They're happy because they make smart choices.
But do we actually follow through on this pretty promise in our marriage?
Or, like most people, do you take your spouse for granted? Do you put their needs last ... after work, family, friends chores, and children? Do you forget to make your spouse feel special?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, your relationship is at risk for an affair.
It's curious how, in the early stages of relationships, every moment together feels special, enjoyable and meeting the other person's needs seems vital (and like a thrilling honor). But how quickly things shift and the focus changes from wat can I give to you? to what are you doing for me?.
Even worse, we go from thinking our partner does everything right to focusing mostly on what he or she is doing wrong. We make our spouse responsible for our happiness (or lack thereof) rather than taking personal responsibility for the relationship and whether or not we're truly contributing to its success.
I'm in my 28th year of marriage, so I have a sense of the ups and downs of navigating a successful relationship. I've also helped couples improve their relationships for 25 years. And while I've certainly seen more than my fair shared of problematic behavior patterns in distressed couples ... I've also noticed something wonderful — the smart, loving habits of highly successful, truly happy couples.
So, what are the smart ways these "happily ever after" couples affair-proof their marriage every single day?
Those couples are wise (and caring) enough to do the following:
1. They love connecting emotionally
When couples love and respect each other, they work hard to connect on all levels — physically, mentally and emotionally. Happy couples build and sustain a strong emotional connection through conversation, talking, and truly listening. Because they consistently feel close, cared for, and understood, they overcome most of their relationship "problems" easily.
When people do not feel heard and understood by their partner, there's a good chance they'll start talking intimately with someone else.
2. They prioritize meeting their partner's needs
By talking and listening, they find out what their spouse wants and needs (from big gestures of support to small things that just delight them). Often people mistakenly assume their spouse has the same needs as they personally do. But The Golden Rule doesn't really work in marriage. Instead, you must give your partner what he or she wants, not what you think they should want.
Happy couples negotiate so both partner's needs get met. They find mutuality in family time, finances, work-life balance, sex, household chores, and numerous other aspects of their shared life.
3. They take responsibility for their own happiness
In thriving couples, each person pursues the activities and interests that he or she enjoys. Making your partner responsible for your happiness sets the relationship up for serious trouble. No one can fully shoulder that weight in a healthy way.
If you like to exercise, take time for it. What you need is important! So often people fail to simply tell their spouse what they need. Your partner isn't a mind reader. Resenting them for not just knowing how to please you is unfair and leads to resentment, which builds a wall that can push our spouse towards someone else.
4. They show one another verbal and physical affection
Do you regularly include NON-sexual touch in your relationship? Successful couples do. Hugging, holding hands, and kind, affectionate words build intimacy and trust in powerful ways.
If touch always and only leads to sex, your partner will quickly start avoiding ALL gestures of affection. Expressing appreciation to your partner and complimenting them is important. If your spouse does not feel desired or valued at home he or she is susceptible to the flattery of others.
5. They know a healthy sex life is important
Assuming that your spouse is content with your sex life just because she or he isn't complaining is a dangerous path.
Few people are happy with a sexless or almost sexless relationship (even the partner avoiding sexual contact). It's often tough to negotiate frequency of sex because couples typically have different sexual needs, but happy couples keep talking and trying to negotiate what works best for both of them. It's not one person's way only. They compromise to keep sexual chemistry alive.
6. They play together
Often, activities that first bring couples together lose appeal over time. So the question is — what do you have in common now and what can you do together that you both enjoy? This may require some compromise and meeting each other’s needs just because you cherish one another. It's important for you both to maintain interests and activities of your own, but strong couples know that playing together truly does help you stay together.
7. They set clear boundaries to protect their relationship
Smart couples keep opposite sex friends at an appropriate distance. They also agree first on boundaries about talking privately or intimately with members of the opposite sex. Emotional affairs often begin as "innocent conversations" between "just friends." Couples who cherish their relationship avoid those compromising situations from the start, knowing they can unexpectedly cross a line, emotionally and sexually.
They don’t seek comfort or vent to others if there is an issue in their relationship, at such times they turn toward each other instead of away.
8. They always try to understand (and respect) their spouse's point of view
Happy couples approach each other with care, rather than attacking with criticism. They seek to understand versus trying to score the ego win of being "right."
This isn't easy when one of them feels hurt or angry (happy couples feel these emotions, too). But, they don't dissolve into destructive fights when they feel stuck. They strive to protect their relationship, not just themselves. Anger is allowed, attacking one another is not.
Why? Because people underestimate the damage done by name calling. Hurtful words can at times be just as devastating and damaging as an affair. Strong, loving couples work hard to understand their partner's perspective with compassion, forgive them with the understanding, and allow one another space to be imperfect human beings.
Don't be fooled — just because happy couples make "love" look easy doesn't mean they're not working incredibly hard on their relationship every single day.
But that's the thing about them, they don't resent the hard work. They enjoy meeting each other's needs, understanding one another, and keeping their heart connection warm and alive. And that's what gives them the courage and strength to open their hearts to one another in moments when most other couples coldly close theirs.
With open hearts, resolving differences and meeting needs is easier and this is the fertile ground of intimate connection where affairs are unlikely to happen.