Is fidelity essential to a marriage?

In a recent interview with the German magazine Das Neue, Angelina Jolie shocked fans by saying “’I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship. It’s worse to leave your partner and talk badly about him afterwards.” She also stated “Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together. We make sure that we never restrict each other.” Blogs have speculated exactly what she means by these statements, but it brings up a good question. Is fidelity essential for a healthy marriage?

On the webpage for the U.S. Dept. of Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (, it says that in 1996 Congress made the following findings: 1) Marriage is the foundation of a successful society; and 2) Marriage is an essential institution of a successful society which promotes the interests of children. Then they as a very interesting question. What is a “healthy marriage?” According to their definition:
* There are at least two characteristics that all healthy marriages have in common. First, they are mutually enriching, and second, both spouses have a deep respect for each other.
* It is a mutually satisfying relationship that is beneficial to the husband, wife and children (if present).
* It is a relationship that is committed to ongoing growth, the use of effective communication skills and the use of successful conflict management skills.

A government definition of a “healthy marriage” is not the most definitive, and most marriage experts would be even more precise, including such things as religious beliefs and societal mores. However, if we agree to even this broad-minded kind of definition, we can see that fidelity is essential to a marriage. Unfaithfulness does not benefit the loyal spouse, and study after study has indicated that the effect of a divorce on children being raised in a single-parent household is NOT beneficial–for example, see Wallerstein, Judith (1991). The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children: A Review. The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Beyond this rather loose interpretation by the U.S. government, without getting into religious debate, marriage can also be considered as a legal contract. In a marriage, two people essentially reach an agreement together before witnesses and usually with a presiding official. The two people say their vows and make promises of certain things to each other. In western, Judeo-Christian civil vows, the couple often say things such as “I take you to be my wedded spouse. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.” Taking out the emotion and passion of a fancy dress, a tuxedo and a big reception, essentially marriage contract states before witnesses that the couple will stay together through the itemized circumstances of life, will love each other until one dies, and will covenant their fidelity! Thus, fidelity is essential to the maintenance of the contract, and infidelity breaks, nullifies, and negates the marital contract.

What do you think? Is fidelity essential? If you have questions about affairs or have been affected by infidelity, come to my website at for answers and help!

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