Affair-Proof Your Marriage

Dear Karen,

“My husband has been getting friendly with a single woman – she’s one of his customers – and recently went out to lunch with her.  He swears nothing is going on between them, but I don’t believe him.  I feel like I can’t trust him.  How do I get him to stop spending time with her?” – Connie, CA

Dear Connie,

I understand your concern, and I appreciate the trust it took to share this with not only me, but with all the women that read this newsletter every month.

I’m going to make a few assumptions in my answer to your question:  you love each other; you’re both committed to the marriage; you are willing to examine your part in this; you want to meet his needs in your relationship.

The Slippery Slope

I’d bet that when you and your guy were first married, you spent lots of time thinking of ways to make him happy.  I’d also bet that you were quite free with expressions of admiration, appreciation, respect, love, acceptance and trust.

These are like air for a man; without these things, it’s hard for them to survive.

Whether or not we understand this (or even believe the validity of this, given how it seems they behave), men feel a huge amount of responsibility – for everything – and it is tough for them to keep going, day in and day out.  Having their woman’s admiration and respect is the fuel they desperately need to continue to get out there and “slay dragons”.

Being our best comes so easily to us in the beginning of the relationship, when we feel energized by how perfect things feel when we’re with him.

Then, as must happen, the reality of everything settles in.

The things you didn’t/wouldn’t let yourself see about him (that made him less than perfect) start to become more apparent.  For many women, the shift from “My life is perfect now, because I’ve been rescued by Prince Charming!” to “Hey, what happened to my fairy tale life?!?” is a painful and confusing time.

This is a very natural process, and it still catches many by surprise.  The common “cure” (as evidenced by the – still – 50% divorce rate!) is to leave and go find the “real” Prince Charming (you won’t be deceived next time!).

Your husband is still the exact same man (Prince) you fell for.  You’ve simply misplaced your rose-colored glasses.

Why am I going on about this, you may be asking, since your question was about HIM spending time with another woman?  Because I’m willing to bet that, once your glasses got lost, you stopped doing all those things that were so natural for you in the beginning.

I’m also going to bet that what’s going on with him is that he’s just seeking that “fuel” he needs to keep going.  This woman (and we’ll assume he’s telling you the truth and nothing is going on)  is probably providing him with the admiration, respect and attention he used to get from you.

Getting Out of the Danger Zone

The thing that is very important for you to understand is this: although the time he’s spending with her may be innocent enough at this point, this type of thing can (not WILL, but CAN) evolve into bigger trouble for your relationship.  He may find himself turning to her more and more for what he needs, and feels like he’s getting from her.

So, what do you do now?

Here’s what I’d suggest (this list is not in order of priority; they’re all important):

  • Make sure your ego (a.k.a. your low self-esteem) is not running the show (if you find yourself saying/thinking “why should I have to be the one to do this?”, or “this just isn’t FAIR!”, or “he shouldn’t be doing this anyway!”, your ego has control of you);
  • Write down everything you like/love/respect/appreciate/admire about your man, and read it often (for more impact, show it to him);
  • Write down a list of all the things you used to do (or still do) that communicate to your man that you respect, appreciate, admire, love, trust and/or accept him, and start/keep doing them – if this feels hard to do, pick the easier ones first, but make sure you keep at it until it’s easier and easier, and you do them all;
  • Write a vision for your relationship that you can refer to frequently – this will help you be guided by your heart, and keep the big picture in front of you, rather than the short-sightedness that can result from the fear you may be feeling;
  • Get some support in place to help you on this journey – remember, we can’t accomplish anything of great importance to us by ourselves – and make sure if you’re going to friends for support, they are 100% on board with your program.  They cannot be voices that feed your ego/fear-based self.
  • Ask him this very important question (and make sure the timing is right for the asking – that you are ready, and he’s open to communicating at that moment): “Is there anything you need from me that you’ve given up on?”  And listen very carefully – and non-defensively – to his answer.  I’m guessing that his answer will be aligned with what you’re already working on.
  • Be a great observer of all the ways your new program is working, by noticing the ways he’s more and more connected with you.  The signs may be subtle at first (and don’t hurt your chance for success here by being impatient, or disregarding the smaller signs of progress!).
  • And lastly, when you feel like you’re doing a great job of being on the right track with him, have a heart-to-heart with him and share what you’re feeling about his spending time with this woman.  If you can authentically say this, tell him that you trust him, and also let him know how you feel about his friendship with this woman.  Don’t press him for anything right there; just share, and then let him process it.  My guess: unless he’s feeling controlled by you, he’ll try to make you happy.

In Conclusion

Intimate, committed relationships are the most perfect vehicles for us to become, as I call it, “undefended”:  to consistently BE our highest and best selves…to have the courage to be guided by our hearts…to be able to reveal the depth of our love.  I trust that this will turn out to be one of the greatest gifts to your relationship.  If you choose, it could be a powerful catalyst to take it to a place where both of you feel safe, loved and headed toward an amazing life together.