Loyalty is a term that often plays a decisive role in relationships. Catholic couples made the promise at their marriage:
I accept you as my husband (wife), I will love you, respect you and honor all the days of my life, in good days and in bad days, in health and sickness. Until that death separates us. Wear this ring as a sign of our love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen.
Despite this promise in front of the wedding guests and before God, there are always separations. In this day and age and in Western industrialized countries, this no longer has any threatening consequences. Until the early days of modern times, marital infidelity was still fatal in Europe, especially for women. Not only did they have no social security, but it was social ostracism. No church attendance, worst working conditions and no chance of a new relationship. In earlier times, actual or only alleged infidelity was defined as adultery and could be punished with death. In Arab-Islamic societies (theocratia) there can still be stonings with fatal outcomes. The stoning of a young woman by the Taliban in 2015 became known. Although stoning applies to adultery under Islamic law for both men and women, it obviously only ever applies to the latter. In Hindu societies, divorces are rare and are only possible because of childlessness or adultery by women. Rather liberally, this topic is dealt with in Buddhism. Marriage is a secular matter and therefore divorce has no religious consequences.
Fidelity is therefore a cultural and temporal phenomenon. But what is it? A definition for the following considerations:
Fidelity is an internal agreement with oneself to observe certain behaviors in defined spaces and/or over certain times.
In episode 5.1 we meet Theo and Dany as a couple in love. They live in a shared flat with their mutual friend Karl. Late at night, the two men still play the computer game “Striking Vipers”. Everyone with his, always the same avatar. Eleven years later and out of hot love became an ordinary family with a child. At his birthday party, we see Dany as a thoughtful, searching person. Luckily, old friend Karl comes and brings a great gift. It is the new release of the former computer game, the X version with integrated biofeedback. To do this, the players put a chip on their temples and feel the bodies of their avatars.
Again, late at night, the two try it out. Dany with the avatar of an Asian fighter and Karl as an attractive blonde woman. In the first round Karl has to put in a lot. In the second round it happens. The two avatars come very close and kiss each other. Because of the physical feedback, both feel the associated feelings. From now on, the virtual relationship between the two men becomes more and more intense and ends in a sexual relationship. Dany has a bad demeanor because of this extramarital relationship, the virtual escapade, and wants to end that relationship.
Despite several attempts, he fails, partly because Karl insists on it again and again. As a last resort, Dany suggests a personal meeting in which they check if their love exists in the real world. With a kiss, they feel nothing for each other and get into a brawl. After Theo picks up her husband from the police station, he confesses to her his virtual sidestep. Both make an agreement whereby he is allowed to become virtually intimate with Karl once a year and she goes to the bar alone. Was that infidelity, or just a sidestep or neither?
Theo has long felt that something is wrong with her husband. The moment the secret was revealed, both were better off. Everyone now has a new internal agreement for themselves. As long as they both stick to it, they are loyal to each other and each other again. They have agreed on spaces and times in which both can allow themselves to step in without being unfaithful.
This episode makes it clear that fidelity is not something infinite but is always tied to a context. In addition, it remains to be clarified whether it really makes a difference (Real) to have made a sidestep or to have experienced it only intensively mentally (Virtual). In the real world, it’s an injury to the other, if he gets on top of it. In both cases, however, it is an infidelity against itself. Here are some examples in the structure of time/space and real/spiritual:
Limited in time: The Catholic promise of marriage is clearly limited in time with death. Today, marriage is often the life-phase partner. One remains true to oneanother until the children grow up. We also have a time agreement with the employer. Fidelity to the boss as long as there is a working relationship. A often deadly fidelity is the oath of soldiers “Until Death” to fight for the fatherland. The promise of celibacy of Catholic priests is not so fatal, but it is also life-long. Here the break is even more painful, because these people have a strong conscience. Infidelity towards oneself can also be very painful. In such cases, it is important to end the old internal agreement with a tangible act. An Apple creditor would then buy an Android phone.
Temporary variable: What is going on in my brain is, at least to this day my secret. Brain scanners or implants could change that. Until then, I can still dream undetected. Also from other partners and sexual adventures. Mental experiences in this way are short-lived and can also be triggered unconsciously. No one is responsible for their dreams. With daydreaming, it’s a little different. Do I take a sidestep when I go on holiday with another partner? Beliefs such as “No-alcohol, not vaccination, always getting up early” are also internal agreements that can be unfaithful. Becoming unfaithful to oneself is then the diagnosis.
Other Places: A pledge of: Fidelity can also be local. Whenever I’m “there,” there’s no “something.” Some smokers are listed here who do not light cigarettes at home but live their addiction everywhere else. Being faithful to a holiday resort or hotel for decades is important for some people. Holidays also take place in places where you can afford more than in everyday life. So we go to Ibiza and talk what else no one else is allowed to hear. Sexual infidelity is possible for men in the puff without giving up the relationship with their partners. Being faithful for only one nigh to the “One-Night-Stand”. A certain place can be anchored with a mental state.
Virtual places: In pre-digital times, these were just ideas and mental experience in the brain. Triggered by external triggers or by chemical influences such as food and drugs. Today’s computer games and social media are also addictive. When using VR or AR glasses, the virtual one transforms into a real world. This gives foreign access a new dimension, no matter in which domain. When a user experiences the same thing in virtual space. Did he do it in real life? No, you could say it was just a machine. Sex robots are also only machines and would not mean going outside. Just as a thought experiment: One man has been married to his wife for some time and falls in love with another. In any case, a tripartite relationship arises; Patience, hated or loved. Now the man buys a real, lifelike sex robot. Is he going abroad or has he become unfaithful? Something similar can be constructed with virtual casinos (we are in the virtual realm).
Theo and Dany have solved the problem, at least ostensibly. In the real world, it usually gets a lot harder. Relationship competence is required, but which is developing with intensive digitalization.