Anticipating Potential Relationship Hazards
In their book, Out of the Doghouse for Christian Men: A Redemptive Guide for Men Caught Cheating, authors Robert Weiss and Marnie Ferree list eight specific things that men (or women) who’ve engaged in sexual infidelity (with or without the presence of sex addiction/compulsivity) can do to help mend their damaged relationship. Although this advice comes from a book written for a Christian audience, we believe that the advice given is useful regardless of your spiritual belief system.
According to Weiss and Ferree, the eight actions you can take to repair your connection with your significant other include:
- Develop empathy for your partner.
- Learn to disagree in healthy and productive ways.
- Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
- Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
- Anticipate and deal with potential hazards before they happen.
- Don’t forget about self-care.
- Express gratitude to your partner.
- View love as a verb.
In this post, we will examine the fifth item on this list: anticipating and dealing with potential hazards before they happen.
The process of healing from infidelity doesn’t always go smoothly. In fact, many former cheaters will relapse at least once or twice, especially if sexual addiction/compulsivity is part of the story. If a slip or relapse occurs in your life, the best that you can do is admit what you’ve done and amend your future behavior. With a bit of preparation, however, these setbacks can often be avoided altogether, especially if you know the warning signs to keep an eye on.
The most common warning signs of a potential backslide are as follows:
- Overconfidence. “This is going really well. Maybe I have the problem licked and I can let my guard down.”
- Denial. “See, I can stop cheating any time I want. Now that I’ve proved this, I can look at and flirt with other women like a normal guy.”
- Isolation. “I can handle this on my own. I don’t need to go to therapy and I don’t need to be in constant contact with people who support what I’m trying to do.”
- Blame. “If my husband hadn’t gotten that new job that takes up so much of his time and energy, I wouldn’t feel the need to go online to socialize.”
- Excuses. “I know that being alone with my computer is a danger zone, but I need to stay late at the office to finish this important project.”
- Slippery Situations. “The buffet at that Chinese restaurant across the street from where my affair partner works is really good, so I’m going to have lunch there.”
- Minimization. “I’m only looking at a little porn. It’s not like I’ve gone back to having affairs.”
- Devaluing Feedback from Supportive Others. “The people in my therapy group just want to control me. The stuff they want me to do might work for them, but they don’t understand my situation.”
- Feeling like a Victim. “I don’t understand why I have to deprive myself when everybody else can look at porn and have webcam sex without fear or problems.”
- Rationalizing. “It’s okay for me to sneak around a little when I’m traveling for work. My fidelity plan doesn’t count when I’m in a different state, right?”
- Ignoring Previously Agreed-Upon Guidelines.“I know I promised my spouse I wouldn’t look at porn or flirt with other women on hookup apps, but what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
- Feeling Entitled. “I’ve been putting in double-duty at work, and nobody seems to appreciate the effort I’m making. I deserve a little something just for me.”
- Taking or Returning Calls, Texts, or E-mails from Former Cheating Partners. “I can’t help it if he won’t leave me alone, and it’s mean if I just ignore him. And what’s the harm in just chatting?”
When you’re faced with any of these warning signs, it is best to be honest about that right away with your therapist and your accountability partner. Talking about these temptations will greatly reduce their power and the hold they have over you. The good news is that you needn’t share this information with your partner. In fact, your partner probably doesn’t want to know about the occasional wandering thought. He or she is likely to be much more focused on the things you actually do.