A New Definition of Fidelity: Being Radically Present

A New Definition of Fidelity: Being Radically Present

True fidelity goes beyond keeping sex within marriage.

Steven Kalas, a counselor in Las Vegas, astutely observes that sexual fidelity is not really the hardest task in the world; it’s making an effort to prioritize your relationship when the rest of life gets in the way. Says Kalas:

“Give me a nickel for every time I’ve heard a wife complain about her husband’s mistress, whose name is “Work,” and you and I will go to Maui and retire.

Give me a nickel for every time I’ve heard a husband complain about his wife’s paramour, whose name is “The Kids,” and you and I will buy Maui and retire.”

Too true. Close friends have admitted to me that they’re impressed with my once-a-week commitment to sex (seriously!) since they have gone months without it. Their wives are too busy. Too tired. Too uninterested. Kalas says that this is unacceptable.

“It’s wrong to wake up in the middle of a marriage, shrug your shoulders, then passively and unilaterally decide you’re no longer interested in sex. That is an egregious infidelity. And it’s just plain mean.

When you take the wider view, not having sex with anyone else might be the easiest part of marital fidelity. All you gotta do is keep your pants on. Say “no.”

He recommends what he calls being “radically present.” It’s unusual for a man to talk about relationships like this, but it’s exactly what make the best marriages thrive. Imagine if both husband and wife lived some form of this pledge:

“I promise to be Radically Present. I promise to show up for this relationship, chiefly by promising to show up for my own life. I promise that my “I” will be forever grounded in our “We.” I will cultivate habits that nurture our connection. I will be alert to notice habits that presume upon our connection. Take it for granted. While, on any given day, any number of things might rightly and urgently require my energy and attention, I promise not to allow anything to comprehensively subordinate the primacy of Us.”

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  1. “He recommends what he calls being ‘radically present’.”
    Sounds great; wonderful, actually… Now show me where one can find all these mature, self-actualized men. ????

  2. Would have been so, so, so much easier to prioritize time, affection and sex for my husband if he had actually helped more with the kids and house, instead of being the fourth child.

  3. Why did you marry a child then? Not blaming anyone but you CHOSE your partner. Yes back then there were fewer resources than now to learn. What I am saying is that poor partners are always gonna be there. Let them get matched with other poor partners. I’d rather be single and take my time. I found many valuable guys on dating sites. Yes they may not make very good money or look like top models. But they are out there. Choose one that shows presence from the very beginning and let the losers go even if they look good or are rich.

  4. JoAnn @2
    Whenever I read a comment like yours, this is what comes to mind…
    – Were you working outside the home / gainfully employed at the time?
    – Were your responsibilities (workload, stress) equal to his? Usually, but not always, reflected in money received from the job
    – By house, I assume you mean chores (cooking, laundry, similar). If yoou were both employed, and the comment is moot if you weren’t, why not hire a cleaning lady to spend a few hours every 2 weeks and split the cost (likely on a proportional basis to the 2 possibly different incomes)?
    4th child! So yo uhad 3? Which is in my book “one too many”. Did these just materialize out of thin air or did you plan for them? As in #1 in year 1, #2 in year 3 (by then, is you previously had no clue, now, you know that raising kids is demanding), #3 when exactly?
    As to his being a man-child, you may be right, or completely wrong. If he alone was the bread-winner, he endured a heavy-load, and probably rarely brought his work problems at home. Most men say little or nothing, shielding their spouse from the harsh realities. He shields YOU from them (possibly) but is affected by professional / work life.

  5. @FG,
    Whenever I read a comment like yours, this is what comes to mind….
    – If both are employed, and depending on the children’s ages, childcare for 3 is quite expensive. Even if the children are in school, that still means after school care and full time childcare in the summer’s. That means the disposable income necessary to hire a housekeeper, may not be there. And wives, most often, are responsible for the house work and childcare, regardless of work status. Even if you hire a housekeeper, the cheapest I’ve come across is $150 a week. That doesn’t include laundry or dishes. Just a quick dust, vacuum, mop and done. Meals still have to be made, laundry and dishes done daily, and all the things that come along with raising children.
    – Now to your moot point… If she’s a stay at home mom, do you really think she shouldn’t get a little help in the evenings?? While he’s at work, 8 to 10 hours a day, she’s doing a pretty important job too. The difference is that when his day ends, it ends. Hers doesn’t end until the kids are asleep.

  6. I think the bigger question is why have 3 kids? Why put yourself in a position where you’re both overwhelmed and unhappy? Better to stop at 1 or 2.

  7. Triplets? One child, then twins? Or maybe they actually WANTED 3 kids?…. Gasp, the horror!
    For someone who is so open minded when it comes to reasons for infidelity, you sure don’t seem to apply that open- mindedness across the board.

  8. oh I am open minded. Triplets is just bad luck I’d say. But if they WANTED kids why is she complaining about, actually, HAVING to deal with said kids? I mean it’s pretty self inflicted. That’s the point. Personally, there’s no way I’d have three kids if their father didn’t have the means to hire a full time nanny and household help. I’d be miserable doing all that work myself and alone (and lets face it men never do this stuff)

  9. Totally agree with Stacy. So many complain about the clutter in their life but it is clutter they chose. And with clutter I include kids. Wonderful creatures yes but they do take a ton of time and resources and you should know this by the age you are able to reproduce. If someone gets 50 cats and then they complain about them, people would immediately admit that person is foolish because she chose the cats. But with kids, there is this culture of adoration towards reproduction. Truth is, the human race is at no risk of extinction so there is no whatsoever need for anyone to have a lot of kids and then get miserable and strained for that.

  10. @FG
    There are stresses that go along with both scenarios – staying at home and working outside.  My ex husband was also just another load on me.  My day started before his and ended after his. He got up, put his pants on and went to work, came home, ate dinner and whatever, while I continued to work long after he walked through the front door and sat on his arse.  I was also up and down during the night while he snored away.
    On the weekends – my work continued all day, every day,  while he read, smoked, drank.  I mowed and unless it was too heavy or difficult did most of the ‘man’ jobs as well.
    I then went to work in school hours – so he wasn’t the only one earning. so I would work before school, at school and after school and at night.
    Also, not telling your spouse about troubles at work never felt like ‘shielding’ me – it felt like cutting me off and keeping me out of his life. I would have liked to hear about things he was worried about etc. – it would have made me feel like part of a team.
    Childcare and domestic help are ridiculously expensive in a country that has minimum wages.  Before and after school care is extremely hard to find.  That is why I worked in a school while my kids were growing up. I had to choose my employment around the needs of the kids, not what I wanted to do.

  11. @KK  3.1
    I’m reminded of a friend years ago who complained that by the time his gf was done rinsing dishes BEFORE the dishhwasher, he felt them ready for the cupboard ????  Kids? Dishwasher! After a few short years, the kids can load and unload said dishwasher themselves.
    As to laundry, I do my own. Granted, not when I was married. Thus, I know exactly what it entails. Ironing is a pain (so I don’t and steam toys take most of the work out of that by now). Load washing machine, load dryer, empty dryer, fold? I appreciate when it is done FOR me, but otherwise, it is merely a minor annoyance.
    @Stacy2  3.1.1
    That remains, in my view the social contract, unless BOTH are more or less equally gainfully employed.
    Look up the cost of raising a child to age 18 in the US… If having 3 kids did not push the family into bankruptcy (as per JoAnn’s #2) and the husband was “bringing home the bacon” and enough of it to cover ALL needs, his job or position entailed serious responsibility.
    You BOTH latched on to “Three kids? Not a good choice!” unless unexpected.
    @Kanga 3.2
    Shielding is a natural state for many. Then again, after those work concerns are set aside or put on hold, explaining them can be very much like going back to work or reliving them, so there is a caveat with sharing.
    Housekeeping, even for a few hours every two weeks, is a boon. My Dad, now a widower, pays 4 hours every 2 weeks and does the rest himself. Costs him $60 for a cleaning tornado.
    Now, a word from our sponsor:
    – a reasonable scenario needs to be worked out if both parties ARE working,
    – if only ONE parent is working outside the home, you enter a traditional scenario, and responsibilities of the home fall on the stay-at-home parent, period. My mother seemed to know this: she had worked a position of responsibility for a short time before I was born, she stayed home, dad provided.
    – nobody forced you to have kids. You signed up for this? Own up! It IS a lot of work. It IS constant and unrelenting. Kind of. A lot of it IS automated and needs little attention. And for whatever reason, millions of women still had time to watch Oprah, or these days, Ellen, and Dr. Oz. And a few soaps, to boot.
    Maybe motherhood demands a dedication that has fallen by the wayside? Too much pampering? Unreasonable expectations? I’ m not being ironic. Simply voicing my own internal questions. But it seems that a lot of the moans and complaints have to do with children. They are optional. In fact, for very many men, having them requires a lot of convincing.
    News of the world: the guy won’t (unless both partners work), and it’s not his job.
    I empathize with any gal who got a raw deal. Some chores DO fall under “male duties”, but even saying that has exceptions: the job may NOT BE only 8-5, + commute. It may have overtime, projects, and other “extensions”.
    Getting up in the middle of the night when he must be tip top the next morning for meetings? Not his job! Dealing with the team he supervises at work and THEN the kdis when he gets home? Not so sure!

  12. Dear FG @ #4,
    I disagree with you. It actually perplexes me when couples prioritise sleep for the person earning the money. Sleep deprivation is unhealthy and unsafe.
    I think the person driving the kids around should be the one sleeping more. So unless the working partner drives aeroplanes, trains or buses, or does delicate specific work like brain surgery or anaesthetics, they should at least share sleeplessness night-time kid tending, if not do more of it.  Seriously what does it matter for most employees if they are tired during a meeting or their working day? Just less money made for the company, usually. If only the earner gets to sleep normally, you are both prioritising money, over your partner’s and children’s health and lives (car accident risks while driving fatigued, anyone?).
    I couldn’t stand to be married to someone who thought it was OK for me to work 16 hours every 24, while he just did 8-10. Ick. I just wouldn’t do the work. I’d let it pile up. I’d emotionally exit from the marriage. Oh right, that last, is what wives with lazy or entitled husbands, do.
    Parenting is more intense now, than it has ever been in human history, in terms of hours per week mothers spend 1:1 playing with their kids (even full time working mothers play more hours now, than their own mothers who were stay-at-home, did with them).

  13. Fascinating to see how the discussion has derailed from the original point: in a marriage, it is crucial to make time for each other :).  I agree 100% with this post…a rare thing indeed because I seldom agree ONE HUNDRED PERCENT with anything anymore…
    The definition of marriage seems to have changed these days.  The traditional, symbiotic relationship of the past seems to have become a unicorn.  These days I see one of the following scenarios:
    1) One partner (mostly husband, on occasion wife) is a high earner so the other partner can afford to stay at home and hire help.
    2) Only one partner works but is not a ridiculously high earner and the second stays at home but is generally unhappy because he/she does not want the traditional stay-at-home role and all its trappings.
    3) Both partners work and share the child rearing + chores, sometimes equally and sometimes unequally.
    Let’s face it…if you don’t have money and/or  a sympathetic (read: caring) partner, a stay-at-home life can be horribly unfair and boring.  Yes, there are lots of ways to make it work..to make it a joy but you absolutely need either money or an understanding partner or preferably both.  I sincerely feel that those who are complaining above didn’t have either.

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