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Jesusegun Alagbe

Infidelity is certainly one of the factors that can destroy a marriage. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a relationship. The betrayal of a partner in a marriage is one of the most traumatising events that can occur to anyone. It sometimes destroys everything that a couple had built for years, as the case may be. In many cases, love is shattered, trust is broken, families are torn apart, and both spouses and their children bear the pain.

Like many incidents of life, many partners who had been victims to an adulterous affair did not see it coming. It can blindside one and before one knows it, one is already feeling completely helpless. This is because infidelity can feel like a fatal blow, particularly to trust in one’s marriage. In some cases, once a partner engages in extramarital affairs, the idea of a divorce starts to spring up, looking for how to quickly get out of the marriage.

There’s no doubt about it; infidelity affects marriages in the worst way possible. Hence, it is important that you guard marriage against it by all means.

According to marriage counsellors, the following are 10 ways to help a spouse avoid infidelity.

Make choices in the interest of your relationship

According to a US-based marriage counselor, Lesli White, some of the decisions a partner makes in a relationship have the power to make or break the relationship.

“If you want to protect your relationship from infidelity, make sure you’re making choices that are in the best interest of your relationship,” she wrote on beliefnet.com.

She added, “This means you’re consciously making the effort to better yourself and save your relationship. If you find yourself in a questionable situation or having thoughts that might take you away from your relationship, you have an important decision to make.

“Hopefully, you will make the conscious choice to stay on track and do what’s best for your relationship. If you don’t, you will find yourself in a heap of trouble time and time again, and before you know it, making a decision that will completely derail your marriage.”

Keep communication open, avoid secrets

White also stated that one of the ways to guard against infidelity was to always communicate with one’s spouse as keeping the communication line closed could create a loophole for infidelity to creep in.

She said, “Make sure you’re openly communicating with your partner. Make sure the space is one where you both feel you are being respected and can openly express your thoughts and feelings. You should let them know whatever’s on your mind regarding yourself, relationship and hopes and dreams for the future. You should also encourage them to do the same.

“It’s also important that you don’t keep secrets from each other. Keeping secrets about even the smallest things makes it easier to keep the big issues quiet too. Keeping secrets of any kind is the first step towards damaging a relationship that used to be strong.

“Clearly identify your unmet needs or concerns to your spouse. If you are feeling like love or romance is missing from your relationship, it’s important that you communicate this with your partner too. If you’re passive or quiet about what you’re feeling, it’s easy to start slipping into ‘I’m going to take care of me’ mode. Remember, marriage is about partnership.”

Set boundaries for each other

White explained that it was imperative that couples discuss their boundaries in marriage. For instance, she said the following important questions should be asked.

She said, “How do you define cheating? Does flirting count as cheating? Are you uncomfortable if your partner is very close with members of the opposite sex? If they spend an extended amount of time talking with that friend, do you trust that it’s only a friendship?

“In order to protect your relationship from infidelity, you should set guidelines for what fidelity in your relationship entails. Make sure you both want fidelity in a relationship. Don’t assume walking into the relationship that your partner is on the same page with you or desires the same thing.”

Spend quality time with your spouse

A Lagos-based psychologist and marriage counsellor, Biodun Oyeniyi, said spending quality time with one’s spouse was one of the ways to prevent infidelity.

He said, “Everyone wants to be loved, wanted and cared for. A couple’s mutual dependence on each other is associated with happy and healthy marriages. The most successful and happy couples are those who bond together.

“I advise couples to spend not just time but quality time together always. Of course, in a city like Lagos, the hectic lifestyle may hamper couples’ ability to have quality time with one another. But that is not an excuse. You should create quality time.

“Making quality time with your partner is imperative and having date nights are a must. They don’t always have to be over-the-top romantic or overly planned trips; just focus on having fun together. Focus on what you love about each other. Focus on trying new things together. Focus on conversation. Focus on getting to know each other in a whole new way. If you find yourself drifting apart emotionally, time to schedule date nights and dive in head first.”

Don’t deliberately touch someone of opposite sex

A clinical therapist and marriage counsellor based in Ontario, Canada, Abe Kass, said one of the ways to prevent infidelity was to avoid deliberately touching a member of the opposite sex.

“Affectionately touching someone of the opposite gender naturally elicits sexual feelings. Once you are excited, it becomes a slippery slope and you have no idea when or if you can stop. That is why it is important never to start,” Kass wrote on gosmartlife.com.

Likewise, White warned to avoid temptation.

She said, “The last thing you want to do is find yourself alone with a member of the opposite sex. If contact with that person is a must, then make sure it is always in a public space and others are around. Do not place yourself into a corner where further action is possible.

“You might think you’ll have no problem turning anything down if it shows up, but once you’re already in the situation, it’s incredibly easy to keep going with the flow – a flow that might lead to a mistake that ends your relationship. It’s also a lot easier to fall into this trap when you already feel like there are areas that are lacking in your marriage. Next thing you know, you’re justifying your decision to cheat. Before you find yourself in a tempting situation, it’s best to avoid those situations completely.”

Kass added, “There may be occasional business meetings where it is appropriate to meet with someone of the opposite gender. However, it should be done in a public place and the focus should be on business.”

Avoid social comparison

One of the ways to fall into the trap of infidelity is to keep comparing one’s partner to another person, or comparing one’s marriage with another marriage. To prevent falling into this trap, US-based psychologist, Dr Zach Carter, cautioned against comparing one’s marriage with another.

“Social media bombards us with lives that are not ours and forces us to compare those with our own. This psychological variable can devastate not only marriages but yourself,” Carter wrote on psychologytoday.com.

“Limit your social/digital media usage time, and consider deleting and even blocking certain individuals you find you compare yourself and/or your marriage with,” he added.

Another way to prevent infidelity is to monitor who one chooses to be ‘friends’ with on social media, as well as who one chooses to chat with, Carter stated.

He said, “Conversations through text message or chat can quickly go from innocent topics of discussion to more emotional disclosing, and often times, sexual. Many times, people are finding themselves in extramarital affairs brought on by a lack of communication stewardship on social media and through texting.

“Consider combining social/digital media accounts with your spouse, or consider deleting them altogether, especially if this type of communication becomes an issue.”

Keep your sex life active and exciting

Dr Pepper Schwartz of the American Association of Retired Persons advised couples to keep their sex lives active and exciting to ward off infidelity.

He said, “If a spouse feels neglected, unwanted or just tolerated, those feelings of being undesired could generate a big push towards someone else’s bed.

“Don’t think that you can allow your sex life to deteriorate without any consequences. If you think ‘he’s too old for that sort of thing’ or ‘she is not the kind of person who would do such a thing,’ you may be sadly mistaken. Your partner may not intend to seek sexual healing in another person’s arms, but if you starve a person long enough, they will eat anything.”

Stay romantic

Schwartz also advised keeping the relationship romantic to prevent fatigue and cheating subsequently.

He said, “Don’t let your partner fantasise about a moonlit night on a tropical island with someone else because they are sure you’d never be willing to do such a thing. If you can’t afford the stars on the beach, create a candlelight dinner at home, turn the lights down low and the music up high.

“Dress up occasionally and wear something flattering. Wear something you know your partner likes to see you in. Say ‘I love you,’ ‘I am so lucky I married you’ and other mushy sentiments like that. They really never go out of style.”

Pay attention to your appearance

Just because you’ve been married for a long time does not mean you should neglect how you look to your spouse.

Schwartz said, “You don’t have to be thin or look like a 30-year-old. But no matter how long you’ve been married, you need to watch your hygiene, avoid bad breath, comb your hair and brush your teeth and keep yourself looking as fit and healthy as possible.

“It even can be fun to dress up in fancy clothing every once in a while, then to go out for a romantic evening. Attention to such matters keeps you attractive and alluring to your spouse and helps keeps his or her eyes off someone else.”

Talk to friends who will hold you accountable

If one has had issues with being faithful to one’s spouse in the past, White advised that one should surround oneself with friends who would hold one accountable and help through.

She said, “These shouldn’t be people who will agree with everything you say just to make you feel better about your actions or encourage you when you’re in a tempting situation.

“These friends will be honest with you, even when you’re in the wrong in a situation with your partner. If you’ve fallen short, you have to accept responsibility for what you did. These friends will encourage you to be honest with yourself.”

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