*This is the third and final installment on our series on infidelity and its threat to police marriages. If you missed Parts I or II, they are linked below. Throughout this article we use the terms marriage and spouse, but consider these interchangeable with any committed long-term relationship or partner.
Any marriage faces challenges that, if not faced intelligently and with eyes-wide-open, can undermine or even destroy the relationship. The threat of infidelity is one such challenge; some studies indicate that up to 60% of people will be unfaithful at some point in their married lives. Police marriages may be particularly vulnerable, with long and often strange hours, unique stressors, and a high incidence of cops coming into contact with people more than willing to help them go astray.
So, in acknowledgement that even the best-intentioned might - and probably will - someday face the temptation to stray, we offer you a five-point strategic plan to harden your marriage defenses.
Define - or redefine - LOVE
When most people think of what it means to love someone they define it in terms of the associated feelings or emotions of love, wherein the word love is a noun. To be fair, there is some truth to that, as the feelings we associate with early love are very powerful and tangibly defined. We are going to challenge that definition a little, though.
Consider two simple sentences with us, and which one you would most likely say to your spouse/fiancé/partner/etc... (assuming they are true, of course):
I have feelings of love for you.
Probably the first one, right? Notice the use of love in the first sentence. It is the verb. That is exactly how we urge you to think of love, as a verb, or an action or actions you do rather than something tangible you possess.
One problem with feelings is how fleeting they can be. Honestly, do you always have those "feelings of love" for your _______? Feelings and emotions wax and wane, and this is true in the best of relationships. We cannot control the volume of our feelings, but we can control our actions.
The second problem with feelings is how deceptive they can be. We confuse the early excited emotions we feel in a new relationship with love when, in reality, they more accurately represent infatuation. Unfortunately, deceptions can be addictive and hordes of people are addicted to the giddy feelings associated with those early emotions, and too easily bored with the steady, and occasionally monotonous, rhythm of true, long-term love. As cops, you know that when addicts get bored they go out and feed their addiction.
Instead of focusing on the feelings, focus on the actions of love for your spouse that you can control.
Seems too simple? Guess again. The physical act of infidelity is momentary and then the cheaters part ways and move on, maybe for good or maybe until the next moment in time comes.
The physical act is rarely what does the damage to the relationship, though. For solid, long-lasting, heart-crushing hurt what you really need is the associated betrayal, alienation of intimacy, and loss of trust. And if that is what you are looking for, we have some good news for you: you can achieve all of that without ever laying a finger on another person!
Emotional affairs are every bit as damaging as a sexually intimate affair. In fact, betrayed partners often are far more hurt by the fact of the emotional betrayal and theft of intimacy that goes along with the affair than with any physical acts.
It is important you and your partner understand where each of your limits are and, if there is disagreement on terms, come to an mutually agreeable understanding. This may cover topics such as: opposite sex (or sexually preferred) friendships, flirting, spending time with persons of the preferred sex away from your partner, pornography, and anything else either of you might have as a concern.