You have no control over any other person’s behaviour in any way. We are all born with the instinct and ability to have an affair. Marriage is a man-made institution; monogamy goes against natural instincts. But if you are in a committed, sexually exclusive relationship, you make the choice not to jump at any opportunity to hook up with another person. So stop worrying about the other person and focus on affair-proofing yourself. How do you do that? By being involved, awake and open to life.
Work on your relationship. Be open to hearing what is wrong, communicating what is going on in your life and sharing. Not just in the tough times, but all the time.
Connect. Affairs may be physical acts, but they often start because of loneliness, emotional distance or a feeling of not being understood. Make sure you have a forum to connect with each other.
Have rules. Are you allowed to have online friendships? How far can these go? There are lots of murky areas that can raise suspicion and that are best cleared up upfront.
Reinvent. It is easy to go off track every so often. Discuss it and make a plan to renegotiate your relationship. Allow it to find a new pace.
Trust each other. Don’t let your imagination run away with itself. Predictions often turn into reality. If you’re irrationally jealous, you’ll just push him away.
Should I take him back?
Q: My husband and I have been separated for two years. He moved out when he confessed that he had been seeing a colleague. He said he had fallen in love again. They had already been seeing each other for over a year.
A year! I was totally gutted and I felt as if my life was over. The worst thing was, I still wanted him to stay. I would have forgiven him. But he didn’t want to be forgiven; he wanted to make a go of a new life with her. We separated. It didn’t work out between the two of them. He started dating again and has been seeing other women during the separation, while I have been keeping things going for the kids back at home.
Now he wants me back. He misses our life, our kids and our friendship. We miss him. Everyone tells me I should just tell him to get lost.
A. Firstly, he has not been ‘seeing’ other women, he has been sleeping with them. Not only once you had separated, but also while you were married. He was sleeping with a whole lot of women, and I’m guessing that wasn’t really part of your agreement. The very second he told you about his affair, the relationship you had been so carefully protecting was finished. In that second, the illusion you had constructed was totally over. Now, I’m not saying you can’t find a new relationship with Busy Dick if you really want to. In fact, a lot of the couples you’re going to read about in this book have found a way through affairs and have managed to save their relationships, and we are all for that. But not on these terms – not with your blinkers on. End it properly and grow up a little bit before you get married a second time, even if it is to the same guy. Take some time out; look at what you needed to discover from letting him cheat. And then learn from it. Otherwise, he will just cheat again. Promise.
Should I tell the truth?
Q: A year ago I went on a work conference and had a one-night stand. I was drunk and impulsive and I regretted it instantly. It came at a time in my marriage when things weren’t going well. We’d had three kids in a few years, and we had lost touch with each other. There was nothing specifically wrong, but we were on different wavelengths. I started thinking about sleeping with other men and developed crushes on random guys. It was crazy, but I started getting into these fantasies. It was all in my head, but I wanted to feel desired again and I wanted to feel that rush of romance.
I was alone at the conference, and this married man was after me all evening. I just got swept up in the moment, and the next thing we were in his room. We had sex and it was good, but the second it was over, I knew I had made a colossal mistake.
For the next week, I was absolutely devastated. It was the worst mistake of my life, and no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t press rewind. Tony could divorce me; I could lose custody of the kids. But, worse, I could lose him. I decided not to tell him. We worked on our relationship and started counselling, and a year later things are looking a lot better.
But I am still keeping this secret. I confessed it to a friend. She said I have to tell him. But do I? It would kill him; it would tear our marriage apart and it meant nothing to me. Must I confess?
A: ‘Confess’ is a sad little word. It smacks of guilt and victimhood. It’s a tough call and there is no black and white here, sugar. On the one hand, you are clear it was a mistake. It could just be your secret to hold, and sometimes we have to be big enough to kiss and not tell. Keeping a secret is not always a negative thing. Ask yourself what you think you will gain by sharing the burden with your husband. It could be a move as self-serving as the ‘mistake’.
On the other hand, you are making a huge assumption that your infidelity will ruin your relationship. You are assuming that he will react in a negative way. Now that may not be the case. It could turn out in an unexpected way. It could even open the door to a more honest, deeper relationship. Your call.
I love my children more
Q: My last child is leaving home and moving to another city to go to university, and I feel as if my world is about to crumble. All my kids are now living in the same place, and my husband and I are stuck a plane ride away. I told him I want to move to be closer to the children; this has been a sore point for a few years now. He refuses. He says I will adjust, and that we need to get on with our own lives. It has got so bad that it has become a ‘them’ or ‘me’ choice he is giving me. We have always had a solid relationship and I am terrified to have to make a choice like this. My children are my entire life. I don’t want to have to leave him, but I feel as if he is giving me no choice.
A: Choice is a funny thing. It comes in lots of forms, but it’s always there. He is asking you to choose him. What are you going to do next? Move in with the kids when they get married? This isn’t really about love. You have made the kids more important than him for a long time, and he is finally fighting for you.
Your love for your children is biological and all-powerful and it is there to stay. Partners are different. You choose them, and because of that their love is always harder work. It feels like more effort, and it is easier to give up on. But this is the relationship you need to fight for the hardest. Your children are visitors in your house. They came, they have left, and they may come back again. Your partner is your best friend in the entire journey, and he wants to take the next step with you. Yummy.