Source: Web exclusive: November 2008
8 ways to cheat-proof your relationship
Could you or your partner ever be unfaithful? Research suggests that anywhere between 11 and 35 percent of people cheat, and women are doing it more often, too. (Remember that sizzling scene with Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez in the movie Unfaithful?) Yet experts say that strengthening your relationship might be a better use of your time than looking for signs of infidelity.
“For the overwhelming majority of affairs, it’s not about sex—it’s about people feeling lonely,” says Sue Johnson, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa and the author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. “It’s always about emotion—unfaithful men say, ‘she was just so sympathetic; she understood me.’” So how can you reconnect with your partner and keep your relationship healthy? Here, Johnson, other experts and real Canadian women share tips on how to keep the home fires burning.
1. Touch each other“Touch your partner non-sexually every day—it raises levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone,” says Trina Read, a sexologist in Calgary and author of Till Sex Do Us Part: Make Your Married Sex Irresistible. That’s what Elizabeth in Toronto* and her partner do. “We always give each other little smooches on the lips and cheek or touch when we pass one another at a party.”
2. Make time to talk—and rock“It’s important to make fun time together as a couple a priority,” says Beth Mares, a Toronto psychotherapist. But it can be equally crucial to chat regularly—weekly works for some couples—about managing your home, parenting and how the relationship is going, she says. Otherwise, our busy lives can allow unresolved conflicts to grow. “Every night, while lying in bed, we talk about our days,” says Siobhan in Dartmouth, N.S.* “It’s vanilla, but we’ve been happily together for 16 years, so we must be doing something right!” (Just don’t combine your problem-solving meeting with date night—resolving problems is no aphrodisiac.)
3. Use kindness, not curtnessIt sounds obvious, but feeling unappreciated or put down can make a person open to cheating or an emotional affair, say our experts. A sincere compliment or a thoughtful gesture that really speaks to your partner’s interests—a ticket to a hockey game rather than chocolates or flowers, for example—can go a long way. (And will hopefully be reciprocated!) Likewise, be careful about being overly critical, save major criticisms or any issues your partner is sensitive about for a sit-down discussion. “There needs to be a rule that you don’t raise dissatisfactions at times when you can’t do anything about it—at bedtime or before work,” suggests Mares. Otherwise they can’t be resolved and will fester. “Sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes often have a grain of truth to them,” agrees Naomi*, explaining why she and her husband avoid put-downs, even in jest. Consider professional help if deep conflicts continue, however.
4. Reinvent your sex lifeThis isn’t about taking pole-dancing lessons (unless you want to), but something perhaps even braver: creating the sex life you want. “People invest no time—they have sex for 16 minutes every couple of weeks and expect miraculous things,” says Read. Connected, intimate sex means asking for what you want and moving beyond intercourse-only thinking, she says. Maybe you can just have a bath together or exchange foot rubs. (That’s what Louise in Oakville* says: “We give each other almost nightly foot rubs or back massages.”) Or, maybe you can talk about sex toys. What are important are physical closeness, open dialogue and investing time in your sex life. For a kick start, Read recommends having sex together every day for seven days. “You’ll be surprised by the results!” she says.
5. Think about why you love your partner (or don’t)An April 2008 study from Florida State University found that men who spent time thinking positively about their relationships spent less time looking at pictures of other attractive women. So take a moment to appreciate what you have, like Louise does: “Periodically we get out our honeymoon diary and read it together over a glass of wine—it takes us back to those early romantic days together.” Or, mentally hash out what you don’t like. “If you’re dissatisfied, really think it through,” says Mares. “You may decide that you want the relationship, but only if it changes.” When acted upon, that honesty can be the first step towards a more committed and faithful bond.
6. Slow dance“Every once in a while, when we feel a little disconnected, we light our wedding candle, put on our wedding song and dance around our dining room—sometimes even in front of the kids!” says Claire*. Physical closeness and looking into each other’s eyes—these things can boost intimacy, communication and desire and thereby reduce the likelihood of looking elsewhere, adds Read.
7. Give each other some spaceIt sounds counterintuitive, but having a support system outside of your relationship can make it more cheat-proof. “When people are too dependent, they expect more than one person can give and they quarrel,” explains Mares.
8. Dig deep together
“When the emotional part of a relationship is on a starvation diet, that’s when people start looking around,” says Johnson. Reconnecting requires asking some vulnerable questions about fights that keep reoccurring, what you’re afraid of and what you need most from your partner. As she says in her book: “Love needs attention. Knowing your attachment needs and responding to those of your lover can make a bond last until ‘death us do part.’” So, why not do your part to prevent infidelity and show this article to your partner? You’ve got nothing to lose and plenty of foot rubs to gain.
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