I was deeply troubled by a recent episode of Offspring. In it, Nina, the heroine, is caught between her on-again off-again love/hate boyfriend and a new flame. After an altercation between the two chaps, Nina’s sister mentions to the new beau that the old beau is not completely over Nina. He replies that he doesn’t care so long as she is completely over him.
I always find such sentiments toxic. Why insist on your partners being strictly oriented towards you? Such a requirement suggests deep insecurity and a disposition towards jealousy and possessiveness. Yet my impression is that this is the prevailing view in society – your partner should have absolutely no feelings for people they were once intimate with, nor should they even glance at other potential partners.
There are many things wrong with this attitude, but let me start with what alarms me most: the notion that it is poor judgement to start a relationship with someone who harbours feelings for someone else.
Most of us expect a ‘relationship’ to contain deep feeling, strong intimacy and warm affection. Such things are powerful. How is it that we expect them to be so completely severed once a relationship comes apart? It seems to me that they could only be severed if they weren’t very deep to begin with.
I think it normal for people to always retain feelings for former lovers. Instead, people want their lovers to actively hate their previous partners. But surely if someone is capable of such emotional flip-flopping they are a little bit ‘crazy’. Someone who can go from being very fond of someone to despising that person strikes me as emotionally wild and probably immature.
The motivation behind the insistence on strict emotional fealty is the desire for a strong emotional connection. But I think people are confusing emotional selfishness with strong feeling. Someone who loves possessively is quite possibly still a child needing a mother’s unbridled love or an insecure neurotic who needs constant bolstering.
A deep feeling person is typically sensitive and passionate. That is why they are attractive. In forcing them to control that sensitivity and passion you are ironically destroying exactly what you like about them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being strict with a partner’s cheating behaviour, but their cheating thoughts are a different matter entirely.
The author blogs at markfabian.blogspot.com