The Rules of Fidelity

by Dennis Neder - Date: 2007-07-23 - Word Count: 1283 Share This!

Doctor Neder:

I am in a serious relationship of almost a year. We have one major problem that continues to come up. When we were first dating, we'd been out maybe a dozen times and slept together maybe 6 times, had no conversations about being exclusive and at a party I was intimate with another man. This was a one-time occurrence and my boyfriend and I continued to date and it evolved into the relationship we now enjoy.

About 6 months ago I casually mentioned this other encounter, not realizing what a big deal it would become. My boyfriend was devastated and could not believe that I would have sex with someone else while we were dating even though it was very early on and no talk of exclusivity was ever had at that point. He does not necessarily feel I cheated on him because we had never discussed it but he does feel it was morally wrong and feels very strongly that most people who are dating someone and have slept with them would wait until that relationship either tanks or progresses before being involved with anyone else. I have to mention also that my boyfriend was the first man I had slept with other than my ex husband in about 18 years and I had told him that and when he found out that I subsequently slept with this other person he found that to be very upsetting.

I did not realize until after I told him about this other incident how important it was to him to feel like he was the only other man I had slept with other than my husband (he does know I had a few partners prior to marriage but that was so long ago it does not bother him.) He feels that if I either admit to it being morally wrong (having sex with some one else while we were dating even though we did not have strong, exclusive feelings yet) or if he gets enough feed back from outside sources saying that what I did is not outside the norm or morally wrong, he will be able to move past this.

I have apologized to him repeatedly for hurting him and I understand because of his family background and religious background that this is a big deal to him, but I can't honestly say that I feel that what I did was wrong or even unusual. He thinks that normal, ethical people do not have more than one sex partner at a time and I think it happens all the time, right or wrong to all kinds of people, not just low life, slutty people. Please give your opinion and I will let him know.


Boy, are YOU going to hate AND love my answer! Let's start with the hate-side first, shall we?

So, you want a pass on a technicality? Just because nobody said the words "exclusive" that makes it ok? Honestly Tracy, I think that's a pretty liberal use of that rule! Words; in fact, mean nothing. It's actions and expectations that mean everything! Consider if the tables were turned. Men are under pressure to; and have an instant expectation of acting with, "honor" as that is our roll in life. What about you? Do you think your actions were honorable? Were they respectful to your boyfriend or to your budding relationship?

Ok, I know you wrote to me because you want me to tell your boyfriend that he's wrong. In fact, you BOTH are wrong here. If you want an easy rule to remember and live by, here it is: choose actions that result in the highest and best benefit possible to those you care about. If your actions don't provide this benefit, then accept that they're wrong. Don't try to live by technicalities.

Now, let's talk about one more mistake you've made here (don't worry, I'll get to your boyfriend too - I just hope you show him the ENTIRE letter - not just the part dealing with him!)

When you make this sort of mistake - even if you realize it was wrong - you have to go back to the rule again. Do you think that telling him was to his "highest and best benefit"? Sure, you want to be totally open and honest in your relationship, but let me let you in on a little secret: that's impossible.

Such a relationship is NOT healthy or practicable. That doesn't give you a pass to lie at every turn, but there are some good lies. Lying isn't "honorable", but it is an ingrained part of our language systems. In fact, everyone lies and some of those lies help to preserve other's feelings. If you had never told him about this event (what is known as "lying through omission") things would be very different now.

Telling someone something like this only serves to hurt that other person and worse yet, it never alleviates your own guilt. If you can't live with that, then don't do it in the first place. More important, don't cause even greater harm to someone you care even if the goal is grand and lofty. You owe that person something much more.

When someone cheats in a relationship (even if it TECHNICALLY isn't cheating) BOTH people are responsible. My questions to him would include, "Well, if you felt you were in an exclusive relationship, why the hell weren't you at the party with your girlfriend?" and (to you) "What else was going on in your relationship that made you feel you could do this?", etc. In other words, while it sometimes feels really good to believe otherwise, there are no individual victims when someone cheats - everyone is culpable.

Ok, now, let's get to your boyfriend.

"Family background" and "religious background" are not reasonable foundations for ridiculous beliefs; although people use them as excuses all the time. After all, how can you argue with them?

Here's how the real world works: we all have things we don't like that happen every day. What we do is become mature enough to deal with them because doing so creates a greater good. We don't whine and pout when things don't go our way. We accept them, look for the benefits and move on. That's what your boyfriend needs to do here.

You cheating on him wasn't the end of the world - or the relationship, but if he continues to carry these ridiculous standards, THAT will be the end of the relationship. Ultimately, if he can't get over this, he should just cut his losses and move on. Before he makes that decision however, he'd better realize how very difficult it's going to be to find someone that lives up to his utopian dreams.

Then, he also needs to see his own hypocrisy! This isn't so much about how many sex partners you've had - what about your divorce? I'll bet his religion looks unfavorably on divorces too (most do!) What about him? Was he a virgin when he met you? God forbid HE actually was married before! Before he casts stones, he'd better make sure his own pond is clean.

Here's the bottom line: he needs to get over this, man up and stop sniveling about it. It's been 6 months already!! Either let it go and move on, or wallow in it alone for the rest of his sad, pathetic life. The rest of us adults have our own table to eat at.

Being regards...
Have a love, dating, relationship, sex or man/woman question? You can write to me by going to: for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's Worldtm" (volumes I and II), and other products visit: Check out the discussion group at:

Copyright (c) 2007, Dr. Dennis W. Neder
All rights reserved.

Related Tags: relationship, communication, actions, expectations, fidelity

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