Fidelity & Jealousy

Importance of defining fidelity in your couple

Fidelity is defined as the respect of an agreement with another person. In most loving relationships, there exist a form of fidelity between partners, even in polyamory. Although, what one person thinks is adultery, the other person might not, as the confines of fidelity are wide and large. We can even change our own perception of it as we grow older and we perceive alternate ways of being in our relationship.
The continuum of behaviours that is considered adultery is long and the combinations are endless. Certain individuals consider that fantasizing on another person than their partner is cheating, while others require penetrative sex for it to be cheating. Others will need an emotional attachment, but sexual attraction is considered fine. Sometimes, fidelity isn’t defined by one’s behaviour but more about one’s intentions. The examples that we could give are numerous and vary from one relationship to the next.

For that reason, it is very important for couples to exchange on their perception of fidelity. An indispensable discussion that is often forgotten in serious relationships. Some will even avoid having it by fear of having different opinions that could ultimately lead to not even starting the relationship or creating an awkward moment. This can demonstrate an uneasiness about intimacy. It is also important to talk about what reactions and consequences when faced with one of the partners acting out and cheating on the other (couples therapy, break up, acceptance, reflecting on the continuation of the relation, etc.). We can even exchange on telling each other or not about the cheating and how you and your partner would want to find out about it. This clarifies each other’s points of views on the matter and determines if we agree on the implications of committing to the relationship before hand.

Hard discussion

Fidelity touches our most fundamental values as individuals. They can remind us of very painful memories of our past about being cheated on or if we cheated on someone. This can bring back feelings of betrayal, lost and major deceptions. We can also face very different point of views by having this discussion with a new flame at the beginning of the relationship about what fidelity entails. These differences can make one of the partners insecure, generally, the one that has the most restrictive definition of fidelity. It will also show how much respect each partner has towards the other person’s opinion on the matter and how they will listen and understand. It shows as well, how flexible we are about our own perception of fidelity or rigidity on the matter.



We can also assume that most couples have very similar definitions of fidelity and the discussion doesn’t really create any sort of conflict between them. In situations where limits are clear, jealousy has less chance of being prevalent in the couple’s dynamic. If the perceptions, behaviours, intentions and acts are respected by both parties, trust normally takes precedence in the relationship. Even though jealousy is a universal human emotion, it doesn’t have any use in a healthy relationship.

How to manage differences about fidelity

Nobody wants to be betrayed, especially by one’s lover, and feel the horrible emotions that come with it. When there is a fundamental issue about what each considers fidelity, there is a real need to reflect on how the relationship will work under such conditions. Sometimes we have differences because our perception of fidelity are more based on our insecurities and lack of self-esteem than actual values. Therefore, it might be important to work on oneself about these issues. We may also want to look at what are those differences and think about which ones we can actually tolerate. What exactly are the differences? How do they make you feel? How will you react if they ever come to be? What is each partner ready to work on and change about the issue? What if you can’t come to an understanding? How do you picture this relationship evolving with that reality?

Since fidelity is part of almost every loving relationship that is long term, it is of utmost importance to have a discussion on our intentions in the relationship. This discussion, even though it might be a hard one and even stop the relationship from flourishing even before it starts, often avoids meaningless fighting and feelings of jealousy. On top of that, it clarifies the commitment each partner is taking before embarking on the relationship. Unfortunately, some people may still feel jealousy even though, the partners had this discussion.

Learn more about the author

Francois Renaud M.A.

Sex therapist & psychotherapist in Downtown Montreal

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