Friday, June 17, 2011

The pain of emotional infidelity

Before resigning this week, Rep. Anthony Weiner checked into a treatment center for a sexting addiction as more inappropriate pictures of him surfaced.

The New York Democrat admitted to exchanging explicit messages and suggestive photos on Facebook and Twitter with other women. Weiner initially said his Twitter account had been hacked and used to send sexually suggestive pictures. He apologized to his wife, but said repeatedly that none of the relationships was sexual.

Weiner’s Internet exchanges were inappropriate, but some argue they stopped short of infidelity.

The seventh commandment of the Decalogue — “Do not commit adultery” — forbids sexual intercourse between a married person and someone not his or her spouse. In the New Testament, Jesus sets the standard higher, saying, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The underlying principle: Intent, even without physical contact, constitutes unfaithfulness.

Emotional infidelity occurs when, even without sexual intercourse, an intense intimate relationship forms. According to Time magazine, men generally see no harm in these sorts of relationships. For many women, for whom physical and emotional intimacy are inseparable, emotional infidelity can be just as devastating as physical infidelity.

Emotional affairs are dangerous. Not only can they lead to physical affairs, but they also threaten to destroy the sacred marriage bond. Couples are supposed to find physical and emotional fulfillment in each other, not in other people.

Some suggest that even looking at a person of the opposite sex is cheating, but looking cannot always be equated with lusting. Infidelity — emotional or physical — is a conscious choice.

While there may be disagreement about whether emotional relationships constitute infidelity, cover-ups and lies clearly violate trust, a crucial component for a successful marriage.

Trust is difficult to regain once it is lost. It requires commitment from both parties. The most important step toward recovery is for the offending spouse to acknowledge wrongdoing. The offended spouse then must search within to forgive.