Asking yourself to define infidelity may seem like a silly question at first. You may be thinking, “Well of course I know what infidelity is. It is…”
Of the hundreds of couples I have supported through their struggle with infidelity so few have clearly defined it for themselves and their partner. Sometimes we think, “Well I will just know because it will hurt.” That may work for you, but your partner may feel “hurt” by different behaviors. This is why creating a clear definition is so important. It establishes boundaries and expectations that are understood by each partner.
Is it infidelity if I have coffee with a co-worker alone? What about dinner? What if I am not attracted to them? Does it matter if I tell you before or after the dinner? What if I didn’t tell you and you discover it through our credit card statement? If I meet up twice is it considered for business? Do you begin to feel uncomfortable after you hear of the third meeting?
- Is looking at pornography considered infidelity?
- Is sharing intimate details about your marriage and violating that inner circle of trust that is reserved for only the two of you infidelity?
- If you send the occasional flirtatious message that makes you feel alive and young again are you cheating?
- What if you catch yourself fantasizing about another person while having sex with your partner?
I’m not telling you that you need to create an exhaustive list of possibilities for infidelity with your partner. That would be torturous and impossible. However, I am saying you need to give some thought to what you are, and are not, comfortable with. You then need to open a conversation about this with your partner. A list does you know good if it never makes it from your mind to your partner’s ears.
Your Personal Definition of Infidelity
What you consider to be infidelity is greatly impacted by your culture, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, family of origin, friends, media, and so on. For example: A Southern Baptist couple in their mid 40s may consider privately viewing pornography to be an act of infidelity while a couple living on the East Coast may see viewing pornography as a way to stoke the flames in the bedroom. A suburban couple who owns their own small business may consider their partner going to dinner with someone of the opposite sex alone to be unnerving. Another couple living in downtown Dallas may consider their partner going to dinner with someone of the opposite sex to be no big deal as it is part of their weekly routine.
My point is, the way it should or shouldn’t be, good or bad, right or wrong. There is only what is best for you and your partner. However, if we never begin the conversation with our partner we are left assuming what they are, and are not comfortable with. This can end up with a partner, and your family, in pain.