This is my third and final 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 Lundberg’s 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
In Part 2 of this blog triad, I addressed the first five behaviors, poking at potential issues in the Lundberg’s list. In this blog entry, I am poking at the last five behaviors.
DRESSING TO ATTRACT THE INTEREST OF SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOUR SPOUSE
While this is purely an internal decision, it is certainly open to external judgment. Intention is a microscopic truth. Anyone can accuse me of unfaithful motives but there is no way for them to know my actual intention unless I identify it and communicate it. Besides, who set the rules about what is attractive to others? Research has proven that each of us is attracted to different people (shapes, sizes, ethnicities, genders, and so forth) and a variety of looks. Hey, what if I am dressing to please myself? I am “someone other than my spouse”… Does this mean that if I am married, I have to dress just for my partner’s pleasure and/or acceptance? If that happens to be attractive to someone other than my spouse, am I then unfaithful? I would really like to know what in my closet is off limits. Certain colors or fabrics? Skirts? Dresses? Shoes with heels? Form-fitting pants? Shorts? If I wear a bathing suit at the beach, am I unfaithful? Do I have to purposely dress so as to NOT attract the interest of someone other than my spouse? So… old dirty, ill-fitting track suit maybe? Moo-moo? Do I just purchase the most frumpy and ugly clothing I can find? Maybe to play it safe I should just get a burka…
WRITING PERSONAL INTIMATE NOTES OR LETTERS TO SOMEONE ELSE
Wait… what do we mean by “personal” and “intimate”? If anything personal is shared like thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, and ideas, I’m unfaithful? I cannot correspond with friends because they or I might suddenly feel a more than friendly attraction? If can’t share about my personal life, I guess I’m limited to gossip about others, the weather, current events, and planning logistics. Intimate… often this word is code for sex-related. But, what if we already have established emotional intimacy with old, longtime friends or distant family members? How do we handle that? Tell them that we can’t write to them anymore because we are getting married and don’t want to be unfaithful? It makes more sense that we avoid seeking out and entering into overtly sexy or romantically oriented correspondence with people we find sexually attractive. Again, internal intention is key. Is the correspondence happening with the intention of inciting excitement, avoiding dealing with difficulties with the spouse, or creating an “exit strategy” from the marriage? Or, are we just sharing with a trusted individual who happens to be of compatible gender and sexual orientation but holds no romantic/sexual connection?
NOT BEING A WILLING SEXUAL PARTNER WITH YOUR SPOUSE
I think “willing” is the key word. Sometimes we aren’t able or available to engage sexually with the spouse at their level of want/need. The clearest acceptable reasons are usually physical (illness or injury). But things get hazy when moving into the realms of mental and emotional issues. If my spouse is depressed, is that “willing” or “able”? If she’s recently been traumatized, willing or able? What about day-to-day stressors like working overtime or handling family challenges? If I feel exhausted, is that about unwillingness or dis-ability? What if each spouse has a very different level of sex drive? Does this mean that despite one spouse feeling tired, preoccupied, upset, stressed, grief-stricken and so forth that if the other spouse wants to engage sexually, the emotionally/mentally wrought spouse is officially unfaithful if they don’t participate in the sexual interaction? Now, I can see that a level of unfaithfulness might be involved when one attempts to “punish” their spouse by withholding sexual interaction. Otherwise, this seems like a potentially hazy area.
PUTTING YOUR PARENTS/CHILDREN BEFORE YOUR SPOUSE
Since the last two are so similar, I’ve woven them into one line item. Taken at face value, I agree. But, digging deeper I wonder about situational exceptions … For example, what if my parents or children are ill, injured, or dying and my spouse is feeling neglected because of all the time I am spending away from home to provide caregiving? Perhaps, we need to take a closer look at what “before” means in this context. If it means don’t purposely punish my spouse by paying attention to other family members in order to avoid interacting with the spouse, I agree. If it means first sharing vital information with them and not the spouse, I also agree. However, if it means I must get some sort of permission from my partner to divert significant time, attention, and resources toward my folks or kids when they need it, I take issue. If it means I can’t share important information with parents/kids until I first make contact with my spouse who is unavailable/incommunicado due to travel, work requirements/restrictions, health, or some other reason, again I take issue. So once more, things aren’t so cut and dried due to circumstances. Each partner’s intentions (microscopic truth) as well as the specific situation are vital when determining what to do.
Come ON people… even when we rationalize and deny it, deep down we darn well KNOW when we are engaging in unfaithful behavior. In short, when we non-consensually choose to divert romantic and/or sexual energy toward anyone outside of the primary relationship, we do so with INTENTION. Maybe we want to hurt the spouse. Maybe we choose to diminish/disrespect the primary relationship out of boredom or because we yearn for more attention beyond what we get from our spouse. To me, unfaithful behavior is chosen behavior and includes:
1) inciting jealousy to get the spouse’s attention
2) withholding microscopic truth about our needs and desires because we are angry/disappointed that the spouse isn’t a psychic or adept enough at reading our body language and taking our hints
3) using or even punishing the spouse by secretly giving up on nurturing romance and intimacy in the primary relationship, directing that juicy, exciting energy elsewhere, and making excuses to avoid honest communication with the spouse
4) seeking and engaging in the excitement of novelty interactions with others and deceiving the spouse about it to avoid facing their upset and/or wrath (sometimes disguised as wanting to “protect” the spouse from feeling hurt because the spouse is unwilling or unable to “meet my needs”)
Can you think of other behaviors and situations that translate to unfaithfulness? If you want to add your two cents, please share. Meanwhile, I invite you to ponder the Lundberg’s article as well as my corresponding blog posts and check inside yourself for your microscopic truth. What would prompt you to engage in unfaithful behavior? Do you agree that you can be unfaithful and not know it? Can you be unfaithful yet purposely indulge in rationalization or denial about it? Have you ever engaged in unfaithful behavior? How did it feel? How did it impact your spouse? Your primary relationship? Have you witnessed your spouse engaging in behavior you believe is unfaithful? How did/would you deal with it?
Powerful topic. If you are moved, please respond with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Until next time… be well.