How to cheat-proof your marriage

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In my last column I wrote about life after infidelity — when and how you can put the pieces back together after cheating shatters your relationship. But in an ideal world, the fracture doesn’t happen at all.

In this column, we’re going to talk about how to fortify your marriage. Think of this as your dose of preventive medicine, your partnership prophylactic. Here’s how you can make your marriage cheat proof.

1. Get happy

If you want a happy marriage, you have to first take responsibility for your own happiness. You can’t count on your partner to make you happy. That’s your job. My mentor, Ottawa-based couples counsellor Marian Balla, offers this sage advice to couples in crisis: “Expecting another person to make you happy isn’t a marriage, it’s a kidnapping.” And it’s a surefire way to suffocate your partner, to weigh him or her down with a burden s/he has no business bearing.

2. Get Listening

We’ve talked about this before. When issues arise, so do our hackles. We argue our points, defend our positions, attack. It’s instinctive. So go against your gut — stop trying to win. In fact, stop talking (just for a while). Balla prescribes the following “back-to-back method” to the couples she counsels. Sit with your back pressed against your partner’s back. Take turns talking uninterrupted for five minutes. Then echo back to each other what you’ve heard. You don’t have to agree with what your partner says; you just have to learn to listen.

3. Get Talking

A key aspect of maintaining the closeness couples crave is communication. In the chaos of family life, few of us have time to connect with our partners, and we begin to drift apart. Setting aside time to talk is key to reconnecting. Clear the air, get caught up, plan, dream, laugh. Norfolk, Nebraska-based psychotherapist Wes Wingett stresses the importance of what he calls the “Three Ts” of a good relationship: trusting (which we’ll get to in a moment), touching (which I’m going to leave to you) and talking. So book a sitter, book some time and get gabbing.

4. Build Trust

Trust is a big deal. And that big deal is built on all the little promises you both make in your relationship. If you say you’re going to be home by dinnertime, be home. If you’ve pledged to handle camp registration, do it. In short, do what you say you’re going to do. Trust is a muscle, and you build that muscle by training — perform frequent reps and gradually increase the weight.

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