Emotional infidelity

Jackie is vivacious, with sparkling eyes and a melody of laugh that grabs attention from across the room. She has had many lovers, some of whom she stays in close touch with, sharing their lives in ways deep and profound. When her boyfriend Mike asked who she was always on the computer with, she bristled, and defended hours spent emailing Dave, a former lover.

“Mike has no right to tell me who I should talk to, and what I talk about. I’m not having sex with Dave. He was an important part of my life long before I met Mike. That’s just how it is.”

When Genevieve smiles, a corner of the world lights up as if by magic. She loves deeply, and she even loves men she had been “in love” with years ago. Some of them still want to bask in her glow: Men from her past sometimes seek to be in her present, unable to let go.

But Genevieve doesn’t go too deeply into conversations with former lovers, because she knows there’s a hook in there, a door trying to open, but more importantly, she knows her fiancé Don would not like that, any more than she would, and thinks of that as emotional infidelity.

It’s so tempting to take sides, but I don’t think there is an absolute right or wrong, here. But I do know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made.

Genevieve has chosen to make Don the focus of her emotional universe, and he knows that, and responds in kind. That “exclusive emotional intimacy” is valuable to each of them, and each knows the other is the one rock available to which they can return in a world of too little stability.

Mike may have no ability or desire to communicate on the level Jackie needs to feel complete. It’s easy to think of a situation where Mike could be perfectly good with Jackie sharing her soul, or partaking of Dave’s, but in this case, the sharing is causing friction. Dave has access to Jackie that Mike finds hard to accept.

Jackie wants it that way. She hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how she is.

The parallels to sexual behavior are valid. Readers here know I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong with polyamory, or casual sex with multiple partners, sequentially or simultaneously. But I know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made. If both partners are on the same page, sharing may enhance a relationship. If one wants exclusivity and the other does not, there are going to be problems.

I agree that Jackie gets to make the call about continuing her relationship with Dave. Mike has to accept that as part of Jackie. But Mike doesn’t have to accept that as part of his life. Mike does get to decide that he wants someone who does not share herself in that way with anyone but him.

If he heads for the door, Mike hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how he is.

 

 

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