No marriage is ‘affair-proof’. We all have vulnerabilities, and all marriages wax and wane. Protecting your marriage is about making the decision to do so, before you are in a vulnerable situation.
When you’re single, it’s normal to attract attention from people in the ‘dating game’. This means that when you join your life with someone else, you’re going to have to change some habits. Perhaps most fundamentally, choose not to get your selfesteem from being attractive to people outside your marriage.
If the barista at your local café is flirting with you, choose not to flirt back. That doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself or be friendly—but you may just have to adjust what that means.
Be honest with yourself about your vulnerabilities—are you away a lot for work? Are you in a position of power, such as a ministry leader? Are you an empathetic person, that people find easy to talk to? None of these are wrong in themselves. But notice where the ‘chinks’ are, and make a plan to protect yourself.
When you make these small, daily decisions to avoid temptation, you will be better equipped to deal with bigger temptations. There will be a time in your marriage when you feel alone, and perhaps misunderstood by your partner. It may feel like someone else understands you better. But, remember, this is just a fantasy. That other person is also complicated and has their own problems—you just haven’t seen them yet.
Before you are ever in this situation, decide that you will not confide in anyone else of the opposite sex. Sharing personal problems encourages emotional intimacy. And once your emotions are involved, it will be a lot harder to untangle yourself from the relationship.
Similarly, don’t turn to ‘easier’ forms of intimacy—like pornography, or online chatting—this is a form of unfaithfulness. It will affect your marriage.
Those are the ‘don’ts’ for protecting yourself from an affair, but there are also many positives that will encourage you and your partner to stay committed and turning towards each other.
Firstly, do keep having sex. Yep, you won’t always feel like it. No, it doesn’t have to be like when you were first married. But stay physically connected. Sex is what makes your relationship unique. And it’s not just the sex—continue to show physical affection to each other through a touch, hug, kiss or holding hands. Tell your partner you love them.
Prioritise time together. Research has found that making the effort to do something fun and new together can actually re-ignite those ‘butterflies’. At least once a month, make time for a date.
Much of what makes a marriage strong comes down to an attitude of appreciation and thoughtfulness towards each other. Sometimes this will feel natural. At other times, it will take effort. Surprise your partner with a thoughtful gesture—this is even more important when you are going through tough times.
Choose to see the positives in your partner—happiness in marriage has a lot more to do with the way you see your partner, than how perfect they actually are.