Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable, than fidelity. (Cicero)
Disturbing statistics: 22% of men and 14% of women admit to having an affair during their marriage. Even more disturbing statistics: 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught. (www.statisticbrain.com)
This past weekend, our friends' son was married to a beautiful girl. As with most weddings, there were flowers, dresses, food and promises of love and faithfulness until death. There were also the fun things, like the silly song that the bride’s family sang to the groom called “Lukey Pukey” (don’t ask) and the square dancing in the barn (Allen and I had left feet, six feet, or just a lack of dancing ability - we did get our 10,000 steps for which we were thankful).
We were reminded again and again that day about the second WTF in our series of F words - FIDELITY.
This very word is designed to evoke trust (probably why there is a huge bank who has the name). With it comes the ideas of loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support.
For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind with the word fidelity in marriage is the sexual relationship (the “forsake all others” part).
When Allen and I meet with engaged couples, we ask them, no matter whether or not they are currently sexually active, to give each other the “gift of sexual integrity” during the mentoring process. It is basically a sexual fast for the four to six months we explore all aspects of their relationship before the big day. For many, this is a no-brainer. They understand the deeper reasons behind this request:
building of trust
providing a basic litmus test of self-control and patience
exploring spiritual and emotional aspects of the relationship without the physical
entering a sexual fast (much like a food fast) to provide an environment where God can work at some deeper levels
For others, this is very difficult, and with good reason. In a society that has expectations of sleeping together as proof or the natural result of love, it may come as an odd request. At this point, we ask them to take a step of trust in us, in the mentoring process and in the Creator of marriage. We can tell you this for sure: we have never seen it backfire in our eight years of meeting with over 80 couples. We have seen relationships heal and thrive.
Allen and I were blessed, albeit for the wrong reasons of following the rules, to wait until marriage for the fulfillment of our physical union. We had no idea then what an incredible gift this was to each other. A huge benefit for me over these 26+ years is that I have never worried that Allen might have an affair. His self-control, ability to wait and integrity provided a place of complete trust for me. I am extremely thankful. It's one area of our relationship that I feel safe. I believe he does as well.
Our hearts were designed for fidelity (loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support). Not just physically. That is just the area that seems to be highlighted when this subject comes up. When we marry, we want to be chosen never to be unchosen. Marriage provides a unique backdrop for true intimacy in every area of our lives: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. It is the only human place to be fully-known and fully-loved, and as the Bible says, "naked and unashamed."
Fidelity is the framework for this intimacy. This safety net offers a place where we can fully reveal ourselves (become fully-known) to another. The fulfilled promise of loving and not leaving ("until death do us part") is huge. This brings with it the second part of intimacy, being fully-loved. Each is a requirement of the other and makes a never-ending circle of knowing and loving.
I know some of you are thinking, "But we haven't been faithful to each other." (And maybe even "you have no idea because you guys made all the right decisions," yada, yada, yada.) Remember how I said I felt safe in that one area. That's true. But we have not had complete fidelity (loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support) with each other. We are humans. We have revealed dark sides of ourselves only to be met with a lack of understanding, blame, shame, yelling (okay, I yell), shutting down and bailing out (maybe not the D (ivorce) word, but there are many ways to practice infidelity). We are still practicing (because we are not there yet by any stretch) what we preach.
Fidelity is hard work. It's big and small, long-term and in-the-moment choices to know and be known, to love and be loved. But it is worth it!
Just now, Allen called and said, "Who are we to share this message? We certainly don't have our act together. It's hard for us." We then paused and reminded each other that even though the struggle is very real for us, we are working really hard because we believe this and the message still deserves to get both in here (to us) and out there (to you)! Marriage matters! We matter! You matter! Fidelity matters!