This I Believe

Betsy - Gulf Breeze, Florida
Entered on February 19, 2007

I believe in fidelity. Fidelity, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, implies the unfailing fulfillment of one’s duties and obligations and strict adherence to vows or promises: In regard to one’s spouse, it means faithfulness. When I was married I used to spook myself by dreaming that I’d cheated on my husband. I’d wake up shaken, thinking perhaps I had strayed and somehow buried it so deep I could only admit it in dreams. But after a minute I could recollect my steadiness. When my husband decided to leave, it took me a while to recognize that while certainly I do have many flaws, sloppiness, turpitude, nagging, sagging, I’d never failed in this: my steadfastness is extreme. My 12-step friends might label this ridiculous codependence, but I have begun to think of it as a spiritual gift, since I bear it so lightly, and others seem to find it so heavy.

None of us is given every gift, and obviously it’s the human imperative to have a character defect in which lies our hubris. But recently, in meeting a few people who are suffering after infidelity, I’ve seen in the contrast my cause to celebrate that I don’t have to bear the guilt of the betrayer, I didn’t have to kill the goose of love to get that disappearing golden egg.

I’ve moved to a new city and, intent on the project of making friends, I hear lots of stories. One came from a woman who said she had in recent years had two married lovers, which she could rationalize, but not quite excuse herself for. And she’s alone still. I met a man who was separated from his wife. He was accountable about his affairs, but seemed on shakier ground when he explained that he got tired, after he mistakenly confessed, of feeling punished by her. This moved me. I understood her dilemma. I, too, don’t want to be placed in the position of being someone’s tormentor. But what if there never were anything on this scale to forgive?

I don’t mean to take the high moral ground here. Again, I am far from perfect. But when, despite temptations, which I too have, I sustain loyalty towards a man, or a friend, or my children, then I think I am proving myself reliable and trustworthy and that’s a feather in my cap, a wing span I’m proud to display. I can fly on that. So that when it comes time to take the leap, whether into love again, or into a new friendship, or make a move to another place, I can say, this is what I have to offer: I can be trusted. And mean it.