5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity

5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog Mad Men is one of my favorite shows to watch. The style is gorgeous. The stories are intriguing. The glimpse into history and culture– how many things have changed and how very many things have not– is fascinating. I’m always about a season behind, but clearly I am not the only one that enjoys it. The show has won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and has been nominated for countless other awards. With its many plot twists and turns, I find myself surprised with the one element that seems constant – infidelity.

This shouldn’t surprise me. Unfaithfulness has been a theme of the show since the first episode I can remember seeing. Still, for whatever naivete I carry with me, I am shocked every single time someone cheats on their spouse on this show. Every time the plot inches toward infidelity, I hold out hope that they won’t actually go through with it, and I am always disappointed. You might wonder, as some of my good friends do, why I still watch since this doesn’t seem to be going away. I suppose I consider it fiction, and I can walk away and say to myself, “That’s not real life. It doesn’t happen like that. At least, it doesn’t happen like that anymore,” and I am consoled. Recently, however, I was slapped in the face with a reminder from some friends of the reality that it does indeed happen. Infidelity happens all the time. Now the shock that I justify away as fiction has turned into heartache.

I read an article about an online dating site that currently boasts over 18 million anonymous members. They are “anonymous” because this site is not designed for people looking for their perfect soul-mate like our friends Emily and Jason. Instead, it caters to those who are already married or in committed relationships and looking to cheat! Their tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.” draws users in to discover others who are interested in “discreet encounters.” Not only is this site growing daily, but they are actively pursuing ways to make cheating easier for their users by developing an app for your phone. The app allows users to chat with their lover via disposable phone numbers and even features a “panic button” which shuts down the app and immediately switches it over to a family friendly website. I wanted to cry as I read about this site. I thought I might throw up as I discovered that the site sees a huge spike in female sign ups the day after Mother’s Day – 439% increase! What is going on here?

If you’re wondering why I haven’t listed the name or linked to the research or website as I normally would, it’s that I simply do not want to drive up their traffic. I am still just so taken aback that infidelity could be such a lucrative business.5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog Are we really still living in the days of Don Draper and Roger Sterling? Are so many of us choosing to look outside of our marriage for relational and sexual fulfillment, instead of looking inward at ourselves and our spouses? Have we not learned the devastating effects that infidelity has, not only on the spouse who gets cheated on, but the cheater themselves and of course their children? Maybe we haven’t.

Maybe Chris Rock was onto something when he said, “A man is basically as faithful as his options.” Various research reveals that aside from emotional disconnect, the biggest reason for infidelity is the various opportunities that present themselves, plain and simple. Those opportunities, apparently, don’t even need to wait until after the honeymoon as I read on the Huffington Post. As devastating and appalling as all of this may be, I do realize that it’s not those people who are being unfaithful. Those people are no different from any one of us. The more I think about it and recount the stories of those I know, I realize that we really all fall into one of two camps: preventing infidelity or recovering from infidelity.

Affair Proofing

I remember a good friend of mine hosting a women’s book club around the time I first got married. I was interested, but I ended up not joining them because, while the title of the book His Needs, Her Needs seemed practical enough, the subtitle really offended me: “Building an affair-proof marriage.”

Sheesh! I thought. We are not all in danger of affairs! I don’t need to read such a paranoid and depressing book.

I’ve since changed my tune. I’ve read the book and found author Willard Harley’s material so insightful that we feature it as one of the resources here at #staymarried. That newly-wed notion that infidelity simply couldn’t happen to me has been shattered over and over again as I watch my friends go through the pain of separation, divorce, or intensive counseling to recover from one or both of them straying from their marriage. It is no longer fiction set in the 1960’s that I can just turn off at the end of the night. It is real life, these are real men and women, with real children, suffering the consequences of extramarital affairs.

Now I feel fortunate instead of paranoid to be in the “Preventing Infidelity” camp. Tony and I take it seriously, and he even outlined some of the proactive and practical ways we keep ourselves out of trouble in his post, “Five Trust Building Boundaries.” While I hope never to cross the line into the other camp, I know many of you are there right now. Infidelity has been listed as the leading cause of divorce, but we don’t believe it is the only cause. Tony and I are sure that there are signs of disconnect that can be found in a marriage long before the cheating has occurred.

How Cheating Happens

In Dr. John Gottman’s latest book, What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, he calls it “The Cheater’s Cascade.”

Gottman's What Makes Love Last? on 5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog First, he says, is secret keeping.

The next step is building up emotional walls with your spouse and choosing to confide in a person outside of your marriage instead.

After finding this person to confide in, the potential cheater begins to trash their partner and their relationship to them.

Then, whether warranted or not, the potential cheater considers their partner untrustworthy.

Finally, he or she is primed for a sexual relationship outside of their marriage.

Gottman notes that over a long period of time, people give themselves permission to cross small boundaries and this behavior cascades into that final betrayal. Trust is broken, confidence shattered, and even if a couple decides to take the road of recovery instead of divorce, there can be a lingering paranoia that is crippling. You may wonder if it is even possible to recover at all. We believe it is possible, and next week we’ll be sharing more about that. But for today, we thought we’d focus on prevention. Here are some of the things we are doing to prevent infidelity…

5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity

1. Keep Having Sex

Anyone who’s had sex knows that, no matter what other people say, it is not just physical. For men at least, it is the most crucial way for them to connect and maintain a sense of intimacy. It’s true that most women need to feel loved before they want sex. But, most men feel loved because they’ve had sex. A regular sex life is a vital part of a healthy marriage, and we’ve said before, it would be hard for us to believe that a couple ends up telling a divorce lawyer that the reason for the split was that they were having sex too often.

2. Guard Your Time

Tony and I have decided not to spend time with people if we know they are unfaithful to their spouse, no matter how long we may have been friends with them before. This decision is not about judging them – though we hope they’ll make better choices. It’s about not allowing that kind of thinking to influence our own behavior. We also do not spend time alone with anyone of the opposite sex. At all. Ever. I’ve gone so far as to wait to return my “brother’s” phone call until my husband is home and within earshot. Especially since he’s not actually my brother, but my oldest friend whose family cared for me and took me in during high school. It’s not that Tony doesn’t trust me, or my friend, it is simply about setting a precedent that none of us have anything to hide.

3. Make Meaningful Connections

Besides sex, and the time we spend with others, it’s important to make meaningful and non-sexual connections with each other. Quality time looks different for each of us, so Tony and I try to think of how each other feels when we know we need that time. I love date nights, time away from our kids, sitting across a table, or taking a walk and talking. Tony enjoys that too, but he also loves watching movies, sharing a late night snack, and just having me by his side on the couch without my smart phone in my hand. Regardless of how busy our lives are, it’s important that we make time for these connections as often as possible.

4. No Keeping Secrets

As Gottman mentioned in the “Cheaters Cascade,” one of the first steps toward infidelity can be confiding in someone outside of your marriage. For that very reason, Tony and I make sure not to have any secrets from each other. There is nothing that I tell even my very best girlfriends, let alone a guy friend, that I don’t tell Tony. Fortunately, my friends know me so well that if I’m sharing a frustration or hurt with them about my marriage, they always ask me if I’ve talked with Tony about it and challenge me gently to present it to him.

5. Have an Open Book Life

Along with #4, one of the ways we avoid keeping secrets is by having an open book policy with each other. We have access to each other’s email accounts, calendars, and social media passwords. We can, and do, log onto each other’s accounts regularly, mainly to help each other – “Honey, can you find this email for me?” – which keeps us in the habit of having nothing to hide.

5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog

Building trust with each other, valuing each other, making time with each other, and avoiding secrets are just some of the many ways we take our marriage seriously. When I think about the characters of Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the many other men and women on Mad Men, I can hardly recount an instance where any of them are sincerely making these meaningful connections and building trust. In fact, they seem to try their best to do the opposite of everything I’ve listed above, essentially pursuing lives of infidelity rather than guarding themselves from it. I can only imagine it may be just these types of characters as real people who jump started the “Hey, I’d like to cheat on my wife” website I mentioned earlier in the first place.

Neither Tony nor I want to look back on our lives and find that we’ve broken each other’s hearts and our family by breaking small boundaries. All of the boundaries matter. So, we’ll stick to building trust, we’ll avoid betrayal, and we’ll #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first part, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver, you might want to check that out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for stopping by!


12 thoughts on “5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity

  1. Great blog today, Michelle. Thank you for bringing up some great points on affair proofing our marriages.

    I also think it’s wonderful that your friends steer you back to your husband on topics that should be spoken between the two of you (you and Tony) rather than the two of you (girlfriends). I believe Dr. Gottman also espouses the idea of having couples friends who are striving to have good marriages and being accountable to each other when they see the other’s marriage going in a wrong direction. We have several good friends (Christian married couples) who are in the same stage of life with us (almost empty nesters) and it’s a good way to keep our marriages going the right way when we are accountable to each other in our marriages.

    We made a mistake years ago with one of these couples by NOT stepping in when things were going wrong. We all discussed what was going wrong with each other, but stayed silent in front of the couple who was having trouble and they divorced. We should have been there for them and we weren’t. The children were devastated and now that they are adults, they no longer have any sort of relationship with their father.

    I also believe another way to be transparent with each other is to not keep secrets from one another. As a Christian, I also believe we married couples need to bring up our problem areas as they arise to one another (spouse to spouse) for prayer when we are struggling. My husband and I do this on a semi-regular basis and we feel that when we are accountable to one another and to God. We know God listens and most of the time, the situation gets better when we know what we are up against.

    Although not discussed in your blog, having a purpose/mission in one’s marriage can also be a way of affair proofing your marriage. My husband and I have been involved in our church Marriage Mentor Ministry for several years now and that’s been a great help to those engaged couples who are getting married by one of our church pastors as well as already married couples who may experience times of not connecting. So many folks divorce so quickly without really knowing what they are in for (in marriage), who their are individually, and what they have gone through in their own families, that lay mentoring (couple to couple) has really helped strengthen the bonds between a man/wife. Further, I believe that mentoring (having a ministry that we can do together) has helped our own marriage in the way of relating God’s design of marriage to other couples.

    Thanks again for your blog and for the great information you share from Dr. John Gottman.’s research/books. My husband and I are program educators (not professional therapists, but lay people for our church in the Marriage Ministry) for The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work program. By the way, that particular book should be in every couples “marriage library”.

    Anyway, we hope to bring that program to our church and community to further strengthen marriages in order to strengthen the family order that is so blurred today.

  2. This is a very insightful blog, I went through something very similar to “having the type of friends that encouraged”. My son’s father and I were high school sweethearts, we were the kind of couple that sat and talked about our problems but with the adjustment of having a new baby, less us time and a lot less sleep took its toll because we unfortunately didn’t realise that we had to make even more alone time for just us and just a bit less with everyone else. Needless to say there was a woman interested in my now ex, and since he seemed so unhappy we had friends that encouraged her interest and their friendship. One year after our son was born we were separated and of course our relationship had completely failed so I have a great deal of experience with friends who facilitate damaging behaviour as well as “no open book policy”.

    Now nearly four years later I am in a committed relationship, and these points mentioned are not just for a married couples I believe but for any couple who want a truly lasting relationship. It is better to build a strong foundation with these points, that you mentioned, before marriage and then to continue maintaining it than start when you’re married. And this bonding time we feel is vital to our relationship because if we aren’t talking to one another then we’re talking to someone else.

    We not only have an “open book policy”, we also have a family day every Sunday, were the three of us make a point to do something fun together in the afternoon ending in a movie night. We have also made appoint that after 5 phones are put down, since he has an addition to sports news and is always checking updates. If family and friends really need to talk to us, they need to call since we don’t answer texts or instant messages after 5. Maybe it’s extreme but since my partner is a lecturer we value our time together especially once my son is asleep. Its our bonding time to just cuddle, discuss our day or anything new we’ve been researching.

    1. Jade! I love your insights. No phones after 5pm would KILL me, but I’m sure Tony would love it 🙂 I applaud you and your partner for making what little time you have together a priority and really valuing your relationship! Great stuff!

  3. Love your article Michelle,
    As someone who has been married now for nearly 27 years, i now see what we have been doing right for some time.
    Although we are apart with work commitments regularly we still manage to keep our relationship strong.
    Its a great pity that some seem to need outside “interests” to be happy.
    Many thanks, Andy

  4. I think it MUST be said, that staying in shape is crucial to a man in the early stages of a marriage. If a man marry’s his beautiful bride and not long after she puts on 50 pounds, he’s going to lose interest in sex with her. And that right there ruins your “Step #1.” Now, i know this is VERY unpopular with women. In fact, They say that if the man is in love with his wife it won’t matter if she puts on weight. True, he will still love his wife, but he will still loss his sexual attraction to her (men and women are different in this area). Ladies, ask any man and he’ll tell you… that I’m full of shit. Why, because we know you don’t want to here this, so you never do. But the fact remains the same. But I’m here to tell you it’s the truth. ALL men feel this way. Want to keep you man from cheating? Here’s my 5 Ways;

    1. Just stay in shape!!!!!
    2. Yes…. have lost of sex but with an addition to that. Include lots of BLOWJOBS. Every man loves them and saying no or always ignoring that aspect of your sex life with him IS a rejection of him. Trust me, if you’re just ignoring that part of sex and hoping he doesn’t care. You’re making a big mistake. He notices and he cares! Oh, and pretend you love doing it too!! If not, Eventually, he’ll get the urge to seek that elsewhere and that’s a very easy thing to justify in cheating. i.e. “it was just a blow job, we didn’t go all the way.” But we know cheating is a progressive thing. Ladies, this is a big issue. Men who don’t get blowjobs feel like they’re missing out on something big in life. For those women who think giving BJ’s is degrading, I say, get over yourselves. We don’t see it that way,, or fine… but don’t be surprised to find the babysitter going down on your man…. because you did reject him in this area. Sound unfair? We’ll get it elsewhere.
    3. Respect your man in public. DON”T put him down or treat him like anything less than the best, strongest, smartest, stud of a man in front of other people, especially his friends. (if you show respect, you’ll make him feel awesome and he’ll respect you back in spades).
    4. Help him remember the important dates without judgment. Don’t make it a damn test!!! We want to remember them, we want to be a hero on your birthdays and anniversary’s. But some of us men just don’t care about one particular day over every other day as much as you ladies do, which makes it really hard to always remember every frickin year. So help us remember (notes on the fridge, etc..). Don’t make us out to be the bad guy, bad husband/boyfriend just because we didn’t remember a special day one year.
    5. Let us have our “Man Cave.” Just because we value time away from you once in a while doesn’t mean we don’t love you. Men REALLY like to get alone where we can just do something simple with our hands and think (or not think) without a constant conversation. We like our solitude once in a while. Like going fishing, working on the car, remodel something, playing guitar, any hobby that’s just ours. And let us have the garage, basement, out-building. A place to get away. We need alone time and that doesn’t mean it’s an opportunity to cheat. Not if you’re a loving wife who looks beautiful (cause your didn’t put on weight after the wedding bells) and you love giving us what we love in bed. (B.J’s). That may sound crass, but this is a response to an article about sex -that’s our topic here. After some good alone time the first thing we think about is being with you. We’re charged up and ready to have all of you. Talk about your day, hear about your mother and of course… be intimate with you.

    1. First, and most importantly, I need to apologize to every single woman who just read that comment and was insulted and demeaned. Although Oliver eluded that he speaks truth for every man, he most certainly does not.

      Second, addressing Oliver now…
      Even though I can agree with some of what you’re saying, there isn’t much tact to your delivery (which is probably why you’re coming across ‘crass’ as you say). You are clearly passionate about the topic, but all of your comments are me-focused, one-way, pig-headed, and selfish. The post was actually about “5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity”… not “5 Ways Woman Can Remain Subservient To The More Dominant Gender”.

      Back to the ladies. Here are my REAL and TRANSPARENT notes on Oliver’s 5…
      1. There is a HUGE problem with image and self-esteem in our country, and media doesn’t help… please “stay healthy” before you “stay in shape”.
      2. Sex is important (felacio is secondary). A man who truly loves you is NOT going to seek it out from the babysitter by default if you’re not doing it.
      3. Respect is HUGE! Don’t let this paint a submissive and abusive image in your head… that’s not what respect means. But I agree with Oliver… please be conscious about the way you treat your man (both in private and in public). Making him feel small or stupid in front of people is detrimental to your relationship.
      4. Remembering dates is not a top-five deal breaker. I think Oliver has some unresolved internal issues to deal with here.
      5. A “Man Cave” is also important… or the idea of it is, at least. Needing time to be with yourself, or with God, or with other guys is part of our DNA.

      As a follow-up, and from the complete opposite perspective, I’d love for the female readers here to take a moment and write your own version of Oliver’s “5 Ways”…
      If you were to role-play the stereotypical persona of your gender, what would be your “5 Selfish Ways Your Spouse Can Serve You To Make Sure You Don’t Cheat On Them”?

      1. Nailed it Tony, Fidelity cannot be based on whether or not your spouse is performing what you think you deserve, but based on your relationship and I have found it easier to receive those actions when she feels secure to the core with where we are in our relationship and that she is the only one.

        Over the last few years I have learned to just encourage health more than shape and it has become a relationship builder for us. Lets go together and work out or take walks/jogs everyday. It is about us, not just her.
        Respect is earned, so I try my best to be my wife’s hero, caretaker and the best man in her life, so when she talks about me, she is speaking truth and i feel respected, but it is not just to build me up, but to encourage what I already do for her. If I want to hear nice things from her, I need to be the guy that makes her feel that way.
        I have a calendar on my phone, it’s one of those new smart phones… So i saved important dates in there and never forget. I get close sometimes, but I built my own net. It is my fault if I forget. Excuses aren’t helpful.
        Instead of me time, we have our own time. I get to go out with the guys, she has some girls over for wine and the Bachelorette. She goes out with a friend and I make a steak, have a beer and watch a soccer match. It is a fair trade and always agreed upon. We watch football all day on Sundays, then we watch the Bachelor, or the food network, or HGTV. Life is better when we both feel like we have what we want.

        Bottom line, sex is a two way street, but traveling with someone else is a choice, not by the one being cheated on, but the one cheating. We control ourselves alone

  5. As someone who has been married previously (happily married again for 6 years to an amazing and understanding man with 2 fabulous kids), and someone who was a victim of infidelity, I feel that I have 2 cents to add to this conversation. Thank you, Michelle and Tony, for your passion on the topic of marriage. In our culture it is far too easy for folks to take this kind of commitment lightly. It is far too easy to get tired of the real work that marriage (or any valuable relationship for that matter) requires and just quit or “upgrade” like we do with our phones every couple of years. Infidelity is so complex and about so much more than someone getting fat or not getting what they want in the bedroom. it is about self control, commitment to communication and honoring our mate for who they are, not what they are. If we go around expecting our partner to make us happy, then we are missing the boat. My happiness cannot depend on someone else because someone else is human and will inevitably disappoint us. It’s hard enough work to keep myself happy much of the time, and add to that the pressure that our society places on appearance and the expectation that love is like the movies, we are all bound to fail. If we can be happy in our own skin, reregardless of the size of our waistline, color of our hair or how we look in our birthday suits then it is far easier to be confident around your spouse and be able to help them find their own confidence and happiness as well. Oliver’s point about talking up your husband is accurate. Hopefully it’s true and out of love and respect. Hopefully it’s reciprocated. There is nothing like honest admiration to boost the self esteem of your spouse.

    And if you are reading this and have suffered through infidelity, please know that you are not alone. Statistics are staggering in is country. It’s crappy to endure but I would try to encourage you to remember that your identity is not wrapped up in all of that. You are worth more than that. You deserve someone that loves and adores you, and someone that can control their thoughts and actions. You deserve someone who is content with themselves and whose only desire is to see you healthy and happy.

  6. I would really like to know what is acceptable guys/gal time. I really don’t approve of bars without the spouse present, have seen too many times where that leads to infidelity. Would also like to know if guys night out in a bar should include chatting up girls, I mean if it is ‘guy’ time should that not exclude girls? . I also would like to know what kind of ratio of date nights to guy time should be followed. My husband has his space in the garage doing various activities and I am cool with that, but he keeps indicating that he wants to go ‘out with the guys’ this makes me nervous….

    1. Lisa, this is a hard one. I actually really like it when Tony makes an effort to hang out with his guy friends, but maybe that’s because I think he has great quality friends. So, I don’t really think there is a good formula or ratio for guys nights vs date nights that you can follow. I think the important thing is to have that open book life, to agree to good boundaries and things that wouldn’t be acceptable to either of you. For instance, neither Tony nor I would think it was a good idea to initiate a conversation with someone of the opposite sex while we were out without each other.

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