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What issue brings couples to marriage counseling more than any other? Affairs.

What causes affairs? Neglect.

Although this is not the only contributing factor, affairs often happen in relationships that have been neglected.

Kirk and Natalie (not their real names) had a traditional romance. They fell in love, got married and had three kids in quick succession. But when Natalie began paying more attention to the kids, and Kirk began working long hours, they slowly drifted apart. Busy taking care of their family, neither fully realized how detached they felt from one another. Natalie no longer felt like a priority to her husband, and Kirk missed the admiration, encouragement and support Natalie had given him early in his career. Now she just complained that he was never home to help with the kids.

While they were both fulfilling important roles in their family, their relationship was suffering from neglect. When Kirk's young attractive colleague, Lisa, began sharing her disappointment about her marriage, he confided in her about Natalie's neglect and anger. Lisa listened sympathetically, offering Kirk the attention he had been craving from Natalie. It wasn't long before he began to fantasize about being with Lisa.

The same story, with only slightly different details, is repeated every day. In the early stages of relationships, all of our emotional needs are met by our partner. Later, when the initial passion has waned and the stressors of married life get in the way, other things often take priority over the relationship. This is the danger zone.

While many couples work effectively together on behalf of their family, they fail to nurture the emotional connection that is the glue for their relationship. Relationships are like living organisms. They need the nourishment of love, appreciation, respect and admiration to keep them alive. Without these key ingredients, relationships shrivel up like neglected plants. Just like an unhealthy plant is more susceptible to disease, an unhealthy marriage is more vulnerable to an affair.

So, how do you avoid the dangers of a neglected relationship?

-Pay attention. Be present with your spouse.

-Show interest. Have regular talks.

-Show appreciation for the little things.

-Go on dates, try new things together.

-Remember what you love about your spouse.

-Make a list. Share it.

-Compliment your spouse, and speak highly of them to others.

Affairs seldom happen in healthy relationships. If you prioritize your relationship and nurture it in these ways, you will never have to worry about your marriage being vulnerable to an affair.

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