Two weeks ago, my column focused on protecting marriages from extramarital affairs. Remember, affairs don’t “just happen” and that an extramarital affair not only hurts children, but also a marriage and family. If you’re married, it’s important to recognize the danger signs of an impending affair.
Realize there are times in your life that you are more vulnerable to having an affair. Vulnerable eras are those when day-to-day life might seem dull and filled with chores and more and more responsibilities. New babies, class reunions, chronic stress and the empty nest — these times and more can signify periods of life where it’s easy to look outside of one’s marriage for a thrill of a new relationship. Acknowledge and prepare for the vulnerable eras.
The myth that once we are married, we will never be attracted to anyone else can be very damaging and can cause a lot of personal feelings of guilt and shame if not expressed. People in happy marriages occasionally might be attracted to someone else. Talking with your partner about your feelings is one of the best things you can do to establish healthy boundaries around your marriage. If you are worried about your mate’s reaction, get professional help. By mutually acknowledging this, you can redirect yourselves and be reminded of the boundaries and commitment to your marriage.
Whether you’re attracted to a co-worker, an acquaintance or a friend of the family, control your thoughts. Your thoughts might not become action, but thinking about intimacy with someone other than your spouse might increase your chances of acting on those thoughts when there is an opportunity. Speaking of opportunity, don’t put yourself in those situations. At work, or while traveling, socialize in groups. Be disciplined about your behavior in working relationships and be careful about drinking alcohol when traveling or at work parties. Do not disclose too much personal information to people at work. If you are having problems in your marriage, talk to your spouse and seek counseling. Do not discuss it with a friend or colleague of the opposite sex. A good rule of thumb in terms of preventing an affair is to ask yourself, “Would I be doing or saying this if my spouse was here?” If the answer is “no,” then you might be getting closer to the danger zone of infidelity.
Life is very busy, and it is easy to get caught up in work, children, volunteering and other things that consume your time and energy. Many people let their marriage fall lower on the priority list and take their spouse for granted. Set aside time daily to reconnect with your spouse, even if it is just for a short while. The amount of quiet time together doesn’t have to be huge, but spending 15 to 20 minutes alone together each day can keep your marriage on track.
The simple idea of “a family that plays together, stays together” is true. Having fun and laughing together helps keep your relationship strong. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the business of everyday life, and many couples do not make time for fun. Make a list of things you enjoy doing together and make sure to do at least two of those things from the list each month. Continually add to your list and make sure it has a variety of activities to meet any budget.
Again, extramarital affairs don’t just happen. Engaging in an affair can have devastating consequences that impact your life forever. There are clear steps and choices that lead to an affair. By following the above tips, you can “affair-proof” your marriage and prevent infidelity before it begins.
Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information or questions about food safety, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org