John the Banker

What does it mean to be “faithful,” and when does an exchange go from appropriate to inappropriate?

As a single 30-something woman who has been holding out for “the one,” I’ve thought a lot and observed even more about fidelity, and I find the topic one of constant evaluation and self-reflection.

What does it mean to choose love over fear in our romantic relationships? Often times the bonds of fidelity come from fear that cuts off the flow of life.  Is fidelity simply then, a constant, loving choice?  And what happens when those unplanned connections or attractions arise?  What does it mean to choose love then?

I have always thought of cheating – i.e. one partner having sexual relations outside of a committed relationship – as the greatest form of disrespect to a relationship, love, and the cheated on partner. The old Catholic school girl in me comes up in me around the topic of adultery, but yet, when I observe what happens in the real world around us, the Catholic school girl comes up again in her confusion, anger, and sadness around the truth that while people argue a good case for fidelity, very seldom is it honored “till death do us part.”

I stumbled across an audio segment by David Dieda today, in which he noted that 75-80% of men and 60% of women have cheated within their marriages. Those numbers are shocking to me! And then again, they aren’t.

What’s more interesting to me is looking beyond the physical act of cheating to those open energy channels between a committed partner and another.

Today on my flight from San Diego to Pheonix en route to El Paso, I woke from my custom take off nap to a friendly guy next to me striking up a conversation. He was totally harmless. I picked up nothing inauthentic from him. He put down his reading material – Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot – to chat.

Then in what was a very natural series of events, we deplaned, noted that we both had flights in 2 hours, walked over to the one sit down restaurant in the terminal, and sat down. It was all natural and normal.

Amidst the interesting conversation with John the banker from Oklahoma City, I wondered if he was single or married and I looked to see if he was wearing a ring. At that point I noticed he was talking only with his right hand and the left stayed under the table for most of the conversation. I asked, and he said yes, and still kept the left hand hidden for the most part. The truth is that he was totally respectful and harmless, and when dinner was over, we went our separate ways and I’ll never see him again.

We both offered each other something in a very kind, neighborly way. But this got me thinking about a bigger conversation of fidelity.

In Dieda’s segment, he discussed that while rates of adultery are high, it is absolutely possible for two people to only want and need each other exclusively. It is when two people can give each other a sense of freedom greater than we can access on our own that fidelity is not only possible but chosen. I took the left-hand-under-the-table choice by my friend John as an expression of guilt (and in turn, a feeling of wrongdoing), not one of freedom – even though there was really nothing to feel “guilty” about, or was there? Would his wife be uncomfortable with her husband enjoying any open channel with a single woman? When does a connection between two people go from okay to not?

And to take that one step further, as an attractive single woman, I have spent far too much of my life trying to control how I am received so that I don’t give men the wrong impression or I don’t make women feel threatened. (Though some might say, I can’t make anyone feel a certain way. How they feel is their choice and reaction separate from me). But perhaps even in that choice, I am somehow already making myself wrong for something that may not even be there.  While this choice is somewhat loving, it’s rooted in fear.

There is no doubt that we will always experience subtle urges to connect with people outside of our exclusive relationship, and it is up to each couple as to how to deal with that. We all need different kinds of attention and connections – they help us stay full and vital, I think.

I believe that the greatest disservice we can do to each other is to cut off the room for conversation around and processing of those natural urges. Whatever we suppress will come back to bite us. What we resist persists.

How can we speak truth in a way that is always an access to greater freedom? I believe that a partnership can give us greater freedom than we can experience alone. It is in that total vulnerability that consciousness can expand to places we previously could not have imagined. And yet, that favorite quote comes to mind…The truth will set you free but it will often piss you off before it does.

The truth is that I don’t believe any man or woman should be made wrong for natural urges. I believe there is a way to process them healthily.

I think about who I can be so that my partner can feel free and fully expressed and what kind of partner I need so that I can be fully expressed and supported as well. I believe in fidelity, and I suppose in that belief, I also need to be open to a conversation of the opposite.

Posting this is rather uncomfortable, as I know this topic drives up a range of conversations, beliefs, judgements, and experience.  I’m curious what it inspires in you.

2 Comments

  1. PaxRyan on September 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Fascinating and brave post, thank you for sharing. My thought on it though is that too much emphasis is placed on not cheating because it breaks the rules. Personally i break rules as it becomes useful for me (driving over the speed limit, sneaking some disguised liquor into a concert, etc.) . But i have never and would never cheat on a romantic relationship. The reason is that in a loving (and not necesarily to say in-love) relationship, you want what is best for the other. Cheating is not best for the other for reasons ranging from health safety to ego damage. Sure, i have natural urges towards sex and i feel them even towards people other than the committed partners i have had. But i do not have a human desire (as opposed to an animal one) to cheat. By way of analogy, the reason that a good parent does not decide one day to get drunk, invite crazy people over to the family house for a party and not bother to cook a couple of meals in a row is NOT because this could bring them legal trouble, it is because they love their family and children and would not want to bring the risk and distress to them that these actions would bring. i think we should love for the sake of love, not for the sake of following the rules – i think it’s more likely to make a healthy and lasting relationship anyway:-) AND, it creates more freedom in a relationship too! If John the Banker was not hitting on you because it would hurt or endanger his wife, he would be able to keep both hands above the table. It was only because he was not hitting on you in order to not break the rules that he was uncomfortable.

    • Stephanie on September 6, 2011 at 7:16 am

      Thank you for the thoughtful response, Ryan. Love is a choice we make everyday, in every moment. I agree that action based in conscious choice, not fear, is sustainable, honest, and fulfilling

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