This is my second post addressing a recent article by Joy and Gary Lundberg: 10 ways you are being unfaithful to your spouse — and you don’t even know it. (find it on FamilyShare.com). In the article, the Lundbergs assert that if you are married and doing ANY of the following behaviors, you are being unfaithful to your spouse and your marriage:
2) Confiding in the opposite gender
3) Spending time alone with someone else
4) Talking negatively about your mate
5) Chatting on the Internet with someone of the opposite sex
6) Dressing to attract the interest of someone other than your spouse
7) Writing personal intimate notes or letters to someone else
8) Not being a willing sexual partner with your spouse
9) Putting your parents before your spouse
10) Putting your children before your spouse
Upon reflection, there can be multiple perspectives on each behavior. One perspective is purely from external judgment without considering the intentions and goals of the spouse and the situation in general. Another perspective is from the inside intentions/motives of the person engaging in the behavior, what Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks in their book, Conscious Loving, would call the “microscopic truth”. Lets look at the first half of the list…
What IS flirting, anyway? The Lundbergs assert that flirting “usually involves speaking and behaving in a way that suggests a mildly greater intimacy than the actual relationship between the parties would justify, though within the rules of social etiquette, which generally disapproves of a direct expression of sexual interest… accomplished by communicating a sense of playfulness or irony… Body language can include flicking the hair, eye contact, brief touching, etc.” So, if I am playful or use irony with someone other than my spouse, I am automatically unfaithful? I have to remember not to flick my hair or make eye contact with anyone other than my spouse? And how does the suggestion of “a mildly greater intimacy” all of a sudden translate to sexual interest? The Lundbergs say that flirting “is a full-on form of unfaithfulness that leads to no good.” Flirting is an invitation to pursue a relationship? That sounds like a rather far fetched bridge from a bit of eye contact and a playful comment to “hey, let’s have sex and get into a relationship so I can be unfaithful to my partner.”
CONFIDING IN THE OPPOSITE GENDER
First, this one is just blatantly heterocentric. It doesn’t really work so well if my sexual orientation is gay or lesbian. And what if I am bisexual or sapiosexual or just sexually oriented in a non-heterosexual way? Who the hell am I supposed to confide in when I am fighting with my spouse or confused about my spouse giving me the long term cold shoulder? The Lundbergs suggest that if you can’t talk things through with your spouse, your best bet is to meet with a “trusted relative, clergyman, or therapist.” However, we all know that unfortunately relatives, clergy, and therapists are all human beings and not immune from crossing boundaries despite the predefined nature of the relationship or ethical and legal ramifications. Again, the Lundbergs imply that emotional intimacy with anyone other than the heterosexual spouse automatically equals unfaithfulness.
I can see my spouse doing the listed behaviors and judge them as being unfaithful. But, what if my same-gender spouse is confiding in a good friend (same or opposite gender) to receive assistance in getting clear on how to best clear things up with me from our latest conflicting interaction? Automatically unfaithful?
SPENDING TIME ALONE WITH SOMEONE ELSE
What if I am on a business trip, riding an elevator and some attractive person other than my spouse steps in and it’s just the two of us for 18 floors? Unfaithful? And I’m curious about all the married people who act with others who are not their spouse in theatrical productions, television shows, and films doing love scenes. Sex scenes… Are THEY all lumped into the unfaithful bucket? Recently, I listened to an interview with a married actor who was directed to spend a considerable amount of time alone with another (also married) actor to rehearse a sex scene in their underwear. It felt “inappropriate” and “weird” to the actor who participated but still, she did it. By their definition, the Lundbergs would pronounce the actors unfaithful. I’m married, therefore I automatically require a chaperone if I want to spend quiet time with a good friend. What is alone? Does it count if we are out for coffee “alone” at a table for two? Taking a hike? Carpooling? In their backyard? In the community swimming pool? Again, look at this from outside and then from inside. From the outside, it can look suspiciously unfaithful. From the inside, there is zero romantic/sexual attraction and mostly brotherly/sisterly love. In essence, the Lundberg’s are telling us that our internal experiences, our intentions are invalid… that we cannot trust ourselves. Yike!
TALKING NEGATIVELY ABOUT YOUR MATE
This one seems kind of extreme. Sometimes, I judge others, including my mate. Sometimes, I say things that reflect negatively on others, including my mate. It’s not pretty, but come on… unfaithful?! Last time I checked, we are human and most of us operate at a high level of unconscious habit which is conducive to more frequent experiences of frustration and anger when we don’t get what we want. In my frustration, to avoid yelling at my mate, I vent to my best girlfriend that my beloved is an utter slob and overly needy recently and I’m suddenly unfaithful… even though the venting helps me calm the hell down and see MY part in our recent difficulties so I can go back and communicate effectively and with loving kindness with my spouse. Nope. Unfaithful.
CHATTING ON THE INTERNET WITH SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX
Okay, but what if that someone is a work colleague and you are chatting about a project? What if that someone is a customer service agent or sales representative? Welcome to the 21st Century… chat applications are used quite a lot and sometimes the people chatting are of the opposite sex. AGENT: “Hi! I’m John. How can I help you?” ME: “I need to do this with a woman, John. I’ve been told that chatting with you makes me unfaithful to my spouse.” Now, I CAN see where chatting on the internet with some random person found on a dating or sex hookup site is a pretty blatant act of unfaithfulness. But then I would think it’s not so much the chatting as the lead up from an intention to seek out someone on the dating or sex site.
So, this is halfway through the list. Intention, intention, intention. I don’t see the behaviors as inherently bad and blatantly unfaithful so much as the internal motivation, the microscopic truth of the one engaging in said behaviors. Your thoughts?
Part 3 will cover the rest of the list, so stay tuned!