Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, Ph.D., MA, CPC, OCDS
“I promise to be true to you in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good times an bad . . .”
Fidelity is living out a life-long promise to God and to each other to give yourself only to your spouse. The issue of trust it addresses, “If I give you myself, will you be faithful to your word?” Attentiveness to the beloved is the primary activity of fidelity. This counteracts self-absorption by turn one towards the beloved and seek the good for them more than themselves.
Intrinsic within the good of fidelity is the unconditional statement, “no matter what you do I will be faithful.” When a bond is formed in marriage, infidelity does not break the bond. It is intrinsic in the vow that the intended fidelity is unconditional no matter what the person does. The witness of those who have been abandon and yet a life of fidelity is important to support and to point to for inspiration.
The fidelity is within the exclusivity of the marriage bond. It means one will not allow anyone else into the exclusive qualities aspects that are only granted to the rite of marriage. The actions of the spouse do not free one of the obligation of this vow. It must also be understood that this does not mean that there are not reasons for “separation while the bond endures.” Canons 1151-1155 address the circumstances under which a separation may be allowed or even required. However, once the reason for the separation is removed or remedied, “the innocent spouse can laudably readmit the others spouse to conjugal life.” Can. 1154
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Couples should be asked:
- Do you know of a married couple who divorced because one of them was unfaithful? If so, what do you think of what took place?
- If you were ever tempted to give up on the marriage because your spouse was unfaithful, what would you do?
- The vow states that such things as infidelity will be forgiven. How difficult would that be to do? What would be the greatest difficulty? How could counseling with a priest or marriage counselor help?