Over my years working with spouses who are facing an infidelity in their marriage, I’ve come to realize that there are a number of factors that are common to many, if not most, cheating situations. Read through this list, and see how many factors you check off (none, I hope!):
• One or both of you have cheated in the past, whether during this or a previous relationship.
• One or both of you is too self-focused or has too many narcissistic traits (eg. no empathy, excessive self-importance or entitlement, unwillingness to look at own flaws, reactive, manipulative, etc.).
• You don’t let “the little things” slide, thus allowing resentment to build.
• You aren’t on the same page about “the big things” like finances and parenting.
• You aren’t transparent with your phones and personal devices.
• You have a friendship with someone you privately consider to be a backburner relationship.
• You struggle with balancing emotional and physical intimacy: one or both of you feels emotionally or physically neglected.
• You don’t know how to properly use humor to defuse conflict, thereby letting anger escalate.
• You don’t know how to talk to each other in a way that promotes understanding and avoids criticism and negative assumptions.
• You don’t express and show appreciation to each other like you know you should.
Now of course, this is not an exhaustive or decisive list. There are relationships where all of these factors are present and there has never been and never will be an infidelity. There are also relationships where none of these factors are present and there has been an infidelity. Similarly, not all factors are of equal weight. Having a narcissistic partner might be a greater risk factor for infidelity than having a partner who cheated on a past boyfriend or girlfriend they didn’t really care about.
What I hope you will take away from this article is simply the willingness to look at any weak spots in your marriage or behavior and think about whether those may predispose you to it. If in your opinion they do, then do something about it. Make this list as irrelevant as possible to you.
If you need some help doing that, consider my Marriage SOS series of online programs. With their high success rate and practical application, they may be precisely what you need to stop any simmering issues from boiling over and becoming a more serious problem in your marriage.
Debra Macleod, BA, JD, is the creator of Marriage SOS™. She has served as an expert resource for major media around the world, from The New York Times and Entrepreneur to ELLE and Men’s Health magazine.