When you hear the phrase, "She was unfaithful," what is your automatic assumption. What is the conclusion that we all, pretty much universally draw from that phrase? Sex. Of course. We assume that the infamous "she" had infamous sex with some other infamous "he". Or maybe a she, although that doesn't seem to be quite as bad....does it? lol
But in recent years I've had reason to question this. Why do we jump to that conclusion? Is that all fidelity is? Keeping exclusive sexual congress? One cock for one vagina? And that's it?
I have trouble accepting that. So....now I must ask the question: What, exactly is fidelity? When we promise "to be faithful" in a marriage vow....what are we truly committing to?
The dictionary definition is straight forward enough:
Fidelity: 1. Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances.
Okay, clear enough. But in a marriage/partnership, what ARE those obligations, duties and observances. (And I couldn't help but notice that the word "sex" didn't come up anywhere in the dictionary definition.)
Maybe I should start by giving a couple of examples to illustrate my conundrum.
Husband A: Works 60 hour weeks. Often promises to be at certain events like child's birthday, soccer games, etc. But 80% of the time he misses the event, and doesn't bother to call. Is often one or two hours late, missing meals, etc. Again doesn't call, citing work, work, work. So, he is supporting his family. But is he being faithful to his wife and family? Is this reason or grounds for divorce? Well, I suppose it depends on the family's priorities. How important his presence--and his HONESTY--is to his wife. But certainly no one hearing this story would be shocked or outraged and automatically assume that his wife should leave him immediately! Yet, throw in a drunken one-night stand with a co-worker, and automatically that IS the assumption. Suddenly the marriage is in trouble...when it wasn't three hours ago.
Husband B: He's a good dad. And a reasonably good husband. He holds down a good job, tries to do his share of the household chores and plays with his children when he can on the weekend. He has fun with "the boys", occasionally going to hockey games and out for a drink afterwards, and encourages his wife to do the same with her girlfriends from time to time. However, although he would be fine with his wife going out for coffee with a male colleague from work that she considers a friend and whose company she enjoys, he does not have that same freedom. His wife's old-world attitudes and jealousy prevents him from so much as having lunch with a female friend or colleague. But he does anyway. He has a close, but completely platonic friendship with a woman he met at one of the kid's soccer games, but is compelled to keep the friendship a secret because his wife would freak out if she knew he had a female friend in any capacity. Now, who is being "unfaithful" in this scenario? Certainly honesty is a huge issue in any relationship, and the fact that he's lying to her about his activities, is a breach of trust. Ah, but isn't trust exactly the issue? Is the wife not culpable to some degree for putting unreasonable expectations on her husband? For her lack of trust in him? Should he deny himself a meaningful friendship simply because the person happens to have the wrong sex organs? And to placate his wife's possessiveness? Is his wife being faithful...to him?
And why...seriously why is sex the culminating factor in any "extra marital affair." Shallow or not, you can easily have sex without emotional or personal involvement. You can have sex without ever learning the other person's name. But you can't have a "friendship" like that. And yet a platonic friendship which exists outside a marriage is far more acceptable, even encouraged--especially if it's with a same sex counterpart--than a brief, relatively anonymous sexual encounter. Why is anonymous sex more threatening to a marriage than a close--albeit platonic--friendship?
So, yes...okay...there are some arguments for putting sex on a level, or in a category all by itself. The risk of pregnancy is a huge, and very valid concern. If a member of a partnership conceives a child with someone outside that partnership, that has huge ramifications for the relationship, and understandably so. But these days there are myriad ways to avoid that development. Everything from condoms to surgery. So, if we take that factor out of the equation, what does that leave us?
The Bible. I know that's a big one, but frankly, I don't accept that argument at all. Personally, I find people use religious arguments only as it suits them. So, unless you are willing to swear that you have never read or enjoyed erotica or pornography, that you have never "spilled your seed" with the sin of masturbation, or indulged in the sin of sodomy (which, by the way includes oral sex as well as anal), that you remained a virgin until your wedding night, that adultery and homosexuality are punishable by death, and that women shouldn't be allowed to cut their hair...you have no right to bring religion into it. You either have to accept ALL the rules that the Bible lays out or none of them. You can't just personally pick and choose which sexual acts are sins and which are not. At least not in this forum. I won't accept it.
You could say that sex is a risky encounter. Certainly that is true. Regardless of how many layers of condoms you put on, there is still the risk of picking up an STD and potentially transferring it to the spouse at home. But sex isn't the only activity that involves risk. What of the man who travels to Mexico, ingests a bad glass of water, or cuts his foot on a piece of contaminated glass on the beach and brings a case of Hepatitis home for the honey? Or what of the woman who enjoys rock climbing, and habitually puts herself at risk on the faces of various cliffs and mountains? The risk is to her alone, but there are certainly implications to the family if she ends up plummeting to her death...or almost worse yet, is critically injured and ends up a paraplegic and needs perpetual care from the spouse and, perhaps, others. Simply driving on the freeway holds the same risk--perhaps more so. Does this mean we should prohibit each other from indulging in these types of activities? Is that reasonable? Of course not. So the element of risk, all on its own, is not a valid argument.
There is the "promise of fidelity," that most of us make in our marriage vows. But again, does that apply only to sexual fidelity? Certainly when you hear that someone has been "unfaithful" that is the first conclusion that we leap to. But is that correct? Or even reasonable? As I pointed out in my examples there are many ways to be faithful--or to break that faithfulness.
In my opinion there are three things that constitute faithfulness in a marriage or partnership: Honesty and Priority. And from these things follow Trust.
Being faithful to someone means being honest with them. About everything. About your feelings, your hopes, your doubts, what you want and what you don't want. But it also means making that partner your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. That does not mean that you spend every waking minute with them, or that every decision that you make, right down to what you have for lunch must involve that other person. But it does mean that each member of that partnership should know and trust that their feelings are always considered in any major decision. That they are the main focus of the other person's life--yes even above work and career and sports and yes, children. That regardless of how many outside friendships or hobbies, or whatever, that the other person has, that they will always take second-place to the life, love, feelings and expectations of the partner. However these expectations should not be unreasonable, or infringe on the other person's hopes, dreams, interests and wellbeing. And therein lies the trust. Each must trust the other to be honest and to set them as their priority...but within reason.
So, it's not simple. It is very complicated, but most wortwhile things are. It is a delicate balance, and one that all too often fails.
But my point is that sex...all on its own...should not be enough to throw it all out of wack. And if extramarital sex can be incorporated into a relationship with the full knowledge and consent of the other partner...as in the case of the threesomes or foursomes that I have been known to write about in my books, for example. Or even "open" relationships like I've heard rumour that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett entertain...then what's wrong with that?
I'm not saying I "approve" of extra-marital affairs, especially in the case of extended, long-term secret "love affairs." Or that I approve of the activities of those like Tiger Woods or Jesse James. Or even drunken one night stands. Not at all. But I am asking if one such mistake is worth throwing away a marriage over. And if there are not other issues that should be taken much more seriously.
I'm just trying to paint a bigger picture. I'm calling into question the assumption that being faithful to one another applies to sex--and only to sex. And if you strongly feel that sex is the be-all and end-all of fidelity...I challenge you to ask yourself why? Where does this perception come from? And if you figure that out...ask yourself if it's truly valid. I'd just like people to think about things from a slightly different perspective, to start considering the implications of their views and how it affects their relationships.
I have trouble believing that all that we are worth as a huband, wife, or partner, is summed up in the area between our legs.
What does fidelity mean to YOU?
So read, comment, ask questions, rant and rave...but most of all enjoy and open your mind to possibilities!