I’ve sat across from enough couples trying to repair their marriages after an affair to know that they don’t just happen. There are some telltale signs that a relationship is ripe for an affair. No one thinks it will happen to them, and its easy to see in hindsight that there were in fact signals leading up to it.
While we can’t affair-proof our relationships, we can invest in them enough that an affair will be much less likely.
Here are 5 things that commonly come between couples and have the ability to cause an affair:
In the beginning of a relationship things are usually the best they will be. Couples have plenty of time to enjoy one another, they spend a significant amount of time together, they talk openly, and they share hobbies and interests that keep them connected.
As time passes two becomes three and then four, and the focus shifts from the couple to the family. Responsibilities increase, stresses increase, and time and energy decrease. The lack of time and energy once used towards one another dwindles, and a lack of connection that once kept the relationship fresh, diminishes.
2. Caring for Children
Children are one of the most amazing gifts, and in order to be a good parent it takes time, energy, and a great amount of effort. Sometimes that effort and energy comes at the detriment of the marital relationship.
I often see parents killing themselves to put their kids in all the right sports and extracurricular activities, running them around like an über driver on a Friday night. They angst over participation in activities because “they look good on college admission essays,” or even preschool applications.
All that running around, over-committing, and overextending leads to exhaustion and under-commitment to the marital relationship. Who has the energy for intimate conversation or sex after running on empty with kids all day?
When children leave the nest I often have couples coming into my office wondering who the person is sitting next to them. After years of committing to their children, they forget they were once committed to one another, and lack the intimacy that comes with regular connection.
Work/life balance is often elusive. As couples work to provide the biggest and the best for their children, it’s easy to continually strive for the next promotion, which usually comes with an increase in responsibility, and longer hours.
Working long hours can lead to a lack of connection at home. Often times, inter-office friendships can spark as a result of all the time spent on the job, and although they may seem innocent at first, feelings of loneliness can surface and be a cause for infidelity.
4. Outside Hobbies and Interests
I tend to be a big cheerleader when it comes to both partners having interests of their own. I encourage the individuality that comes with doing something that doesn’t include your partner or kids because I think it makes us more whole. It’s what we bring back to the relationship and talk about, and it’s what makes us unique.
However, there is a fine line, and balance is always key. When there’s no regular connection in the relationship, and date nights aren’t happening nearly as often as the kid’s play-dates, it’s difficult to justify an out of town fishing trip with the guys, or a daily 2-hour gym routine.
5. Difficult life-transitions
The transition into parenthood, a career change, caring for an aging parent, a move to a new state - all of these are examples of life-transitions. When things change in a big way, there are lots of feelings that go along with these transitions.
When the feelings are not outwardly expressed in the relationship, and one partner feels as thought they aren’t able to confide in the other, it can cause a wedge that leads to loneliness.
What all 5 of the things I’ve listed have in common are their ability to cause disconnection and loneliness. Loneliness and disconnection often lead to vulnerability, and vulnerability has the ability to lead to an affair if the right person comes around at the right time.
The bottom line is that connection is key.
If you’re connecting with your partner, sharing intimate moments with one another, and each of you feels valued and satisfied with your relationship, any of the above listed things can come into your lives. While they may be challenging, the strength you feel from the friendship and connection with your partner will help push you through the storm together.
Find ways to sneak 15 minutes out of your day to be alone.
Create routines that encompass connection. Make it a habit to connect through text or email throughout the day, and sit together after the kids go to bed and talk before getting into bed.