- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

A woman writes in Atlantic Monthly that she is calling it quits on her 20-year marriage after having an affair; a married governor’s whereabouts is unknown for days only to find out he has been in Argentina with his mistress; Jon Gosselin from “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” is photographed with another woman and accused of being unfaithful; and a former NFL quarterback is found dead alongside the woman with whom he allegedly was having an affair.

A few days ago, a friend sent me information from a recent Gallup poll that surveyed Americans about things they considered morally wrong. I thought it was very interesting that 92 percent of the people surveyed believe it is morally wrong to have an affair. Yet, at almost every turn it seems as if being unfaithful is the order of the day. Is monogamous marriage passe?

“Absolutely not. Marriage is clearly something people still want,” said Dave Carder, marriage and family therapist and author of “Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage” and “Torn Asunder: Recovery From Extramarital Affairs.”

Based on years of experience working with infidelity in marriage, Mr. Carder explains there are different types of infidelity. Some people are adrenaline junkies. These are the folks who jump from one affair to another; the thrill of the hunt is what excites them. Then there are people experiencing extreme circumstances who are very vulnerable and may not even realize it. For example, studies show that infidelity spikes during economic hard times. People are under pressure, and as a result, things may not be great at home. These are the people who end up in an affair and aren’t exactly certain how it happened.

So, if having a long-lasting, healthy marriage is something people still want, is it possible to affair-proof your marriage?

“When I work with couples who have experienced infidelity, I ask them to think about what was missing from their marriage that the affair provided,” Mr. Carder said. “I remind them that at one time they were infatuated with each other. Something happened, and instead of trying something new, they looked for someone new to fill the void.”

According to Mr. Carder, affairs consist of three things that easily can be replicated in marriage: childhood magic, adolescent sexuality and adult mobility.

Childhood magic is when you are in love and you don’t realize what an idiot you are making of yourself, when two people step out of the world and into their own little bubble. It’s as if nobody else exists. How often do you step out of the craziness of the world into your own bubble with your spouse?

Adolescent sexuality refers to that time of chaotic, unplanned, noisy, spontaneous making out. Many marriages have this trait initially, but it gets lost over time. Mr. Carder encourages couples to go back and start doing that. Research indicates that 92 percent of people who admitted infidelity had sex in a car. Many marriages suffer from dull, boring, sterile and predictable sex. Couples forget sexual playfulness. Get creative and be flirtatious and unpredictable.

Last, couples usually see each other at the two worst times of the day — in the morning when things are chaotic and in the evening when both usually are tired. As time goes by, couples stop finding ways to spend time with each other in new, unique and unusual situations and times.

Try being adventuresome. The next time you kiss in front of your kids and they roll their eyes and tell you to get a room, do it! Take turns planning mystery dates for each other.

Mr. Carder encourages couples to make a list of the eight great experiences/highlights of their marriage, not including the wedding and the birth of children. When couples compare their lists, most solid marriages have three to five items that match. Couples need to do more of those things to enrich their relationship.

Julie Baumgardner is the executive director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. Send e-mail to [email protected]

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