Most people who have affairs don’t ever set out looking for one. There are a few exceptions, of course, where married people do use the internet and other sources to seek out opportunities to have an affair. However, for the vast majority, affairs start out slowly and unintentionally.
Affairs often begin as a “friendship.” Maybe it is with a co-worker, an internet friend, or a former boyfriend or girlfriend. It begins with conversation about day-to-day happenings. The friendship builds until intimate details are shared. Then, perhaps a conversation or two about problems within the marriage, and some conversation about “what if…?”
The boundary between appropriate and inappropriate can feel blurry for people at this stage. They may find themselves enjoying the conversation and seeking out opportunities to talk with one another. Perhaps they are just talking online or on the phone or perhaps in-person meetings are taking place as well.
Then something physical happens. For many people, they never intended for it to go this far. But once that line is crossed, there’s no going back. For some, they end it quickly. For others, the affair continues. And many marriages end.
So how do you safeguard your marriage against an affair? It’s important to stop any signs of an affair before you begin down that slippery slope. There are some strategies you can take to ensure that you don’t end up in an inappropriate situation.
A good rule to follow is, don’t do anything when your spouse isn’t around that you wouldn’t do if they weren’t. So, ask yourself, would I send this email if my spouse were able to read it? Would I have this conversation if my spouse were able to hear every word? Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t tell your spouse. Don’t talk to your ex-partners, unless you are up front with your spouse about it.
If you have started an affair, end it. It is normal that you will experience grief and sadness when you end it. But you cannot have a healthy relationship with your spouse as long as you are engaging in an emotional or physical affair. It is important to prevent affairs before they start in order to safeguard your marriage from trouble.
Therapy can help you if you have difficulty setting appropriate boundaries with others. Therapy can also help you determine reasons that you may seek out inappropriate relationships and may teach you how to get your needs met in the marriage. Couples therapy can help you if you have already engaged in an affair.