When most people are asked to describe what cheating would look like in their relationship the first thing that comes to mind is an extramarital affair. But there are a number of ways you can cheat your partner out of genuine intimacy without ever having an affair.
As a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist I am all too familiar with the importance of "closing the exits" in your marriage. Affairs, addictions and even mental illness can all be forms of hard-core exits. But exits can also be those subtle little diversions couples engage in that enable them to avoid true intimacy with each other.
To help protect your marriage, here are four harmful behaviors that may seem innocent, but will erode your relationship in a powerful way.
Over Focusing on Your Children
This one is so easy to rationalize, after all, who doesn't want to be considered a great parent? Of course, quality time with your children is important, but not when it's a substitute for quality time with your spouse.
Red flag - Are you spending most evenings reading for long hours with your kids, while your spouse watches television alone? Do your little ones often end up sleeping between the two of you, making sexual intimacy virtually impossible?
Working Long Hours
This could mean spending many hours at the office, but it may also mean, for example, being home with your spouse while glued to your laptop.
Red flag - Is your spouse often commenting that you're just not focused enough? Are you missing important family events because of work?
Excessive Time Watching TV or Surfing the Net
Everyone needs downtime and these activities help us to decompress after a hard day, but they become troublesome when they are substitutes for meaningful interaction with your spouse.
Red flag - Are you spending many hours engrossed in the television, computer, or cell phone while your spouse is feeling neglected? Are you spending more time talking on social media than talking to your spouse?
Cybersex and Porn
This can sometimes feel like a betrayal every bit as painful as an affair.
Red flag - Has engaging in porn become a substitute for physical intimacy with your spouse? Is your spouse feeling rejected and threatened by this behavior?
Here are two great books to help you with protecting your exits written by Michele Weiner-Davis:
Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again
The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage
Exits will drain energy from the relationship and slowly erode the warm connection you once had as a couple. So, it's important to examine these exits with openness and sincerity. This is your first step toward recreating the passion and connection you and your partner once shared.
If you need help with protecting your marriage from exits and erosion, we're here to help. Check out our workshops, therapists, and facilitators!