The number one way to prevent infidelity or cheating in a marriage is to maintain a strong friendship in which both people’s needs are met. People need to have one version of the marriage they both want. Key areas couples need agreement on are around money/finances, children/parenting, time together/apart, what is fun and how to do it together and apart and an agreement on the ultimate goals and directions for the couple. When people don't agree in one or several areas, it contributes to a person not valuing the marriage. If couples do not know how to effectively negotiate a win-win in each of these areas, it puts a relationship at risk.
All people are genetically encoded for survival, love and belonging, power and control, freedom and fun. All human beings have these needs to varying intensities and the way we would like to have them met are as unique as the person they belong to. To protect a marriage a couple needs to actively and continually work to keep their relationship mutually rewarding and keep blending both people's want into one version of a marriage they both want.
People's behavior are not Cause and Effect. People are cause- choice, choice, choice. Nothing can CAUSE a person to cheat or have an affair. A bad marriage, lack of sex, website etc, do not CAUSE a person to cheat. Affairs don't just happen, people MAKE CHOICES to go outside of the relationship and get their needs met. People always have alternatives to cheating, they may not like those alternatives, but cheating is just 1 choice a person has. Sometimes people lack the skills, tools or perspective to see other choices.
People justify cheating on their spouse when they perceive that their needs will not be met and they do not know how to get them met with their partner. One key reason a person may make the decision to cheat on their spouse is that they loose hope and perceive that the problem is not fixable. They make the decision to have an affair as the best solution to their current needs problem. Often a person who cheats loves 80% or 90% of the relationship. It is that small percentage that they cannot get met or perceive they cannot get met that allows them to justify going outside the relationship and cheating on their spouse or cheating of their partner.
So a way to prevent infidelity is that either person, needs to risk healthy conflict and confront a change in the relationship. Talking about changes such as less time at home, less interest in each other's activities or just less effort is better to be addressed up front. Couples become at risk when they do not confront the sustained negative changes in their relationship and instead just hope it goes away. If you do not know how to do this effectively, counselling can help you individual or as a couple.
The reality is there are many other choices to cheating when your relationship is not needs satisfying. Unfortunately, because people lack the effective tools and skills to have, sometimes very uncomfortable and difficult discussion, they instead chose to avoid them. Too many people pathologize help seeking behaviors. Other people get stubborn and insist on trying to do the same in effective thing over and over and yet others just hope it'll go away. But it is very hard to do better if you do not know better. Marriage counselling teaches people the relationship skills they need to manage these difficult discussion and negotiations to build a win-win.
Happily satisfied individuals are not actively looking outside their marriage to get their needs met and do not cheating in their relationship. Relationship require constant attention to keep them happy. There are many things that can change our priorities and often couples, after kids, career, personal interests, may put the relationship at a lower priority. The reason for people to cheat are vast and complicated. When people are happy and all their needs are being met, they have no interest to look outside the relationship. So a couple needs to make a choice to keep their relationship happy. This is a continual process, so what makes you happy 10 years ago, may not work today. A healthy marriage keeps on top of these changes.
While it is important that you and your partner are compatible, no person will want exactly what you want in all areas of the relationship. So healthy conflict is an important part of building meaningful intimacy and creating a satisfying relationship for both people. Some people actively choose to avoid any conflict and end up feeling unhappy and resentful that their needs are not being met. Learning how to have effective difficult conversations are so important to a successful marriage. Marriage counseling can help people become more effective at discussing high conflicts topics such as sex, money and parenting.
Success couples spend periodic time updating and modifying their relationship when it stops be as need satisfying. People in a romantic relationship who are at risk for infidelity don't spend enough time effectively discussing, reviewing and revamping what they originally set up. Many people do not know how to do these conversations effectively. Relationships are dynamic and things that were negotiated at one point in the relationship will need to be renegotiated as situations change. If you keep having the same conversation or argument over and over and nothing changes, this is a sign you may not being the conversation effectively.
Healthy marriages discuss their expectations and get them on the table and do the hard conversations to merge them into 1 expectation they both want. Marriages at risk occur when people enter marriage with a lot of expectations that are not openly discussed. Having expectations, that are not openly discussed will guarantee disappointment. Expectations are beliefs that sit in your head and unfortunately, no one is a mind reader. If you do not discuss and negotiate your expectations with that of your partner's expectations, later it will lead to relationship conflict and disappointment because if someone doesn't know what you expect, how can they do it? Also just telling someone what you expect is not negotiation and doesn't mean they will do it.
In a good friendship just as a good marriage, based mutual understanding and respect, we can discuss and negotiate these expectations into 1 version for the marriage so that it’s a win-win for both people. However, most people do not learn effective relationship communications skills. A good marriage counsellor can teach people how to do this.
Healthy marriages accept the differences of their partner and work with their partner to compromise, not give in. At risk couples cannot accept, see or understand that our needs for love, survival, freedom, fun and control may be different from our partner. These couples risk forcing the other person to adopt their beliefs about relationships. Having differences is a not a deal-breaker. In fact, the differences are what adds to the interest and enjoyment in life. Learning how to merge these differences is what makes an okay marriage into a great marriage.
In marriage, even if we marry someone of our own race, country of origin or even from our same neighborhood, there will be differences. When we force our belief system onto our partner or try to control a person's wants through blaming, complaining, criticizing, guilty and punishing behaviours these will disconnect our partner from us. There are better ways to merge 2 people's needs. A counsellor can help you learn how to become a good communicator in your relationship. Left uncorrected, the long-term risk is that no one’s needs will be met in the relationship. Once people’s needs are consistently not met, we are more likely to choose to look outside the relationship to get these needs met.
Quid Pro Quois a sign that the friendship in the marriage is damaged. In other words, each partner is only willing to do something for the other, if the other does something first. A series of tit for tat is taking place. Another sign your marital friendship is at risk is when you or your partner makes small bids for chit chat and either ignores or harshly rebuked these bids for attention. Lastly, when the friendship is really broken, partners start to find more faults than positives and start to interpret their partner's behaviour negatively. All these things make managing conflict difficult, if not impossible.
To protect your relationship from infidelity, it needs to be a priority, it needs to be flexible to the changes each individual goes through and the couples needs strong skills to negotiate a win-win on many different subjects. When the friendship is broken, needs are not met, then the chance of infidelity rises. All people need: love and belonging, freedom and fun, when that is missing or lacking, especially for a long time, infidelity becomes a real possibility.
Marriage Counselling, couple counselling or relationship counselling can help give couples the effective communication skills and relationship tools to repair friendship and strengthen the relationship. No where do we learn effective communication skills to manage a marriage. Counselling for couples is a way to develop and improve upon skills that will help you become a relationship master and avoid relationship disaster. It’s important not to wait too long as it’s harder to fix these issues. Contact our exeperience expat counsellor to learn more on how we can help you improve your relationship skills.