Of course, as with anything else in life, honesty must be a core value of both partners, and not just a value given lip service but one that is practiced everyday. Honesty becomes even more important to those who have suffered the pain of infidelity.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, in their book Boundaries in Marriage, write:
Our notion of faithfulness in marriage is too often shallow. We generally think of it only in the physical realm. Yet, in many marriages spouses are physically faithful but not emotionally faithful. They are faithful with their bodies but not with their hearts. . . . There is little trust, little certainty, little saftey. Especially in religious circles, people think that if they are not sleeping with someone other than their spouse, they are being faithful. (p.131)
The authors contend that the notion of faithfulness must be applied to all areas of life — not just the sexual relationship.
Faithfulness within the context of marriage means giving yourself completely to someone. . . being willing to share all of life — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We know there are many ways to be unfaithful in marriage. Apart from having an all-out sexual encounter with another person, consider these possibilities:
- Communication. Engaging in secretive e-mails, IMs, text messages, or phone calls with someone other than your spouse. (Note: Consider it secretive if your partner doesn’t know about it!) The communications need not be sexual in nature to constitute a red flag. After all, “innocent” exchanges provide the foundation on which illicit affairs are built.
- Time. Spending excessive — or steadily increasing — amounts of time investing in things that are not related to the marriage relationship. These may include work, hobbies, friendships with others, the computer, etc.
- Money. Invariably money can be a big source of unfaithfulness as well. Does your partner know where your money is going? Oftentimes when couples struggle financially, it is in large part due to one partner’s on-the-side “investment” in unreported activities or interests. Over time these expenditures can leave the family struggling to meet basic needs.
Protecting the marriage must involve careful assessment of all areas of the relationship. It also must involve:
- Time together. This might seem like a real no-brainer, but you might be surprised at the number of couples that really don’t have much time together during the course of a normal week. Between hectic work schedules, school and extra-curricular activities, and church/community involvement, time together suffers tremendously. And without time together (both quality and quantity), communication and intimacy suffers as well. Time together should be a top priority for both partners.
- Honesty and openness. Be willing to share with your partner details of your day, including where you went, who you saw or talked to, things you bought, etc. When the need for privacy begins to outweigh the need for openness, trouble is often on the horizon. Those who struggle with being honest — or who are unable to appropriately receive honesty from their partner — may do well to seek some counseling in this area.
- Healthy boundaries. Cells have selectively permeable membranes (or boundaries) that allow good stuff in and keep bad stuff out. That kind of membrane preserves the integrity of the cell and allows it the best chance for survival. Like that cell, your marriage must have boundaries as well. We get some sense of what is good and bad from our faith experience and religious views. However, many areas regarding boundaries will be discovered through respectful discussions with your spouse. Boundaries ultimately determine the couples default settings for such things as opposite-sex friendships, interpersonal communication, and the like.