Today I want to continue my discussion about killing an affair before it starts. Then, the second part of my email will revolve around the healthy way to tell your spouse about encounters with someone of the opposite sex.
Knowing how to do this will not only protect your marriage from danger, but also help build up your marriage and rebuild trust. Those are two very good things.
Okay, on to today’s subject.
Nobody wants to experience the pain and betrayal an affair causes. No one wants to face that horrific moment where your sense of safety and peace is shattered because you learn the awful truth that your spouse cheated on you.
If you are the cheater, you probably didn’t go into your marriage planning to compromise your own integrity and devastate the person you loved most in the world.
And if you are the injured, you surely didn’t go into marriage expecting to be betrayed by the person you loved most in the world.
In short, no one expects or wants to go through the trauma that an affair causes-neither the cheater nor the injured person want it.
Yet affairs happen virtually every day. Why?
One of the reasons is that individuals and couples don’t put precautions in place to protect their marriages from situations that could potentially lead to an affair.
Putting precautions in place when your relationship is new, exciting and wonderful is a turn-off for many individuals who think of this as a message of mistrust-after all, they think, “Our love is so strong that our relationship is going to be like this forever.”
It is inevitable that problems or stressful times will arise in your relationship. At one of those times someone from your life could appear as a savior, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Most people don’t believe it can happen until so many little lines have been crossed that now in retrospect a huge violation has occurred.
If you’re serious about protecting your relationship, and making it better than it has ever been, you need to protect it from affairs even though you think it could never happen to you.
That’s why I am providing this series of articles to suggest skills you need to help you protect your relationship from an affair.
These skills do not offer you 100% assurance. After all, there are no guarantees in life when it comes to other people’s actions.
However, the skills you are learning in this series have the potential to protect your marriage.
In the last email I focused on the risk involved in almost any continuing and frequent relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
In this article, the focus will be on your own internal responses-how to monitor them and how to talk about them. This is the next step to protecting your marriage.
If you have been through an affair (and especially if you cheated on your spouse), the information you are about to read is absolutely critical. It will point out some of the skills you need to protect your marriage from future affairs.
Monitoring Your Internal Responses
I feel that interactions with people of the opposite sex should be carefully thought through and limited.
Any time you encounter a situation where you are attracted to someone, red flags should go up in your mind. You might also feel the danger signal as an excitement in your body.
At these times, you will want to be very careful about how you interact with the person you are attracted to, regardless of the context.
In short, you need to be attentive to your internal monitor that tells you when a situation is risky for your marriage.
This attentiveness requires you to be completely honest with yourself and tune into what your true feelings are telling you.
I have seen too many people who feel confident they won’t cheat, yet find themselves in situations where their defenses are weakened and they make an awful mistake in judgment they regret for the rest of their lives.
If you’re serious about protecting your marriage, I recommend you tune into your internal monitor similarly.
Listen to that voice inside you that says, “Hey, this is a little risky. You’re attracted to this person, and that means your marriage may be in trouble if you act on this impulse.”
What kind of scenarios might you find yourself in where your internal monitor starts sending you messages? The possibilities are endless, but here are a few samples:
. Going to lunch with a beautiful colleague
. “Just having fun” flirting with someone attractive
. Secluding yourself and talking with someone you are attracted to
. Engaging in conversations where you and someone you are attracted to discuss your marital troubles
. “Making eyes” at someone you find attractive
. Physically touching someone you are attracted to under almost any situation
. Joining a gym where you know someone you are already attracted to
. Being “buddies” with someone of the opposite sex even if you are not attracted to each other
. Using someone of the opposite sex to process emotionally-laden experiences-particularly if these experiences involve your spouse
Obviously this list could go on indefinitely. The idea is that you don’t want to expose your relationship to potential jeopardy by acting on sexually- or emotionally- motivated impulses. And you particularly don’t want to encourage problems by interacting with or pursuing someone you find attractive.
Instead, if you are valuing your marriage the way you promised to, you will want to keep your distance from situations like these and turn down invitations when they come up.
You will want to listen to your internal monitor honestly and react appropriately. You will want to protect your marriage by staying away from scenarios that are alluring, or that provide you with that internal excitement.
And there’s one more thing you will want to do if you are going to make this as effective as possible.
You will want to tell your spouse exactly what happened as soon as possible after one of these situations occurs.
You might want to ask me, “Are you for real? You want me to tell my spouse I’m attracted to someone else?”
Why would you share this information and potentially cause an argument when you have been trying to save your marriage from further problems?
Perhaps the biggest question of all is: How could you possibly present this information to your spouse in a meaningful way?
Let me answer a few of these questions before I close.
How and Why to Tell Your Spouse about Situations that Endanger Your Marriage
Communicating with your spouse about situations where your internal monitor tells you your marriage is in potential danger can actually be a much more positive experience than it seems.
For one thing, it is a sign to your spouse that you are serious about protecting your marriage. It shows you are being honest and forthcoming with information, and it demonstrates your investment in staying away from potentially vulnerable situations that could lead to an affair.
While your spouse won’t be thrilled to hear about your attraction to another person, after he or she gets past the initial dismay your admission may cause, it is very likely your spouse will appreciate your honesty.
I recommend you tell your spouse about every aspect of the situation, exactly as it occurred.
How you present this information ultimately depends on your own communication style and what works for you and your spouse.
You may simply be matter-of-fact about what happened, you might introduce it with a little humor (if that’s appropriate), or you might sit down and have a serious discussion regarding boundaries in your marriage. Note: If you cheated in your relationship, humor about meeting someone else is probably going to backfire.
Above all, you need to be completely honest and forthcoming with information. This is the key to the entire process. As long as you are honest, you create an opportunity for you and your spouse to discuss any thoughts or feelings that may need to be addressed regarding the circumstance.
In this way you turn what could have been a devastating situation into something that can help deepen your connection with your partner.
I know that may seem like a stretch to some of you at this point. But in most cases, there is a long-term benefit to this awareness and openness.
Be honest with your spouse about situations where you were attracted to someone; tune in to your internal monitor; then use the opportunity to recommit to your marriage by moving away from the temptation. These steps will draw the two of you together.
The same thing can happen for you if you use your internal monitor to spot situations that could endanger your marriage, and then communicate these instances to your spouse.
Use situations like this as an opportunity to discuss issues regarding boundaries in your marriage. Reaffirm that your marriage is your first priority. Act in a way that makes it clear the sentiments you have talked about are important to you.
Your goal should always be to make your marriage a little better today than it was yesterday.
In the final part of this series I will explain some behaviors you can watch for in your partner that may be indications your marriage is in danger. I will also give you some tips about how you can discuss these behaviors with your partner, so you can take yet another step toward protecting your marriage from an affair.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,
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