1) “Happily married” couples are more likely to experience infidelity.
The reason spouses are surprised when they find out their “loving” husband or wife has been cheating is because they thought they were happily married.
What is really going on though is Mr. and Mrs. Average are in Happy Fantasy Land, not Happy Marriage Land.
Thinking that if you feel happily married then your spouse must feel the same is one of the most common mistakes people make on the road to the divorce court.
Just because you are enjoying a movie doesn’t mean your spouse is.
Of course, when it comes to a movie the solution is simple – ask! But when the movie is your marriage, asking is not going to help.
Because if they aren’t happy and they’re having an affair, what do you think they are going to say?
You got it.
They are going to state in no uncertain terms how joyful they are about you and life – maybe even that you are their joy of life. Why?
Because they want to keep on with their affair.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find out if your spouse is really happy. And here is the simple and (generally) accurate way of figuring it out.
It’s like walking into a very expensive jewelry store: If you have to ask how much that ring costs, you can’t afford it.
If you have to ask your spouse if they are happy then they almost certainly are not.
Truly happy couples are happy because they feed off each other’s joy and they experience it deeply.
This isn’t as strange as it sounds. You had this feeling when you were first dating. You were happy, they were happy and most importantly, you both knew it.
Being happy and being happily married are not the same thing. Just because you are happy, or maybe because you are happy, it’s easy to think your spouse is too.
And thus we come to the golden rule of marriage. If your spouse is unhappy in the relationship – or if your spouse is just unhappy – and you ignore it, you will not like the consequences.
2) Your spouse is the typical person to have an affair.
One of the problems in figuring out how rampant infidelity is, is getting people to admit it. Astonishingly, according to recent studies, the ones who do admit it add up to nearly half of all spouses!
When something happens to 50 percent of a group, and you’re a member of that group, then it’s really just a matter of time until it falls in your lap. If you want to protect yourself from this scourge, then doing what everyone else is doing will only give you a 50/50 chance – not great odds.
We exert more resources to protect ourselves from theft, fires, earthquakes and floods. Any one of these has far lower odds than the risk of infidelity.
To put it another way, if something breaks down 50 percent of the time, it means there is something seriously wrong in the manufacturing process. So instead of asking, “How could this happen to me?” or even, “How could you do this to me?” the better question is, “What are we doing that is so fundamentally flawed that it’s creating a complete breakdown in our most important relationship?”
Or maybe an even better way of saying it, “Why did we wait until the affair to start working on our marriage?”
3) Time is not on your side.
Picture your wedding day and rate it in happiness on a scale between 1-100 (with 100 being the best).
Then, calculate what year was halfway between then and now.
Then give that year a happiness value between 1-100.
Lastly, give today a number.
If the trend of those three numbers is sloping down (in the direction of today) then essentially, your marriage is an affair waiting to happen.
That doesn’t mean everyone in this (rather large) group is having or will have an affair. But if it’s not an affair, the alternatives might be even worse.
What is worse?
I asked a woman I was counseling if she thought she was happily married before she found out her husband was having an affair.
“Yes,” she said.
I then pointed out the fallacy of her thinking. She may have thought she was happily married, and she may have even been “happy,” but she couldn’t possibly have been happily married when her spouse was cheating on her.
Being happily married requires two people being happily married. Being happy in a dysfunctional marriage is not much different than being happy and single. A single person (obviously, and by definition) cannot be happily married any more than a married person can be if their spouse is miserable.
Then she asked, “What is so bad if I think I am happily married and I don’t know otherwise?”
Have you ever met a couple who are not only sick of each other but sick of life itself? It’s been so long since they felt joy they don’t even know they are missing it.
But isn’t that what most people are like when they get old?
Yes, depressing, isn’t it?
“Isn’t it better,” I asked this women, “that he had an affair?”
HOW IS IT BETTER?
“So you can work on it —- so that it can become the joy of your life?”
I must say, she took a really long time to think about it.
“This affair was the best thing that happened to your marriage,” I said.
Now you know how important it is to make your marriage rock.
The past few years has seen some excellent books and programs for improving a marriage. Here are some you should check out: Marriage Fitness, Michelle Weiner Davis, Imago relationship workshops and even my book, “Bliss.”