We haven’t had any big celebrity or political sex scandals lately so we’ve thankfully been spared the rash of “How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage” articles that inundate the Internet in the days and weeks after. But from time to time they pop up, here and elsewhere, along with “How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” articles.
While the advice in most of those articles isn’t bad or wrong — who can argue with fighting kinder, communicating better, getting it on more often, romancing each other, showing appreciation, boosting intimacy, etc.? — the truth is that following that advice won’t necessarily prevent you from being cheated on or hearing, “I want a divorce” from your spouse.
Because here’s what none of the so-called relationship or marriage experts is willing to admit, but I am — you can’t affair- or divorce-proof a marriage because you can’t control another person’s behavior, you can only control your own.
There, I said it. In fact, I’ll say it again: You can’t control another person’s behavior, you can only control your own.
I can hear the protestations: “But, shouldn’t I learn how to communicate better, shouldn’t I plan date nights, shouldn’t I appreciate my spouse, etc.?” Yes, yes, yes — it’s wonderful to do all those things and more, but not because you’re hoping it will keep your marriage on track or prevent something bad from happening; you do those things because you want to be the best person you can be, period. No expectations attached.
Let me say that again: Be the best person you can be in your marriage because you want to be the best person, period. No expectations attached.
Granted, I am not an expert; I don’t have a degree in psychology or a license to practice therapy. I’m just a woman who has been married and divorced twice and who has cheated and been cheated on, and who writes about marriage and divorce. That’s why I’m not going to give you advice; don’t we already get plenty of that from the media? And yet that hasn’t changed the infidelity or divorce rates.
Still, I would like you to consider a few things:
- In her research for her 2010 book, How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy, Jennifer Gauvain discovered that 30 percent of the women she surveyed knew they were marrying the wrong man but tied the knot anyway. Given that fact, what chance do you think those marriages will survive even if each hubby is a romantic communicator who appreciates his wife?
- Then there are the men and women who marry and a few years or even decades later come out of the closet as gay or lesbian, or who want a sex change. Recent research indicates about 5 percent of American men are attracted to men and a good percentage are closeted. And given recent research into women’s sexual fluidity, there are many more women who, after decades of marriage and raising children realize they are lesbian. While some couples may choose to stay married after a spouse announces, “Honey, I’m gay/lesbian,” others may not — no matter how many date nights you’ve set up.
OK, that still leaves a lot of other couples, people who married their “soul mate” and a husband or wife who is 100 percent hetero. What about them? How are they going to keep their marriage free from affairs and divorce? Well, you know how because I already told you. If you’re looking for a guarantee, you’re not going to get one. Being a Mr. and Mrs. (or a Mr. and Mr. or Mrs. and Mrs.) earns you some sort of status in the eyes of many, deserved or not, and about 1,000 government perks. But it does not offer any protection or guarantee that all is going to be rosy — that is fully dependent on the way you and your spouse act and think in your marriage. And while you can control how you act and think, you cannot control the way your spouse does.
So stop reading “10 Reasons Why Men Cheat,” “The Surprising Reasons Why Women Cheat, “11 Ways to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” (why 11?) and “9 Easy Ways to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” (9? Easy? Really?), and start being the best person you can be. Because you want to. You may still end up being cheated on and you may still end up being divorced, but you will always know that you brought the best “you” you could possibly bring into your marriage.