How to Keep Your Husband or Wife from Cheating


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.

  1. Cultivate friendships with people of especially high integrity or exceptional relationship skills.
  2. 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.
  3. Stay present in your marriage. Actively love your spouse. Actively watch and listen for all the ways your spouse loves you. Acknowledge them.
  4. Do not belittle your man or take your woman for granted.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Many survive being cheated on, many do not….I like what you said about not snooping….looking for all the small bits, it almost makes it happen….it develops paranoia which then becomes hard to overcome….the one thing I will say (and maybe you wont think it’s appropriate so feel free to not put this comment up on here if it offends you) You need to look after your own health….many of the diseases that are picked up from a straying partner and not fun…quite often the person who has picked it up first displays no symptoms but when it’s passed onto the other person the consequences can be terrible…..if you know or suspect your partner is being unfaithful… need to use protection… need to get blood tests etc… need to look after yourself….you don’t need to die, become very ill or infertile just because you didn’t want to do anything about what was going on…..

  • I have no problem with posting your warning, Katrina. I believe we are not only responsible for our own choices (about risking STDs, riding with a drunk driver, sharing a home with a violent addict, etc.), but we are acting with love when we prevent a spouse from unintentionally hurting us.

  • #6 is right on! Interestingly enough – from a purely psychological perspective – people will model their behavior to meet expectations of others.
    The most honest and forthright person will wither under constant examination. If you are that distrustful of your partner and you cannot identify a specific behavior that caused that distrust, I think part of the solution is to look inward at oneself.
    Why do I think this way and what can we do as a couple to address the concerns. Don’t let paranoia destroy a good thing!

  • Thanks, Tonja. I think we can also look together for a Third Alternative to a difference about what constitutes trustworthy behavior. A Third Alternative is one we both feel good about, so it definitely will not include any secretive snooping.

  • Associating with people of high integrity is key, I believe. Tammie & I blog together (we are fellow UBC-ers) and I am the single one of us two. After 10 years of being divorced I have finally found a good man and the key has been finding someone with INTEGRITY. I also feel strongly about your point about not belittling. That is so destructive. A great blog and we will be checking back even after the challenge is over!

  • We can’t really control another person’s behavior, we can only hope to influence them. In the meantime, we can make our own good choices. Everyone who has ever had an affair could have avoided it by choosing differently. If we remember to prioritize love and integrity and, as you say, to be actively present in the marriage, it will be easy to choose fidelity.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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