Infidelity is not gender-dependent

Jane has another great letter of opinion over at Dear Author, this time about infidelity in romance novels. She doesn’t like reading about infidelity, but in the hands of a good author, the storyline can work for her, even though she concludes that “in retrospect, the infidelity stories cause me more pain than joy.” The comments section is lively and very interesting, with most commenters avoiding infidelity stories as much as possible. There is a poll embedded in the column (go and register your opinion!), and as I am writing this the results are running strongly against infidelity storylines.

I’m not at all surprised by this outcome, because past columns on related topics have elicited similar responses. One thread that arose in the comments, perhaps sparked by one of the examples in the column, was whether infidelity with someone of a different gender was more acceptable, i.e., if a woman has a sexual relationship with another woman while she’s in a relationship with a man, does that constitute cheating?

Like a number of commenters on the thread, I think it does. Jill Sorenson, LVLM Leah, and Lazaraspaste all make terrific points about the implications of treating same-sex cheating as different, including heteronormative bias, the implication that same-sex relationships are less emotionally meaningful, and the assumption that they are just so different they’re not comparable or in the same ballpark. Go read the whole thing, as they say, it’s well worth it.

I’ve seen the argument that having a same-sex encounter if you’re in a het relationship (or an opposite-sex partner if you’re in a gay/lesbian relationship) is not really cheating. I agree that there are a number of circumstances in which it’s not (more on that in a moment), and at first glance it kind of makes sense. You’re getting something from that other person that your partner can’t provide. But that’s a spurious justification, because it’s true in a whole range of cases in which the person is unfulfilled in the main relationship.

How is it different for me to have a relationship with a woman because my husband doesn’t have girl parts than for me to have a relationship with an alpha man because my husband is a beta? Or for my husband to find someone who makes him feel economically powerful rather than economically egalitarian in our relationship? How is having a physical attribute you can’t change all that different from a psychological or socially-constructed attribute you theoretically can?

When you enter into a committed relationship with someone, you’re accepting a package. You never get everything you want in that package. Valuing what you are receiving and accepting the limitations inherent in any person you choose is part of what makes you a mature participant in a relationship. If you go outside that relationship for emotional or sexual fulfillment, whether it’s with a different-sex person, same-sex person, vampire, or the cat next door, you’re being unfaithful.

The only time that this doesn’t count as infidelity, in my book, is when you have the informed consent of your partner. If the partner sincerely agrees to your relationship, or series of meaningless one-night stands, or whatever, with someone else (of whatever gender), then it’s not infidelity, because the concept of faithfulness and all that it entails doesn’t apply to your relationship (for this particular behavior; it may still be relevant for other behavior). The partner doesn’t have to be over the moon about it, s/he just has to be willing to accept it and stick to that position. In real life, there are many instances of such agreements and relationships which have them both survive and thrive. In the romance genre, however, these types of agreements contradict one of the fundamental assumptions, which is that a two-person, monogamous romance is at the heart of the story.

There is, however, area of romance in which unfaithfulness in a relationship doesn’t always work the same way as in mainstream romance, and that is in m/m romance. It’s not because gay men are assumed to be horndogs who don’t understand or care about romantic monogamy (although some stroke novels come close to saying that). But I do think we have a socially constructed conventional wisdom, which may or may not be accurate, that regardless of sexual orientation, all men on average are sincerely able to treat specific instances of sex as meaningless more often than women, i.e., truly meaningless sex is rarer for women than for men (again, on average). If that is true, then a relationship between two men should, other things being equal, offer opportunities meaningless or non-consequential sex more often than m/f relationships, and it should less often be a deal-breaker because the harmed party is more likely to accept the “it didn’t mean anything” argument. And because of the conventional wisdom about men and meaningless sex, the reader is going to consent to this construction.

In saying this, I in no way mean to suggest that there can never be relationships in which infidelity is a deal-breaker, because the whole concept of meaningless sex implies that there is such a thing as meaningful sex. The role sex plays depends on the individuals involved (or more precisely, since we’re talking about fictional characters, it depends on the way the author has written the characters). If the characters are in a monogamous romantic relationship and one partner breaches that agreement, there are going to be consequences. The consequences may be exactly the same as in a heterosexual relationship, or they may be different.

As I was reading Jane’s column and the comments, I was thinking about Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series. Tumperkin just finished an omnibus read of all five books and she found them utterly romantic and satisfying. She felt this way (and many other readers do too, including me) in spite of the ups and downs of Jake and Adrien’s romantic journey. Jake isn’t merely unfaithful to Adrien by engaging in meaningless sex with others. He marries a woman and has a BDSM relationship with another man. Nevertheless, judging from comments on the series, readers are satisfied with the way Jake and Adrien’s romance is finally resolved. The most vocal dissenter, whose argument I find disturbingly convincing (because I want to believe in their HEA, dammit), bases his dissatisfaction on an entirely different issue. I don’t believe for a minute that a heterosexual, mainstream romance with this story arc would find the same level of reader consent.

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36 thoughts on “Infidelity is not gender-dependent

  1. I actually stopped reading the Jake/Adrien story because I didn’t understand Adrien placing himself in the hands of Jake who seemed to care so little for Adrien (and for himself).

    • I bet there are a lot of people who quit the series but we don’t hear from them. I wish we did (and thanks for commenting on this) because it would give us a more interesting discussion. It really does require a major suspension of disbelief to keep going, I think. I’ll pretty much go anywhere the author takes me if I have been grabbed by their style. But I also think the fact that Jake treated himself as badly as he did Adrien made me want to read on.

      • I think of a number of people who quit series or books never speak up because they’ve moved on. Honestly I didn’t know the series continued or how many books etc because once I’ve given up, I don’t pay attention. It’s like the Sat query piece a few weeks ago where the author commented that she worried that first person, present tense was going to be bothersome for readers but as no one commented that they didn’t like it, she assumed everyone was fine with the first person, present tense.

        That prompted one reader to say that she never finished it because of the tense and didn’t comment. I was the same way. I read the first paragraph and thought, eh, not for me, and moved on.

  2. I think Adrien English brings up an interesting discussion of what the reader might see as redemptive and did Jake really redeem himself enough.

    On the other hand if you bring up a book that many people seem to love that uses infidelity and informed consent in a major role in but just failed for me in the end.

    I think Chris Owen ~ Bareback has these issues in spades. I mean we start the book off with sex between the two. Then they discover their love for each other at an impromptu orgy with two other guys (informed consent) at some planned event party on the ranch.

    Then the hero starts demanding certain rules be followed without argument because he does not play with the help (but that’s how he found this lover he is making demands of) and the lover gets tired of of him calling all the shots (because thats what the real issue is here) and finds someone else to have fun with and from the way they met I understood why he felt comfortable doing just that.

    The author fails even more with no clear attempt at a setup and basically never states they had a strictly monogamous relationship after the whole orgy scene (I love you) and what situations do occur afterwards that get shown make the hero look like a hypocritical ass at best and then he purposefully falls off the wagon (he’s also alcoholic how sexy is that) and starts using his alcoholism to shut himself off from communicating (what a real catch I tell you).

    The infidelity here was really just an added meaningless set piece or an easy excuse to create angst. The real issues FOR the infidelity are never addressed or completely ignored because addressing any of them honestly undermines the hero not only as a less than perfect instigator but actually an overly manipulative petty dictator.

    Not romance material in my book.

    So I have no problem with infidelity used appropriately with good reasons and social costs to the person caught doing such things. As long as the redemption is also of equal weight then I am fine but I still say it does not sell the romance or make the HEA any easier really as Jane pointed out it’s more HFN territory even with judicious use.

    Why include an instant negative in your romance like that?

    • That’s a really interesting example. I haven’t read it, but you make me want to. Not because I think I’ll enjoy it necessarily, but I’m curious to see what you’re talking about because I’m pretty sure I’d agree with you.

      I do agree that the infidelity storyline conflicts with what most of us want out of a romance novel, and it’s hard even for me to buy the HEA. I’m happy enough with an HFN, but yeah, I usually have to basically write off the HEA if I’m thinking logically.

      I think that m/m has the opportunity to explore the transition from being unattached and sexually active to monogamy within a loving relationship in a greater variety of ways than m/f often can, because m/f readers are on average less willing to endorse a sexually active heroine (let alone a heroine with multiple partners before the hero). With men it’s more acceptable, even in m/f, so an author can do a lot with the character of the horndog who falls in love. Heidi Cullinan does this really effectively with both Mitch and Randy, and there are many others. I would love to see more authors writing about the relationship after the commitment, because that transition is tough for a lot of people, no matter how sincere they are in wanting to make it. And it’s something people don’t like to talk about, often, so fiction lets us go places we may not get to go in real life (tm MoJo).

      • Well with Gay Romance you can have more variety in the type of relationship as we obviously have because we have no reusable templates of such relationships.

        My problem stems from writers looking for “easy angst” who seem to think replicating lock stock and barrel hetro norms into these homosexual relationships without showing the couple agreeing to follow such things. It’s shows a terrible lack of understanding how things work when there is no norms typically.

        • OMG yes. Instead of using fiction to explore the consequences of a world with different norms (I would say there *are* norms, but they’re informal and internal to the group), some authors plot m/f RL & romance norms onto an m/m. Does. Not. Work.

          From a purely genre standpoint, I think there are also more options because the genre hasn’t calcified in some of the ways m/f romance has. But I think that’s what you were saying, I’m just repeating it.

    • I didn’t see Jake as a tyrant in the relationship at all. They had an agreement to play together or not at all. (The rings.) So when Tor chose to step out of the relationship– with someone who’d approached them as a couple and they decided not to go there– it was a big deal. The only bossiness I saw was at work, which is legit because Jake was the foreman. He was the boss. Tor didn’t alway respect that, and resentments that built up at work splashed over into their home life.

      Tor dealt with the emotional distance and fighting by cheating. Jake dealt with discovering the cheating by falling off the wagon. So I’d say they were pretty equal in bad choices.

      They seemed to do a pretty good job of figuring out how to communicate after the big blow up, and I finished the book reasonably confident that they would be OK. Although I’m concerned because the book ends with Jake in a position he’s always said he didn’t want to be, and hadn’t really had any change of heart on. I haven’t read the second book yet, but I could see that being a major source of relationship tension.

  3. If you go outside that relationship for emotional or sexual fulfillment, whether it’s with a different-sex person, same-sex person, vampire, or the cat next door, you’re being unfaithful.

    Heh, I almost said something like when a man loves his dog more than his wife. I’ve seen it.

    But I do think we have a socially constructed conventional wisdom, which may or may not be accurate, that regardless of sexual orientation, all men on average are sincerely able to treat specific instances of sex as meaningless more often than women, i.e., truly meaningless sex is rarer for women than for men (again, on average).

    You bring up an interesting point. I’ve been reading lesbian erotica and romance for a couple of years now and I’ve read quite a bit. I’ve noticed that often lesbians are portrayed either in character or in their social world as being able to and often having meaningless sex and prowling around like how we often see men doing. It even seems to be a commonly acceptable behavior in the lesbian world… in fiction. I don’t know about reality on that level. But given a world in which men aren’t in the picture, women are just as apt to be low down horn dogs and unfaithful, having so-called meaningless hook-ups as much as men. Or so it seems.

    Due to this, I’ve come to accept that when reading lesbian stories in which there are such characters or social situations in which this is going on, I accept it as more or less OK the way I accept it in m/m since the characters seem to accept it as normal to that world as well.

    • That’s so interesting! IRL most of the lesbians I know are my age, in long-term relationships and monogamous, so that’s no help in understanding younger, single women.

      If these authors are just adopting m/m tropes, then there’s not much to unpack. But if they’re channeling real-life behavior, that’s definitely worth exploring.

    • Some say it’s probably due to The L Word. Namely, Shane.

      Real Shanes exist, but they are rare, comparing to gay and straight men and straight women. I agree with you that that kind of behaviour is not that common and, for some, acceptable in real life, even among younger generations. Probably because it’s a world where every lesbian is The One. :D

      Seriously, though. Real Shanes I knew tended to have flings with those already in relationships (straight or not) or marriages. In a way, they were predators? I think predator is too strong a word. Let’s say, their motivations weren’t always sincere. I feel it’s more about psychological issues than sex or love. Thrill seekers, like. I’m sure other real Shanes aren’t like those real Shanes I knew. Overall, I don’t think real Shanes have good reputation, fair or not.

      (I have no idea how gay men feel, as an overall, about gay men who act similarly, though.)

  4. Damn, sorry, it seems the whole post got formatted and not just the section of your post I replied to.

    [fixed]

  5. Well, it pretty much all boils down to what we give consent for individually, right? Actually, I encourage fiction to challenge my beliefs. In other words, I like to keep an open mind. I feel that infidelity when used appropriately can make for a compelling read so it depends on the talent of the writer to pull off something that is a distasteful and challenge from the start. Only a talented writer can overcome such a deficit and usually those are the stories I would want to read. In the end, I’m down for reading just about anything if it entertains me.

    I concur that there shouldn’t be a difference of acceptance when it comes to infidelity based on gender if I’m understanding you right. Cheating is cheating in my book including of a different gender. But like everything else in life, there are subtle differences/exceptions/acceptances of such behavior that I don’t understand since it is not in my world view and so I will stop there.

    • I’m the same. Even in genre, which I consider comfort reading to some extent, I love coming across work that takes me out of that comfort zone if it’s done well.

      I mashed up RL and fiction in my post, but yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If an author brushes off infidelity by saying the other partner finds it hot, or just because it’s same-sex it doesn’t count, I’m not going to accept that. Whatever type of infidelity it is, it has to be motivated and dealt with in the context of the novel. And if it’s agreed-upon, as in menage books or some erotic romance, then I want that to be part of the storyline rather than taken for granted. Good examples are Heidi C. in m/m and Megan Hart in m/f.

  6. Good examples are Heidi C. in m/m and Megan Hart in m/f.

    I didn’t know Heidi C wrote m/m romance. That’s a big turnaround from the historical romances she used to write. Any titles to recommend?

    • Oops, no, I meant Heidi Cullinan! I can definitely recommend her books, though. :-) And BTW, thank you (I think, given the price of #1) for that review of Torpedo.

      • Oh I found my copy at a price a little cheaper than that at Amazon but I don’t regret buying it. I love those HTF graphic novels that are well written and under the radar.

  7. “If the partner sincerely agrees to your relationship, or series of meaningless one-night stands, or whatever, with someone else (of whatever gender), then it’s not infidelity, because the concept of faithfulness and all that it entails doesn’t apply to your relationship (for this particular behavior; it may still be relevant for other behavior).”

    I’d consider even this in the context of “faithfulness.” My impression is that most people with committed non-monogamous relationships have rules/expectations about how they operate, and people need to keep faith with those rules/promises they’ve made about their sexual behavior.

    I’d have to reread Adrien English (what hardship) to really think about why I accepted that relationship. In some ways, I read Adrien as “feminized”–he seemed less powerful in relation to Jake, not just because physically weaker and sometimes in need of rescue, but also as more attracted and attached to Jake than vice versa (maybe because we see from his POV). That’s the kind of power dynamic that makes storylines like theirs hard to accept for m/f readers, I think. BUT that dynamic changes over the course of the books, and in other ways, like in his other relationships, Adrien is very much a (stereo)typical guy, one who keeps himself emotionally closed off, for instance. I think Lanyon plays with romance readers’ expectations in really interesting ways.

    • I’d consider even this in the context of “faithfulness.” My impression is that most people with committed non-monogamous relationships have rules/expectations about how they operate, and people need to keep faith with those rules/promises they’ve made about their sexual behavior.

      Oh I agree completely; that’s what I mean by “for this particular behavior” but I didn’t say it clearly. It’s not as if having a non-monogamous relationship means there are no rules whatsoever. To the contrary, if I think about the non-M relationships I’ve known, they have quite stringent rules. That’s why infidelity and unfaithfulness are the wrong terms, in some ways. It’s not that there is no fidelity, but rather that the parameters are different.

  8. I have to admit that same-sex infidelity “hurts” (if I can use that term for fiction) more than hetero infidelity because that person has something I don’t have and can’t offer. I can’t get over that feeling of hopelessness.

    I’ve read many (consenting) menage/triads and there are very few that have convinced me that all three participants are sincerely good with the sharing. Almost always, there’s one (#1) who I feel is going along reluctantly (varying degrees of reluctance) because they’re in love with #2 more than #3 and resents #3′s presence and hold on #2, but will do it because it’s what #2 wants. I don’t believe the HEA (or I believe the HFN is going to have a very truncated “for now”).

    • I have to admit that same-sex infidelity “hurts” (if I can use that term for fiction) more than hetero infidelity because that person has something I don’t have and can’t offer. I can’t get over that feeling of hopelessness.

      I’ve seen/heard others say that. I can see how that would be, especially if it’s in the context of a supplementary relationship (thus constantly driving home the point). But it is so individual; for some readers, inability to offer what the partner wants makes the infidelity easier to accept.

      I agree with you about menage settings; I can enjoy them in erotica, but with a couple of exceptions they haven’t worked for me in romance, especially m/f.

  9. I truly believe that many, straight or not, don’t see a same-sex affair on the same level of a heterosexual affair because of two simple things: an ability to make babies and a chance to marry; both are among best known public declarations of permanent commitment in today’s world.
    It’s painful for one to discover their partner having an affair with a person of the opposite-sex because of those two things above. It can be utterly devastating when you discover that a woman your boyfriend has had an affair with is expecting a baby, or when your long-time girlfriend decides to marry a man to keep her family from finding out that she’s gay. It’s betrayal at guts-level.
    That said, there are so-called compromises that often involve infidelity. Some consent to their partners to have affairs or marry, but more than not, they do it out of fear of losing their partners or understanding that there’s a bigger picture, i.e. families and/or employers. It’s tough to find a same-sex partner that easily, especially if you live in an area that don’t have many openly gay people. It’s more tough to discover that the one you love isn’t that faithful or have the same idea of what commitment is. You can either consent to affairs to hold onto him or her, or break off completely and enter the tough and sometimes dangerous world of finding the One.

    That’s why I can’t view LGBT infidelity the same way I view heterosexual infidelity. Both amount to the same thing: betrayal of trust, but the rules and, maybe, reasons are often completely different, and sometimes more painful and unfair.

    Mostly because more than not, this cause them to become, often unwittingly, the Other Man/Woman. Which is what Adrien English is to me. He’s not a partner; he’s the Other Man. The male edition of Mistress. I can understand why he allows this (even though I find it odd, considering the fact he lives in Los Angeles), but I can’t bring myself to like or respect his partner for putting him in that position.

    When a long-term heterosexual partner or married woman/man discovers their spouse is having an affair with a same-sex person, they don’t think in terms of losing the spouse to permanency. They feel one of these: a fear of the others finding out that the spouse isn’t ‘straight’, thus bringing ‘shame’ to their family; a relief that it’s not them, i.e. it isn’t their fault in terms of sexual satisfaction; a betrayal that their partner or spouse hasn’t been telling the truth about their sexual orientation, or a sense of unfairness that they “can’t win” him or her back because the rules are different now.

    Like I say, it amounts to the same thing: betrayal of trust, but reasons are different for each side. I think that’s why there are different views to which is ‘real’ and which isn’t, and which is meaningful and which isn’t. My view? Infidelity may not be that straightforward, but still a bad thing if a couple don’t honestly and fully agree for one to have affairs.

    Turning the subject round slightly: asexual people. They have zero interest in sex, but they have lasting romantic relationships or/and marriages. They suffer a lot because of the society’s huge expectations that a romantic or married couple *should* have a sexual relationship. Not having sex is seen as ‘not normal’ or ‘secretly gay’. A male friend of mine is asexual and married to a woman, who’s also asexual. Time again and again, many close friends believe he may be gay and that he’s being cruel to his wife, and vice versa. So, he and his wife have been subjected to invitations to have affairs. That’s one type of betrayal. That’s as in, an asexual person feels emotionally betrayed by people who believe he or she cannot be asexual. At best, it’s sexual harassment.

    There are some heroines in romance novels that seem asexual (still virgins, don’t think about sex and have no sexual interest in men). Heroes almost always bully them into having sex with them. It’s easy to see why some asexual people dislike romance novels, especially when heroines are already engaged or in non-sexual but clearly marked romantic relationships with other men (who often portrayed as villainous or “sexless”). Quite a few readers accept these as the norm, probably because heroines haven’t had sex with their boyfriends or fiancés, but my friend and his wife view these as acts of infidelity.

    Side note: I didn’t find out about their sexual orientation until the friend asked if I could find non-sexual romantic novels for his wife. It was so bloody hard! I could only find inspirational romances (which is also problematic as it often revolves around children), traditional Regency romances and much older contemporary romance novels (old M&Bs). There aren’t many kisses-only romances these days. Suggestions welcome!

    *I’m including trangenders and the rest.

  10. Oops. Some have already stated the bits I wrote in my responses. I usually read all comments before responding, but I didn’t this time. Sorry about that!

  11. “Mostly because more than not, this cause them to become, often unwittingly, the Other Man/Woman. Which is what Adrien English is to me. He’s not a partner; he’s the Other Man. The male edition of Mistress. I can understand why he allows this (even though I find it odd, considering the fact he lives in Los Angeles), but I can’t bring myself to like or respect his partner for putting him in that position.”

    I think this is fascinating because it makes Adrien into the victim yet again when it is shown he has over and over again participated in making himself the victim in bad relationships. Yet he never really does anything to change that particular unsavory aspect of himself. Jake was not the first to do Adrien wrong simply just another variation of such and it seems Adrien has made a career of finding the wrong guy to be with.

    So was this all really Jake’s fault or did Adrien make their relationship out to be more than sexual when it really was never more than a fling at best?

    We only have Adrien’s side of the story to go on.

    • Fair point. I thought that because Adrian suggested Jake was stronger of them two (even though I saw Jake as a weak person). That said, I tend to view mistresses as ‘victims’, just as much as I view betrayed spouses as ‘victims’. It’s adulterous spouses or partners that I view as ‘villains’, and that’s probably why I view Jake in such negative light.

      • Right, but then by Adrien’s own account Jake dated this girl while dating him so it was simply something that turned into “the other man” deal and we never really listen in on any of the “during” discussions we only get a quick catchup every now and then from Adrien.

  12. Plus I believe pregnancy was involved making Jake a responsible person that married the girl even if he was not in love. Soooo as I said interesting discussion.

  13. @ Maili: Yes to everything you’re saying. I understand some readers’ reluctance to read any storylines with infidelity in them, but given that there are those of us who *are* willing to go down that road with an author who handles it skilfully, the different scenarios you describe would make fascinating stories. We get them in lit fic all the time, and sometimes they are really terrifically done, but almost always depressing. But there *are* cases where things work out in the end, and romance could focus on those.

    I have been thinking how the lack of a marriage HEA influences gay romance (I want to write a post but I can’t get it to crystallize enough in my head). Some writers, like Heidi Cullinan, use the U.S. state-level gay marriage option; she ends at least a couple of her books with a comparable HEA. But many authors don’t, and the books end with an HFN more than an HEA. I think it affects the entire development of the relationship when the reader knows (and the characters do too) that they have to create their committed HEA without the institutions that make it easier (or at least more straightforward) for straight couples, and which are key to romance HEA endings.

    @TeddyPig & @ Maili: There are a lot of men, regardless of sexual orientation, who want the white-picket-fence domestic relationship. For gay men who aren’t willing to be out, that means a woman. So I saw Jake’s betrayal of his feelings for Adrien as fulfilling his yearning for that life as much as his need to suppress his homosexuality.

  14. “but given that there are those of us who *are* willing to go down that road with an author who handles it skilfully, the different scenarios you describe would make fascinating stories.”

    J.G. Hayes ~ This Thing Called Courage

    Give that one a shot.

  15. An outstanding blog entry, and thanks to the pointer to the other spot; I’ll go there directly after this.

    The main element in infidelity is various individuals’ relationship to the truth (“fidelity”). Not the obsessive details of how they interact with each other (who slept with/kissed/didn’t/etc. whom, is the person straight/male/female/gay/asexual).

    It is entirely possible (though very unlikely) for a committed couple to choose, openly and with full fidelity, to include others in their intimacies. But they must hammer out the terms of the fidelity and intimacy, and they must be honest and courageous in dealing with surprises, violations, unexpected land mines, and so forth. Anything else is cheating, whether or not involves sex, regardless of gender alignment. To say that it’s not really cheating if it’s two women is a normative statement that implies that women’s sexuality is less important, and also less capable of human bonding–or human damage. And that is misogynist in the extreme.

    Here’s another twist. At present I’m witnessing an asexual relative’s waking up to the fact that she and a woman friend have been having effectively an emotional affair, locking out both their husbands at many levels, and using their emotional intensity to control the husbands’ access. With the death of the relative’s husband, she is shell shocked to learn that the friend is likely to make a career decision that would be best for her and HER husband. The relative is staggered by this, and claims it is about friendship. But the frenzied emotional reaction indicates it is in fact about breaking her addiction to a complicated set of lies and evasions, that for years have sabotaged various efforts at emotional truth-telling and growth.

    This is why I gave up reading fiction a long time ago. There are enough dysfunctional, dishonest people around me, generating their addictive supply of emotional excitement out of lies and evasion. I don’t need that in my inner life in any form. But I’m always looking for fiction writers who can tell stories about adults, and adult relationships to others and their emerging truths. Thank you for listening to my perspective, and thank you for the chance to think about this.

    • Wow. Thanks very much for your comment. That is a powerful example of how a partner can separate emotionally without doing any of the things most people (or society in general) would categorize as being unfaithful. And in this case, the lack of awareness makes it more difficult for everyone involved.

      In any long-term relationship there is a delicate balance between having enough of an independent life (complete with one’s own interests and friends) to retain an individual identity and using those relationships and interests to shut out the other person.

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