Emotional Infidelity

Mormon Praying CoupleIn a time when marriage is taken lightly by many, those who do make a commitment to fidelity often think they need only avoid physical content or romantic interactions and words. However, God requires far more of us than those simple limitations. Crossing the boundaries into a too-personal relationship with someone of the opposite gender places a marriage in jeopardy. Even when the relationship doesn’t become romantic or physical, the spouse can be hurt, the marriage can be damaged, and the person crossing the boundaries places herself into a situation where it becomes easier to move to the next, even more dangerous level.

A recent article by a professor of social work at Brigham Young University examined the issue of emotional infidelity.

“Fidelity includes refraining from physical contact—but that is not all. Fidelity also means complete commitment, trust, and respect between husband and wife. Inappropriate interactions with another person can erode fidelity.” (See Kenneth W. Matheson, “Fidelity in Marriage: It’s More Than You Think,” Ensign, Sep 2009, 12–16.)

Matheson uses as an example a composite story of a woman who has developed a close friendship with a co-worker. They begin spending a great deal of time together at work, including lunches, and emailing and texting when apart. She shares with him the types of bonding conversations she ought to be sharing with her husband—dreams, fears, and emotions. Her husband is quiet and not comfortable with this type of conversation, so she found it natural to turn to a man who was comfortable with it. She didn’t think she was committing infidelity because she wasn’t involved in a physical or romantic way. It was just a friendship.

However, others began to notice how much she talked about this other man and how close they had become. Finally her sister convinced her to take a look at the following questions:

  • “Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse?”
  •  “Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you’re at home?”
  •  “Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend even when work doesn’t require you to be together?”
  •  “Do you e-mail and text your friend when you’re not together?”
  •  “Have you told your spouse about these messages?”
  •  “Does the relationship with your friend take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse?”
  •  “Do you compare your spouse to your friend?”
  •  “Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?”

 

When the woman honestly answered the questions, she realized she was indeed violating her sacred marriage vows and sought counsel from her religious leader.

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:5-6).

These verses help us understand marriage is not simply physical fidelity, but also emotional fidelity. When we have fears, joys, and dreams, we need to share them with our spouse, allowing him to be a fully participating partner in our lives. When we offer those intimate thoughts to a person of the opposite gender, we are allowing that person to become too emotionally involved in our hearts and lives, and pushing away our spouse.

Building a relationship that is too close can also lead to gossip, and we are counseled to avoid the appearance of evil. If others can interpret the friendship as a romance, simply by the quantity of time spent together, gossip can begin, which damages the reputations of everyone involved, and can increase the pain of the spouse.

Matheson recommends evaluating your relationships with those of the opposite gender, using the questions outlined above. If problems are found, it is wise to seek advice from your religious leader and to talk to your spouse. Then a plan should be set up to strengthen the marriage. You cannot change your spouse, so you have to change yourself instead. Praising a spouse for taking the time to do those things you found lacking in your marriage, and making a special effort on your own part to share more with him will do a great deal to strengthen the marriage and to lighten the temptation to turn to others.

Read the entire article: Kenneth W. Matheson, “Fidelity in Marriage: It’s More Than You Think,” Ensign, Sep 2009, 12–16

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