Q: My husband had an affair and we're now in counseling trying to work things out. How do I ever really know if he will do it again?
Juli: First, I applaud you for your efforts to restore your marriage in the aftermath of your husband's infidelity. A breach of trust that deep is so difficult to recover from that many couples are not willing to do the rebuilding effort.
To answer your question, you cannot know for certain that he'll never be unfaithful again. Choosing to love another person always involves an act of faith, hoping for what we cannot be certain about. However, no marriage can be based on "blind faith." In a marriage relationship, you and your husband owe it to each other to demonstrate a commitment to fidelity. This is particularly true as he has been unfaithful in the past.
Working with your counselor, you and your husband need to build safeguards or "hedges" around your marriage to protect against another affair. For example, do you have access to each other's cell phones and email accounts? Obviously, you could go overboard checking up on your husband, feeding an atmosphere of distrust and even paranoia. But in the wake of an affair, it is reasonable for you to expect a greater level of accountability in order to rebuild trust.
Another critical element of preventing another affair is understanding how the first one occurred. In many cases, affairs happen because there are cracks in the marriage. Sometimes spouses drift apart and stop communicating. Or they have unresolved issues related to finances, sex or parenting. An individual might even have emotional problems, like past sexual abuse or bipolar disorder, that lead to an increased likelihood of infidelity. None of these things excuse an affair, of course. Work with your counselor to identify what made your marriage open to the affair initially. Then come up with practical ways to strengthen those weak areas.
Q: My son is playing Little League baseball this summer, and it's great -- except for the other parents. They're caustic and rude to one another, to the umpire, and even to the kids on the opposing team. Should I take my son out of this toxic environment?
Jim: Summer baseball is one of the greatest joys a boy can experience, and it would be a shame if you had to deprive him of that, especially as the result of someone else's bad behavior!
Nevertheless, I know what you're talking about. My biological father was all but absent from my life, but one day he actually did show up at one of my Little League games. There was only one problem -- he was drunk. While the other parents cheered for their kids, my dad was loud and obnoxious. His speech was slurred. He cursed the umpire. He screamed and made an utter spectacle of himself. I was humiliated and embarrassed.
But as you know from firsthand experience, more and more parents are behaving this way at sporting events even when they're perfectly sober! They may have good intentions. They may think they're encouraging their kids. But if they're being rude, disrespectful or belligerent, they're doing more harm than good. And they're setting a horrible example for every child on the field.
Rather than taking your son out of Little League, you might encourage him to just persevere -- to practice good sportsmanship and take the high ground even when the adults are acting like bullies. Your own calm demeanor in this setting will make a huge impact on him. It's certainly sad that Little League can't be a simple, fun experience for everyone. But at least you can redeem the time by turning it into a character-building experience.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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