Every time a celebrity couple is touched by infidelity – Pink’s hubby tries a different shade, or Ryan Phillippe spoons someone other than Reese – it’s like the rumble of distant thunder over our own relationships.
Everywhere you look, you see potential targets for your partner’s straying eyes, hands and, heaven forbid, other body parts. There’s that co-worker, and the ex, and the spinning instructor with to-die-for quads (and glutes).
Of course, most of us start relationships with complete trust in our partners – pumped on endorphins and often believing they have about as much chance of straying as Rosie has of buying a condo in Trump Tower.
But we all know how the story goes after that: Time passes, and people slip into a spiral of unfaithful behavior that may start with a flirt, or a cup of coffee, or a drunken night at the hotel bar. Next thing you know: Poof – commitment disappears.
While I’ve previously talked a bit about what drives a man to cheat, I think it’s even more important to explore what compels a man to remain faithful.
The biggest faith-keepers, of course, will be his own sense of morality, loyalty, and commitment. Beyond those, however, are certain tipping-points in relationships that make men more likely to play home games, rather than ones on the road.
1. Circle the calendar.
Part of the reason men stray is because they’re searching for that rush of excitement – those things that satisfy their pleasure centers in the brain. It’s the reason why people get addicted to things like food and drugs; when their pleasure centers are satisfied, they seek more of whatever tripped their triggers.
But if a relationship plateaus, that satisfaction center stalls. By having a shared vision of the future – with amazing things on the horizon, be it vacations or parties with friends or special nights out – you keep him (and his pleasure center) pumped about the future.
In a way, it’s just like managing employees; to keep them focused and determined, they have to feel like they’re taking on new challenges and meeting new goals. If not, they’re more likely to sneak around – and get their satisfaction elsewhere.
2. Plan Scrabble night.
Or movie night. Or wine-tasting night. Or 5Ks on Saturday. Or that trip to the Amalfi coast. So many couples – especially ones with kids – can fall into the same routine day after day, year after year.
Go to work, come home, scarf down dinner, shuffle kids to practice, watch”Last Comic Standing,” and off to bed. One national survey showed that 54 percent of men want to spend more quality time with their wives – indicating that they’re dying to have more shared experiences and a little less routine. (Of course, 79 percent of men want at least some of that quality time to be in bed, but that’s a different story.)
Don’t discount after-hours hobbies, games, competitions, or trips. University of Washington research shows that 70 percent of husbands say that the quality of friendship they share with their wives is the determining factor in how satisfied they are with sex, romance, and passion in their marriages.
3. Send him off on guy getaways.
I know what you might be thinking. If you give your guy your blessing to spend a four-day golf weekend in Myrtle Beach, you’re just asking for him to spend the time not only with the guys, but also with scotch, cigars, and exotic dancers.
All of which are going to be too darn tempting for the lug. While there’s always that danger, the upside is that sending him off with his buddies shows that you respect his free time and his need for adventure. (Plus, research supports the notion that time apart can strengthen a relationship.)
A lot of guys cheat because they’re getting old and they feel like they’re losing their edge. But a guy who can continually feed that adventurous side in innocent ways will be less likely to gorge it in guilty ways.
4. Protect his brain.
Recent research also shows that men who have low activity in the prefrontal cortex of their brains tend to be more impulsive, more easily bored, and more likely to search for attention. All signs of a man on the brink of double-dipping, eh?
On the flip side, men who have healthy prefrontal activity tend to have more empathy and thus make better husbands. How can you keep his cortex firing in a healthy way? Make sure that region of his brain stays clear from injury. That means less head-butting, yes, but also less alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
You can also help him by setting goals and sticking to them – the prefrontal cortex is all about anticipation and planning. All the more reason to follow reason No. 1 above and put that calendar to good use.
5. Give him a boost.
Every woman craves hearing how nice she looks, or how wonderful she is in bed, or how the earth slams to a halt whenever she walks into the room. A man needs his ego stroked just as regularly.
Some guys stray over self-esteem issues. Most of the time, it’s because it’s too low, and he may cheat to feel better about himself. (Granted, it can also happen because his self-esteem is too high, and he may cheat because he feels like he deserves anyone he wants).
In a MensHealth.com survey, 38 percent of men said that they rarely or never are complimented by their partners, and less than a quarter of men are regularly complimented.
I’m not suggesting you have to fawn, drool or recite poetry, but I do think some well-timed phrases like “nice job on the garage” or “suit looks great on you” or a simple “wow” in bed can do wonders for a guy’s self-esteem. Making him feel wanted, simply, will often encourage him to hang around to earn, and hear, more compliments.
Want more from Men’s Health? Check out these top ranking cities, by category, on Where Women Find Love. And to really understand how the male mind works, be sure to pick up David’s Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women.