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Q: How can I trust my partner not to stray if tempted?

A: Happy and easy love needs trust. There is no way around it. Usually, the most painful violation of trust is cheating. It's not about the sex-it's about feeling that the "rug has been pulled out from under you." Your relationship foundation and assumptions of feeling close, special, and love are broken. You feel lost, scared, lonely, and very, very angry. 

About a third of couples survives and thrives after one of the partners has strayed.  But getting there and creating an emotional environment at the beginning of relationships so that cheating doesn't occur is a challenge.  You need inner strength and emotional maturity. 

It's normal to be mistrustful after there's been an affair. The suspicious and jealous husband and the hen-pecked husband whose wife calls him to check on his whereabouts aren't funny. Eventually, though, trust must be rebuilt if there is to be any happiness in love. Every situation is different, but hopefully this guide will help.

1. Set guidelines early. Get preventive. At the beginning of the relationship discuss your expectations about fidelity.  Some couples will not tolerate straying while other couples agree not to know about a hook up. In more than thirty years of offering counseling, however, I've learned that couples who incorporate "room to stray" end up skating on thin ice.  Just like effective child-raising rests on setting realistic limits and expectations, mature love thrives on the feelings of specialness and closeness that stem from establishing boundaries. 

2. Grow a loving environment so that trust can blossom. The last thing you want is to feel compelled to text or call your partner to check up on his or her behavior. Suspicion breeds distance, which, in turn, creates an emotional vacuum that some partners try to fill by cheating. 

If you want to reduce the chance of an affair and other trust violations, you need to establish a healthy and loving environment and tend to it often. It might not seem complicated, but it sure can be difficult.  

A great recipe for growing a relationship is to compliment your partner, offer help without harshness, remain flexible and tolerant without compromising your values and self-respect, and avoid cruelty, sarcasm, and disrespect. Sprinkle with kindness and celebrations of your partner's successes.

If you follow the above instructions, you will not need to worry about those guy or girl vacations. You will know that your love is strong and that cheating is not even a possibility. You also won't have to put your partner on the witness stand when he or she returns. Yes, I can appreciate that sustaining a positive and trusting mindset might be difficult, but to get trust you have to create and give it.

3. Strengthen your values. Often, we need some outside help in keeping on a course of good and loving behavior.  Attending religious services or instruction has helped many of the couples I've counseled, especially if they've strayed in the past or fell back into old bad habits. 

4. Get counseling. If any problems regarding trust develop, seek counseling immediately. Cheating is a hot issue, and reactions to it can be even hotter. Don't add fuel to the fire by over-reacting. Hitting, destroying property or threatening divorce and break ups start a domino effect of problems. Movies and television scenes of couples breaking cherished object or setting fire to the new sports car are commonplace, but don't let them serve as your role model. Instead, calm down and get professional help before you do something stupid-and regrettable.

5. Examine your own behavior. Take a long and deep look at how you handled disappointment and unhappiness in your previous relationships. Relying on affairs as "escape valves" to your dissatisfaction in love rarely produces desired results.  Unfortunately, affairs are increasing in both men and women. This rise doesn't mean that people have forsaken their values or that they are bad.  Affairs are actually just one of the ways that couples manage their discontent. Other typical methods are to become workaholics or to get over-involved with your children. 

Of course, you probably don't consciously choose these approaches. They usually "sneak up" on you. Yet, usually we have only a few emotional tools in our emotional tool kit.  For instance, one of my engaged couples met with me for pre-marital counseling. The man was worried about trusting his fiancée since their relationship began as an affair while she was living with another man. He was justified in fearing that since she used an affair to get out of an unhappy situation that she would use the same method if they developed problems. 

The bride-to-be realized that her father had affairs to deal with her mother's drinking problem. It was the only way, my client said, for him to remain in the relationship. When her live in boyfriend developed a drinking problem, she, too, turned to an affair. Luckily, her fiancé was a good choice of partner, and they worked on developing effective problem-solving and prevention techniques.

My best overall advice is that couples who love are usually couples who trust.  Concentrate on nourishing a loving union.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, ED.D., MSS is a noted psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in relationships.  For her book about women and love, she welcomes women to take her 17-20 minute online research survey at www.lovevictory.com. Also on her website, if you donate $5 to Habitat for Humanity-Sarasota, Florida, you can receive a download of her relationship advice cartoon book for women, "The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie."