Fidelity (was Re: Zinka and Deep Secret)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat May 3 01:52:32 EDT 2003


On Fri, 2 May 2003 16:54:40 +0100, Philip.Belben at eme.co.uk wrote:

>It is basically suggesting that you give your whole person exclusively to your
>partner (is this applied to any relationship, or just some relationships?).  I
>can see that this is a logical extension of giving your sexual attentions
>exclusively to your partner, but I don't think that fidelity is really about
>exclusivity with respect to self.  It's more about inclusivity with respect to
>your partner - accepting the whole person.
>
>I'm finding this difficult to express, partly because I am single - never
>married, at the moment not even "going out" with anyone.  Can anyone else do
>better?

I don't know...it's a little late, and I'm avoiding some work I still have
to do, so this may be rather incoherent.

My perspective as an old married lady is that fidelity encompasses a whole
bunch of things.  I'm going to stipulate sexual fidelity as this is
something that most marital relationships assume as part of your vows;
something like an open marriage would be different, but to be perfectly
inclusive I'll just say that sexual fidelity means keeping whatever promises
of that nature you made at marriage.  (I'm really not equipped to speak to
any kind of permanent relationship except between husband and wife, but I
think that all these principles likely apply to all relationships where the
participants are trying to create some kind of long-term, um, relationship.)

Some spouses do seem to believe that they ought to be the main companion,
confidant(e? can't spell, too tired), or whatever to their husband or wife.
This is *not* encompassed by marital fidelity; it's possessiveness and is
often the precursor to abuse.  Being married should not mean giving up all
prior commitments, but rather rearranging their importance.

(By the way, everything I'm about to say does not apply when you have an
abusive spouse.  In my opinion, that's grounds for a person to leave,
period.  So if I say "stick with your spouse through it all" that does not
include situations where the person is beating you.  I'm too tired to have
to keep repeating that.)

Anyway, emotional fidelity is a little more nebulous.  It's somewhere
between insisting that your spouse cut all ties to other people and doing
whatever you feel like regardless of how it affects your husband or wife.
Basically, once the first rosy flush of passion fades, love turns into
something very different--something that requires a lot of work.  Emotional
fidelity means that you will stick by your spouse even when he or she isn't
inspiring the warm fuzzies the way they did when you were first dating.  It
also means that you work at making your spouse your best friend--someone you
can share everything with, tell your problems to, trust with your secrets,
etc.  This isn't all-encompassing, though.  Here's a little story:  Tonight
I dragged Jacob to X2: X-Men United, and when we walked into the theater, we
saw a mutual friend there alone.  He told us that his wife wasn't interested
in seeing it, so he came by himself.  While we waited for the show to start,
we talked about a number of geek-related things, all of which his wife
either hated or was indifferent to.  Basically, this guy isn't able to share
a lot of his interests with his spouse the way I am.  And yet their marriage
is extremely stable--having survived chronic illness, financial instability,
and some other difficulties.  They have built a connection on a level that
is far more important than the superficialities of hobbies or education.
The guy goes out and does stuff with his guy friends; the wife does things
with her girl friends.

Which leads to the next point.  I have no idea how stringent Sally's
referred-to article was being about becoming good friends with someone who
might be a potential sexual partner if you were unmarried, but I do think
there is a point at which such a relationship becomes inappropriate.  To
clarify, I'm going to assume a hypothetical trio: a husband, a wife, and the
wife's good male friend.  There's nothing wrong with the wife having friends
of the opposite sex.  Her male friend might be someone who shares interests
that she doesn't share with her husband; he might be someone she's known for
much longer than she's known her husband; and so forth.  But if there comes
a time when the woman starts turning to her male friend for the kind of
comfort she ought to be getting from her husband, her marriage may very
likely be in jeopardy.  And this, in my opinion, is a form of infidelity.
When you are looking for something from another person that you should
*legitimately* be getting from your spouse, you're saying you don't trust
the person you married to fulfil the vows you both agreed to.

At this point, there is usually a chorus of "yeah, but"s in which we cite
all the possible exceptions to this rule.  This is why I stress the word
"legitimately."  Casual conversation is okay.  Conspiring with another
person to give your spouse a really great gift is a good secret to keep.
Building a deep emotional relationship that could lead to sex is *not*
legitimate.

And then we're back to sex again.  The thing is, most intimate relationships
end up being about sex; it tends to be a very defining factor.  And I think
that's why sexual fidelity is usually so important to a marital
relationship.  There has been a lot written and discussed about the
socioeconomic factors involved with women's and men's sexuality, but I think
for most people, probably not on a conscious level, sex is a way of
expressing a connection that you do not have with anyone else--something
both intimate and unique.  And for a lot of women (I don't know if it's the
same for men or not) emotional attraction inspires the desire for that
sexual contact.  So whether or not an emotional connection to another man is
infidelity, it does represent a very real danger to her current
relationship.

I've forgotten whether I had a point, and this sounds like a lecture.
Sorry.  Short version (hahaha, see how you had to read the whole stupid
thing to get the summary?  From now on I will post abstracts at the top to
save all y'all the grief) is that infidelity is never as simple as just not
having sex with anyone else.  If you get married, and you want to stay
married for a long time, it helps if you can consider yourself part of a
team working toward that goal.  If your attention is diverted elsewhere,
your team won't be nearly as effective.

Melissa Proffitt
(married for 11 years, since I was almost 20, and marrying young really does
make it harder, in case anyone was wondering)

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