Recovering from Infidelity

Though Tony and I have known Carl and Katie for years, and they even participated in our #staymarried group last fall, we didn’t really know everything. Sitting in church one Sunday morning, we were stunned to learn that their beautiful marriage had been shaken by pornography and infidelity. Please take the next seven minutes to watch their story. Though painfully honest, it is full of hope.

Carl & Katie from EastLake Community Church Media on Vimeo.

As we’ve been tackling the subjects of pornography and infidelity, and one of the goals of the #staymarried blog is to offer hope, we wanted you to hear from this beautiful couple about just how they are rebuilding trust in their marriage even after, as Katie put it, her line in the sand had been crossed.

 

Carl & Katie’s Story

Part 1: The Fallout

<Katie> The days and weeks after my husband’s full disclosure of the affairs were a blur to me. I went through the motions of life, barely. We had both started seeing separate counselors a few months prior when the first of my husband’s porn addiction became a reality. As all the books and therapists say, “disclosures” sometimes trickle in. I didn’t believe that would happen with us, but I was wrong. My counselor recommended that I request that he take a lie detector test as a part of the recovery. Though I stalled on asking Carl to take one, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t trust him anymore and that I needed to know that there weren’t any more secrets.  It took three months of counseling, and finally my request for the lie detector test, before everything was all out and on the table. My husband had been with someone else.

You can get a lot of advice in times like these. I had only a few close friends that I trusted with this information in the aftermath. I knew my emotions were fragile and I didn’t want other people’s words or emotions to overly influence what I did or how I felt about my husband.

Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blogMy therapist suggested that I not make any decisions about what I was going to do in my marriage for at least a year. I needed to allow time for my emotions to settle and she said, “What could it hurt? You need to heal yourself first anyway, even if you do decide to leave in the end.”  Despite my hurt, I couldn’t imagine a life without Carl and without our party of five together. I was scared. I hoped that I could get beyond it and I hoped that Carl could too. I knew if he didn’t change, I had to be done.

 <Carl> The first part of our marriage recovery on my end was for me to figure out the entirety of this sexual addiction problem. The repercussions it had on my marriage were clear, but I needed to determine what caused me to act out in this way. I basically needed to understand what was messed up with me before my marriage could be fully repaired. For me, this meant seeking out professional counselors that specifically dealt with this problem and group counseling with other guys going through their own battles of sexual addiction. I think Katie saw me do the work necessary to unravel this mess, and as I learned more about the core of my issues, these insights were permeating into the marriage recovery.

<Katie> In the months that followed, I spent a lot of time in my therapist’s office. I talked through things on my morning runs with a close friend. I read lots of books on marriage, some specific to sexual addictions and affairs. I even went to a few recovery groups, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I know I learned through them and I was around people, some my own age, going through the same thing I was.

I definitely worked through all the stages of grief. When I got to the anger stage, I scared myself because I began to think I might stay there and never get through it. I learned that in order to work through the pain, you actually have to go right through the middle of it where it hurts the most. Otherwise, you go around the outside and you think you’re better, but years later, it’s a problem. My anger stage lasted a few months. I was not a very nice person to be around during those months.

I was traveling for work a lot during this year. Looking back, this was undeniably something God designed. It gave me the opportunity to get away from life, and even though I was working, I had a lot of time to think and pray and read. It was on one of these trips that I finished a marriage book, Intimate Allies, that had a huge impact on my marriage and where we are today. I came home and I felt like I was ready to commit. I had seen Carl working through his therapy and emotions and getting to the root of his problem. I saw him treating me differently. I saw him never lash out or get mad at me when I was working through my anger and said things and accused him. I knew deep down that this addiction, this affair, this horrible problem wasn’t the man he was. He loved me and he loved our family. This was a nasty sin that had taken hold of him and that takes hold of too many men and women in our society.

 

Part 2: Rebuilding Trust

 <Carl> Rebuilding trust has been an ongoing process that I constantly need to remind myself of. I spent most of my life hiding the sexual sin in my life, so obviously the number one key to regaining the trust that had been lost was for me to be open and honest about everything. That was sometimes easier said than done since hiding stuff and even lying just to avoid any confrontation had been pretty natural for me to do over the years. The lying and hiding parts are the easier ones to identify and not do, but openly communicating about everything is still hard. I don’t always remember to share the details with Katie when they seem unimportant to me.

Being fully honest seems like an obvious part of rebuilding trust, but I realized there was much more to it. I had to drop my defensiveness about any accusation, even if there seemed like no reason for it. That idea was much easier for me right after I’d fully confessed, but even a couple of years later I see how important it still is. I know that if she asks what I was doing on my cell phone to just immediately tell her and hand her my phone if she wants to verify, even if I was just checking my fantasy football team. I have to constantly remind myself that I have spent a lot of years being dishonest with Katie, so I need to allow her to have moments of mistrust. Over the last year, those moments are less frequent, especially when I am communicating with her. When I fail to communicate and connect, those are the moments when I give her reason to not trust.

 <Katie> Forgiving Carl was a choice. At first I thought it would just happen, I’d wake up one day and realize I didn’t hurt anymore and I’d forgiven Carl. It doesn’t work that way, at least it didn’t for me. I planned a weekend away for Carl and I to talk about what had happened one last time. I had an opportunity to ask any more questions that I needed answers to. He had the opportunity to do the same. Then, in a very dramatic fashion, I ripped up his initial disclosure letter, the one he had written in therapy. We prayed about it together and from that point, we moved forward. I chose to forgive him for the past and start from that point. This took a choice and a sacrifice on my part. The pain was still there, but sometimes one person has to absorb the pain in order to move forward with forgiveness. Even as I write this, I am crying thinking about that time in our life. I cherish where we are today, and I know it could have gone a different way. I am so thankful for my marriage and my children.

There have and continue to be hiccups in our marriage. Now it’s more of the everyday marriage stuff that we have to work through. I honestly don’t know if trust is ever fully rebuilt, because I don’t think I am there yet. I hope it is, but in the end, I trust Jesus and I know I am being faithful to Him in this and He will be faithful to us. We have checks and balances in place today that weren’t there a few years ago. We are much more conscious of our communication. It doesn’t take much for me to start to worry if I feel like Carl is not being clear in his communication with me. We set clear expectations for each other when we’re in certain environments. Some things are just going to be different for us, but we’re working on it. There was a verse from the Bible that I’d written down when we were in the worst of it, and it’s something that still comforts me today:

2 Corinthians 4:16 from Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blog

 <Carl> This has been the most difficult yet best couple of years of our marriage. There are still a lot of times where I could be a better husband to my wife. The difference now is that I want to be that better husband and I have the right tools in hand because of the counseling and recovery process I am going through. I have a much clearer idea now of what I need to do. Katie is an amazing wife and mom, and she is worth every ounce of me giving her the best of me.

We were really lost for a long time, not sure what to do or where to turn. If you are working on recovering from the effects of infidelity and porn in your own marriage, we’ve put together a list of things that have been helping us in our journey…

8 Tools to Recover from Infidelity

1. Get Counseling

It was important for us not only to find a Christian counselor, but one that specializes in sex addiction. Through our past experience, we really noticed a difference between counselors that specialize in sex addiction and those that don’t. We also recommend, from our experience, each spouse having their own counselors. We spent a lot of money on this, but it’s cheaper than a divorce and highly effective for recovery.

2. Communicate Openly

This one is harder to remember to do, but it’s important that I (Carl) talk to Katie about what is going on and offer information even if she doesn’t ask. I try to share what my day has been like, who I’m working with, and what I might be struggling with.

3. Drop the Defensiveness

Even a couple of years after everything happened, there are still times when I’ll be asked a question that I think has no basis. It doesn’t matter. How I respond to my wife, especially after the trust has been broken, is what really counts. If I respond defensively, I am building up a wall between us. If I respond calmly and openly, it helps my wife to trust me and together we are building a bridge back to each other.

4. Get Accountable

It has been essential for us to have accountability software on all media outlets, phones, computers, iPads, etc. If you travel for work, create a travel plan that details everything you are doing and when you will check in with your spouse. I also have a group of friends that hold me accountable by checking in weekly, whether by phone or in person. A certified sex counselor also has resources for accountability therapy groups; I (Carl) participated one of these for over a year.

5. Avoid Triggers

Check movie/TV ratings, even if it’s PG-13, and avoid anything that is sexual. We also censor the magazines that we allow in our house, which pretty much means none. At the very beginning of our discovery, we did a media blackout for a period of time. Carl went off Facebook and we got rid of cable. It’s also been important for us to avoid or limit alcohol, especially in a setting that we will be without each other.

6. Date Again

Damage was done and your spouse needs to see you make an effort to date again. Make plans, find a sitter, work it into the calendar and the budget. Call your wife and pursue her, like you did when you were dating. It doesn’t always need to be a five-star date, but spending time together intentionally has really helped us rebuild our love for each other.

7. Participate in Maintenance Counseling

I (Katie) was released from counseling earlier than Carl.  He attended weekly group therapy sessions and individual counseling for over a year before he was released.  You can talk with your counselor about how often you should participate in maintenance counseling or you can decide with your spouse when you’d like to do this. A maintenance counseling session mainly serves as a check-in for both of us. This is a session that can be done individually or as a couple. We prefer to go as a couple. Writing this post for #staymarried reminded Carl and I that we needed to schedule a maintenance counseling session, so we got an appointment on the books. We love counseling and can’t say enough good things about it

8. Extend Grace

There will be bumps in the road; it’s okay. This recovery is a process, which means it can take a long time to be fully recovered. We know we aren’t there yet, we still make mistakes that bring up old hurts. Extend grace to each other and practice forgiving regularly.

Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blog

We want to thank Carl and Katie for their vulnerability in sharing their story. Exploring the dark topics of infidelity, pornography, forgiveness, and healing have been tough for Tony and I in these last few weeks. Still, we continue to have hope that couples can work through the dark stuff of life and marriage and be able to receive all that marriage has to offer when they see healing and wholeness on the other side like Carl and Katie have. We hope their story was as encouraging to you as it has been to us as we fight to #staymarried.

 

P.S. You are reading Recovering from Infidelity, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the other installments, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, or Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.

If you feel like this story could be helpful to someone else in their marriage, please consider sharing. Thanks for reading!

~Tony and Michelle

Porn vs You

If you read “Is Porn a Problem?,” our recent post in collaboration with Craig Gross, then you know by now that Tony and I do believe pornography is a problem and has caused issues in many marriages. It would be naive of us not to acknowledge that there are those of you out there who do not believe it to be a problem, those who may even indulge individually or as a couple. We have no intention of arguing about it. We simply want to bring to light anything that could be harmful and divisive in our pursuits to stay married. As a couple, we have decided to take an offensive stance toward anything that could threaten our marriage instead of a passive position- shrugging our shoulders, later wondering how we got so far away from where we wanted our marriage to be.

We believe transparency – with each other, with our friends, and on this blog – is a crucial element in guarding our marriage. So, now that we’ve pushed past the embarrassment and really talked openly about the problems posed by pornography, we want to leave you with some resources and possible next steps. We’ll start by sharing some of the startling information we’ve learned about this industry.

Porn vs You Infographic- Stats on Pornography plus a giveaway on the #staymarried blog

Is porn a problem for you?

Take this FREE online assessment – The Sexual Addiction Screening Test – which was developed in cooperation with hospitals, treatment programs, private therapists, and community groups. The SAST provides a profile of responses which help to discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behavior.

Take the SAST NOW

Guard Your Technology

Are you cool with people looking over your shoulder while you’re surfing the internet? Would you be embarrassed if your mom saw some of the things you were looking at?  x3watch is a free accountability software program helping with online integrity. Whenever you access a website that contains inappropriate or pornographic material, the program will record the website, time, and date the site was visited. A person of your choice will receive an email containing a list of all the questionable sites you have visited that week. Tony and I have this installed on our computer and it’s been a simple way for us to bring up conversation about what we’re looking at online. It’s been especially helpful during this season that we’ve been researching infidelity and pornography. The number of times I’ve clicked on something thinking it would be a research article is a little embarrassing…

Learn more and download x3watch HERE

Know You Are Not Alone

As the infographic shows, 1 in 3 porn users are women. For us it has been helpful to know that there are others who are tempted and struggling. The reason we brought this issue to #staymarried is because we are faced with temptation nearly every day, and we realize that it takes work not to succumb. Porn addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. xxxchurch.com has become a resource for thousands of men and women, parents and couples, offering a safe online community for awareness and accountability. If you think you’re the only one with this secret, we urge you to read some of the confessions sent into xxchurch.com

Confessions from Men          Confessions from Women

P.S. You are reading Porn vs. You, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first three parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, or Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for reading!
~Tony and Michelle

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blogIf you are not already aware that there are external threats to your marriage, then my guess is that you haven’t been married for very long. One of the biggest threats to marriage has been infidelity, and researchers from the University of Central Florida have found that people in committed relationships who view pornographic materials are more likely to cheat on their partners than those who don’t. With more than 500 million pages of porn on the internet today, most of which is directed at men, Dr. John Gottman says in his book What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal :

Even non-compulsive use of [porn] can damage a committed relationship. Masturbating to an image results in the secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones linked to attachment. Porn users are in danger of becoming attached to a mere fetish of impersonal sex.

So, if pornography poses a problem, why don’t we talk about it? I mean, we can all admit that we’ve seen it, and that we want to see it again. Marketers are aware of this and use it against us every day in advertising products that have nothing to do with sex. I see this billboard all the time for a local plumbing company with the image of a beautiful woman in a low cut shirt. Am I supposed to believe that if I call that company, she’s the plumber that is going to show up at my front door?

There are several reasons we don’t often talk about porn. First of all, it’s embarrassing. Viewing porn is not normally a group activity for a reason. When people engage in it, there are the perceived positive effects of being aroused and perhaps even reaching orgasm from masturbating to it. But, with that comes secrecy and shame. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to talk about or admit. Sometimes, while we may even see that porn could be a problem for someone else, we can be fooled into thinking we, ourselves, won’t be affected, so it’s not really a problem for us the way it might be for others. William Struthers, Ph. D., a bio-psychologist and the author of Wired for Intimacy, says after much research:

Denial is the first line of defense. Because so many men have viewed so much porn, the fear about how it has affected them is too overwhelming. So they deny the issue. But it doesn’t go away. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments.

Michelle and I are hardly experts when it comes to the study of the effects porn has on a marriage. So, we asked Craig Gross, founder of xxxchurch.com, who is also known as “The Porn Pastor,” to weigh in. We believe, along with Craig, that we should absolutely be talking about it. If we are going to address the things that threaten our marriages, we need to do it head on. We need to know if and how it affects us so we can arm ourselves against it. When we talked with Craig, he had some very insightful things to share. He weighed in on why we need to push past the shame and embarrassment, and why porn should be talked about in every marriage, and here is what he shared with us…

Porn Breaks Trust and Destroys Intimacy

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blog

A healthy marriage is based on trust and intimacy. Secrets, especially your secret stash of porn or that website you keep deleting from the history bar, are only going to get in the way of that trust.

Another scenario of broken trust happens when a spouse suggests bringing porn into the marriage, wanting to “spice things up.” I have heard both husbands and wives confess they used this approach out of a selfish desire to indulge in porn. When one spouse trusts another and follows his or her suggestion, it is devastating to discover that the spouse who wanted to use porn did not have the best interests of the marriage or the other spouse at heart. Rather, he or she was seeking a way to indulge lust.

Broken trust alters the very core of a relationship, and the only way to restore it is by making good decisions over time. Without trust, a vital marriage component, intimacy is almost impossible.

If you choose to use pornography as a means to sexually arouse yourself, you are forfeiting the ability to become aroused by your spouse. Over time, porn users find that it becomes more and more difficult to be sexually aroused by your spouse because he or she will age while the porn star forever remains youthful in pictures and videos.

Porn lies, telling you that your spouse will never measure up to what porn has to offer. Once you believe that—and you will believe that—your intimacy is over. Fantasy eventually takes people farther away from their spouse than they wanted to go and offers no turnaround.

Though porn destroys marriages, it takes more than just abstaining from porn to keep your marriage growing, healthy, and strong.

Here are some keys to assist you as you strive to keep your marriage thriving:

1. Set Healthy Parameters

Don’t allow unhealthy glances or wandering eyes. Television shows and even some television ads can produce impure thoughts that lead to unhealthy behavior. Turn them off before you get hooked. Sticking to this guideline will take guts and willpower. For Christians, Jesus had some especially candid words for how powerful the link between our mind and our emotions can be. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28) Essentially, Jesus stated that having an uncontrolled mind will inevitably lead to thoughts that become actions. It’s the same way with porn.

2. Guard Your Associations

You are the average of the five people with whom you hang around with most often. The behavior of those you spend time with becomes your behavior, and bad company corrupts good character. If your friends are consumed with talking about sexual escapades or exploitative behavior, get new friends. Take charge of the relational environments in which you place yourself.

3. Guard Your Ears

Inappropriate words masked as flirtatious compliments are stepping-stones toward irreversible effects. I have seen relationships destroyed because a wife was innocently seduced by a friend’s listening ear and kind words. I have also known men and women who have mastered making comments that lead to more aggressive flirtatious behavior. Don’t allow it. If someone makes a comment to you that is flirty or over the edge, make it immediately clear this is not acceptable behavior. If it happens twice, bring your spouse into the loop and talk about it.

4. Guard Your Time and Money

Friends of ours who have struggled with porn have taken steps to control their use of time and money. They have asked their spouses to control the money and made themselves accountable to a friend for the ways they spend their time. The formula is simple and it works as a healthy parameter. If there is strict accountability of money (no cash in hand) and time (where have you been and what have you been doing?), it is much more difficult to get in a place that leads to trouble.

5. Work at Romance

Did you know it’s important to keep dating even though you’re married? I know Michelle and Tony have touched on this here at #staymarried, and I only want to reinforce the idea.  It’s easy to let time pass and allow dating and romance in your marriage to disappear, but then you’re setting yourself up for boredom and the inevitable desire to seek out something new. Instead, set up date nights with each other. They don’t have to be expensive, just creative. Your calendar should have at least one date night a month. Remind each other and plan ahead so you have something to look forward to. Even a movie night at home with take-out food can keep the love spark glowing.

6. Communicate Love Clearly

Every person hears “I love you” in a different way. According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, couples need to hear love in the way they understand it most clearly. Michelle wrote a post giving more insight into this idea here. When you identify your partner’s love language, you can then communicate “I love you” most clearly. A breakdown occurs when you think you’re communicating love but it sounds like a foreign language to your spouse, so work hard at discovering your spouse’s love language and communicating love clearly . . . and often.

7. Maintain Physical Intimacy

According to a 2003 Newsweek study, between 15 and 20 percent of couples are living in a sexless marriage—these are couples who make love no more than ten times a year. While sex is not the be-all and end-all in a marriage, it is obviously one of the best ways to maintain intimacy. Most men think sex has to be daily, while women may be satisfied with less sex than that. The longer men go without sex, the more desperate they become for it. The longer women go without sex, the more they don’t need it. Find a good compromise and make every effort to follow through, even though one or both of you may be busy and tired. Couples who said they were sexually fulfilled had sex an average of 2.5 times a week. Sex must happen on a regular basis. Plan for it. Prepare your mind for it. Do it.

8. Forgive

Every relationship is going to have an occasional bump in the road, but don’t let that bump turn into a mountain by refusing to forgive a mistake. Remember that forgiveness is not a synonym for justifying, accepting, or condoning sinful behavior; it is about allowing room for growth and trusting that a change in behavior follows every apology. Many times couples can let too much time pass without asking for or offering forgiveness. When this happens, bitterness, resentment, and disillusionment set in. Soon the person harboring unforgiveness can start to think these issues wouldn’t happen in a different relationship, a deception that leads to a “grass is greener” mentality. Invest in your relationship by asking for and offering forgiveness whenever it is needed.

Growing together and nurturing your marriage is a lifelong task that both husband and wife must undertake. Even in the midst of a culture charged with sexual imagery, your marriage can remain healthy and strong if you are vigilant about protecting it. Some of these parameters may seem extreme, some of them are. But, we believe we need to take an extreme stance against anything that would threaten our desire to #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first two parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver and 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for reading!
~Tony

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!
~Michelle

 

Great Microwave Meals

On Thursday, we shared with you some ways to “Turn On Your Crockpot”. Now I’d like to offer you my perspective on men being like microwaves.

Great Microwave Meals - a #staymarried blog about intimacy

WARNING: This is a post for adult married couples.

A man’s desire for sexual intimacy can be radically different than a woman’s. Wives need foreplay early in the day with kind words and being attentive to her non-sexual needs. Husbands simply do not. She needs to feel loved in order to want sex… he feels loved as a result of sex. Every emotional interaction of her day is a building block directly related to the next, coming together to set the scene… He, on the other hand, can get turned on by simply seeing his wife in the right light at the right angle, and that’ll be enough to set things in motion for him.

Speaking to the metaphor, making a great crockpot meal requires prep work of exactly the right ingredients, setting up the appliance on a slow simmer, and then checking on it periodically during the day, maybe adding a few ingredients here and there. To make a good microwave meal, you need to push a few buttons. And in fact, I’m impatient enough to use the “Add 30 seconds” button just so that the cooking starts the moment I push a button, not after I hit “Start.”

The reality is, eating crockpot meals every day is time-consuming, requires a ton of planning and forethought, and can become a numbing tedium that lacks spice and spontaneity. As for microwave meals, in most cases the ingredients weren’t hand picked, and it lacks the depth of flavor that an all-day-simmer gives, but we gotta eat. That’s why there is importance in variety and balance.

I can see how the attention to detail and purposeful interactions throughout the day can make a woman feel special. I can see how speaking kindly to your wife in the morning can set the tone for the evening. As a woman, this may make complete sense to you, but as a man this concept can be a little harder to grasp. We have a natural pull toward instant gratification. When I put my money in the vending machine, I want that bag of Doritos in my hand immediately. I don’t want to think about the Doritos all day, and then enjoy the amazing flavor 9 hours later. So, if you think it’s planning and forethought that makes sex good for a man, you’re mistaken. Sure, he probably appreciates a naughty text, or a peek at some lingerie, but ultimately it’s YOU he wants, and the sooner the better.

For men, the speed at which the waiter delivers the filet mignon from the kitchen to the table does not affect the flavor. It’s still filet mignon… and it still tastes friggin’ amazing! Especially if it’s hot! Perhaps there is a certain amount of anticipation that can enhance the experience, but in all honesty, we want that amazing meal on the table NOW.

Of course, comparing sex to food is funny, but I hesitate comparing a powerful and beautiful experience to a hot pocket. The truth is, sex isn’t anything like a hot pocket… no matter how it’s served.

Hot Pockets Aren’t Healthy

Let me also offer a perspective that is slightly less humorous. There is in fact a “hot pocket,” and it is self-pleasuring. It can be a lot of work to constantly attend to your spouse’s emotional state in the hopes of bonding at the end of the day. It is a lot less work for him to just handle it himself… literally. If you’re constantly making him “work for it,” he’ll likely stop working for it and just take care of it himself. At this point both your sex life and your marriage as a whole will suffer. The sad fact is that a human being can live off hot pockets for the rest of their life. But if you’ve experienced food the way I have, you will agree with me in saying what a sad life that is and what a massive blessing you would be missing out on.

This depravity of spontaneous sexual intimacy can leave a door open for outside influence as well. Ladies, if you are making it difficult for your man to connect with you the way he needs, not only are you telling him it’d be easier for him to just handle it, but you’re opening an opportunity for someone else to be the fulfiller of that need. Being rejected over and over is a massive hit to a man’s pride and ego. How easy would it be for Ms. Bad-Intentions to make your sex-deprived husband feel like a million bucks? EASY!

Being attentive to his desires will place you at the top of his short list of “ways to satisfy this feeling I can’t control.” If you want to connect with your husband in a way he desires and increase the levels of intimacy in your marriage overall, we’ve got some ideas for you…

4 Tips to Great Microwave Meals

1. Respond to him sexually more often.

Don’t wait till you’ve both settled down and are in bed… Surprise him in the hall! Call him to the bathroom when you’re taking a shower, then invite him in. Don’t let a kiss just be a peck, make something of it and guide his hand. Respond to him when he approaches you and initiate sex yourself once in awhile.

2. Understand he needs to release sexually.

If you think to yourself “it’s been a while,” don’t wait for him to approach you. Do something about it! You already know that men, generally speaking, are more easily turned on than women. He is turned on just by the sight of you, and something is happening to him physically that may not be happening to you. When you have emotional build-up, you vent to him, or someone else, verbally. When he has sexual build up… I’ll let you draw the parallel on that one.

3. Consider the battle he’s up against.

Keep in mind that his desires are solicited to all day from surfing the web, or even standing in line at the grocery store. Create a safe place in your marriage for him to express himself and make efforts to draw his attention back to you. Be confident in knowing you’re beautiful to him, but don’t be deceived in thinking everyone else in his eyes is ugly. Have peace in knowing he chose you. The media uses women’s bodies against men… and it works. Don’t shame him for a part of his nature that’s difficult to control.

4. Don’t try to make him open up to you verbally by depriving him of sex.

You’re probably the talker… he’s probably not. Withholding sex isn’t going to change this. It’s manipulative and counterproductive. Don’t play the I-have-a-headache card when it’s not true. Remember, he feels connected as a result of sex. If you want him to open up to you, chances are you’ll get a lot more out of him emotionally when you are open to him sexually.


Ladies, don’t read this post and think all of the pressure and ownership is on you now… it’s not. Your husband is responsible for meeting your needs as well. Instead, I hope you’ll take some of these things to heart, and remember them the next time you have an opportunity to make a move. Also, it’s good to try things a bit out of character. Even if it’s difficult or embarrassing at first, in the long run it’s that kind of vulnerability that’ll help you #staymarried.

 

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, share it! You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my wife’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for reading!
~Tony

Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography

Turning On Your Crockpot

Have you heard this one? When it comes to sex, men are like microwaves and women are like crockpots. A man can be turned on and hot at the press of a button. A woman needs to be turned on in the morning and takes a while to heat up. You can’t just flip the switch and expect a gourmet meal.

I’m pretty sure I was in church the first time I heard that illustration. My first thought was, “Oh jeez, are we really talking about sex in church?” My second thought was, “Thank God we are talking about sex in church!” I was dating Tony and by this time we were both pretty sure we were going to get married. Only, he’d been celibate, and I, uh… well, I hadn’t. Talking about sex was awkward, so I felt thankful someone else was bringing it up. Since then, we’ve both heard a lot of advice about having a healthy sex life. Some of it has been enlightening, some of it has been relieving, and some of it I’m still confused by.

What I’ve noticed in all of the advice I’ve heard and read about sex is this: men and women are fundamentally different. Ok, you probably already knew that. Still, I think it’s worth exploring- especially when it comes to your sexual relationship and the way it impacts your marriage overall. You see, if you are married to someone of the opposite sex, it is virtually impossible to understand the inner workings of their mind, emotions, hormones, and perceptions. Your brain and their brain are wired completely differently. We can’t expect our partner to think and feel the same way that we do about the same things, as much as we may want them to. Acknowledging our vast differences also means acknowledging that we have to be willing to meet them somewhere in the middle– this is particularly true if we are going to experience the incredible joys of true intimacy.

True intimacy, at its core, is selfless– it starts with desiring to know your partner’s wants and needs. Respecting your partner by seeking to meet those wants and needs is the very foundation of great sex– and, in your marriage, a healthy sex life.

I think many men are surprised to learn that women typically don’t think about sex “every six seconds,” and that their idea of foreplay is waking up to a full coffeepot that she didn’t have to brew herself.

So, if you need some help, here are some tips for cooking up something hot in the Crockpot…

Turn her on in the morning.

Go out of your way to be helpful with your morning routine.
Get up early enough to pour her a cup of coffee before she is up.
Tell her she looks great.
Help get the kids breakfast.
Make that goodbye kiss slow and long.
Tell her she looks great.
Ask her what she’s looking forward to for the day.
Let her know you’re looking forward to coming home to her tonight.
Even if she’s still got “bed head,” tell her she looks great.

Check on her in the middle of the day.

Call her and tell her you’re thinking about how great she looks.
Text her just to say “I love you.”
Tell her you miss her.
Leave her a special note someplace– like on the bathroom mirror or in her purse.
Let her know you’re ordering pizza so neither of you need to worry about making dinner.

Don’t rush it at the end of the day.

Check in to see if there is anything you can grab for her on your way home.
If she’s home when you get there, greet her warmly before you greet the kids.
Be helpful with the kids and dinner. Pour her drink before you pour your own.
Tell her she looks great.
Ask her about her day, and listen.
Offer to clean up after dinner (this works especially well if you rarely/never do this).
Give her a nice long hug, without being too grabby.
Share with her one of your favorite memories of your early days together.

Turning on your Crockpot - a #staymarried blog about sex for married couples

I’m pretty sure that in the history of husbands and wives navigating troubled waters, no couple has ever sat down with a counselor and said, “We’re having too much sex. It’s a problem.” Regular sex is a vital part of a healthy marriage. Even the Bible implores us not to abstain from sex with our spouse. If, as a husband, you feel like you are getting rejected when you pursue your wife for sex, think back in your mind to how the rest of the day, even the rest of the week, has gone. Is this the first or only way you’ve tried to connect with your wife? Have you, even unintentionally, dismissed and ignored her in other areas?

Sir, if you do even a few of these things we listed above throughout the day, you might just be plating up a gourmet meal for your efforts. As a man, it may be difficult to understand that a woman needs to feel connected in order to want to have sex. All of the things I mentioned may not sound very sexy. You may never understand why helping get the kids breakfast in the morning makes your wife want to treat you to dessert at the end of the day, but trust me, it matters. The more she feels connected to you, appreciated and valued by you, the more eager she will be to get closer to you physically.

Now, Ladies, before you start using the tips above as bargaining chips, listen up. If you are withholding sex from your husband as a way to manipulate him to be more helpful around the house or to connect with you more in conversation, you are completely sabotaging yourself and your marriage! Sex is an act of intimacy, and intimacy does not come out of manipulation of any kind. On Monday, Tony will share his perspective on the Microwave’s side of things. So stay tuned and #staymarried.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography