- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Golf star Tiger Woods’ admission of “transgressions” — and a growing list of infidelities — may soon land him in a very expensive divorce court. Or, if wife Elin is magnanimous enough to give her husband and father of their two babies another chance, they might land on Oprah’s couch, where he can do a full public grovel before an outraged audience.

For the rest of us, this sad but familiar story opens the door to endless conversations about marriage and monogamy.

A few talking points:

• Adultery is devastating to any marriage, so if Mr. Woods’ purported girlfriend(s) are telling the truth, he has indeed wrecked his home. But many couples recover completely from infidelity because they learn to rebuild their marriages so they’re better than before. This takes time — the Beyond Affairs Network finds that betrayed spouses need at least two years to get past their initial grief and hurt — and significant, lifelong behavioral change.

For starters, Mr. Woods could overhaul his retinue. His staff has aided and abetted Mr. Woods, and/or looked away as he indulged himself. A first step would be to fire such feckless employees and hire bodyguards with moral backbone who will protect Mr. Woods from both his baser instincts and all those heat-seeking cocktail waitresses. I’ll bet wife Elin can suggest some suitable handlers.

Another change involves the cellular phones.

To be trusted, one must be trustworthy, and to be trustworthy, a couple must build transparency into the relationship, says Willard F. Harley Jr., founder of Marriage Builders and author of many books about preventing affairs.

Mr. Harley recommends all committed couples give each other full access to their cellular phones and e-mail accounts.

Then, should infidelity occur, couples can take more stringent steps, such as conducting phone conversations openly, around the spouse (instead of secreting oneself), and refraining from erasing phone messages, texts or e-mail conversations until both spouses have read them. These sacrifices are tiny when compared to the good will and honesty they build.

Facebook (or other social-network sites) should be accessible to both spouses, too. Spouses should know each others’ user names and passwords, identify themselves as “married” online, and write kind words on each other’s sites to publicly reinforce their connection, say K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, whose book, “Facebook and Your Marriage,” is scheduled to debut in February. The Krafskys’ “no-no’s” for Facebook include “friending” old flames and engaging in private chats.

• Couples who get marriage education stand a better chance of avoiding extramarital attractions.

For instance, the Woodses are parents of a toddler and a newborn, and research shows that marital satisfaction declines when children arrive. Wise couples anticipate this sea change and take steps to not only become good parents, but protect and nurture their marital bonds.

“Many couples seem unsure how to overcome their inevitable problems, and we know we can help them,” says Dennis Stoica, president of the California Healthy Marriages Coalition, which has taught marriage education to 20,000 people in the last year.

“We regularly see couples in our marriage-education classes turn their marriage around,” Mr. Stoica said. “Couples on the brink of divorce recapture intimacy, trust and caring, and those with an OK marriage can take it up to levels of satisfaction they never experienced before.”

Mr. Woods has offered a “profound apology” for failing to live up to his “values,” and promised to become “a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves.”

His wife, children, family and fans certainly hope this popular sports icon will do so. Perhaps he will update his private motto and “just do it right.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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