(RNN) – Gen. David Petraeus is the latest in a long line of powerful men in Washington whose career has been marred by an affair; Clinton and Lewinsky, Schwarzenegger and his love child – or for that matter, Edwards and his love child, Spitzer and the call girl.
An affair is one of the most difficult challenges a couple can face, and nothing destroys a marriage faster than infidelity. Divorce statistics alone may make one wonder if it's even possible to affair-proof a marriage.
Fame, fortune and status do nothing to insulate a marriage from infidelity.
Joan Leary, who owns her own professional counseling service in Birmingham, AL, said the biggest problem in most marriages is communication - or the lack thereof.
"Anything is possible. Couples seem to expect a relationship to be healthy, but the problem really is communication and learning to agree to disagree.
"Communication seems to be the root of everything. Not really hearing or understanding one another, and so there tends to be a lot of mind reading going on. Partners must be active listeners. Achieving clarity in a conversation is extremely important so no misinterpretations are left behind.
"If couples feel therapy could help, it's important to know whether you want to make the marriage work or end it altogether.
"A surprising fact is that work and duties in the household can really bring a lot of issues. It's easy to think one person can be responsible for all the chores, but that can get frustrating. Having both a written and verbal contract can really help.
"A lot of common issues seem to be family, sexual, financial and even spiritual. But again, communication is very key in any relationship. Openness and clarity about wants and needs can aid in building strength.
"Couples get busy, and love can't solve all problems. When someone is feeling angry and doesn't voice how they're feeling, resentments can really start to build.
"Weekly check-ins, for example, family meetings can build a bond. Talk about how the week went, rate the relationship, and talk about issues or how things are going well, capture the essence of what is really being said or else it could leads to strings of misunderstandings."
Younger couples seem to be more at risk for affairs.
"A lot of younger couples seem to look at media and think affairs are a way of life, to go outside of a relationship and not really take the sacred vowel of marriage.
"They seem to get tangled in the wedding, but in reality they don't know one another, and after the wedding, it becomes dull and depression sets in.
"With sexuality being so prevalent early on in relationships, couples now seem to do things backward. And instead of getting to know each other first, the physicality of the relationship beats the emotional side.
"With couples that have been married for many years, you start to see problems once the kids leave the nest."
Leary said she believes the definition of marriage has changed over the years. But no matter how devastating the divorce statistics are, she said getting one doesn't have to be a major life failure.
For couples who remained in a long-term marriage, and then decide to divorce, the decision can be more of a life success than failure, she said.
Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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