3 min read

Strategies for Affair-Proofing Your Relationship

While sites like Friends Reunited, My Space and Facebook have been changing the face if cheating for a decade and a half, the brazen appearance of Ashley Madison in 2001 took online affairs to a whole new level.

Suddenly, we weren’t even going to pretend ‘it just sorta happened’.

But while the digital realm has become the new home of infidelity, happy ever after can still be found at home in the real world.

Carya Relationship Therapist, Tom McKay MSW, RSW, has been helping couples through tough times and issues for 30 years.

He explains why we’re driven to risk it all by cheating and how we can affair-proof our relationships by turning off the monitor and turning our attention to connections at home.

“Experts have cited 37 reasons for infidelity, but the main reason I see day in, day out is that people simply want to be wanted.  When they don’t feel their current partner provides that, they look for it elsewhere.  With the availability of sites like Ashley Madison, they don’t have to look very far to find someone to re-ignite that excitement that comes from being desired.

Often this is coupled with a feeling that their partner has turned their back on a shared dream or set of values in the relationship which creates resentment and contempt.  Researcher John Gottman cites contempt as the number one indicator of impending divorce in relationships.  It could be a roll of the eyes, a tone of voice or subtle body language queues; the act of showing contempt feeds the feeling of contempt which can send people on a downward spiral towards break up. 

But relationships are fixable, provided there’s acknowledgment and a desire to make change.  Sue Johnson’s book Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, suggests partners need to be Accessible, Responsive and Engaged with one another in order to experience secure love.  I also teach couples to practice five positive interactions for every negative one; this builds a bank balance of connectedness and love.  All of this works to break the cycle of contempt.  But it’s not easy and it takes effort. 

Ultimately, those experiencing dissatisfaction in their relationship need courage, self-reflection and maturity to turn it around.  Infidelity is the easy option but not necessarily the most worthwhile in the long term.  We should remember that love is a drug; it’s a heady cocktail of dopamine and serotonin which blinds us to flaws and irritations.  The greener grass won’t always be greener; eventually it’ll just be grass and you might be left wondering what you threw away.”

Carya’s Relationship Communication Program with Tom McKay is a four part series of seminars for partners age 18+ who are actively parenting children under the age of 24.

The next program kicks off on October 7th and more information can be found here.