Better than Before: Marriage Safeguards

Gretchen Rubin speaks to me. Her type A, Gold Star-desiring personality is similar to mine, except more extreme. (No offense, Gretchen.) This is probably why she has accomplished so much in her life, including writing a book on Happiness and this one on Habits. I wanted to write an excerpt from it to remind myself of how one person viewed safeguarding their marriage from affairs. FYI this book actually spends very little time talking about habits in marriage and more about habits on productivity, managing your nutrition, and how you can break bad habits and build better ones. This little snippet just stood out to me and I didn’t want to forget it.

A friend explained how a colleague used the Strategy of Safeguards. “This older manager told me, ‘Lots of people at this company have affairs, and I’ve seen lots of marriages break up as a result.’ He’d kept his own marriage strong by following five habits, and he told me I should follow them, too.” 

“What are they?” I asked.

“Never flirt, even as a joke. Never have more than one drink with people from work. Never confide details from my personal life to people from work, and don’t allow them to confide in me. Unless it’s an unmistakably professional context, don’t meet alone with a colleague or client. Like if a client calls with tickets for the U.S. Open, never go in a twosome.”

I don’t completely agree with all these suggested habits, but they’re worth considering as possible safeguards. People often assume, “I would never have an affair” – that it’s just a matter of good character and solid values. But in practice, temptation can sometimes arise over a long period of time and look quite different from what we expect. Slowly, a relationship changes. Or by contrast, a stressful or intense moment creates a sudden energy that, in the right environment, leads to an affair. If-then planning and habits can act as safeguards.

When I first read this I was shocked that someone would place such stringent rules in place for the sake of their marriage. But it makes total sense: if you don’t want to give anyone any reason to suspect anything is happening outside your marriage, don’t put yourself in these positions.

Don’t keep secrets. Your partner is an extension of you, and there should be no reason to hide anything: phones, phone bills, computer logins, texts, emails, credit cards. Hiding this is the first step in breaking any trust you and your spouse have with each other.


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