Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

What are the 5 simple and proven steps that will protect your marriage?

5 steps to protect your marriage

What’s the value of your marriage? I have a friend who says you can always determine what’s important to people by looking at their checking account.  How do they spend their money? If you look at your withdrawals what would it say about the importance of your marriage? What percentage of your income is allocated to your relationship?

Another way to assess value is by time invested. Regrettably, most people probably spend more time planning vacations or their financial future than they do for their marital future. Why is that?

You can also assess what we value by what we protect. We don’t leave money laying around because we believe it has value and we don’t want someone to take our hard earned cash for their own benefit. Those who value money work not only at protecting it but at increasing the amount of it. They make time to create budgets and meet with financial advisers to assure a good return on their investment. They analyze companies before making investments to minimize risk. Do you go to the same lengths in protecting your marriage as you do your money? Are you spending the same energy and effort on proactive marriage counseling? Often times I hear exhausted betrayed spouses tell their unfaithful spouses it’s “too little too late.” Yet, they didn’t get to that place overnight.

All too often those who stray are under-invested in their relationships. Their primary contribution to the relationship is their wage and if money provides the sum total of your investment, what’s the loss if you walk away? But if you’ve worked together, built a home together, raised kids together, and shared life together the size of that investment may help you see there is probably something worth salvaging or at least attempting to salvage.

I’d like to keep it very simple this week. Here are five tips to investing in the recovery of your marriage. Yes! These work even if it’s been rocked by infidelity or addiction:

1.   Protect the life that is “US”:

Rare is the person who gets married thinking they’ll cheat on their mate. Generally the opposite is true. Most newlyweds believe they’re immune to marriage problems and that infidelity could never happen to them. Unfortunately, it’s that very thought which makes them susceptible. No one plans to cheat, but given the right situation anyone can be vulnerable. Partnering together to protect your marriage places value in the relationship.

Marriages are made up of three separate components - a man, a woman and us together, which we call marriage. It’s what makes recovery so difficult for those impacted by infidelity. There are three recoveries if you will, which must be addressed uniquely. There is 1. your recovery, 2. your spouse’s recovery and 3. the marriage’s (US) recovery. This “US” is something I talk frequently about in marriage counseling. As an individual I place enough value on my life to protect it. I don’t step into oncoming traffic, but rather I make sure it’s safe before I step into a street. Far too often we don’t consider the life that is “US”. It takes a loving protection and even ongoing maintenance, just like feeding and protecting my own body.

2.   Clarify the meaning of monogamy for your marriage:

Just recently, while meeting with a couple in marriage counseling I asked for their definition of monogamy. Given the fireworks that erupted over the next few minutes it was clear this couple had never come to a common understanding of that word. Assuming your mate sees things as you do can be a bit naïve. Without conversation couples are at risk of tragic misunderstandings and endless relationship problems. It’s also a great exercise to hear your spouse’s heart for you and your future together.

3.   Establish healthy boundaries for your marriage:

Strong, agreed upon boundaries always outperform good marriages when it comes to preventing infidelity. Even great marriages have relationship problems and allowing yourself to be in high-risk situations creates unnecessary potential for marital and personal destruction. If they’re not written down then your boundaries don’t really exist. Apart from planning, feelings and wandering emotions will be your guide. People don’t plan to fail, they only fail to plan. Develop your strategies for keeping you both safe. You may be thinking good morals are enough, but I’d challenge that thought. While our morals and values certainly guide us, our boundaries protect our values and morals from being stressed to the breaking point. Couples need to discuss and record their boundaries. If it’s not written down it’s like it never happened. Once it’s written there is a clear understanding of the limits. Neither party can lie to themselves saying they didn’t know.

4.   Make it a point to brag about your marriage:

We naturally feel what irritates us, but appreciation requires focus. Whatever captures my attention captures me; whatever I focus on expands. If the irritating aspects of my mate or marriage are the focus of my attention they will grow and grow until it’s all I perceive. On the other hand, if I focus on what I appreciate about my mate and my marriage, it will grow and grow until I’m grateful to be in the relationship. This also prevents future marriage problems. Bragging about your marriage forces you to look for what you appreciate. It promotes pride in the life that is “US”.

5.   Don’t try to please your mate, rather make sincere attempts to enjoy them and honor them:

If merely ‘pleasing’ your mate is your goal, then your mate is responsible for your success. If enjoying your mate is your goal, then you determine your success. When Stephanie and I first got together I didn’t hang out with her to please her. I was over there because there was no place I enjoyed more.

I don’t know where I ever got the idea that after marriage my role was to please her. When I enjoy being around her my life and home are a true pleasure. Frankly, I find it to be a great honor to be married to Stephanie. Alternatively, when I’m fixated on trying to please her my marriage becomes a chore and I begin wondering what I’ll get in return. I start keeping score which never works and quite honestly, never comes out in my favor anyway.

Some simple but true marriage advice - enjoy your mate!

When you enjoy your mate they see how you’re into them. Enjoyment clearly communicates they matter and that you want to be with them. When we enjoy our mate, even if we fail to meet all their needs, they don’t feel slighted because your attention allows them to write off the disappointment.

At Affair Recovery our mission is to restore those impacted by infidelity to extraordinary lives of meaning and purpose. What’s the benefit of working through the trauma of infidelity if your best outcome is a miserable life? The goal isn’t survival - it’s a new and better life. You can’t go back to what you had…..and it’s a difficult moment when I share that truth with individuals in crisis. The focus becomes not going back, but going forward and building the new of the marriage and relationship.

To continue your healing journey, consider attending our EMS Weekend

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Comments

Enjoying your spouse

I have been reading and studying affairs and marriage for over a year and your last bullet about enjoying your spouse really  hit home for me and my current situation.  I am 14 months into recovery from my spouse's 4 affair.  This time we really seem to be attempting to do recovery and heal our marriage right.  I am working hard to meet my husbands needs that he feels were going unmet.  This is not easy when you are recovering from an affair.  I had started to fall into the trap of feeling it was a job and not a pleasure.  Thank you for teaching me something new and to help me continue to heal myself and my marriage.  As I am something to enjoy...so is my husband. 

enjoying your spouse

Yes, I agree, you must enjoy your spouse and believe that he enjoys being with you. But after an affair, it DOES feel like a chore and the confidence blow of being betrayed sometimes makes it impossible for me to believe that he wants to be with me. It's a very sad catch 22.

I missed the mark

Unfortunately, we didn't really consider 2 & 3. Now, 2 years after divorce, I'm still struggling with issues not resolved.