Lots of married people, men and women, cheat. Some do it repeatedly, believing they are somehow entitled to do so. Others do it once, looking for emotional or sexual relief when there is great tension in their marriage. This second group usually decides never to try that again, whether they get caught or not.
Cheating is contagious. Research shows that those who know someone who has cheated are more likely to cheat.
You can never control your spouse’s behavior, but you can do things to influence the environment in which he or she makes a choice.
- Cultivate friendships with people of especially high integrity or exceptional relationship skills.
- If you learn someone you both know (or somebody in the news) has cheated, share how you would feel if you ever found yourself in the shoes of the cheater’s spouse. Avoid making any threats. Stick to how you would feel, not what you would do.
- Stay present in your marriage. Actively love your spouse. Actively watch and listen for all the ways your spouse loves you. Acknowledge them.
- Do not belittle your man or take your woman for granted.
- Keep the number of positive interactions with your spouse at least five times the number of negative interactions. Strong marriages are not ones that avoid conflict or self-assertion; they are ones with a positive/negative ratio of 5 or higher.
- Avoid snooping. While it may help you discover cheating sooner, it creates an environment of distrust, rather than love and respect. This will not help when your mate must make the decision to go with a feeling or honor those vows.
- Assume Love and look for other possibly valid explanations for anything your wife or husband does that upsets you. Avoid unleashing your anger, resentment, or tears over misunderstood motives.
- Expect Love. Let go of your expectations about how a loving person will behave (like taking out trash, saying I love you, spending time with everyone whose company you enjoy, or joining you in all of your hobbies).
- Find Third Alternatives for your disagreements, ones that satisfy both of you. Avoid bullying or caving. Save compromise for a last resort.
While you can influence the environment in which your husband or wife makes the decision, you are in no way responsible for your spouse’s choice to have an emotionally or sexually intimate affair with another person. If it happens, don’t blame yourself.
And don’t give up. Almost everyone who has ever been cheated on survived it. Many of them remain married and happily so after a healing period. Others decide to leave, and most of them find love again.
Cheating is just one of many rough spots your marriage may encounter. Obsessing about it in advance will leave your marriage weaker for the others, the ones neither of you has any say over, like floods, tornados, fires, disabling illnesses, and the deaths of loved ones. Worse, it will leave your marriage less ready for the uplifting events and those moments of pure joy. You cannot be fully open to these, you cannot amplify each other’s delight, while you are on guard.