This article was originally published in the Smart Parenting website.
By Ana P. Santos
What if you’re the one who’s on the brink of having an affair?
Is that guy in the office starting to look cuter, and are you starting to spend more time with each other outside of work? Are your feelings for him starting to turn into something more than just friendly?
Is that colleague turning into your “work boyfriend/husband”?
Are you on the brink of committing emotional adultery?
According to Aileen Santos, a certified relationship coach with a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, women are just as prone to having affairs as men, with one important differentiator: “Women mostly have an emotional affair rather than a physical one. It usually starts when the lines and boundaries between a close friendship and an actual relationship become blurred.”
The check box that makes it an emotional affair is intimacy – and it’s not of the physical kind. If you start feeling secure enough to share secrets and deep thoughts with another person, you should ask yourself why.
“When you start sharing things with another person rather than your partner, then you alarm bells should start going off because by doing so, you are depriving your partner of getting to know and share in the details of your life,” explains Santos.
Santos, along with Michele Alignay, a registered Guidance Counselor with the LOVE Institute at the Ateneo, lists down the things that make you vulnerable to having an affair and what you can do to avoid lapsing into emotional adultery.
Vulnerability #1: We’re not clear about our boundaries.
“Close relationships with the opposite sex enrich our lives, but we need to know which relationships are for what and the boundaries of each kind,” starts Santos.
“It’s all self-awareness and knowing what you want. When you are self-aware, you are more conscious about the choices you make and your boundaries. This puts you in control, rather than just reacting to things as they come into your life.”
Vulnerability #2: We have unrealistic expectations about what a relationship is.
“It is common for people to expect a lot more than they are willing to give,” says Santos who says that she sees a lot of those she has counseled expecting miracles and fairytales from their partner.
The problem starts when partners fall short of these unrealistic expectations. “Then we become resentful and start thinking that life owes us happiness. Life doesn’t owe us anything,” Santos states.
Vulnerability #3: Being complacent about the needs of a relationship.
“Relationships are dynamic. They need to grow. They’re always a work in progress. When we become complacent about having to take care of a relationship, it stagnates.” According to Santos, sometimes couples think that getting married and having children is the highest point there is. Where does the relationship go after – how else can you top getting married and having kids?
Everyone wants to be that old couple, still very much in love with one another. That is love that is backed not just by physical love, but by having a history together. It is in fact those things that you grow through together as a couple that bind you and deepen a relationship.
“What we forget is that getting to the point where we grow old with someone is a lifetime of daily choices. The path on the road of growing old together is made up by decisions we make every day,” Santos concludes.
How to avoid having affairs: Making your relationship affair-proof
Michele Alignay, a certified Relationship and Guidance Counselor from the LOVE Institute at the Ateneo de Manila, shares three easy and concrete ways to affair-proof your relationship.
Affair–proofing strategy #1: Fill in each other’s emotional needs.
“We’re more vulnerable to an emotional affair when we feel that we’re misunderstood by our partner. People start having emotional affairs because they feel that their needs are not being looked after,” Alignay stated.
A husband and the wife need to fill in each other’s needs. One sure way to affair-proof your marriage is to make sure that you remain sensitive to each other’s emotional needs as a husband/wife, parent and person, and fill them.
Affair–profing strategy #2: Re-kindle and remember.
Over time it’s easy to think that another new guy is more interesting, more engaging and better than our partner. What we don’t know is that the new guy may look very bright and shiny only because we haven’t really gotten to know him.
“Isn’t that feeling of newness something that you felt when you first started out as a couple? Go back to that feeling. Remember what it was about your partner that made you feel that way.”
So get to know each other again. If you have kids, go back to the time when you were a couple before you had children, when you used to have dates, and do them again. Alignay stressed that these dates need to be “different from activities that involve doing chores like going to the grocery. It needs to really be couple time.”
Affair–proofing strategy #3: Make an effort to sustain the relationship.
Related to strategy number 2, don’t feel guilty about leaving the kids once in a while to go out on a date. Turn it into an opportunity where they will learn lessons from you about being a couple and about what it takes to sustain a relationship.
“Married couples often say that after awhile, it’s like they become like brother and sister. We hear that a lot, right? Para na din kami magkapatid. But you are not brother and sister. You are a couple so you are lovers, you are romantically involved so honor that.”
Alignay suggests being firm about the commitment to nurture your relationship as a couple and to prioritize time together. Something as simple as celebrating a monthsary can do wonders to bringing a spark back to the relationship.
Photo from Forbes.com