Marriage Therapist Offers 5 Ways To Safeguard Your Relationship From Infidelity - Exclusive

You locked eyes, fell in love, started a relationship, and began your "happily ever after" — only to find out later that your partner cheated. This is an all-too-common reality that can strike almost any relationship. In fact, nearly 70% of women and 75% of men have admitted to being unfaithful at some point.

But there is hope. As Dr. Talal Alsaleem, nicknamed the father of modern infidelity counseling, told The List, relationships that are given care and attention are less likely to succumb to infidelity or adultery. "Relationships are like living organisms: if you nurture them, they thrive and grow. If you ignore them, they will wither and die," he explained. According to Dr. Alsaleem, the "relationship deficits" that result from neglecting the relationship are the leading cause of emotional and sexual affairs. Thankfully, there are ways to dodge these damaging deficits — and dodge infidelity. Here are the five ingredients Dr. Alsaleem recommends garnering to ensure cheating doesn't derail your love story.

Develop relationship maturity

Most of us didn't have a Relationships 101 class in school — but we probably should've. Building and maintaining relationships is a skill, just like arithmetic and persuasive writing. The more this skill is flexed, the more relationship maturity is developed, says Dr. Talal Alsaleem. "Relationship maturity is one's ability and readiness to initiate and maintain a partnership with a significant other," he explains. In general, the more relationship maturity a couple has, the less likely they'll cheat.

So what influences relationship maturity? Dr. Alsaleem says that high levels of relationship maturity come from exposure to a variety of healthy relationships, including both the relationships we witnessed in childhood and the ones we create ourselves as adults.

If you witnessed abusive or unfaithful parental relationships growing up — the type you likely don't want to recreate — it's crucial to break the cycle and rewrite the relationship scripts you may have learned growing up. This can be done by speaking with a counselor, learning new relationship skills through books, and practicing self-love (via Psychology Today). It's also important to take note of what you need in your relationship.

Then, view your current relationship as an opportunity to practice the healthy relationship skills you're learning, without projecting drama from past relationships onto your significant other. "These projections can sour the relationship from the onset, especially if the new partner is someone who is nothing like the one from the past abusive relationship," notes Dr. Alsaleem.

Face – and embrace – your differences

Opposites attract, or birds of a feather flock together? According to Dr. Talal Alsaleem, differences can strengthen compatibility, to an extent. Sharing our unique perspectives with a partner and inviting them to try new things can enrich romantic relationships. However, major differences in personal values, sexuality, spirituality, intellect, and political beliefs can signal incompatibility, a common factor in infidelity. As Dr. Alsaleem says, "When you have partners who are polar opposite on any of these domains, they will struggle in finding healthy compromises and middle grounds despite their best efforts."

Then, rather than sacrificing their core needs or beliefs, a partner may pursue them in an emotional or sexual fling behind their significant other's back. There is a healthier alternative, however. Incompatibility can often be overcome by talking over your differences calmly and respectfully, per Relate. Work to understand and accept each other's position. Attempting to force compatibility by trying to change each other usually only backfires. And, as Verywell Mind points out, it's okay to call it quits if your partner responds to your differences with criticism or contempt. These behaviors only lead to animosity, a common precursor to infidelity.

Clearly communicate your needs

Biting your tongue might seem like a good way to keep your relationship afloat, but not practicing clear communication could be a recipe for infidelity. Once you've worked to build up relationship maturity, learning about yourself and your needs in the process, you must clearly communicate those needs to your partner, advises Dr. Talal Alsaleem. "Failing to communicate your needs to your partner, as well as the ways you expect those needs to be met, will lead to relationship deficits and resentment. Those needs are not going to disappear. Instead, they will go unfulfilled until a new outlet or person appears to the scene and offers fulfillment," he explains.

Partners must discuss their desires and boundaries, as well as exactly what behaviors constitute cheating. suggests starting a dialogue by scheduling a time that is comfortable for both people, ideally when there won't be any distractions. Then, stick to "I" statements and avoid criticizing or casting blame on your partner. That way, you can ensure your needs are heard and understood, without the conversation taking a turn for the worse.

Fight fairly with your partner

Okay, but what about when things do take a turn for the worse? Let's face it, every couple argues — and that's okay! A 2012 study (via ScienceDaily) showed that while anger and conflict can be uncomfortable in the moment, they can improve the quality of a romantic relationship over time. But the key is to fight the right way.

Dr. Talal Alsaleem describes healthy conflict resolution as "one's ability to identify, address, and resolve conflict directly and in a timely manner." To deal with conflict appropriately, you shouldn't act in an aggressive or passive-aggressive way, nor should you skirt the issue, hoping it will someday resolve itself. Dealing with conflict in these ways can trigger resentment, which could lead to emotional and sexual affairs, says Dr. Alsaleem.

A better way to handle relationship problems is to practice active listening, look at the situation from your partner's perspective, take responsibility for your part, and compromise where needed. According to Dr. Alsaleem, you'll know you've succeeded when each person understands what happened, the role they played in the conflict, and what changes they'll make to avoid repeating a similar issue in the future.

Allow for changes in the relationship

"You've changed" is a phrase often hurled at a partner as an insult. However, Dr. Talal Alsaleem says that people, and their needs, aren't static in a relationship. Therefore, we must be able to adapt to changes to avoid infidelity-triggering relationship deficits. He explains that what once satisfied a partner may evolve, especially as a couple faces new stressors and life milestones.

Take the example of having a baby. Dr. Alsaleem notes that welcoming a child into the family can take a toll on just about any couple's sex life. "It would be unrealistic of them to expect their sex life to be exactly the same as it was prior to having the baby," he says, adding, "But also, they shouldn't become overwhelmed with their new responsibilities and ignore their sexual needs."

According to The New York Times, many couples benefit from therapy or counseling when navigating major life changes. Another way to adapt to change is to continue practicing clear communication and speaking up as your needs shift. Then, rather than seeking comfort in an affair, you can turn to each other for love, no matter what life throws your way.