Hon­esty is the best way to pre­vent af­fairs from hap­pen­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective -

Sec­ond of two parts

When it comes to ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs, Peggy Vaughan may have heard it all. Since 1980, she and her hus­band, James, have spo­ken pub­licly about how they saved their mar­riage de­spite his in­fi­deli­ties. Now 72 and mar­ried for 53 years, Mrs. Vaughan has writ­ten sev­eral books and talked with thou­sands of peo­ple about the cheaters in their lives.

Not sur­pris­ingly, she has some ad­vice for cou­ples — es­pe­cially those who think they are im­mune to af­fairs — and for an Amer­i­can cul­ture that thinks it bears no cul­pa­bil­ity for the steady stream of be­trayed spouses stomp­ing off to di­vorce court.

Cou­ples should know, “the only ac­tual way to pre­vent af­fairs is by com­plete hon­esty. There is noth­ing else,” says Mrs. Vaughan, whose lat­est book, “Pre­vent­ing Af­fairs,” came out in May.

Most peo­ple think other things will pro­tect their mar­riage — be­ing in love, be­ing re­li­gious, tak­ing wed­ding vows se­ri­ously, trust­ing each other, she says. But none of those things are as im­por­tant as be­ing hon­est with each other, which means both shar­ing pri­vate feel­ings and “not with­hold­ing rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion.”

Peo­ple can be tempted to have an af­fair for myr­iad rea­sons, but the only way some­one will act on a temp­ta­tion is “if they are will­ing to be de­cep­tive and lie to their part­ner,” she says. “That means the trump card is hon­esty.”

Mrs. Vaughan ad­vo­cates hon- esty even though “it sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive” to tell your wife you think the neigh­bor lady is hot, or tell your hus­band you’re flat­tered when that guy in the of­fice flirts with you.

But it’s im­pos­si­ble that spouses will go through life and never be at­tracted to other peo­ple, she says, and if spouses talk with each other about th­ese at­trac­tions, they can pop the “fan­tasy” bal­loons and keep at­trac­tions harm­less.

If you don’t talk about temp­ta­tions, she warns, “You’re start­ing to keep se­crets, and the fuel for af­fairs is se­crecy.”

Con­fid­ing in each other about pri­vate things keeps a cou­ple con­nected, she adds.

“Peo­ple don’t grow apart be­cause they do dif­fer­ent things or have dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests,” she says. “They grow apart be­cause they stop telling each other what they’re think­ing.”

Mrs. Vaughan has a few can­did ob­ser­va­tions about the Amer­i­can cul­ture, which she be­lieves aids and abets ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs. “We’re pos­i­tively schizophrenic” about sex, she says. Mar­i­tal sex is down­played, while ex­tra­mar­i­tal sex is glo­ri­fied in TV shows, movies, books, fash­ion and ad­ver­tis­ing.

This is but­tressed by a “code of si­lence” that says phi­lan­der­ers have pri­vacy rights, and peo­ple shouldn’t tell on each other. But let for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards get caught in a ho­tel vis­it­ing his for­mer mis­tress, and con­dem­na­tion and out­rage come pour­ing out as if he were the first hus­band to get caught with his pants down, she says.

Mrs. Vaughan wants to see less hypocrisy about sex, but she sees it start­ing in the home, not the movie the­ater. Her provoca­tive mes­sage to par­ents is to “stop train­ing your kids to have af­fairs.”

When teens have sex — but can’t be hon­est about it with their par­ents — they al­ready are as­so­ci­at­ing sex with se­crecy and ly­ing, she says. Later, when they’re grown, mar­ried and tempted to have an af­fair, “they have al­ready been con­di­tioned [to] do what you’re not sup­posed to do and pre­tend you didn’t,” she says.

Mrs. Vaughan rec­om­mends par­ents have lots of hon­est talks about sex with their teens — em­pha­siz­ing its beauty with one loving part­ner — and not harp so much on avoid­ing sex. Kids may get in­for­ma­tion about “the plumb­ing” or “the ba­sics,” she says, but they get very lit­tle about loving re­la­tion­ships and hav­ing sex in a re­spon­si­ble way.

To pre­vent af­fairs in the next gen­er­a­tion, she says, par­ents should raise their chil­dren “so they can talk about sex with you.”

Cher yl Wetzstein can be reached at cwet­zstein@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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