Even the briefest infidelity can inflict major damage to you, your loved one and also your relationship. Healing is often possible, especially with the help of couples therapy, but prevention is far preferable. Yet many couples are reluctant to talk about infidelity for fear that even mentioning the term might invite this dreaded phenomenon into their world. However, talking together about the following nine infidelity risk factors can actually significantly bolster your immunity to infedility:
1. Most infidelities are products of naivete. You interact with a person of the opposite sex, you're unaware of what to do to protect yourself from an inadvertent affair, and you unintentionally slide into too-involved of a connection. When sexualized feelings begin emerging, you think “I can handle this,” but the feelings become increasingly intense, weakening your ability for willpower or good judgment to hold sway.
2. Situations in which a man and a woman spend time together in a private space invite infidelity troubles. Privacy allows for secret time and interactions. Suddenly, boom, sexual feelings flower into sexual action. You were talking alone together and did not foresee that you were heading down a road that would lead to a sexual encounter. You then underestimate the addictive potency of new romance, and bad leads to worse...
3. Talking about intimate subjects leads to impulses for sexual intimacy. It can feel flattering when someone of the opposite sex wants to talk with you about his or her personal problems. Beware. Suddenly sexual actions don’t feel like infidelity, in this case. They just feel like a logical and appropriate next step in an already too-emotionally-intimate relationship.
4. Most often the partner in an infidelity is an old flame .... or a business colleague with whom there has been a close working relationship, or an attractive person encountered during a trip away from home, most often for business purposes. Interacting with flirtatious individuals also increases the risks that you will suddenly become a victim of the fun. Flirtation may look harmless and those titillating feelings may feel delightful. The difficulty is that the distance between delight (and then dismay) at having dishonored your marital vows can be far shorter than you think, and there’s no clear "Danger Ahead" sign when you are going too far.
5. The likelihood of an affair skyrockets if two at-risk individuals put themseves in a situation that includes alcohol. Alcohol clouds judgment and increases sexual impulses. Time alone together in private places and discussions of personal issues such as marriage problems further increase the risk of an adulterous outcome.
6. If you and your loved one have become distant, the strength of your connection may become fragile. The distance may come from not sharing enough positive and private time together, from having too little fun shared activities, insufficient sexual connecting, old resentments or even too much commute or travel time by one partner.
Whatever the cause, distance breeds weaker connection, making one or both of you more vulnerable to others who would love to move into the too-vacant space of intimate lover in one of your lives. If your love partnership includes too many unpleasant negative interactions like angry explosions, criticism or controlling behavior from one or both partners, one or both of you are likely to back off from closeness. The risk of an affair also increases.
7. Certain types of personalities are more prone to cheating than others. Narcissists, that is, folks who live their life in an “it’s all about me” mode tend to be prime victims of the cheating impulse. They are easily drawn to partners who flatter them by showering with them affection or addressing seductive attention their way. They also may enjoy showing their prowess at chasing and conquering their prey. And they may be more prone to focus on what feels good to them "in the moment" rather than thinking about the impact their affair would have on their partner.
Folks who live their lives with minimal adherence to a moral code also are at increased risk for sexual cheating. If “the rules don’t apply to me” is their mantra, sexual monogamy is likely to be one of the rules that gets ignored. By contrast, strong religious moorings strengthen resistance to sexual temptations.
Lastly, folks who generally present themselves in a seductive manner may not intend to put themselves on a road to infidelity, and yet may be inadvertently giving forth “I’m available” signals that sooner or later get them in trouble. Beware of low necklines and high hem lines.
8. When it comes to infidelity, what your folks did makes a huge difference in your risk rating. The son of a man who cheated on his wife has a higher risk of doing the same than the son of a man who remained faithful. If a cheating dad cheated repeatedly, normalizing that behavior, the risks rise yet again for the adult son. The same is likely to be true for women, though the data on this phenomenon has been less available.
Be savvy, not naive. Stay clear of situations with any of the above risk factors. Exit early from situations that trigger initial sexual feelings. f you must continue to interact with a high-risk individual or in a high-risk situation, protect yourself. Limit the time you spend with the at-risk other, and maybe bring a friend or colleague along to keep the dialogue less personal. Meet in public places. Stay clear of talk about personal issues and save the alcohol for enjoying with a same-sex set of friends or at home with your spouse. And discuss your concerns with the one you love to bolster your resistence. Listen appreciatively if your loved one shares concerns about a potential affair with you. Honesty really is generally the best policy. Working as a team to keep your love safe benefits you both.
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