What would you do if you had a crystal ball and you could foresee your spouse having an affair 3 months from now?

Imagine what it would feel like to know your spouse cheated. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. maybe it’s already happened. If so, I am truly sorry.

Once you’ve experienced an affair, you’ve walked through a one-way door you can never go back through again.

No matter how much you wish the affair never happened, no matter how much you want your relationship to “go back to the way it was,” that can never happen.

None of us can undo the past. Whether you’re the cheater or the injured person, the affair is a reality you are going to have to live with from now on. That’s true whether you decide to repair your marriage or not. The affair is never going to go away.

But what about stopping an affair before it ever starts? And what about protecting your relationship from the possibility of future affairs? Is it possible to do that?

Yes, it is . at least to some degree.

Of course, you can’t ever completely control the actions of another human being. You can’t “make” your spouse not cheat on you. If he or she chooses to take that road, there’s no blockade you can put up to prevent him or her from going down it.

But there are ways you can make it a little less likely your spouse will take that road in the first place, and there are ways for a cheater to start being aware of what actions might lead him or her down the path to another affair.

You see, even cheaters don’t start off their marriage thinking, “I know, I’ll get married, and later I’ll sleep around or at least have sex with someone else.” In almost all cases, it just doesn’t work that way.

Instead people end up in a series of situations that makes the possibility of an affair more and more likely. You can avoid these early situations if you are diligent and assertive and know what to be aware of.

I know you want to protect your marriage from an affair. This is true whether you have already been through one or not. For that reason, in the next 3 articles I am going to do a mini-series on how to stop affairs before they start, and how to protect your marriage for your future.

Even if you haven’t been through an affair, you can use the ideas in this series to inoculate your relationship against future affairs.

You can’t undo the past, but you can change the future. You can’t “go back to the way things were,” but many of you can make your marriage better than ever.

You need to protect your marriage to keep it safe from affairs. I will be giving you tips in this article and the ones to follow, which can help protect your marriage from affairs.

1) Don’t Invite Trouble into Your Marriage

Here’s  Tom’s story:

My wife Janice had always wanted to learn to play the piano, and I wanted to do something really nice for her 35th birthday. So I decided to meet with one of the best piano teachers in town to see if he would give her lessons.

This guy was a complete hunk. I even knew that, and I’m a guy! He was handsome, muscular, charming and talented. It was like he was the perfect man.

But all I was thinking about was that Janice had wanted piano lessons since she was a kid, and this guy came with glowing recommendations from one of my friends. I hired him without a second thought.

I guess looking back, I should have known better. Within a few months, Janice was having an affair with this man. I feel kind of foolish now, but I never even saw it coming. After all, she was my wife!”

Tom made a mistake hiring that particular piano teacher.

Of course, the affair wasn’t his fault. And I want to emphasize that point strongly. When an affair happens, only one person is responsible for making it happen-the cheater.

However, inviting an attractive male piano teacher in to his home to meet privately with his wife should have raised some red flags for Tom.

When your marriage is going well and even when it’s not going well but you have full faith in your partner’s integrity, most of you will find it just about impossible to imagine that your spouse might ever have an affair.

That was Tom’s attitude. He didn’t think he had to do anything extra to protect against an affair. He was even giving a loving “gift” of lessons for his wife.

Generally speaking, you should be wary of any interactions you or your spouse has with someone of the opposite gender.

This is very important for people who have already been through affairs, but it is also important for people who haven’t and simply want to make their marriage as safe as
possible.

In my opinion, when a man and a woman are together repeatedly and especially if they are alone, there is a potential for a spark to ignite.

No matter how “mature” you are, no matter how “open- minded” you are about male to female relationships, the underlying sexual chemistry between men and women can make your resolve difficult at times.

Every one of you has a choice about how you act, but those choices can easily be muddled and complicated when your biology is telling you to act in one way while your mind is telling you something else.

An affair can begin even if only one of the paramours has an interest-even if the other person has absolutely no interest and no attraction at the beginning.

Does this mean you should avoid all interactions with people of the opposite gender?

That isn’t realistic in today’s world.

However, it does mean you should be wary any time you or your spouse is interacting with someone of the opposite sex. And it also means that to a large degree one-on-one interactions with people of the opposite sex should mostly be limited to a professional basis, or arranged carefully to avoid alone time together.

I think that any male to female or female to male relationship is a risk. And, I believe this kind of thinking is important for any marriage you want to protect.

Thinking like this and using precautions like these become especially important if you have suffered from an affair. If this is the case, you already know you or your spouse has a weakness of character. Why agitate problems that could easily be avoided with forethought?

However, one of the big problems I encounter over and over again is when couples do not create strict enough boundaries around their relationships concerning friends or associates of the opposite sex.

Imagine how you might react if you were the woman receiving piano lessons in the story above. (If you’re a man simply reverse the gender roles.) Imagine you meet this gorgeous, interesting person who shares the same passions you do, and happens to be an expert in a hobby you have always wanted to take up.

He has to sit next to you for some of the teaching, or lean over your shoulder and you can feel his breath on your neck. He puts his hand on your back for balance, or to emphasize his point, or to give you encouragement.

Would there possibly be some temptation there?

I’m sure you’re thinking, “I would never cheat no matter what!” And maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you don’t have the “leaky character” I have discussed in previous articles. Maybe you could stand up in the face of temptation, and do the right thing.

But why take the risk?!!? There are other piano teachers in the world. There are other people you could have intimate friendships with. Why does it have to be with someone of the opposite sex?

Ultimately this is all about risk-management, priorities, creating boundaries, and building fences around your marriage-issues I have discussed in various other parts of my writing.

It’s your life. No one can “tell you what to do.” I surely can’t, nor would I want to. You have to decide how much risk you are willing to take.

In fact, if you are spending frequent quality time with someone of the opposite sex, this behavior might be seen as demeaning and disrespectful to your spouse.

If you’re recovering from an affair, you already know these situations present a risk for you. If you’re the cheater and you are serious about repairing your marriage, you should be willing to limit (and perhaps eliminate) contact with people of the opposite sex.

Your limits will depend on what you and your spouse decide is appropriate. The two of you should sit down and talk together about what your boundaries are regarding these issues.

If you have had an affair before, I recommend you reign n your boundaries pretty tightly, using some of the suggestions I have offered above. Due to the fact that you now have a history of giving in to temptation, you want to put the safest plan you can create into place.

I know this might not be comfortable at first. You may even have to sacrifice some friendships in order to make it happen. And in some cases that can be a difficult sacrifice to make.

In time, it will get easier. And keep in mind that you are making these sacrifices for the most important relationship in your life-your marriage.

In my view, sacrifices like this are worth it if it keeps your marriage safe.

One-on-one interactions with people of the opposite sex present a risk to your marriage. That is a reality. If you want your relationship to be as safe as possible, I recommend you limit (or eliminate) these interactions. It minimizes your risk, and is a powerful symbol to your spouse about how serious you are about your marriage.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

 

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

 

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