Read Part 1

Part Two: Faithfulness

Showing commitment through faithfulness.

Committed couples interact with each other in distinctly positive ways. But how do we communicate faithfulness? Perhaps we should start with asking what faithfulness is.

For many the answer is “sexual fidelity” — we are faithful if we have not touched, kissed, or made love with someone who isn’t our spouse. However, before physical infidelity becomes an issue there are two precursors: mental and emotional unfaithfulness. In all three cases, infidelity violates a trust and breaks a bond.

Mental infidelity is the practice of fantasizing about other partners. Whenever men think “I wonder what life would be like with her,” we’ve crossed the line. Whenever women think “I love the way he listens to me,” they invest their thoughts untruly. Anytime our thoughts or beliefs begin to entertain ideas of relating to, spending time with, enjoying sex with, or daydreaming about someone else besides our mate, we’ve committed mental infidelity.

If we think a little fantasizing is harmless, recall that Jesus said doing so is adulterous.

Emotional infidelity takes things up a notch. Emotional infidelity is the habit of investing emotional and relational energy into someone besides our spouse in order to meet personal needs. Well-known infidelity researcher Shirley Glass says emotional infidelity is sharing of the inner self with another person that should be reserved for our spouse.

When relational infidelity goes unchecked, sexual infidelity may follow. Sexual infidelity registers as soon as there’s physical touch accompanied by sexual chemistry — even if you don’t admit there are sparks. Casual brushes (politely pardoned) can lead to full embraces and eventual intercourse unless someone chooses to stop.

How do we exercise faithfulness? Here are some tips.

Mental purity: “My thoughts are with you only.”

Since men tend to be visually stimulated, we need to guard our eyes. Today’s media does not make it easy for us. They know sex sells, so they try to hook us with sex at every turn. Can we say to our wife, “I only have eyes for you?”

Women tend to be relationally charged and need to guard how they think about other relationships. While good men may be hard to find, a really great guy can get you thinking unfaithfully.

When we begin to entertain unfaithful thoughts, it’s good to do a check and say aloud to ourselves, “I’m in control of my thoughts,” or “How might I make

[spouse’s name] better today?” Focusing afresh on our spouse redeems our thinking.

Relational guards: “This person is taken.”

Neal and Yolanda live in Vancouver where Neal teaches high school and Yolanda volunteers at their kids’ schools. Both are energetic, engaging middle-aged people who are attractive people.

When asked how they show emotional faithfulness, their collective wisdom was “show dibs.” Yolanda serves on school committees with male administrators, and early in the year lets them know she’s taken. “At a school event, I make sure to introduce Neal so they all know I have a husband.” Similarly, Neal said he invites Yolanda to staff parties so everyone can see he’s committed to her.

Setting relational safeguards work like waist-high fences. Both draw a line to show what, and who, belongs where, yet neither are cool or distant. We tap these fences into place every time we make little choices in word and deed that help us avoid compromising relationships.

Many people think its okay for a married person to receive emotional support from an opposite-sex colleague over lunch. But doing so blurs the lines of appropriateness. Sharing our marriage struggles with an empathetic colleague seems innocent enough, but is exactly the kind of emotional infidelity that leads to more complex involvement. While we may think everything’s above board, emotional and sexual attraction can spark quickly, igniting more than collegiality.

So, what to do? Given the gray line between emotional and sexual attraction, it’s wise to be on guard, especially at your workplace. Are you in appropriate professional relationship with your colleagues? Are you fooling yourself that you are “just friends”? Similarly, guard your broader social network. Old flames and your spouses’ friends often become potential threats to fidelity. Can you stake a fence? Finally, guard your personal computer. Some people think making a friend on the internet is an innocent activity, but long-term relating — even through email and the occasional photo — can misdirect your allegiances.

Yolanda put it well when she said, “Faithfulness isn’t all sexual. It’s multi-layered. I believe our emotions and mind can engage unfaithfully without a person actually being physically unfaithful, and that creates a wedge.”

Next steps:
Talk with an online mentor – If you need someone to talk with, confidentially contact a mentor by email today
A Conversation about Love & God – If I asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Would you tell me your job title or refer to your relationships – husband, wife, son, daughter, friend?

Written by Dr. Bill Strom

Dr. Bill Strom

Dr. Bill Strom teaches communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC. He is the author of The Relationship Project: Moving from ‘You and Me’ to ‘We’ (Beacon Hill Books) about virtues in relationships. Bill is married to Shelaine, a career coach, and they enjoy the coming and going of their young adult sons. Bill and Shelaine live in Abbotsford, BC.