fidelity in marriage, not always sexual disloyalties, hierarchy of love

The first for the husband is his wife...and vice versa

By Javier Vidal-Quadras

When we talk about fidelity, sexual infidelity immediately comes to mind. However, fidelity goes much further. I like to talk more about loyalty, which is a preference for the loved one, choosing him or her every day and putting him or her above others and above oneself. As the psychologist Aaron Beck puts it in one of his books, "I will always put her interests above those of others; I will defend her if she is criticized, and I will never take sides with others against her or limit myself to being neutral".

Infidelity to one’s Partner can Have Many Reasons

Disloyalty is not always sexual. One can be disloyal because of work, friends, hobbies, sports, one’s own peace and quiet, one’s own children! We are disloyal whenever we put any of these realities before the loved one. Yes, including one’s own children.

Everytime I talk of the hierarchy of love, the wedding of Thomas comes to mind, a good friend of mine from whom I have learned a lot. Thomas was suddenly widowed 13 years ago. He was over fifty years old. After a brief time, he met Pilar, his current wife; they fell in love and got married. At that age, one already knows what one wants and is able to size people up with a certain dexterity.

On their wedding day, at the end of the ceremony, Thomas went up to the ambo and addressed his children, who were already grown up, and before all the guests, to everyone’s surprise, he said, “Children, from today on, Pilar comes before anyone else.” That is loyalty.

The Hierarchy of Love in the Family

Many new parents have a hard time establishing this hierarchy in a clear way. And, yes, your wife, your husband comes before your children... and your parents. For us, the pediatrician solved our doubts with a piece of advice he gave to my wife that we have never forgotten. It was July 1990. Our second son had just been born, when he had to undergo surgery because of a pylorus problem that caused him immediately to vomit all the milk he had ingested. My eldest was not yet a year old and I was admitted for a week for chemotherapy for cancer that, thank God, I was able to overcome. My wife was totally overwhelmed by negotiating two hospitals and worrying about my illness and our one-year-old daughter who was left at home. The pediatrician told her, “Forget about your children. It's your husband who needs you now.” That's what she did; and that's how we have always tried to do it, both of us.

Recently, another person close to me told me that he had decided to get divorced, and he added that he was happy and at peace for having made this decision. I, without having sufficient information to judge, thought, “What a pity!” It was hard for me to conceive of a peace and happiness that is built without the person to whom I once gave my love. I remembered a phrase that someone said to me once, “Only dead fish swim with the current.”

Peace and War for Love

I think that sometimes peace - the absence of struggle - is synonymous with death, a euthanasia of love, so to speak. Perhaps, it is only a question of focus. Which peace are you looking for, your own or for the two of you? Your happiness or the happiness of both? If you seek your own, it is probable that the other will end up hindered by you. If you seek that which is for both of you, it will be your peace that hinders you, because he who loves is never at peace. He does not let himself be defeated, does not stop fighting, he does not want to imagine a peace or happiness that separates him from his beloved. He does not understand love without passion, leaving him in a peaceful state of lethargy. He does not want to float along with the current. The lover is always a non-conformist, a rebel, who lives in tension in the marvellous struggle of love, which is not peace but war: war against oneself and one’s own temptations for an individualistic, perhaps solitary, peace. It is only the muscle that is in tension that has the capacity to grow and develop.

In the end, life is very complicated and there are difficult situations that one cannot judge lightly; but a peace without him, without her, I say again, “What a pity!” Ask yourself: are you sure that you cannot do anything more, a last push to go upstream before giving up? You can do it!