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Inoculate Your Marriage Against An Affair

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As we know, affairs are truly a symptom of an unhealthy and unfulfilled marriage. One way to help inoculate your marriage against affairs is to keep your sex life and physical intimacy a priority. For some couples, sex is not even on the list after having kids.

married couple in bed together

Dr. Michelle Golland: I was not surprised by the 2006 Newsweek article that reported that 15-20% of us are in "sexless" marriages. The article defined this as couples having sex less than once a month, or on average, 10 times a year.

In my therapy practice, sex or lack thereof is often a big complaint. What I usually quickly discover is it really is not about "sex," but about the overall lack of physical connection a couple is experiencing. Sex with our partner quickly goes to the back burner when we feel overworked, overcommitted, and simply overwhelmed by familial life.

Tips to avoid the downfall of desire and help inoculate your marriage against affairs:

1. Put your kids to sleep early. Too many couples keep their kids up too late for a variety of reasons, but if you can do the initial work of getting a solid bedtime between 7-8 o'clock, this will allow some quality time between you and your spouse. Feeling recharged is key to avoid the depleting experience of raising kids.

2. Use babysitters. Time alone as a couple is not a luxury as much as it is a necessity. If you can't afford a babysitter, then do an exchange with a friend or join a co-op sitters' club in your neighborhood. Dates don't need to be during the evening. Drop your kid off at a friend's house for 3 hours and go home and get back in bed together. An afternoon delight can be the best way to enjoy each other.

3. Sex starts in the morning. What I mean by this is be kind to each other. Make loving gestures. As an exhausted working mom, I know there is nothing sexier than my husband doing the dishes after dinner or giving the kids a bath. Couples make the mistake that our relationships are built on "big moments," but really it is the small loving gestures that inoculate us from disconnection and resentment.

4. Keep in touch during the day. Check in on each other. How is he feeling after the baby was up all night? Is he tired at work?? Call your wife and just tell her you love her! Again, this is about being kind and giving, even when you're tired.

5. Pleasure without intercourse. Yes, I mean mutual masturbation. Sometimes we are just too tired for the whole shebang! We don't need to have intercourse to experience sexual pleasure. Give massages, rub feet, take a bath. Learn to satisfy your partner without sex. Realize you both don't have to reach orgasm each time you connect. This doesn't mean it was a "bad" time or incomplete. We need to redefine our sexual lives after having kids. All of these gestures will increase the possibility of intercourse occurring more often.

6. Last but really most important of all, TALK to each other. As a couple, you need to talk and connect everyday. I give homework to my couples. Three times a week or every other night, sit alone and let each of you speak without interruption for 3 minutes about how you are feeling or what is going on at home, work, or whatever.

If sadness and resentment have become too entrenched, then see a therapist. Couples that seek counseling for problems early on are in therapy a shorter time because they have less buildup of hurt and resentments that have never been addressed.

Many couples avoid therapy because it is expensive and takes time away from the family. But I suggest you call a divorce lawyer and you will see what expensive really is.

Always remember that our children look to us for what it means to be in a relationship. We are showing them what it means to be a "husband" and a "wife." We model how to love, to disagree, and when to know to get help.

Sex in our relationship is just one piece of our connection that must be tended to, but it is an important one.

next: For Dad: Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed Guide
33 comments so far | Post a comment now
James J. Sanders, LMFT May 7, 2009, 10:07 AM

You wrote, “As we know, affairs are truly a symptom of an unhealthy and unfulfilled marriage.” This is so wrong and untrue.
Would you say drug addiction or other acting out behaviors is a symptom of an unhealthy marriage? Don’t blame the betrayed. Only the cheater cheated and only they can change themselves and save the marriage.

KS May 7, 2009, 12:07 PM

Really? Are you comparing Drug Addiction to an affair…what kind of doctor are you? I totally agree with Dr. Golland and believe her tips are very helpful. I am going to hire a babysitter tonight! My husband and I very happy and we owe it to some of the tips listed above.

CSVF May 7, 2009, 1:46 PM

I must agree wtih James Sanders. This puts a lot of blame on the betrayed. There are many reasons for affairs. To suggest that you can ‘innoculate’ a marriage against an affair by having sex more often is patently untrue.

Heidi May 7, 2009, 2:04 PM

“As we know, affairs are truly a symptom of an unhealthy and unfulfilled marriage.” Wow, sorry but I also disagree. An affair should not be blamed on the other person at all. If you have an unhealthy/unfulfilled marriage then discuss it or get out, don’t disrespect your partner by cheating - that is not a “symptom”. I feel bad for all the people who have been cheated on who read this. Have more sex or your partner will treat you like garbage - that sounds like a relationship I want to be in.

R.T. May 8, 2009, 2:14 AM

I happen to agree with Dr. Golland. She said that affairs are a SYMPTOM of an unhealthy, unhappy marriage, just as there are other symptoms. Would you really want to call it a symptom of a loving, happy marriage? She’s right! It doesn’t mean she’s promoting it or condoning it. And the blame SHOULD go to the right person. But whose to know who that really is when every story is different. And I don’t think she’s saying that it’s in every case. It just happens to be the majority of cases. Sorry people, that’s life. Men express love through sex, and if they’re not getting any love at home, CHANCES are they will find it elsewhere. Don’t shoot the messanger. She’s the one trying to help you out.

Celia May 8, 2009, 1:11 PM

It’s true that some people in seemingly happy healthy marriages will cheat, but you have to admit that if a marriage is strained, with little to no sexual fulfillment, cheating is more likely to occur. That doesn’t make it the faithful partner’s fault, but sometimes there are things a couple can do to prevent drifting apart into an unhappy situation where one of them looks outside the marriage for what they want. I think there are some great tips in this article. Physical connection is really important in holding a relationship together.

Maegan May 8, 2009, 5:40 PM

This is great for couples who see each other every day. What about the spouses seperated by an ocean because one has been deployed to a war-torn nation? One is home, trying to deal with everything themselves…the other is in a tent washing with river water. Suddenly…one or the other gets some attention from the opposite sex & as good as the “marriage” is…it might be easy to tempt one of them into an affair. And it’s easy to hide it during a deployment. Please don’t place the blame on the couple’s perceived marital health. One person may have a totally different idea of their health than the other. I know a lot of women (b/c I associate mostly with women) that were totally dumbstruck after sending countless care packages, love letters, & risque photos to husbands overseas…only to open up an email account (it’s common for wives to check the husband’s email for important stuff he may not be able to get to while deployed like bank details or even clearing out the junk so when he CAN read the emails, he doesn’t have to spend time cleaning it out himself) to see intimate emails from someone OTHER than themselves. It’s even happened to women who go the “extra mile” and get naked during the skype sessions. Even though they know that a tech is looking on & enjoying a free show.

Atlanta Private Investigator  May 14, 2009, 8:14 AM

Nice article. I agree that sometimes it is the sum of all the little things that add up to couples not straying. Being in the business of catching cheating spouses, I can say that your advice here is right on the money. Thank you for sharing.

KBC May 16, 2009, 5:18 PM

A man or a woman can be in a perfectly good relationship if they are cheaters at heart that has nothing to do with an healthy or unhealty relationship. they are just cheaters!

-Texas, Analyst

T! May 24, 2009, 11:12 PM

That is so true!

Kate May 25, 2009, 9:56 AM

I cheated on my husband but it wasn’t what ended the hallow shell that was our marriage rather the affair made us both quit sleep walking through our misery and realize that we weren’t in love.

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