When the names of numerous Ashley Madison subscribers were released to the public in 2015, many of my divorced clients started to wonder how they could avoid infidelity in their future relationships. They question their mistakes as well as their proud moments, but it can be difficult to pinpoint where things collapsed. Many of us get comfortable in relationships; we forget why the relationship began, and we stop trying to be our best selves. We begin to view our partners more negatively, and over time we reveal a much more undesirable side of ourselves.
Although there is no secret remedy that can predict what choices our partners will make, there are specific ways you might be carrying yourself that can cause things to break down. We cannot place blame when it comes to infidelity, but as individuals there are ways to ensure we are putting forth our best selves to create a long-lasting, thriving relationship and help avoid infidelity.
Things You Can Do Today to Avoid Infidelity in Your Relationship
1. Remember why you chose this person.
There was a time when you were beaming with excitement at the thought of your partner. Ask yourself, what drew you to them? What did you admire about this person? Focus on the qualities that enticed you during the early stages of your relationship. By doing this, you will view your partner in a more positive light. Are you frequently rolling your eyes? Do they drive you crazy with their annoying habits? How has your behavior contributed to the negative changes you are seeing in them? When you have the urge to give the silent treatment or lash out, remember why at one point you could not stand to be without them.
2. Stay interested and interesting.
One of the biggest mistakes is to assume there is nothing left to learn about your partner. After time has passed, it can feel as though you know everything about them, and you stop asking questions. There was likely a time where you were curious; you wanted to know about every piece of them. It is very important to continue to channel this mindset. People continuously evolve, and it is unfair to assume your partner’s interesting qualities have faded. Make the decision to keep the curiosity alive.
It is also crucial that you focus on being an interesting partner yourself. Did you use to rehearse your conversations and think about what topics to bring up? Imagine if you woke up every day with this mentality. Ask yourself how you can engage with your partner in an interesting way. What interests you both as a couple and individually? What can you discuss today as you connect meaningfully? How can you communicate in a way that reminds your partner why they chose you and used to hang on your every word?
3. Continue to strive to impress your partner.
Not only is it beneficial to remain interested and interesting, channeling your best qualities as you once did will likely create a refreshing environment. At the beginning, did you try to hide your flaws and highlight your strengths? What if you continued this as the years passed? Although it is important for our partners to accept us as we are, why do we let go to the point where we stop controlling our anger and unattractive impulses? Ask yourself if your partner still deserves you at your best. It is misleading to be tolerant and kind at the beginning with no plans to keep this mindset. How can you continue to impress your partner with your exceptional qualities? How can you show tolerance when they have left a mess, have let you down, or annoyed you in some way? What can you do every day to impress your partner and be the fun, engaging person you once showed them?
4. Show appreciation and gratitude.
Most couples complain continuously in my office about one another. Couples forget that someone else would gladly accept their partner as they are. There is someone else out there that would (at least initially) find your partner’s habits adorable. Is what you are complaining about as terrible as it seems? Was there a time when you appreciated this aspect of them? If you are constantly disappointed in them, how can you reframe this from a place of gratitude? Are you grateful that you have someone to share your life with? Can you find a way to let go of little annoyances and focus on the larger picture? Imagine that person decided to leave because they grew tired of feeling unappreciated.
This step might seem incredibly difficult as we juggle the demands and let downs that the day brings. When women feel they cannot rely on their partner to help out with the large load they so often carry, they can begin to nag repeatedly. Men are not motivated to change when they are approached this way, as they feel disrespected and unacknowledged. This can quickly lead to resentment and distance. What does your partner do that you do appreciate? How can you show gratitude for everything your partner does right? Share this with them daily, and watch as the dynamic quickly shifts. It would be difficult to leave a relationship when you feel constant support, respect, and appreciation.
5. If it’s broke, fix it.
Too often in today’s relationships, we give up. We stop trying; we get bored and move on to the next. Marriage and commitment do not necessarily mean what it once did. We think the next relationship will be new and exciting, and that we won’t have to face the same issues in the future. We usually find ourselves stunned when these issues resurface. Disregarding how we have contributed to a failed relationship can set us up for future disappointments.
Many of my clients begin to see that they checked out early; that they didn’t give it their best effort. Especially if children are involved, you lose the right to get bored and move on. Children do not choose their parents and their relationship baggage; they are forced to ride along and deal with the consequences. If you made a commitment and have chosen to bring children into your relationship, you owe it to them to do everything in your power to reconnect, fix what is broken, and provide healthy role models. If you don’t have children, ask yourself if you are the type to finish what you start. When things aren’t working in your career, with your friendships, or other family members, do you give up and find a new sibling, for example?
Although it might seem easy to start another relationship with someone new and exciting, remember that you might find yourself in a similar situation if you do not fix, or at least explore, what created distance in your current and past relationships. Many of my clients prefer to wait until their partners make a change, but they fail to recognize how things can shift if they take the initiative.
To help avoid infidelity, make the decision daily to wake up grateful, interested, and interesting. Be patient and watch as your partner begins to change and your relationship transforms. If you are struggling with these concepts, take the initiative to find professional support to guide you through this process. Even if your relationship seems lifeless or has already ended, you owe it to yourself to practice being a great partner and learn how to bring a relationship back from the dead.
Alison Fosbery, MA is a Registered Psychotherapist practicing in the Greater Toronto Area.