Oprah calls him one of the best psychotherapists in the world.
So why does M. Gary Neuman take the radical – and some would say old-fashioned view – that people in committed relationships should avoid all friendships with the opposite sex?
Because they present competition to your partner, Neuman explains in his book, Emotional Infidelity.
You start comparing the new person to what’s at home, and the new person is always more interesting and has qualities your partner does not. You begin to find out how “boring” your husband really is, and how much more exciting a beautiful woman can be compared to your wife. Neuman, a marriage counselor, argues that such comparisons are always unfair because you are not looking at the “whole person.” The new man may funny and stimulating, but what you don’t know is that he is uninterested in his job and unable to handle money. The new woman may be beautiful, but she might make a terrible stepmother to your children. You have to look at the entire person, and online relationships in particular make that just about impossible.
Since most infidelity begins at the workplace, Neuman suggests that you do not make close, intimate friendships with colleagues of the opposite sex. Specifically, he suggests that you shut down any conversations that become too personal and intimate. Avoid all ongoing, regular conversations in which you are sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings, and never be the source of emotional support of a member of the opposite sex, especially during a crisis.
Other secrets of avoiding infidelity are not being alone with persons of the opposite sex, seeing them only in groups, not drinking with them, and never hugging, kissing or dancing with them. Meet with opposite sex colleagues only in your workplace.
You will be chipping away at your marriage every time you get that ping of excitement from an emotionally stimulating moment with someone of the opposite sex, Neuman writes. “When you place your emotional energies (outside your partnership), you don’t offer your partner the opportunity to provide you with that ping of excitement you are looking for elsewhere.” Always keep in mind that “the world around you does not understand commitment.”
Neuman suggests immediately stopping all behaviors like flirting online, sending funny emails to members of the opposite sex, and especially opening up to them any personal way. Your innermost thoughts and feelings are reserved for partner and this means you have to “isolate” yourselves emotionally.
Neuman, who is also an ordained rabbi, says that people who refuse to shut down these behaviors are not being honest with themselves. They tell themselves and therapists like him that these relationships mean very little to them. Yet if they mean so very little, why do these same people resist giving them up? Why are you looking forward to that next text or email from that person so much? What excitement and energy are you getting out of this relationship? Why can’t you put that energy into your committed relationship so that such magic and excitement comes from your partner?
As Neuman puts it, “It’s not about where (these behaviors) could lead. It’s about where they have already gone.”
M. Gary Neuman is in private practice as a family and marriage counselor in Florida. He is the author of several books, including Emotional Infidelity (New York: Crown Publishers, 2001) that this article was taken from. He has appeared on Oprah, the View, Today, Dateline, Good Morning America and many more. He and his wife have five children.