Bernardo M. Villegas
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Conjugal Fidelity and Children Welfare (Part 2)

          Marital fidelity is so important, not only for the happiness of the couples themselves, but also for their children.  That is why in preparing young people for marriage in pre-Cana and similar courses, it is important to alert them about the dangers of infidelity.  In a series of Round Table Discussions conducted by Dr. Antonio Torralba of the Institute of Marriage and Family Development of the University of Asia and the Pacific, the issue of fidelity to one another by engaged and married couples was addressed.  The following were the insights gathered and conclusions arrived at by the young couples who participated.  Broadly, they concluded, “deeming the other unfaithful” begins with a feeling of uneasiness based on such subtle and overt behavior as time spent with, or emotions displayed toward, or physical closeness shown to a third party.  It is important that this uneasiness be cleared up in the most appropriate moment of intimate conversation between the engaged or married couples.

         The about-to-err spouse or partner should exert effort at being aware that growing coziness; feeling “malambing” (tenderness) and being alone or confiding intimate matters with a third party; frequency of deliberately keeping secrets; lying in growing magnitude and frequency; or looking for such alternatives to the partner as music, social media, and hobbies, etc. could be signs that the threshold of infidelity is about to be crossed.  The participants in the RTDs identified the deeper roots of infidelity to include a) lack of intellectual or emotional maturity at the time of marriage, indicated by signs of selfishness, insecurities, or lack of emotional control (e.g. temper, jealousy); b) undue or unmet expectations or needs; c) lack of inner conviction about the total reality of marital relationships; and possibly d) a history of marital infidelity that imbeds itself in subconscious minds and hearts.   Symptoms of infidelity include growing indifference to the person and interests of the other; frequency of being out of the home or family; and keeping from the spouse substantial purchases and changes in professional and financial standing.

         The first step to foster fidelity is to acknowledge that everyone is vulnerable to temptations of infidelity, but that the same “everyone” is capable of self-assessment and eventual self-mastery through the use of both human and supernatural means.  Consequently, with regard to the couple themselves, the capability of managing the situation arises from clarity and acceptance of expectations; and openness to each other on brewing sentiments, but always at carefully chosen and appropriate moments.  All the human measures are premised on nourishing the gift of faith, a life of prayer and personal friendship with God, asking for serenity, right judgment, transparency and constant forgiveness.  If there is a lapse in fidelity, communication is key and where needed, counselling from someone who has the confidence of both partners.  It is also important that the offended party should never put down or lose hope in the other in any manner.

         There was a consensus that men more frequently than not take matters of display of infidelity lightly, less seriously than women do.  The latter, without being self-righteous, should just try to convince the other that fidelity is a serious matter in all of its forms and shapes and that there should be a mutual effort and give-and-take to be aware of the consequences of infidelity. Other than the harm done to the children, the undesirable results of infidelity in marriage are a serious breach of the marital vows, the injustice against the offended party and the personal and social troubles that breaking the vows would entail (as some of the participants in the RTDs remarked in the vernacular “Magulo iyan!”)  Fidelity should be the goal of the man and the woman in an engaged or marital relationship.  In the case of engaged couples, repeated cases of infidelity should already be taken as a warning to the aggrieved party that the planned marriage could be doomed to failure from the very start.   Learning from the experience of Cha (who had already been warned by her brothers about the shady character of her boyfriend) in the film “Seven Sundays,” the offended party should think twice before expecting the unfaithful partner to “reform after marriage.”

         The participants in the RTDs ended up on an optimistic note:   in the case of married couples, a lapse in fidelity of one of the spouses need not end up in a broken marriage.  As long as there is genuine contrition on the part of the offending party, the other should be willing to forgive and forget (“huwag paulit-ulit ang paguungkat”).  There should be a heroic effort at restoring “lost love”.  The offending erring partner should be given a second chance, no matter how much time or how long the stages the process may take.  Needless to say, there should be a balance between spiritual measures (prayer and the sacraments) and human interventions (counselling, where necessary).  And most important of all, even if it takes heroic efforts, the little children should be completely kept out of the storm generated by marital infidelities.   For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.