Fidelity in marriage is essential to strengthening families, communities, and nations. Fidelity includes emotional or spiritual loyalty as well as physical faithfulness.
We learn from “The Family – A Proclamation to the World” that the “family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. … We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.”
Kenneth W. Matheson, a professor in the School of Social Work at Brigham Young University, explains why fidelity in marriage is so important. “When a spouse has developed a relationship that compromises his or her spiritual fidelity, he or she should be humble and take the necessary steps to restore the marital relationship…. Physical infidelity is only one of the many temptations Satan uses to break up families and marriages. Emotional infidelity, which occurs when emotions and thoughts are focused on someone other than a spouse, is an insidious threat that can weaken the trust between a couple and shatter peace of mind.
“Emotional infidelity doesn’t usually happen suddenly; rather, it occurs gradually – often imperceptibly at first…. Relationships with others of the opposite sex are not in and of themselves a problem or a fracture of fidelity. [These relationships are often] “meaningful” [and] “have a balanced and important place in our lives.” However, compromising on spiritual fidelity can create emotional heartbreak, distrust, and marital conflict. If not corrected, this can lead to physical infidelity.”
The first step in the right direction is the “willingness to admit there [is] a problem.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must realize that “attitudes, thoughts, and actions [can] jeopardize [their] ability to hold a temple recommend.”
The author recommends that we stop using the term “emotional infidelity” and start using the term “spiritual infidelity.” “This phrase underscores the seriousness of the choices we make because it recognizes the eternal potential of our marital relationships as well as the importance of acting in accordance with the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Spiritual fidelity also causes us to consider the sacred covenants we have made in the temple and how the very nature of our thoughts and deeds can undermine those covenants. In other words, if a person is unfaithful spiritually, he is not honoring his temple covenants even though he has not committed physical acts of intimacy.”
The author says that when we “think in terms of spiritual fidelity, we also open the door for healing and hope. When a spouse has developed a relationship that compromises his or her spiritual fidelity, he or she should be humble and take the necessary steps to restore the marital relationship. Fasting, prayer, temple attendance, scripture study, and pondering the Lord’s teachings are essential in helping one remain pure and true to one’s spouse and in healing the relationship.” (See “Fidelityin Marriage: It’s More Than You Think,”Ensign, September 2009.)
I recognize that slipping into spiritual infidelity is easy. Early in my marriage I was working as a secretary in a bank and enjoyed visiting with one of the vice presidents. He was older than I and a former bishop. There was nothing inappropriate in our relationship. One day when I went home for lunch, I found the Church News in my mailbox. While I was eating my sandwich, I read one of the editorials on the back page. The article was about fidelity in marriage and how easily a person can slip into spiritual unfaithfulness. I recognized that I was in danger even though I felt no attraction for the man. I took the article back to the bank with me and put it on the man’s desk. I explained that my marriage and his marriage were too important for us to continue the relationship as it had been. He read the article and agreed with my assessment. We worked together as professionals, and my husband and I hunted pheasants with him. However, we never sat and visited as we had previously done.
We must exercise fidelity in marriage, both spiritual and physical, in order to keep our marriages strong. Fidelity in marriage strengthens families, communities, and nations.