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The New Infidelity


Courtesy of Holly Shumas

How would you feel if your significant other was emotionally involved with someone else—even if they weren’t sleeping together? The issue of emotional infidelity is at the center of Berkeley author Holly Shumas’ (pictured at left) new novel, Love and Other Natural Disasters.

Disasters begins with Eve, eight months pregnant and devastated after learning her husband, Jonathan, is having an intimate relationship with another woman. Although Jonathan denies the affair is sexual, Eve feels deceived by her husband’s confession that he shared his innermost thoughts and feelings with another woman.

Emotional cheating is a topic Shumas deals with in her day job as a family therapist. “I attribute it in part to the increased equality of men and women in the workplace,” says Shumas. “Men and women form close friendships based on shared experiences, and from there, they might start to think their office mate ‘gets’ them more than their spouse does. The Internet is another factor because it creates a fantasy of other potential partners—and it’s tough for a partner to compete with a fantasy.”

What many betrayed partners say hurts most, whether the affair is sexual or emotional, is the secrecy and lying, Shumas adds. For couples to survive infidelity, the partner who did the hurting must work hard to initiate the healing. She says: “Taking responsibility and having empathy and compassion toward the betrayed spouse is definitely the first step.”

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