"A marriage is a living family system," says Dr. Susan Heitler, writing for "Psychology Today" magazine. "Like all living things, it can get infected with toxic agents that result in its death." In your hectic life, your long-term relationship gets constantly bombarded by temptations, outside influences and other stressors that can drive you and your loved one apart. By proactively protecting your marriage, you can keep your relationship healthy and strong instead of waiting for the worst to happen.
Keep Workaholic Tendencies at Bay
If you're like most Americans, your or your spouse's job is one of the biggest intruders on your relationship. Almost 70 percent of American workers say their work is a significant source of stress, and one-third report that they feel overworked, warns the American Psychological Association. The workaholic husband and office-addicted wife may sound like stereotypes, but these represent real mental states that affect marriages. Simply telling yourself or your spouse to work less won't suffice, as there are typically underlying issues related to workaholism. Example issues include attachment problems, where a spouse feels disconnected from his partner and uses work as an escape, and a chronic need for approval from others, which is sometimes related to a sense of inferiority. If you or your spouse finds that chronic working is creating problems, talking to a therapist to define the underlying issues can help you defend your relationship.
Infidelity ruins many relationships, but it doesn't have to be that way. The old mantra "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" applies here. "There's no doubt about it: You're going to run into someone ... who you find unbelievably sexy and attractive," writes Dr. Pepper Schwartz for AARP's monthly magazine. "But if there's any risk of things getting too hot to handle, simply keep yourself out of the path of temptation." In our increasingly technology-saturated world, that includes the Internet. If necessary, avoid chat rooms or social networking sites where you may get tempted to become emotionally involved with strangers or exes, and consider installing Internet filtering software if pornography and similar media is a problem in your relationship.
Be Aware of Addictions
Addictions to drugs or alcohol are simultaneously an external influence and an internal influence. Dr. Susan Heitler ranks alcohol and drug addictions as one of the top three temptations that ruin marriages. As with many other marriage problems, substance addictions are often related to an underlying issue, such as an inability to deal with stress. "Learn the skills for talking problems through constructively, without arguing and with positive outcomes," Dr. Heitler tells readers of "Psychology Today" magazine. "Addictions usually are an alternative to addressing and resolving problems, marital and otherwise. Replace running away with talking about your problems with someone you trust."
Take Care of Yourself
Watching your diet, grooming yourself and working on your physical fitness don't just make you feel better about yourself -- these actions may also help defend your marriage from infidelity. "You don't have to be thin or look like a 30-year-old," writes Dr. Pepper Schwartz for the AARP. He recommends simple measures such as brushing your hair, going to the gym and keeping bad breath at bay. This maintains your overall health and appearance, says Dr. Schwartz, who goes on to report that "attention to such matters keeps you attractive and alluring to your spouse — and helps keeps his or her eyes off someone else."
Spend More Time Together
Invest time in each other. Learn new things together, laugh together, explore new parts of your neighborhood together — whenever possible, show your spouse your commitment to the marriage by making time together a priority no matter how hectic your day has been. The more time you spend as a couple having fun, the less time and space is made available for outside influences to step in and damage your marriage.