Loyalty vs Fidelity
(Before we continue, let’s get another word out in the clear. To commit adultery, you have to be married – being engaged or exclusively dating doesn’t count. You can’t be an adulterer or adulteress until after you are married.)
So, fidelity hinges on those words “vows” and “duties.” This implies a formality of communication. If you are concerned with fidelity in your relationships, you have to decide exactly what this means to you. Then, you have to clearly communicate this meaning to your partner. You have to be explicit with each other about expectations.
What are your vows? What are your duties? Is practicing “non-consensual non-monogamy” (better known as “cheating”) a deal-breaker for you? What about cases of polyamory or open relationships, can you still have issues of fidelity? What are your ground rules?
Fidelity has to do with the compulsory regulation of natural human sexuality. I don’t believe that love gives you a moral duty to impose romantic restrictions on others. Or yourself.
Restrictions lead to resentment. That’s why I’m not much concerned with fidelity. A much better concept is loyalty.
Loyalty means having a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment. Loyalty is about providing unconditional support and honest communication. Loyalty is of ethical interest because being devotedly attached to your family, friends, a cause, or a relationship is a virtue. It is a quality of being morally sound.
Fidelity is not a virtue. At best, it is an obligation. And remember, I am always encouraging you to go after lustful relationships, and not obligatory relationships.
I believe that if you love someone truly, you need to accept them without judgment or conditions. Instead of imposing restrictions, you accept that person’s every desire. If your partner recognizes natural urges to be intimate with others and expresses a desire to do so, you should embrace this desire and candid communication. With honesty and devotion, you can explore this together.
Fidelity says, “I’m possessive and insecure. I don’t trust your natural desires. I must restrict them to make sure that I don’t lose you or get hurt.”
Loyalty says, “I’m generous and sure of my own self-worth. I trust and embrace all your desires. I want you to be free and happy. With love and devotion, I want you to get all you desire and deserve.”
A deceptive person cheats. But only a desperate person denies her own desires.
A person devoted to a lover, yet loyal to her own desires, finds a way to get both of their needs met. It’s a challenge that requires openness and extreme honesty, but it’s worth it.