Affair-Proofing Your Relationship

February 1, 2010

I wrote a few weeks ago about the devastating aftermath of an affair. It hurts, no doubt. Someone wrote me and asked, “But how do you keep it from happening? If you’re doing all you can, then it’s not your fault, right?”

I have a friend who got engaged last year in June (the one year anniversary of their first date). The wedding was schedule for next June, a year later. To be fair, the girl he was with was waaaaaaaay out of his league and I have no idea how he landed her in the first place, but somehow he did it. I personally would never have gone with a year-long engagement, as too many bad things can happen. Sure enough, she was in a friend’s wedding and while in the rehearsals she hit it off with the groomsmen walking her down the aisle. A couple of weeks later, she told my friend it was over and gave him the ring back. He was floored because he had no idea anything was wrong.

While there’s no 100% infallible method for keeping that partner from straying, there are some things you can do to help shore up the walls of your relationship so they aren’t so tempted to stray. Looking at my friend’s relationship as a model, here are some things to learn:

1. Take care of yourself.

When I said my friend and this girl were different, I mean it. She was this supermodel who always looked perfect like she’d just come off the page of a magazine. He looked ok when they started dating, but for some reason in the last weeks of the relationship he’d decided to develop this “different” style. He grew this scraggly beard, went for untucked flannel shirts, and wore these weird hats. In other words, she was a supermodel, he looked like a hobo. The guy she left him for? Yep, clean cut.

Just because you’ve (temporarily) won the person of your dreams doesn’t mean you let yourself go. Stay in shape, and continue to dress to impress all the time…even after you’re married. That doesn’t mean you wear a tux to bed or anything, but it means you are always careful about what you wear when in public with them. Whether you realize it or not, you are representing this person to others (and they feel that way, believe me). While a ratty tee shirt and jeans may feel good and be perfect for Saturday afternoon at home, you need to reconsider if she’s in a fancy dress with hair perfect.

Likewise, watch the weight gain. It’s perfectly understandable for people to become slightly less active after a relationship kicks in, but don’t let yourself go. They may joke about the love handles and pudge, but it’s not cool and they will start looking elsewhere if it gets to be too much.

2. Keep the fire alive.

My friend was all about the physical stuff (no way to blame him for that). The problem is that he lost sight of the fact that passion must be kept alive. Lust may last a long time for you, but if your partner is more into intimacy and passion you’re going to lose their interest quickly.

I know it doesn’t always sound fun, but dating has to continue well past consummation. Just because she’s screamingĀ  your name tonight doesn’t mean your awesome moves will keep her coming back forever. Ladies, just because he’s getting to have some fun with you doesn’t mean you can just lay there and plan your day for tomorrow. Keep the fire and the passion alive by always remembering what it took to win their love in the first place. No taking it for granted, and no forgetting what love costs.

Ladies, surprise him in the shower one night. Guys, have a candlelight dinner waiting for her when she gets home one evening and have the kids packed off to a movie somewhere (preferably a double feature). Sound like too much work or sissy stuff? Wrong. This is the stuff that shows your spouse they were worth some effort.

3. Respect…always.

You’re on the first date and every word, gesture, and moment is carefully planned. Suddenly you fart as loud as possible and say, “Oh, yeah!” She wouldn’t be around for dessert, let alone a second date. So why do people develop this attitude after they’ve had a few dates? “Familiarity breeds contempt”, I suppose. You wouldn’t make fun of her mother. You wouldn’t tell him how hot so-and-so’s husband looked since he’s started working out. Stop it all. Stop it now.

Treat them like you did on the first date. Open the door for her when you get to the car. Take an extra few minutes to really look good before walking into the room. Listen attentively to every word they say.

4. Light up when they come in the room.

Every morning I get up and take my dog out, then I leave him in the kitchen eating his breakfast while I go get my shower. When I come back in the kitchen, he goes crazy and acts like he hasn’t seen me all day, when it’s only been ten minutes. That’s why men love dogs so much…we are their world. Do the same for your significant other. I’m not saying jump up and down and start humping their leg or anything…but give them a killer smile when you see them come into the room. Make them feel like, to you, they are the most important person on Earth and things were not right until you arrived.

In my friend’s case, there were many times when his girlfriend would walk into a crowded room and it would be ten or fifteen minutes before he even acknowledged she was there. He saw her, she knew he saw her, but he talked to his buddies before going to her. He wasn’t “putting her in her place”…he was subtly showing her how important she really was to him.

Everyone loves to feel valuable and like they are special. When you take the time to show that person that just the fact that they are in the room with you makes you happy, it makes their self-worth go through the roof. While some people may say this is too much and makes you seem desperate or clingy, I say they’ve never been the recipient of “that smile” in their life. As soon as it happens to them, it will be what they love and the highlight of their day.

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Are any of these things guaranteed to keep your marriage safe from an affair? Not any single one of them, no, but taken as a whole they can at least be a deterrent. Let’s face it: some people are just born to cheat.

This is probably all I’ll say on affairs (what more is there?), but let me stress again that if you’re feeling the temptation to stray, stop and really think it through. Consider it from every angle. You’ll find that it’s not worth it.

If you’re on the other side and you think your spouse might have a wandering eye, be proactive. Really go out of your way to keep their love. Let me just say that everyone sees how you treat your spouse, and if they do choose at some point to cheat on you while everyone else saw you keeping the fire going as best you could, they’ll think “Man, that one’s a keeper! He was an idiot to let her go!” and they might just come after you themselves.

Here’s hoping something I’ve said has worked in someone’s favor someday…