Is Your Marriage Ripe for an Affair?
5 Warning Signs
Shechtman offers the following warning signs that your marriage may be ripe for an affair:
- You don't challenge each other. Unconditional acceptance is a myth. Healthy marriages require a mutual willingness to challenge and be challenged. An "Oh, I'll let the little woman do whatever makes her happy" attitude can be condescending and harmful. If your partner lounges around in her bathrobe watching TV every day and you say nothing, then you're not invested in her well-being. Maybe she's depressed. Maybe she's sick. Maybe she's succumbing to laziness. Regardless, the message that she gets loud and clear from your silence is that you don't care. Not only do you have the right to make reasonable demands on your partner, you have the obligation to do so.
- You and your partner have become an amoeba. Getting married does not mean morphing into a single person with the same interests, hobbies, and friends. If you and your spouse do everything together, something's wrong. "If your partner is not allowed to have a life of her own, she will eventually become resentful," says Shechtman. "Similarly, if you're over-interested in her life, wanting to know or be involved in every detail, she will feel intruded upon and smothered. True intimacy requires two people having independent lives, not two people living through each other. The best marriages are low-maintenance marriages."
- One person selflessly lives for the other. Shechtman likes to tell the story of Bernard, a heart surgeon, and Stacy, the wife who selflessly devoted herself to him. She supported him through medical school. She stayed home and raised his kids. She prepared gourmet meals for him, often complete with heart-shaped ice cubes. And one day Bernard left Stacy for a disheveled photojournalist, two years his senior, who chastised him for stealing a cab she'd just hailed. Why? Because the photojournalist was interesting. "Selfless devotion is boring," says Shechtman. "Bernard could have hired a housekeeper and a caterer. Gratitude for services rendered is no replacement for a stimulating partner. And by failing to cultivate a life of her own, Stacy deprived Bernard of that."
"Having a life of your own is important," says Argov. "When you have your own sense of income and independence, and feel that you can be with or without him, he will smell it and he'll treat you differently."
- Everything centers on your children. It's easy to succumb to the temptation to make your kids the center of the universe. Don't. For too many parents, running kids to and from soccer practice, dance lessons, and weekend parties becomes an insidious dance of intimacy avoidance.
"Even with young kids, a couple must take private time for themselves," says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, author of five books on love and relationships, and professor of sociology at the University of Washington. "Make a rule that you don't talk about the kids until you download your adult issues and experiences for the day together. Keep kid talk out of the bedroom."
- You don't have meaningful conversations with your spouse. Does the question, "How was your day?" unleash a monologue, a laundry list of activities, or a cacophony of complaints from you or your partner? If so, you're missing the point of communication.
"Talk to him in a playful way," says Argov. "Banter with him. Be a little sassy and keep it short and sweet. Save the emotional talk for things that are very important to you, and let the rest go -- because when you do raise hell, he has to believe there's merit to it."
Quality communication is the heart of intimacy. (And you thought it was sex!) If you're confused about what constitutes a high-intimacy dialogue, here's a clue: it centers on feelings, not information. "Instead of merely reporting to your partner what happened to you that day, tell her how it made you feel," says Shechtman. "Even if you have only 10 minutes a day to talk to her, make those 10 minutes count."
Continued on page 3: