Escaping the Jaws of Infidelity: How to Avoid an Affair

Letter #1

Introduction: Most of the letters I receive are from people whose spouses are having an affair. Affairs destroy families and the innocent spouses don't know how to respond to the unfolding tragedy they witness. But once in a while I receive a letter from someone who is about to have an affair, and wants help in how to avoid it. This week, I am printing their letters and my answers. Quite frankly, the only one who can avoid an affair is the one that is about to have one. While his or her spouse can make the job easier or more difficult, the spouse can't avoid it for them. So these letters from those who are tempted get to the heart of the issue, how to avoid an affair.

Dear Dr. Harley,

I have been married almost seven years to a wonderful man who treats me like a queen. I was pregnant when my husband and I got married, but I never experienced the passion for him that I know I can feel for a man. We now have four children and he has been a solid foundation for our relationship and our family. He has done whatever he can do to make me happy. I do not deserve him....

I am a very aggressive woman in my mid 30's, I love to party, dance and laugh. My husband, on the other hand is very passive and serious. He's just not much fun. The problem: I am gravitating towards an older man in his late 40's. A man with a tremendous zest for life, who too is married, and in the same business as myself. I have not had sex with this man, but I feel as though I am falling in love.

I am overwhelmed with guilt...I know that I am a horrible wife for feeling this way..PLEASE HELP!!


Dear N.S.

The man you are attracted to is meeting one or more of your emotional needs much better than your husband does. From your description he seems to be meeting your needs for conversation and recreational companionship. You have such a good time when you're with him that his account in your Love Bank has reached the threshold that triggers the feeling of romantic love.

It's not uncommon to find a person that does a good job meeting our needs, but it's dangerous when our spouses are doing a bad job. At first, we simply find ourselves in love with this person. If we also love our spouses, we shake it off and move on. But if we are not in love with our spouses, like you, we feel confused as to why we don't have the same feeling toward our spouses. Then, in an effort to make sense of it all, we think we are being cheated by our spouses out of what's rightfully ours, a fulfilling life. We think, if our spouses can't do the job, we have the right to find someone else who can, and we should grab the opportunity while it exists. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Many faced with this dilemma are not in your position, where your spouse has dedicated himself to your happiness. They find themselves married to spouses who have ignored them or even abused them. It's much easier to justify an affair under those conditions. But since your husband has tried very hard to give you the best he has, and you have four children who need you to stay together, your feelings of guilt are quite understandable.

Although your husband has put a great deal of effort into making you happy, he has missed the target, apparently right from the beginning. His efforts have been misdirected. He wants to meet your most important emotional needs, but has never learned how. It is not his lack of dedication or good intentions -- it is lack of knowledge. But he can learn to meet your needs as well as anyone, and you can be more in love with him than you've ever been. When that happens, your marriage will be secure.

You are on the brink of an affair, and once you jump in, you may not be able to get yourself out before you have done untold damage to your family. Sooner or later most affairs die out, but in their wake they leave unspeakable pain. Your husband would rather have his hand cut off than go through the agony of your unfaithfulness to him. It is the most cruel decision you could possibly make. Avoid that choice at all costs. Instead, dedicate yourself to training your husband to become the man you've always needed.

First, you should avoid seeing the man at work altogether, and it will mean quitting your job. You are already addicted to him, and your emotions will control your decisions whenever you see each other. It won't be long before you have thought through a justification of your behavior, and then there will be no stopping you. You will lose all perspective and ruin your marriage and family, to say nothing about intentionally hurting a man who cares a great deal for you. Six months after your affair has started you will be so up to your eyeballs in guilt you will be contemplating suicide. Get this man out of your life at all costs!

Then, you should try to come to grips with what it is this man does for you that you need so much you'd risk giving up everything to have it. After you identify what it is about the other man that you find so attractive, try to teach your husband to do whatever it is. I understand personality limitations -- your husband is more passive, while this man is more aggressive, like you. But you should be able to identify your needs, such as conversation and recreational companionship, that can be met regardless of the personality type of the person you are with. I have seen remarkable recoveries of couples just like you with seemingly incompatible personalities. It turned out that their personalities were not incompatible, it was their habits and activities that were incompatible. Once their lifestyle changed, their marriages were terrific.

Four children can do a lot to change your lifestyle and your ability to meet each other's needs. You and your husband should create more privacy in your marriage and set aside time to be alone so that you can meet each other's most important needs. Your husband should be your favorite recreational companion. To give him a fair chance to succeed, make him your ONLY recreational companion for a while. Train him in on the activities you enjoy the most.

My book, Fall In Love, Stay In Love, will teach you to achieve exactly what you need: Compatibility. Read it with your husband, and build the marriage both of you need.

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