Extramarital affairs do not discriminate regardless of our values, religion, social class, income status and public standing.
Therefore, taking the steps to affair-proof our marriages is as wise as taking the steps to safeguard our homes from theft. Just as we’d close the windows and lock the doors before leaving the house, we can make it a habit to ongoingly develop an honest relationship with our spouse. This, we believe, is the key to providing the comfort of knowing the truth about any attraction that comes up. At the same time, by bringing these out into the open, we will be able to keep each other accountable for our actions.
Unsurprisingly, a survey* conducted by TOUCH Family Services on 164 victims of extramarital affairs unveiled that the majority (69.5%) did not discuss the issue of attraction to others with their spouses. Only 20.7% talked openly about this subject.
Here are some tips on how you can develop an honest and open relationship with your spouse:
- When you choose to share your deepest feelings about everything including the “scary” stuff like your attraction to others, you’ll develop a better understanding of each other.
- Honesty is much more than simply not lying. It’s not withholding information or feelings that are important to a marriage.
- Honesty is not thoughtlessly hurting each other with bluntness. Use honesty to share yourself and to be known by your spouse. Do not use it simply to unburden your guilt.
- Communicate frequently and not wait for things to build up to a specially scheduled marathon “talk”.
- If your spouse never wants to talk, honestly ask yourself if your attitude is overwhelmingly critical. No time will be a good time if you use honesty to criticise your spouse.
- Men particularly have a fear that “a talk” means a session of being criticised, which causes them to resist when they suspect this is the purpose of the session.
- When your spouse is honest with you, encourage and show appreciation for the effort so that he becomes convinced that it is safe to tell the truth. Listen with acceptance. Don’t establish yourself as judge or jury.
- Developing honesty is a process that can take years. Your goal is to gradually increase the level of honesty in your relationship. You will develop a deeper, more intimate relationship.
- The result of a commitment to honesty is a monogamous marriage.
This is adapted with permission from “The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs” by Peggy Vaughan (2003).
After discovering about her husband’s affair and eventually resolving it through patient communication with him to result in an honest and monogamous marriage, Peggy Vaughan founded BAN (Beyond Affairs Network). She has also written a number of books including The Monogamy Myth to share her experience and help others. Her writings have been made available for free at www.dearpeggy.com.
*Recovering From Affairs & Rebuilding Marriages 2013 – A Survey by TOUCH Family Services