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10 Ways to Prevent Cheating in Relationship

10 Ways to Prevent Cheating in Relationship

Cheating in relationships is rampant. We can assume most partners will cheat at some point in a committed relationship. Why? I’m going to answer that question a number of ways, and then teach you how to guard against it happening. But first, some statistics. The U.S. divorce rate for first marriages is near 50%, and significantly higher if you include second and third marriages. Divorces don’t necessarily involve cheating, but the two are connected. Cheating is sometimes a cause of divorce and at other times as a symptom of a weakened relationship. An estimated half of married partners cheat on their spouse. If you include other types of committed relationships, the percentage of cheating goes up.

I don’t mean to imply that cheating is always a bad thing. Affairs can sometimes make a relationship stronger, as many in the affair recovery movement can testify. Whereas a couple may have been neglecting their sex life, not paying enough attention to their emotional bond, or not communicating honestly about needs and desires, an affair can sometimes spur a couple to get their act together and function more securely. Cheating can sometimes be a way to end an unhealthy relationship, or gain clarity about what is truly fulfilling. An affair can be a way to make a move in a stagnant relationship rather than hang out in limbo for years. But cheating is also generally a very painful experience for one or both committed partners.

I also don’t mean to imply that monogamous relationships are somehow better than other kinds of arrangements. To each his own. But by and large, most people in the Western world still choose to function in mutually agreed-upon committed relationships. So it makes sense to explore what prevents cheating and how to protect your relationship from it, or at least stack the odds in your favor. Especially because cheating can have a negative effect not just on adults in relationship, but on young children who depend physically and emotionally on the stability of adult relationships.

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1. Have Agreements

Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love, has written on the importance of having explicit agreements. “Everything that is assumed does not really exist,” he says. Agreements should be clear, and cover how to handle others’ advances, what information is shared (attraction to others), and how quickly you tell each other about romantic or flirty experiences. There should be a conversation on what constitutes cheating, because initially partners may not be on the same page. For example, one partner may think it’s fine to go out dancing with their friends, flirt with folks, and maybe even have some ‘innocent’ kisses on the dance floor, while their partner may consider that behavior out of bounds. Partners can have very different ideas on what constitutes an emotional affair, and if it qualifies as cheating.

2. Be a Rock Star

The best defense against cheating is a great relationship. When our needs are met physically and emotionally, we don’t have as much interest to look elsewhere. Examine how well you meet your partner’s wants and needs, and how well they meet yours. Make sure to step it up in areas that are weak, and to communicate honestly about what you need to feel fulfilled and fully happy.

3. Tend Your Garden

Do things together that challenge you to grow together. We all change as we age. It’s not enough to put our partnerships on cruise control and expect them to last. How are you going to keep up with your partner’s changing thoughts, preferences, ideas and desires? How do they keep up with yours? Read books together, attend seminars, or find a good online relationship education program to keep your partnership on the cutting edge of moving forward so you are continually discovering one another.

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4. Understand your Partner

Sounds simple. But it’s not. Your partner has all kinds of secret thoughts and feelings they probably don’t tell you, or possibly anyone. You need to be safe enough to your partner that you get the full skinny. How? Encourage honesty with alot of compassion and no judgment. Find out the few things about your partner that no one else knows. Use that information to ‘be on the inside’ every day in terms of their experiences in the relationship, at work, and with themselves. Know things their mom or friends don’t even know. This knowledge makes you valuable in a way few others can replicate.

5. Don’t Be Jealous, Be Better

If you suspect your partner’s attention may be drifting elsewhere, it may push them further away to become angry and critical with them. Jealousy is natural, but try to focus on wooing your partner even more with your talents and capabilities. Give them more of a reason to love  and value you. Being upset with them may frighten them temporarily into being more careful, but it’s not an effective long-term strategy, and often doesn’t work in the short term either. You can’t keep a partner around reliably or happily using threats and fear. Only the positive reasons for being together hold up as glue that will protect you from others getting in on the action.

6. Do Occasional Counseling

It’s the 21st Century. The old-time stigma of seeing a couples counselor is long-gone. Find a good, capable therapist, and see them for “positive and pro-active” relationship support. Go in before you have major issues. After is often too late for counseling to be fully effective. We all have blind spots in the way are with others. Some of those come from our family history, such as the things our parents tended to do in relationship, or more importantly, what they did not do with one another. Our map of healthy, secure relationship is usually only as good as what we have seen and experienced first-hand. Counseling, even a few sessions here and there, can help us develop a more comprehensive map of how to tend to our partnerships and share life together more enjoyably.

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7. Justify Your Existence

You have to be the go-to person. Anything you don’t provide in terms of emotional, intellectual and physical needs, your partner will look to others for. And they should. In other words, we all seek to meet our needs, and if our partner isn’t there in certain ways, we find others. Those others sometimes form the basis for an affair, or an emotional bond that replaces our partner, or takes energy away from the partnership that it really needs to grow and adapt. Think of being a partner as applying for a job every day. Why should your partner keep you around and not fire you? What do you do that someone else cannot easily do instead? You have to be so good that others can’t really compete. This is, more than anything, the secret to preventing separations and break-ups, and it works much better than fear and guilt.

8. Why Not Cheat?

We are not wired for monogamy. Biologically, there are many imperatives to cheating, beginning with the added immune system and cell protections that come from mixing the gene pool. So why stay true? Well, there have to be excellent reasons for staying committed. What could those be? After all, the physical lust center of the brain really thrives on novelty, strangers and the exotic. Left to its own devices, that part of the brain may act on desires with others besides our partner. Think of the benefits of commitment: A partner who knows you better than anyone else; someone you have shared history and life memories with; someone you can rely on; someone who, when our beauty fades, our youthfulness is gone, and our health and sex drive diminish, still wants to be our companion and share life together; someone to grow old with. You and your partner need to remind yourselves of the reasons for commitment so the animal part of your brain doesn’t run unchecked.

9. Limit Opportunity

Affairs and cheating are primarily an issue with the strength and satisfaction of our current relationship, so it’s always best to look there first before blaming others or circumstance. But in second place as a contributing culprit is opportunity. Affairs and cheating are often a function of opportunity. Traveling with a co-worker, being at a party late without your partner, spending lots of time alone, drinking too much, or having independent social circles and activities can create opportunities. So what to do? Pay extra attention to these types of situations. Try to do things together, so others don’t have as much access. Stay in touch during the day, and text if one of you is out late at night. Check in while traveling, and send loving care packages with your traveling partner so they feel connected to you. If others begin to text or call your partner too much, it’s fair to ask that some of that energy be directed back into the primary relationship.

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10. Push the Envelope

Talk frequently and openly about sex, fantasies and desires. Try new hobbies together to keep things fun, humorous and exciting. Laugh together, wrestle. Try an unusual class. Choose TV shows to watch together you’ve never seen. Ask other couple friends for ideas on trips and local experiences they have liked. Try new things in the bedroom. Do things that are a little embarrassing, but still within your comfort zone. New, exciting activities, especially in the area of emotional and physical intimacy, keep your interest kindled and help you bond.

 

The best protection against cheating and affairs is ensuring your relationship is too awesome to mess with. Being attractive to your partner every day works better than fear, guilt or threats in maintaining the security of your commitment. Keeping things fresh in your friendship and love life additionally stimulate the brain in ways that maintain attention within the primary partnership. And if you suspect your partner may be looking elsewhere for an erotic shot in the arm or a deeper emotional friendship than what you typically provide, take steps to up your game rather than threaten to leave or become too critical. Sometimes, moments of interest in other people and experiences can tip you off to where you need to turn on the jets as a partner or couple. Improving your relationship needs to be a constant. Keep the focus on making yourselves stronger, not worrying so much about others and the world ‘out there.’

Featured photo credit: 123RF via 123rf.com

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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