Episode 4: (In) Fidelity in The Time of Technology

Our guest on today’s episode is Ari Tuckman, a renowned psychologist and sex therapist. He has authored three books and has a gift for simplifying complicated topics into digestible language. With Ari, we discuss how technology has changed the relationship landscape, especially how we understand fidelity and infidelity, and how we are redefining these concepts.

Bonus: Ari hosts the popular podcast "More Attention, Less Deficit" for adults with ADHD. Check it out here!

The Nuance of Fidelity:

“Fidelity means, basically, that you are staying within the understood and expected balance of the relationship”

Most people equate fidelity with sexual monogamy: What is allowed sexually or romantically? However, it can also be applied to other areas of a partnership. For example, financial infidelity could relate to whether one is being truthful to their partner about their spending.  

What is Acceptable to You?

This is what every individual needs to know for themselves so that they can figure out their boundaries in any given partnership.  Some questions to ask yourself are: What are your boundaries? Where are your lines?

Problems arise when unspoken expectations are not met. It’s really easy to find yourself in a situation where you and your partner don’t agree.  As Ari states, Often what happens is that couples don’t have these conversations until there is a problem. By problem, I mean, somebody feels that somebody crossed the line, and somebody else feels like they didn’t.”

For example: Is friending exes on social media platforms acceptable? How does that make you feel? How does that makes me feel?

What is your INTENT?

“We both have to decide what is okay and what is not okay in the balance of our relationship”  

Starting the Conversation

Ideally, partners would have the conversation about fidelity at the very beginning of a budding relationship.  To have these discussions, both partners have to be honest about what makes them uncomfortable, and why. However, these conversations can be difficult to have in the beginning and therefore many false agreements can be assumed which can lead to deception later on in the relationship.

Relationship Investment

In the beginning of a relationship people can have high hopes for what is to come, but low investment.  However, once a relationship has become well established, everything matters much more because of how highly invested the partners are in their relationship. This can lead to a big dilemma: “The more important you become to me, the less I want to disappoint you and risk losing you, and yet I don’t want to lose myself either, because if I sell out my sense of integrity, and let you continue to do something that makes me feel really uncomfortable”.

Technology and the Changing Landscape

Today, because of technology, things are possible that were not possible before.  Because of this, there are new issues that arise. For instance:

  • Technology creates more opportunities, which requires more nuance and grey area within the bounds of fidelity in a relationship.

  • There is more availability – from checking-up on an ex to pornography – that intensity is increased, making “crossing the line” much easier.

  • Opens up the need for more conversations about technology involvement in a relationship

“So as with every other technology somehow we find a way to adapt it to use for sex”

New Possibilities

  • Virtual Reality for Porn: Ultra HD on 360 degrees, this immersive 3D experience creates a different situation, that changes and adapts to the point of view. This, like flipping the pages of a magazine, is still a solo experience, however it feels like it is more than a “solo experience”... How does your partner feels about knowing you are using virtual reality?

  • Professional webcam performers: You can participate on their sexual experience as an observer or as active person.

  • Interactive sex toys: KIIROO, for example, are sex toys that are interactive with your partner.

Trust and Understanding:

“It’s about communication, about making the implicit much more explicit.”

Having honest, and sometimes difficult, discussions about fidelity not only with your partner, but with yourself. Technology has given us more things to talk about, therefore creating a greater need for these honest discussions.