Q: My husband’s father has had several affairs and is still married. Since his parents have managed to deal with this, my husband seems to believe that infidelity is just part of marriage. I don’t agree, and I’m very worried that my husband will end up doing the same things his father did and just expect me to forgive him. How can I prevent him from having an affair?
Dr. Klein: There are lots of things you can’t prevent in a relationship, and infidelity is one of them. The situation you present is speculative.
What exactly is your husband’s understanding of your relationship contract? Is it “no outside sexual activity,” or “no outside sexual activity unless someone comes on to me, or I’m really turned on, or I’m drunk, or my moon is in the house of Aquarius?” If you two do not agree on what your relationship contract is (regardless of the topic–whether it’s sex, money, religion, in-laws, or garlic before bedtime), you may be heading for trouble. He’ll do something he believes was permissible, you’ll disagree, and you’ll argue about who is right–which is not at all productive.
If you do agree on the contract (whether it’s strict monogamy, 1960s Mardi Gras, or something in-between), then the question is how much you trust each other to maintain the contract. Breaking an important agreement in a relationship is a very serious matter, because it undermines one’s ability to trust and predict the other’s behavior. Rather than forcing your husband into monogamy he may not feel he has agreed to, or covertly attempting to catch him breaking his agreement (and your heart), discuss and clarify your relationship contract. Then let him know that you expect both of you to maintain this contract. And tell him that if he ever has trouble keeping his agreement, or perhaps wants to change it, he should speak with you immediately.