Escaping the Jaws of Infidelity: How to Avoid an Affair

Letter #2

Dr. Harley,

My husband and I have been married for 2 years (but have been a couple for the last 10 years). We both have not had very stable families and both of our childhoods were chaotic. Our relationship has brought much stability to both of our lives.

We have a wonderful relationship, better than most I know. But, there is one lurking problem that constantly seems to resurface in our relationship. I am very attracted to the attention I receive from other men. I constantly seek other men's attention to the point that I am afraid that I am going to have an affair at some time.

I have done a lot of soul searching and looking into different aspects of my marriage to see if I am unhappy with something or if one of my needs is not being met, but I just can't identify what it is. My husband is very attentive and caring and we have a wonderful sex life.

What is wrong with me and how do I help this problem. I want nothing more than to have a very long, happy marriage and don't want to destroy my marriage by my own selfish desires. Help, please.

C.W.

Dear C.W.,

One subject I do not spend much time writing about is people who are prone to affairs even when their spouses seem to be meeting their needs.

It is an important subject, though, because a small percentage of marriages end, not because needs are not being met, but because one of the spouses simply refuse to be faithful to the other. We sometimes call these people "gigolos."

I once counseled a man who fit that description. No matter how you looked at their marriage, his wife met every need. Oh, my, she was unbelievable! And yet, he would call women, almost at random, for dates. Some of these dates turned into long-term relationships. One afternoon, playing softball, he broke his jaw sliding into 2nd, and ended up in the hospital. His wife came right over to be with him, and so did three other girlfriends, none of whom knew he was married, or about each other. With his jaw wired shut, he was left to listen to these four women sort things out. He and his wife were in to see me right after he was released.

Whenever I counsel someone who seems incurably attracted to the opposite sex, I give them the following rules to avoid temptation: 1) Spend all your recreational time either alone or with your spouse, 2) no meals alone with someone of the opposite sex, 3) no rides in cars alone with those of the opposite sex, 4) never tell someone of the opposite sex that you find them attractive or that you like them and 5) if someone of the opposite sex ever tells you that they find you attractive, start talking about how much you love your spouse.

That's essentially what I told my broken-jawed client to do, but he couldn't do it. His wife eventually divorced him when she picked up her 3rd venereal disease. But many others have followed my advice, and have spared their spouses the pain of an affair.

Most people will look at my rules and consider me some kind of throwback to the middle ages. But it has worked. If you have a hard time falling in love with anyone but your spouse, you probably don't need it. Have lunch with your male trainer, join a two-person carpool with the attractive man who lives a block away.

But if you are attracted to men, you have a responsibility to your husband to prevent yourself from forming romantic relationships with men. You should follow the rules I suggest, or you may create other rules that would work better for you. If you ever find yourself infatuated with another man, have nothing to do with him, even if it means quitting your job, leaving your church or moving from your neighborhood. And for sure, don't ever tell him how you feel about him. The song, "I Honestly Love You," by Olivia Newton John (sung to someone she loves outside of her marriage), is a formula for marital disaster.

Your fears are well founded, and you can do something now to protect your marriage for the rest of your life. We are all selfish in many ways, but some of our self-centered predispositions can be a real threat to those we love. Protect your husband from your self-centered tendencies by making them difficult to implement.

Dr. Harley,

Thank you so much for your response to my message. I appreciate your time.

I plan to follow your advice because I do not want to become another statistic!

Thanks again.

C.W.

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