Monogamy doesn't have to mean monotony. Learn how to keep your relationship protected and satisfying
A legend is told in some cultures of a man who hears of a missing treasure. He goes searching far and wide only to find out that the treasure he was after was buried in his own backyard. One could say that affairs are similar. Too often, people look outside their relationship for what already exists in their partner and in their own relationship.
People sometimes equate monogamy with monotony — the longer a relationship continues, the more likely boredom sets in. As a consequence, sex can become routine, or deprioritized. Just going to sleep after a long day can replace what used to be a time for romance.
This is where the lure of another partner can take hold — something different, seemingly more appealing or stimulating. An affair can provide the emotional and physical excitement that is missing in the current relationship. Recognize that these longings are usually misplaced. What we really want is a better relationship with our partner.
Investing in our partner and in our relationship pays off. The best sex there is happens with someone we truly love. This is sex with connection and vulnerability. Good sex culminates as a result of delving deep with our partners. Efforts we make to focus on our long-term relationship as "the one and only" are what will keep us interested and keep the passion alive.
1. Bring back novelty.
Routines and schedules are an important part of managing an effective lifestyle, but not always when it comes to a relationship. Rigidity (getting into ruts and rhythms that ignore the relationship) can lead to infidelity. The reality is, most people do not set out to have different partners. People end up in an affair because they weren't paying attention to their mates. They weren't keeping things fun or vivacious.
The most successful couples make novelty perennial by regularly acting in ways that foster it. Make a point of trying something new together — try a new restaurant, explore a different part of town or drive a new way home together. Studies show that doing novel things together helps keep attachement strong.
The beginning of the relationship involved vulnerabilities. Maintaining this vulnerability keeps our connection feeling real. Receiving validation when we share ourselves leads to fully connected intimacy. Vulnerability should always be met with honor and respect, never exploited or belittled.
One must feel safe in their relationship to embark on deepening intimacy. If you feel uncomfortable when you risk with your partner, make sure you are not with someone who is misogynistic, or abusive.
3. "Date" each other throughout the day.
An easy way is to take advantage of the cell phone and internet. Oftentimes, people think these modern forms of communication and entertainment draw more walls between people. But when you are in a committed relationship, you can harness email, social media or download your favorite TV show to feel closer with your partner. Send a flattering, even flirtatious, unexpected email or text.
Ask your partner on a date, even if it is to watch a movie on the iPad. It's easy to maintain a routine peppered with connectedness throughout the day. Then you can wind down together in front of a screen together. After that, a hop into bed can make for a complete date night.
Using active listening and feeling statements are the keys to being able to share effectively. Take time to really listen to, and with, your partner. When we feel mutually understood, we play out our connectedness in our physical intimacy as well.
Affairs result from disregarding what we already have, not only the lure of something new. Every long-term committed couple connected well in the first place. The trick is to keep this connection active, and avoid taking it for granted. This can be easier said than done.
Many couples need to learn, together, how to maintain connectedness. A psychologist can help couples start, and maintain, a successful routine to do so. By recognizing our existing relationship as the source of what we really want, we can then allow ourselves to create and maintain the intimacy we crave.
Want to learn more about protecting your relationship from infidelity? Check out this video Is Monogamy Natural? where I sat in with YourTango experts Dr. Helen Fisher, Mary Ellen Goggin, SaraKay Smullens and Melanie Gorman.