Are you being careless with your marriage?
I find these statistics staggering, don’t you?
Fifteen percent of wives and 25 percent of husbands have participated in extramarital intercourse.
When including emotional affairs or s*xual intimacies (without intercourse), the rates increase by 20 percent.
The truth: “Complacency” in marriage becomes an open door.
Couples aware of this fact approach their relationship as if they could lose something precious. You do not want your marriage to end up in that 35-45 percent group of couples that experience such devastation.
A key way of preventing that from happening is understanding why infidelity is so prevalent in the first place. Here’s why cheating happens:
1. Your partner assumes you no longer care
Yes life gets busy. But rightly or wrongly, your partner may come to feel that your everyday inattention means that he or she no longer matters to you. Whether you’ve just given birth to your second child, or your demanding job has you traveling more often than you would like, your marriage is vulnerable when your attention is elsewhere.
You see, when you were “in love”, you had this inner sense that you’d always be enough for your beloved, just as you are. As the initial love hormones diminish, small mindful gestures of attention and affection make a huge difference, provided they matter to your spouse.
Make it clear to each other that, “No matter what, when you need my attention, I’ll clear out time for you.” In doing so, you make your partner less tempted to cheat. Granted, maybe you won’t have time the split second one of you gets home, but take your partner’s request seriously. Whether it’s a long distance call or after the kids go to bed, put on your best listening ears and be there for your partner (and don’t problem solve until asked … just listen!).
2. Opportunity leads to promiscuity
According to one recent study, “More than one-third (36 percent) of men and 13 percent of women said that they gave in to temptation on a business trip.”
You’re alone with no one to talk to, plus you’re enjoying a few drinks, and in that situation inhibitions plummet. Highly committed couples know this and make it a point to touch base around the world by phone, even if it’s the middle of the night or you must interrupt your business dinner.
Want to know a set up for an er*tic extramarital encounter? Complete a challenging project or deal with a good looking team member of the opposite s*x in another part of the world.
If you want to safeguard your marriage, make fidelity a much talked about big deal. Explain what it would mean to you if your partner betrayed you. Let that be on your partner’s mind because you have both indicated how hurt you would feel.
3. Cheating runs in your family
If one (or both) of your parents cheated, you’re more likely to cross the line. Be extra mindful of your behavior (and your partner’s) if you know your family has a history of infidelity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry someone with this history; you just want reassurance that you both are awake to sharing similar values on this issue.
4. You think no one will ever suspect you
Statistics reveal that 74 percent of men and 68 percent of women admit they would have an affair if they felt they could get away with it. Whether this response is accurate in reality, it still suggests that people do imagine (and likely fantasize about) an extramarital affair, and would act on an opportunity if they could do so under a guarantee of cover.
As a marriage counselor, let me suggest that in this day and age of cell phones and emails, the odds have greatly increased that you will be found out. Something happens when the brain goes on the speed-like drug of “being in love.” Dopamine creates stalker-like impulses and caution and true discretion go right out the window. The fear of being found out becomes the least of your concerns. So, it’s easy to naively assume that no one suspects you.
5. The real consequences of cheating never occurred to you
If you haven’t experienced it personally, you can’t quite imagine the tsunami-like impact of a partner’s betrayal. It leaves you feeling like you don’t know where to turn, whom to trust, or how to overcome the sense of doom. Even worse, the person you would normally lean on is now the very person who betrayed you (and seemingly does not care about you at all).
Learning to trust again is a huge challenge for a betrayed partner. And you certainly did not deserve the pain your partner just handed to you.
And the flashbacks alone (to the moments when you felt so overwhelmingly hurt by your partner’s cheating) does not enter anyone’s imagination who is tempted to stray. They never even think of that cruel agony their partner will experience over and over.
Let me assure you that healing from infidelity is possible, even though you feel quite hopeless at first.
You may even find you’re blown away by the simple fact that (despite your hurt and anger) you still love your partner and want to save the marriage.
Many couples who decide to see a marriage counselor do successfully rebuild their marriage to something better that they never dreamed possible. Restoring trust and meeting each other’s needs takes time, but if you take the step to work through the pain, the newfound bond will amaze you.
You see, the couples who look at the abyss and decide to discover the real glue that makes a marriage work are the couples who make it through.
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