steps you can take to begin building a shield that will help protect your marriage from infidelity.
- Work on improving your communication skills. There are plenty of resources available to study on your own but if your find you are “spinning your wheels” when it comes to communication, you may need assistance in changing your communication patterns from a relationship expert.
- Never assume that an affair is impossible in your marriage. This naivety will make your marriage more vulnerable.
- Trying to be perfect won’t work. Recognize that you and your spouse will fall short but the important thing to focus on is forgiveness and being able to reconnect after disagreements.
- Be honest and open with each other. If you wouldn’t want to tell your spouse something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!
- Set boundaries in your relationship. Have a discussion about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior with members of the opposite sex. There is a great article about this you can read here.
- Talk about what you define as infidelity. Do you consider texting someone of the opposite sex cheating? Do you define an emotional relationship with someone of the opposite sex as infidelity?
- Go on regular dates.
- Spend at least 15 or 20 minutes each day connecting. Give each other your full attention and talk.
- Try new things together. Novelty in long-term relationships is important.
- Recognize that attraction to others is not the problem, but acting on it is. If you feel an attraction to someone, be extra self-aware when you are with that person and set healthy boundaries for your relationship with him/her. Avoid being alone, don’t entertain thoughts about that person.
- Never talk about marriage problems with anyone outside your marriage. If you are becoming frustrated because your spouse doesn’t seem to be listening or changing, seek professional help.
- Make a commitment to each other that you will both act with integrity in your marriage.
Hopefully these actions will help you find ways you can strengthen your marriage and prevent the hurt of infidelity in your relationship. If cheating has already occured in your relationship, it’s not too late for you. Remember the fact that most couples survive an affair. Many couples who seek help and work through the healing process actually end up stronger than they were before. If we can all open our eyes to the reality of infidelity, we can help lower the statistics and build strong, healthy marriages.