In our effort to understand Right Action within the context of the Buddha’s 8-fold path, we have looked at harmlessness and generosity (non-taking), and lastly we come to the third precept, which has to do with how we relate to other beings on an energetic level.
From Leigh Brasington (http://rc.leighb.com/more/The_Precepts.htm):
The third of the precepts is “I undertake the training to refrain from sexual misconduct.” Sexual misconduct is defined as any use of your sexual energy that causes harm to someone else, or to yourself. Our sexual energy is quite strong energy and it’s easy to misuse it by becoming confused and selfish. If you firmly keep in mind that you don’t want to harm anybody then you’re much less likely to misuse your sexual energy. Now the not harming yourself or others also includes other interested parties, not just the person you are having sexual relations with. If you’re cheating on your spouse, even if your spouse doesn’t know it, it’s considered breaking the precept because if your spouse found out they would experience dukkha.
A higher level of this precept would be that not only do your sexual relations not cause harm, but that none of your relationships cause harm to you, or to the person with whom you are relating. And the highest form of it would be that your relationships would all be beneficial – beneficial to you and beneficial to the people with whom you are relating.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But in the push and pull of ordinary life, it can sometimes be hard to tell what’s wholesome and what’s not.
Carers for the elderly or ill may have difficulty finding the boundary where we are helping someone without harming ourselves. When we are out of patience with small children or teenagers, we may need to be creative in finding ways to buffer them from our frustrations. In these situations, it may be useful to go to the experts (at whatever the problem is) for guidance.
Our sexual energy ebbs and flows throughout our lives, peaking in the early decades and rising and falling depending on our health and circumstances. It can be an unexpected guest, even an unwelcome one. And yet this is the work before us. In whatever conditions we find ourselves, this is our world to do the best we can in. We move away from situations where we fear harm (by ourselves or others) and we seek out relationships that support our good intentions and actions. As with all of our considered actions, patience and forbearance are our supports.