This is the most important affair-preventer in my life. No marriage can give you everything. A husband is going to have interests that his wife will never care about like fishing, hunting, or golfing. So he's less likely to stray if he can find some good guy buddies with whom to fish, hunt, and golf.Early on in our relationship, I realized that Eric was never going to be able to recite the "Hail Mary" or the "Our Father," or be able to tell them apart. So I feed my spiritual hunger by having coffee with my religious women friends, and with my safe male friends, the balding fellows over the age of 60.
2. Recognize the Drug
Depressives and addicts are especially prone to affairs because of the head rush that comes with infatuation. The spikes in dopamine and norepinephrine we experience upon connecting with someone new fools us into thinking that the sexy man or attractive woman at the bar holds the key to our nirvana and the end to our problems. This is the same as, say, the high from cocaine. Recognizing that that rush is not real, meaningful, or lasting, can help a married person to "just say no."
3. Keep Dating
I'm serious here. Visiting with your spouse with some regularity--just the two of you and no one else--will bring some very definite rewards to a marriage. By dating, you will learn how to TALK to each other again. In her book, "Mating in Captivity," Esther Perel urges a client to imagine her spouse as if she has just met him, to put him into that mysterious category again. This is really hard when you got a little one screaming, "Wipe me!" from the bathroom. However, when you can pull it off, I find her theory very effective. Here are a few rules for date night:* No kid talk * No eavesdropping * No fighting * No flirting (with other people) * No whining or crying * No flatulence * No technology (cellphones, BlackBerries, iPhones, or iPods) * No interrupting * No belching, spitting, or vomiting * No heavy boozing * No blogging about it * No Christmas sweaters, polyester dresses, or ratty underwear.
4. Pray Together
I know how those two words sound: just like the instructions of a couple leading a Catholic marriage preparation program (Pre-Cana) who told the engaged couples to "hold hands while they fight." Yeah right. Thanks for that advice! As I've said, Eric isn't all that jazzed about religion. So where am I going here?I've had this conversation over and over again in our house: we need to go to church as a family. But last September it stuck because David is now in Kindergarten at St. Mary's, and the teachers STRONGLY ENCOURAGE families to attend Mass together. As they should. I want to set a good example for our son. I also want him to see his dad sitting with me on the pew. And I do think going to church together gives me extra insurance that all of us are sticking together, even if I'm outside half the time with Katherine screaming "Jesus is poopy!"I can't help but think there is some truth to what my high school teacher said about the braid of a marriage: you need God as that third strand to create the beautiful bond between a man and a woman. And that Fr. Peyton really knew what he was talking about when he coined the phrase, "a family that prays together stays together."
5. Find a Creative Outlet
People get lured into emotional and physical affairs because the infatuation provides an exciting, stimulating place where they are energized. So to stay affair-proof, you have to find other sources of stimulation and excitement. For me, my blog is that outlet. I can't wait to log on each day to see what all of my dear readers have to say. When I get overwhelmed by the domestic chaos of our lives, Beyond Blue provides me that outlet where I can create something new, where I can run away, however temporarily, from the stress."The desire to give oneself completely and purposefully pursues us always, and has its part in pushing us into more and more distractions, illusory love affairs, or the haven of hospitals and doctors' offices," writes Anne Morrow Lindbergh in "Gift From the Sea." In order to not be torn into pieces by all of life's distraction--and affairs fit into this category--Lindbergh urges women (and I add men) to seek a creative outlet, something of her own, in which to pour that energy that could so quickly shatter her marriage.
6. Hang Out with Happy Couples
According to the latest studies, the risk for obesity increased 171 percent among persons with obese friends. The risk only increased 37 percent for persons with an obese spouse, and 40 percent for folks with obese siblings. That says to me that peer pressure never really goes away, and that your friends influence you more than you think. So if you're hanging with a bunch of guys (or girls) that see nothing wrong with sleeping around, you are much more likely to do it yourself. The good news is that the opposite is also true. If you have a set of friends committed to their marriages, you will be less likely to cheat on your spouse.
7. Learn How to Fight
I'm not going to tell you to hold hands, like that woman at the Pre-Cana (Catholic marriage preparation) session. But this good advice did actually come from the couple who facilitated Eric's and my Pre-Cana obligation. They told us to wait before saying something really ugly, and make sure you weren't tired or hungry, or in a stressful situation. I'm not saying that you can't confront your spouse if you're tired, hungry, or stressed, because then we'd live in a silent world. BUT it's a good idea to recognize situations that tend to accelerate arguments. For Eric and me, that's two places: in the car (because I'm a nervous passenger, and so is he), and on a sailboat (where we argue about which one of us is a more capable skipper and can better read the wind).
8. Be Nice and Listen
"Duh," you're saying to yourself. But think about it. This is the hardest part about marriage. Listening. Keeping your mouth closed when the other person is talking. And then, at the appropriate time, saying something like, "I'm so sorry you're feeling that way" as you rub his back, instead of "If you would have done it this way, then you could have prevented that, Butthead."In my conversations with men and women who have had affairs, the number one reason for pursuing the affair was this: "She listened to me. I mattered to him."
9. Remember These Tools
Never forget that you have a toolbox of resources to draw on when you feel tempted by an extramarital affair. Here are some tools offered to me by those healing from affairs, insights to keep in mind when you feel that familiar head rush and are tempted to abandon logic for a thrill:
Don't go there: Don't put yourself in a threatening situation. Skip the conference in Hawaii with the colleague who flirts with you. If you absolutely have to go, avoid all opportunities to be alone with him.
You've got mail: When you don't know if your email crosses the line into appropriate language, send it to yourself first. Read it again, and ask yourself: would I feel comfortable showing this to my husband?
Dress with intentions: One woman told me that she saved her lingerie for her husband, and wore the ratty old underwear to the high-school reunion where she'd see a flame from the past.
Talk about your spouse: A guy friend told me that whenever he is alone with a woman he finds attractive and things are getting uncomfortable, he'll start talking about his wife--what her hobbies are, and how much he loves her. It immediately kills the mood.