Protecting Your Marriage from Infidelity

 

Have you ever worried what would happen if you found out your spouse was unfaithful to you?  I think there is always some part of us that wonders how we would react and if our marriage would survive this sort of betrayal and trauma.   Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and have had thoughts about engaging in a relationship with someone outside of your marriage.  This should be a red flag and something needs to be done to protect your marriage and prevent these thoughts from turning into actions!

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Greg Smalley, Psy. D. writes about daily decisions you can make to build trust and security to affair-proof your marriage:

  1. Make a Commitment Towards Growth

The more unhappy you or your spouse are in a marriage the more likely you are to find satisfaction outside of the marriage.  Ask yourself “What is something I could do that would cause our relationship to grow?”  Make a list and choose one thing from the list to do weekly.

  1. Becoming Aware of Your Choices

Many times we rationalize behaviors that could lead to infidelity.  For example, maybe there is a co-worker we find ourselves talking to at work and begin feeling an emotional connection to them.  We need to stop asking what is wrong with the choices we make and ask what’s right with them.  As we become aware of our choices we can protect our marriages.

  1. Draw a Line and Then Stay a Safe Distance Behind It!

It is important that you have a line of safety and stay a safe distance behind it.  This line will be different for everyone.  For one person it could mean not working late with a co-worker of the opposite sex and for another it may mean not meeting a certain person for lunch alone.  Whatever you line is draw it and stay behind it!

  1. Become Accountable to Someone

Find someone you can ask these questions to:  “Did you compromise your standards last week?” or “Have you been getting your emotional needs met from someone other than your mate?”  Having someone to be accountable to for the commitments you have made in your marriage will help in affair-proofing your marriage.

Marriage should be a life-long commitment!  We live in culture where we are taught new is always better and if something or someone isn’t meeting our needs than commitment and disloyalty are okay.  This is an individualistic view and not what marriage should be.  Marriage is about “us.”  Take a look at where you are in your own marriage.  Have you had thoughts about straying?  Do you talk to someone at work or when you go to the gym that you have an emotional connection with that may be inappropriate?    Evaluate your marriage and start working on ways to affair-prove it today.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side!

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Finding the Magic: Appreciation and Admiration

I recently read an article where a woman who lost her husband in a car accident was asked what she would share with couples about marriage. Her response was surprising. She said, “I was haunted by the idea of gratitude. I wanted to thank my husband for all his hard work – to really thank him.” She went on to advise, “Slow down and look at all your spouse does for you, and say thank you. You think you’ll always have time to do that, but you might not. You cannot say ‘thank you’ too much.”

Appreciation / Gratitude: In October of 2015, the University of Georgia released research findings which stated that gratitude is a key ingredient to improving marital quality. Their survey of 468 married individuals found that gratitude was the most common predictor of marital satisfaction. Showing gratitude often takes the form of appreciation.  Couples who regularly show appreciation ease some of the burdens in life. They tell each other “I am in your corner” and “I notice and appreciate all that you do”.

Not only does gratitude help those who hear such kind words, but a study conducted by Jeffrey Dew and Bradford W. Wilcox found that when participants worked to show their partners more gratitude their efforts increased their own marital bliss. Gratitude, therefore, benefits both the giver and the receiver.

Gratitude even has the power to overcome some of what Dr. John Gottman calls the most powerful predictors of divorce. When couples are faced with conflict, it is often easy to fall into a demand/withdrawal scenario. One spouse begins with a criticizing personal attack attached to a demanding statement, which causes a withdrawal in their partner. The University of Georgia’s research shows that gratitude can interrupt this cycle.

Couples need to regularly show appreciation if they want to be happy in their relationship, and there are many simple ways to do it. Take time to write a note of appreciation to your partner. Give a kiss and lace it will words of affection. Take the time to notice your partner’s positive traits and actions and it will bless you both with more love and devotion.

Admiration: Admiration is often misunderstood.  Perhaps this is because seeking admiration can be associated with selfish acts.  Dr. Gottman sees admiration from a different perspective. He believes admiration combined with fondness is a predictor of a couple’s ability to combat contempt and build a relationship which focuses on positive qualities. Gottman states that fondness and admiration are essential to making marriage work.

Couples can show admiration through taking time to seek their spouse’s advice. They can show they value their partner’s opinion on topics about their shared home and life together. Couples can listen when partners speak to them and be respectful. Even when there is a difference of opinion, listening and respect can help couples to find common ground while maintaining positive feelings about each other. Couple can avoid being overly critical, especially in public. Instead, couples can complement their spouse in front of others. Allowing spouses to hear their partner speak kindly of them builds their self-worth and the marital connection. Couples can support their spouse’s goals. If one spouse is training for a marathon, the other can offer to help track their times, attend pre-races and make signs of encouragement.

Gottman’s Proven Techniques: Gottman offers a list of ideas to help couples feel more appreciation and admiration. First, couples should take the time to list three positive qualities about their spouse. Some examples might be intelligent, athletic, loving, kind, or funny. Each spouse should write these qualities down and then include an example of a time their spouse showed this characteristic.

Second, couples should talk about their shared history with each other. Discussing their courtship and sharing how they felt when they realized they were in love makes for a great connection point. Couples who share a fondness for their shared history have the ability to focus on the reasons they fell in love in the first place. Often it is through sharing this history that romance is rekindled.

Third, couples need to practice positive thinking. Couples should take the time in the mornings to think of one reason they love their spouse. One option is to write this down and focus on it throughout the day. If their mind starts to slip into negative thoughts, couples can pull out their morning note and remind themselves why they chose their spouse in the first place.

Gottman has found that asking couples to focus just 5 minutes a day on appreciation and admiration leads them to long lasting relationships where love and marital bliss can be found. Taking the time to try out a few of these ideas is a good investment in their relationship. It’s amazing the power just a few minutes a day can have on marital satisfaction.

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Needs

When you read the title of this post, were your first thoughts about the “needs” of your own, or the “needs” of your spouse? We all have needs, and it is okay to think of your own needs from time to time. However, when your needs trump those of your spouse on a continual basis it is called selfishness. Selfishness is lacking consideration for others or concerned mainly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

Selfishness in society’s definition is more politically referred to as individualism. We live in a society that values individualism which is the well-being of the individual. Today’s extreme emphasis on individualism brings egotism and separation, and marriage is quite the opposite. Neal A. Maxwell (1999) mocked individualism when he said, “In spite of its outward, worldly swagger, such indulgent individualism is actually provincial, like goldfish in a bowl congratulating themselves on their self-sufficiency, never mind the food pellets or changes of water.”

So how does selfishness creep into a marriage? It starts by only thinking of yourself and your needs. You may even think the world revolves around you. You do not consider the needs of your spouse.  It is personal gratification and wanting to build yourself up without the help of your spouse. You may feel you have to compete with your spouse and may even think you are better. You don’t give or share. Compromising doesn’t come easy. Couples interested in just themselves do not communicate well. Lack of communication starts a domino effect in the marriage with other complications to follow.  Postponement of children. If children do come into the marriage, the wife may work outside of the home to be able to afford the luxuries (not the needs) of life such as a nicer car, a boat, or extravagant vacations. Selfishness can lead to financial problems with other issues following not far behind.  Forgiveness doesn’t come easy.

If you think you might be selfish, do not give up. There is hope! We have the tools to help have a healthy and selfless marriage:

  1. Keep in mind the needs of your spouse. It’s important to remember we are different and have different needs.
  2. Be flexible in your expectations. Communicate with your spouse what they are as well.
  3. Control your emotions. Do not let your emotions get out of hand. We all have feelings…even your spouse.
  4. Be open to your spouse’s opinions. It doesn’t mean you must agree, but hear them out.
  5. Don’t be controlling. If your spouse loads the dishwasher not “your way,” let it go. At least they loaded the dishwasher.
  6. Don’t let your career get between you and your marriage. It’s easy to focus on what you want in your career, but consider what your spouse wants.
  7. See each other’s family as “our” family. Consider how the time is spent with your families.
  8. Remember the Golden Rule? One way to keep us on track is to live by it. Do unto my spouse as I would want done unto me.
  9. Change the way you think. Start thinking as “WE,” not “I.” Remember…..you should be “BECOMING ONE.”

To have a strong marriage we must think of the other person’s needs before our own. Gordon B. Hinkley (1999) said, “I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.” Remember, we are equals and we need to help one another in all that we do, not just think of ourselves and our own responsibilities. To have a happy and successful marriage we must see the needs of our spouse and be selfless.

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Intimacy

Before my husband and I were married, we were counseled to build a fence around us and our relationship. Only my husband and I were allowed within our fence. During our engagement and shortly after our marriage there were times I would hug my guy friends and my spouse would be upset. I couldn’t understand why, but he would say, “I feel they are coming within our fence.” Through our 27 years of marriage there have been times when one of us will make that comment and it is all that needs to be said. Because we love and respect each other so much if one feels like someone is encroaching in our fence, then we make the necessary changes to keep them out. We protect the intimacy we share.

Intimacy is defined as a sense of closeness. When a couple comes together in marriage, they strive for intimacy. Intimacy is a factor for a healthy and strong marriage.

Some people feel infidelity is physical intimacy, but the truth of the matter is, infidelity in every sense of the word can be emotional intimacy as well. Intimacy is the act of connecting. H. Wallace Goddard said, “. . . to avoid all sexual relations outside of marriage precludes not only physical, but also romantic relationships outside of marriage, even if they are only mental or emotional.” Emotional intimacy can easily lead to physical intimacy.

Married couple having an intimate discussion

Someone once said, “Intimacy is not who you let touch you. Intimacy is who you talk to at 3 a.m. about your dreams and fears. Intimacy is giving someone your attention, when ten other people are asking for it. Intimacy is the person always in the back of your mind, no matter how distracted you are.”  ~ Author Unknown

So how do we prevent emotional intimacy from happening with anyone other than your spouse? How do we keep others outside of our fence? H. Wallace Goddard lists 10 things to do just that……

  1. Do not allow the seeds of lust to germinate.
  2. Never make excuses to spend time alone with a person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
  3. Take responsibility for the messages that you give. Do not flirt!
  4. Do not allow your heart to dwell on anyone other than your spouse.
  5. If you find yourself making excuses for continuing the relationship, you are addicted. Get Help!
  6. Spend more enjoyable time with your spouse.
  7. Renew your spiritual efforts.
  8. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Avoiding is better than resisting.
  9. Keep your soul free of the soul-numbing barrenness of pornography.
  10. Celebrate the sweet gift of companionship.

Taking these steps will help build an intimate and happy marriage now and in the years to come.

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Make Traditions

Having family traditions or rituals help two people become one. This is a   way for couples to gain comfort and trust, to bond with one another, to turn towards one another, and to have a deeper connection. Each person will come together with different family traditions. It will be up to you and your spouse which ones you want to bring into your marriage. You may even want to create your own together. Some traditions will have to do with holidays or birthdays. Some may be religious. While other rituals or traditions are done on a daily basis, like saying prayers, reading scriptures, taking a morning walk together, leaving for work or reuniting at the end of the day. When my husband leaves for work he always gives me a kiss good-bye, and when he returns home, I greet him with a kiss hello.

Another favorite couple or family ritual is eating dinner together at the table. Eating dinner together as a family is a tradition that is beginning to deteriorate in our society, but one that is proven to be extremely important within the sanctity of the family and a marriage. This is a time where your spouse and children feel a bond to one another. It is a time to share our daily happenings. It is a time to teach and open up.

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to thinking of your own family traditions, begin by talking to each other about the kinds of traditions and rituals that you each had when you were growing up. Some questions you could ask are:

  • What are your best and worst memories?
  • What would have made them better?
  • What are these rituals like for you today?
  • What do they mean or symbolize to you?
  • How would you like them to be now?

So when you are deciding on what you can do to unify as a couple or as a family, remember to have traditions or rituals that draw you closer together. Remember the importance and benefits of family dinners.  Remember the small and simple things.

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