Dong Hoon & Ji An: an emotional affair?

“Their spouses may sin in Singapore, Tokyo or a downtown love hotel, but they will never sin on the screen of this movie … And when you’re holding back and speaking in code, no conversation is boring, because the empty spaces are filled by your desires.” — Roger Ebert on In the Mood for Love

Like one of the greatest love stories in modern film, In the Mood for Love, Dong Hoon and Ji An express a deep love held back by great restraint. Is this one of the greatest emotional affairs? Soompi Forum members discuss.

@oldschooler:

I wonder if the writers get it that this is another affair? And it is not all the more noble because they did not cross physical lines? I remember a line from “This Week My Wife Will have an Affair” something to the effect of when it happens to others, it is an affair, but when it happens to yourself, it is romance. As much as PDH held back, they are not innocent.

But, but, it was still beautiful. Someone else said (here and Dramabeans) that this drama paralleled Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love a lot. I would like to add to that by quoting Roger Ebert’s review of the movie: “Their spouses may sin in Singapore, Tokyo or a downtown love hotel, but they will never sin on the screen of this movie, because their adultery is boring and commonplace, while the reticence of Chow and Su elevates their love to a kind of noble perfection.[…] And when you’re holding back and speaking in code, no conversation is boring, because the empty spaces are filled by your desires.”

@t123han:

Given the kind of person DH is , the one who doesn’t even talk properly at home to his wife , the one who is shy around women , the one who bottles up all his feelings inside , for him to have that one person to whom he can share his innermost feelings definitely constitutes for an emotional affair on his part. If he had just pitied her , he would have given her advice, money and left it at that . But no , he searches for her , he longs for her , he buys food and has deep meaningful conversation about his life. He is dependent on her for his sanity more than he can admit.

@fauna:

I don’t think that DH himself saw it as an emotional affair. When JA confesses that she likes him, he says it is out of pity. He doesn’t see it as romantic love. I don’t think he’s quite there yet. Otherwise, he would have passionately hugged her or kissed her when he met her again, and not settled for a warm handshake. When JA shouts out that DH likes JA, he hits her on the head (as she had asked him to). When DJY implies that they are in (romantic) love with each other, DH hits him for implying something dirty. However, he does say that if he is unhappy, then she is unhappy, so he will become happy for her sake. He thinks of his love for her as one human being loving another human being, not as a romantic man/woman kind of love.

In In the Mood For Love, don’t they both admit that they love each other romantically, but will not act on it physically, like their cheating spouses are doing? That is definitely an emotional affair. They are holding themselves back, but do want to be physically together. But when JA first asked DH for a hug, he said no, without any hesitation, and he walked away without looking back even once. Also, on the subway train, he does whatever he can to not touch her and to protect her from being squished by the crowd. He doesn’t physically desire her, but he will always protect her.

I do think that now they are both in a better mental and physical place, their love can grow into the romantic kind (mentally and physically), when enough time has passed. But before he separated from his wife, he would not let himself go there.

Three people disagreed with @fauna:

@justamom: (thinks their love is already the romantic kind)

He’s in denial!!!!!!

In what way is that not the most romantic, deep, and soulful love of all?

Don’t get me wrong, I (mostly) agree with what you said. It’s just to me, being able to feel something someone else feels, that sort of telepathic connection, is one of the deepest emotional connections one human being can have with another.

@h2ogirl: (thinks that he does desire her but will never cross the physical line)

About the subway scene – his restraint is what made it sexy. And such bus / subway / train rides – where the guy is trying to keep himself from squishing the girl – are one of those common scenes that have clear romantic undertones. In Reply 1988, Jung Hwan made himself into a human shield for Duk Sun on one of their bus rides. He was also restraining himself from bumping into Duk Sun… but the way he popped his muscles for her made him so attractive. Someone pointed out that Coffee Prince has a similar scene as well?

Yes, we didn’t get a clear “I love you” confession from DH, but if you’ve been reading @justamom analyses and @ninanin’s Thank You analysis, then we technically did get confessions from both ends.

Why didn’t DH go all out in that last scene? I’d argue it’s because they are surrounded by JA’s coworkers, and it’s broad daylight. That’s the most skinship he could do then and there without looking like a creep. I daresay that if their fateful reunion took place at night instead, and in a more isolated location like by their neighborhood rail tracks, he would’ve at least given her a passionate hug (like in Dae Jang Geum?). Note that this is the only skinship DH ever initiates towards a woman / JA in the drama. It’s funny that I don’t even have a still image of DH and YH together.

Why didn’t DH act on his desires for physical intimacy, if it was romantic love after all? It’s because, for most of the show, he was legally a married man. And DH, being so upright and proper, maintained certain boundaries, physical boundaries, with JA. Even in the hug scene, he was restraining himself. It was a warm hug, not a tight embrace… In hindsight, that’s what makes the intimate handhold so special. To me, it shows that he’s a free man now. The marriage is as good as over, and he is free to hold on to JA now.

About DH not looking back after rejecting JA’s hug the first time, you’re right… but he did let out a tiny sigh (before we see JY pull up). We shippers can be really diligent about finding breadcrumbs.

Why did DH get so riled up when JY called the two of them “sleazy”? Because they’re not! Far from it. It was never flirtatious or about sleeping together or just a fling between the two of them. That’s how it was for JY and YH. DH and JA were serious about each other. And so they understood and respected each other’s boundaries. To borrow YH’s words about JA, they were “protecting” each other “with their entire being”. That’s true love. Even someone like JY recognized that.

@oldschooler: (imagining this happening to herself)

Hi @fauna, I appreciate very much your distinction between emotional affair vs. kindness/protective love. It would really satisfy my one-track mind if PDH did not have romantic feelings towards LJA, as illustrated by his lack of conflict over her request for a hug. That’s because I agree that emotional affairs and true love are mutually exclusive. Yes yes, please let them be together after his divorce.

For me though, PHD did fall for LJA, if only internally out of everyone’s sight. I guess our perception of whether PDH crossed the line or not depends on how we individually define romantic love. As someone mentioned earlier, my gold standard is by gauging the level I freak out if my husband treats another woman the way PDH treated LJA.

And a final reply from @fauna:

True, but I tend to give DH a pass because of his circumstances. He is suicidal, depressed, thinks of himself as worthless, and his pillar (his wife) is not only failing to hold him up, but seeking to actively destroy him (marrying the person he hates the most and taking away the job everyone he loves wants him to keep).

Whenever he is at the end of his rope, there is JA, telling him he is a good person, to hang in there, discussing how bad work is, having a drink with him when he needs it most, even staring at him sadly in sympathy through the window as his car drives away. She has the best timing due to the wiretap, but is still there for him when he needs her. His best friend texts him, but that is not enough. He needs face-to-face interaction and support. The reason he doesn’t let the train run over him or jump in the Han River is his brothers, but they pressure him to stay in his job and think his life is perfect. They are loving him and killing him at the same time. JA is the only person, be it woman or man, holding him up. Rather than an emotional affair, I see it as an emotional lifeline.

In this man eat man world, we all need to be kinder to each other, love one another, help each other, and form meaningful connections whenever we can. People like Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain seemed to have it all, but were suffering so much inside.

 

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20 thoughts on “Dong Hoon & Ji An: an emotional affair?”

  1. The firt consideration I would make is that the two situations are not comparable. His wife had already broken their vow, and so now he does not owe her anything: I would have been perfectly fine with him having a full blown, actual physical affair. Not sure I would even consider it a betrayal, in light of the fact that the vow had been broken and therefore I don’t feel he owen his wife any loyalty. This is apart from the fact that there is not actual agreement on what even constitutes an emotional affair (or, as can be ascertained through a look at the internet, in the words of therapist and commentators alike, whether the notion itself even make sensense). Certainly people have a variety of opinion on this, ranging from Mike Pence’s “not dining with a lady without my wife” rule, which was widely ridiculed, to San Francisco poly community.

    I must say that I find the notion of an “emotional affair” fairly fuzzy. Where the line gets drawn is very subjective, going from reasonable notions to insecure/possessive/controlling/repressive ones. You can go from a Mike Pence that considers having dinner with a female that is not his wife without the latter to be out of bounds, something for which he was widely ridiculed, to couples where one has a close friend of the other sex… the point being that contrary to an actual affair, there is not really an objective boundary in terms of actions and we enter thought-crime territory: going to the movies would have been okay if he had no romantic feelings, but not if he did, despite not only the action, but the *intention* being the same -to merely spend time together with no intention to escalate to something romantic, rather than to see it as a date that migth lead to romance-? Reminds me of the discussions on where jealousy is warranted on Black Mirror’s “The Entire History Of You” episode (in that case, it was a “are you really paranoid if they are actually out to get you?” situation). But I could see as reasonable uses of the term, for example, your partner spending time with someone that hurt you or that they had cheated with, where there is a reasonable fear of things escalating, or at least it’s understandably disturbing. But, on some level, I wonder if labeling it as an “affair” is helpful.

    We should also note that it’s not even clear what the nature of the relationship between DH and JA is, with half the people thinking it’s purely platonic, etc. Certainly, he set down clear boundaries and they merely hugh by the end of the drama. It’s not clear to me that he even realizes what he feels, and in any case I find the idea of condemning the guy for what is essentially thought crime fairly repulsive (given that he is adamant he won’t be having any romantic relationship with the girl, and makes it explicit to her multiple times). Post time skip things might or might not be different (again, the show is intentionally ambiguous). By contrast, no ambiguity about his wife’s affair, both in terms of what happened, and in terms of whether the public would consider it an affair. Again, incomparable not only due to it being an actualy, full blown physical affair where she was planning not only to divorce him, but to leave him jobless (future success cannot be used to predict past success: he lacks the capital and experience managing people at a higher level, not to mention the confidence and peace of mind of not having to support his whole family with very little funds… in the present, his wife was telling him to mortage his house and plannig to leave him for his worst enemy as soon as she could get him out of a job, and the discovery of the affair would have left him devastated right when he needed to focus on the startup phase: it would have been an obvious disaster). Keep in mind that she knows that he is depressed (and yet still trying to do his very best for his family), as she mentions to her lover. Almost suicidally so, wanting to let himself freeze to death even before discovering the affair, and looking down the bridge after the discovery: he says he wishes he was never born, and that he is continuing to live merely out of duty -don’t recall the exact phrase he tells the monk, actually, but it was something along those lines-.

    Quite frankly, most of the people fo his neighbourhood are former bankers or directors that were left out of a job, and his own brother had a similar experience and never recovered. And the plan would have been for him to go into debt risking it all on this. With teh prospect of being fired for sleeping with a subordinate, and her lover certainly not being inclined to give him a good reference (if he didn’t mess with his business like he did whith his career, when he moved him to another team when he was in line for a promotion as the ace of his previous team). The idea that he should take this risk at this point is frankly insane (he had supported his family, who just started a new business, and has very little money), and she is only suggesting this because she does not want to feel bad about herself: she tells this to JA explicitly in the love apartment scene, where she says that this is not about her anymore, since she broke up with her lover, so she doesn’t care whether DH even keeps his job (this is a contrast to the completion of her character arc, which culminates in the rooftop scene). This without even getting into how when he asked her for help, she didn’t provide him with any, telling him to just wait and see (after all, it was just his job and the financial fate of the rest of his family on the line), while milking him for information and ratting him out to her lover.

    For that matter, her lover was mistreating him at work (ignoring him, his goon humiliating him, see the restaurant scene where he is made to pour drinks like a servant; humiliations that she uses to manipulate him into quitting his job, playing on his supposed sense of insecurity) and basically kneecapped his career… DH does not make it a secret that he hates the guy. None of which matters to her, just like her lover trying to get her husband fired with the help of an accused murderer is not a deal breaker, but him lying to her about camping iand talking behind her back is. And she has the courage to talk about priorities and putting DH first. After decades of marriage and a child together. By contrast, DH defended her when his brother questioned her having to work (and missing her own niece’s wedding to be with her lover… her own niece is not family either?), and even against her lover, calling him out for not wanting to marry her when he had just found the glove and was imagining them together. He responds with kindness to her treating him shortly and curtly and gaslighting -accusing him of things she is a billion times more guilty of-. He prepares porridge and nurses her back to health. He even puts up with her completely unfair and unempathetic refusal to give him space, despite knowing he knows of the affair, and agrees to meet her in the middle and see his brothers and friends less, a compromise she spurns, despite the fact of her having been the one to raise the issue -only to backpedal when he points out that he does not want to come back to an empty home-. This fact that she knew about the conspiracy to get him out of a job and she didn’t tell him anything, but milked him for info and ratted him out to her lover, not leaving him even when knowing that he wanted to get him fired, was very important to DH, to the point he asks her lover about it during the confrontation at the campsite.

    In short, there is not comparison between the two situation, and there wouldn’t be even if he had an actual, full blown physical relationship with another woman, since she had already broken her vow quite thoroughly, and he owes her nothing. But he does not have an affair, and until the end, quite frankly, it looks like he is trying all he could .

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    1. all he could to save his family, from compromising and meeting her in the middle, to telling he he is going to be back soon when he is celebrating his promotion.

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      1. I mean, JA and DH’s interactions are just so innocent and constrained, not only physically but emotionally, in terms of boundaries DH sets for himself and them -while, of course, he correctly doesn’t punish her for her supposed feelings by making her lose her job for a thought crime-, that they don’t even hug until the last episodes, and even in their reunion they merely shake hands. I would say intentionally so from a writing perspective, as is the fact that even until the ending they remain ambiguous about what their future will be after the time skip reunion -this is not Kar Wai’s movie where at least the fact that they love each other is made explicit, in My Mister even just that fact is kept ambiguous… probably for DH it’s just not a feeling he would even allow himself to entertain while he is still with his wife, while after the timeskip there is the possibility that he will let himself love Ji An, thought of course their relationship, like his relationship with his wife, post timeskip, is not made clear-.

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      2. I would also say that there is such a thing as a sense of proportions. I cannot compare Backstreet Rookie’s ML’s gf kissing another guy with My Mister’s wife carrying on a year long affair with her husband’s boss, lying to him, not providing help when he came to her for the bribe issue, but rather spying on him and ratting him out to her lover, not considering the boss tormenting him and wanting to fire him with the help of an accused murderer a deal breaker -like, say, lying about camping or talking s**t-, and not caring whether DH even kept his job once it didn’t have anything to do with her (on top of trying to manipulate him into getting into debt, risking his house and quitting his job when it did, in order to make herself feel better by pretending it was his choice). DH asking JY whether she knew about the bribe was something he made sure to ask during the campfire confrontation. And so on.

        Frankly, DH is actually trying to spend more time with his wife (which she refuses to do because she has to meet up with her lover), he tries to compromise with her telling her about his schedule, which she spurns while not offering to spend less time at work (well, he believed she was at work, it turned out not to always be the case), which was what originally prompted him to spend more time with his friends, since he was alone at home and when she was there she went straight to the office and he couldn’t even watch television.

        I don’t see his desire to escape and rely on his friends, brothers and Ji An, i.e. the people that actually treat him well and don’t gaslight him or treat him curtly/shortly, when he was physically unable to enter his apartment because he couldn’t stop thinking about his wife with the CEO, as a moral failure. It’s perfectly understandable need for space, a need that she should have understood, given she already knew he knew of her affair, rather than attack him: I felt that this was an indication of her self contentedness and self absorption, given how any normal person would have understood his perfectly normal desire have space to process things, and to spend time with people he trusts, who understand him, in a safe space (i.e. the rest of his support group).

        I don’t subscribe to Mike Pence widely ridiculed opinion on dining with a lady absent his wife, in any case cue sense of proportion and the non indifferent fact that his wife broken their vow, so he does not owe her anything. I would have been perfectly fine with him having a full blown, actual physical affair. Not sure I would even consider it a betrayal, in light of the fact that the vow had been broken and therefore I don’t feel he owes his wife any loyalty. Cue Ji An’s completely correct statement on the rooftop: “Lady you have done much worse”. Amen, you go girl.

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    2. No equivalency, moral or otherwise, between what she did and anything he could have done after she broke their bond in terms of affairs, even if he had a full blown physical affair, which he did not.

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      1. Frankly, Kar Wai’s movie is exactly an example of what I wouldn’t consider an affair, in fact the issue with the protagonists is exactly that they don’t have an affair even while their spouses have broken their vows, and they should have, because they owed their spouses nothing: the fact that they don’t is exactly where the tragedy stems from.

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      2. In the case of Kar Wai’s movie, to refine the above point about their spouses having already broken their vows, and therefore them owing them nothing and being under no obligation to hold up their end of the deal (like two countries signing a peace treaty and the other attacking… obviously once the pact is broken, the victim wouldn’t be under any obligation to abide by those conditions). They did not take away any emotional resources from the relationship with their spouses, it was their spouses that cheated and took away such emotional resources, not spending time with them and leaving them alone to meet up. I would say that the two of them spending time together was a direct consequences of their spouses cheating, and leaning on each other was perfectly understandable. It was explicitly depicted as such an innocent, platonic, clean relationship, contrasted to the ugly, sordid affair of their spouses. Frankly, I would have found it perfectly appropriate for them to have an affair, given they didn’t owe their spouses, that had already broken their vows, anything. Not doing that left their love unconsummated, and brought them apart, forever, which was the tragedy of the movie. I feel the same way in the case of DH and JA: it was such an innocent and platonic relationship, but I wished they would actually get some much needed happiness instead, because they didn’t owe his wife anything, like JA correctly pointed out when he told her that, even had they slept together, she had done much worse and had no right to complain. Amen, go girl!

        In this case, of course, they were explicit about their feelings for each other, while one should point out that, on the contrary, JA and DH’s interactions are just so innocent and constrained, not only physically but emotionally, in terms of boundaries DH sets for himself and them -while, of course, he correctly doesn’t punish her for her supposed feelings by making her lose her job for a thought crime-, that they don’t even hug until the last episodes, and even in their reunion they merely shake hands. I would say intentionally so from a writing perspective, as is the fact that even until the ending they remain ambiguous about what their future will be after the time skip reunion -this is not Kar Wai’s movie where at least the fact that they love each other is made explicit, in My Mister even just that fact is kept ambiguous… probably for DH it’s just not a feeling he would even allow himself to entertain while he is still with his wife, while after the timeskip there is the possibility that he will let himself love Ji An, thought of course their relationship, like his relationship with his wife, post timeskip, is not made clear-.

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    3. TLDR, no, there was definitely only one affair in the show. Not that I would have minded if DH and JH’s relationship turned non-platonic, given that in my opinion he had no obligation to abide by a vow his wife had broken, and he owed nothing to an untrustworthy person who had already abused his trust, however hopes for that will have to wait the post-timeskip plotline in my imagination.

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    4. I would say that if Kar Wai’s movie had any goal, it was not to gaslight the already betrayed and traumatized protagonists, that had already been put through the ringer, but to highlight how pure and honest, sincere and clean their genuine human connection was, in comparison to the sordid affair of their spouses. And the tragic element was exactly that they did not act on their feelings: they should have had, morally they had every right to.

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      1. The answer to the question posed here would be “no”. With “innocent” and “platonic” in what I wrote above, I meant to indicate that DH always shut down quite forcefully any attempt at making this into something more. Show is intentionally ambiguous about what DH and JA (or DH and YH, for that matter) feel for each other. In particular, in Kar Wai’s movie the protagonists acknowledge their feelings. In neither case they broke their vows, it’s their spouses that do (and, in my eyes, free them from any obligations they would have previously had towards their partners). All this time, DH tries to salvage his marriage, asking her to spend time with him, only to be ghosted in favor of her lover, then spending time with her and nursing her back to health (porridge, etc.), acting concerned when she is heartbroken because of her lover. She horrendously gaslights him and he responds with kindness. She self absorbedly doesn’t even care that he needs space, and does not give him any. He responds by compromising, after pointing out that the very reason he spent time with his friends and brothers was that he didn’t want to go back to an empty house, and when she was at home she was in her office, and he couldn’t even raise the volume. She nitpicks and spurns his offer, and doesn’t offer to come home early, despite having been the one to raise the issue and having acknowledged her role in his loneliness and abandonment (not that he ever complained, he was understanding and wanted to support her in her goals). When they have the party, he tells her he will come home soon. He even tried to put up with this in silence in order to make things work. He has done everything he could, given his values, which is, I would say, anything one could humanly ask him.

        YH betrayed him physically, financially *and* emotionally. So in any case we would be talking about a proper superset of what is alleged. It went on for a year. It was with someone that she knew DH hated. He was uncommunicative about, i.e., having been made to kneel etc. in the past. But she knew enough of the dynamic, what with him working for his college junior, and what he told him at the cafe about not being hard to see how he is treated at work. She knows he hates her lover, and obviously he has been moved to another team. She is not his clueless mother, as she demonstrates when she perfectly understands the fact that they are struggling for DH’s managing director position. She is not an idiot. And her lover is not exactly trying to be stealthy (he does not hide his disdain for the chairman). DH does not tell her the gory details, but she obviously knows enough to understand that he is being made to feel miserable at work, because she uses that exact fact when trying to get him to quit. To put it another words, she knows he is being mistreated at work, and chooses to have an affair with his boss, who he hates. None of that was a deal breaker. Imagine the devastating consequences for DH if it was made known, particularly if the boss was still around. It would have made the situation impossible for him. In any case, she knows perfectly well that her lover wants to fire him with the help of an accused murderer. This is not a deal breaker for her, while him lying to her about camping is.

        Quite frankly, regarding his relationship with JA, it started out with them supporting each other. I have no issues with two people of the opposite sex eating together, since I am not Mike Pence. It was not even remotely sexual -the guy doesn’t even hug her until the last episodes and after the timeskip he shakes her hand, that’s the level of skinship-. After discovering the affair, the two of them lean on each other, and he has general discussion about life, never entering in the details, a bit like with the Monk (elsewhere in the site there is a comparison of JA as the female monk friend). Again, nothing sexual, she supports him and shows him she understands him, and reassures him that he is a good person and deserved to be happy, and she wanted him to be happy.

        My personal reading of the situation is that JA has feelings for him, but that since he is still trying to save his marriage, and he is her boss, he puts down clear lines that she shouldn’t cross, wanting to keep this to a strictly platonic friendship. My reading on DH’s side is that he values her because she understands him, and, having seen how miserable he is (roughly speaking, they acknowledge that them liking each other is also based on the mutual pity they feel for each other), she still roots for him -which is certainly not something that could be said of his wife-. I don’t think that in the course of the series he would have let himself feel anything more than that, as can be shown when he told his brother “why should she have called him” when he didn’t hear from her after her departure. Still doesn’t mean that she was not important: we often are not 100% attuned to our own feelings, and possibly he is setting down rules for himself in addition than for JA. My hope is that after the timeskip they would be free to pursue something more, given her feelings for him, and the fact they understand each other -removed misgivings such as the job relationship, that already caused them issues despite nothing happening between them, don’t see him being attracted to her physically as a problem-.

        Quite frankly, JA’s response to the board was a perfect response to the allegations here, clearly demonstrating how genuine and healthy for the both of them, despite how it might look from the outside (spying, etc.), this all was. I would say she even managed to make her life appreciate the guy a bit more, by pointing out to her how he always thought about asking her whether she needed anything. JA consistently tried to intervene on DH’s side here, telling the wife about the evil boss, and saving her from the fate of divorcing and being told “thanks, I won’t marry you”. She did tell her about DH knowing, and I thought it was perfectly appropriate, given how badly she was mistreating the guy -as YH remembers in her flashback-. Another thing I agree with JA 100% is that YH does not have any right to complain here, having already broken the vow between her and DH. He owes her nothing, and the notion that he should renounce to the literally life saving grace of JA (the guy not merely unhappy, like his wife, he was borderline suicidally depressed, and YH knew of his depression very well, as she told her lover that the guy felt like he shouldn’t have been born in this world, which made her choice to betray him so thoroughly, rather than honestly break up with him as she could have effortlessly done, even more repulsive), DH literally tells JA she saved his life.

        Frankly, I looked at some Quora answers and I think that with this “emotinoal cheating” bit we are basically in looney toons territory. People claiming that merely having a crush or feelings for someone else constitutes cheating. Need I remind you that you cannot choose who you love (as one of the posters tried to instead assert) -if you could, you would not have people dumping each other-, and that you don’t control your emotions and instinctual thoughts, which is why people are judged, in a criminal context as in society, on their *actions* instead? Sure, thoughts and emotions can be analyzed, and judgment made on what is inferred. For example, the fact that his wife had feelings for someone that her husband hated, basically knew of his horrific situation at work -which she used to try to get him to quit-, as did his brothers, who apologized for having him stay there, and didn’t consider a deal breaker her lover trying to get the guy fired with the help of an accused murderer, we can conclude something rather unflattering about where her care for the father of her child ranks in terms of her priorities. That’s a kind of betrayal, but I wouldn’t call it cheating, by itself: if she had merely had lunch with the guy, concluded she had feelings for him and told him and DH, I don’t think that we could have accused her of cheating. If we pretend that doing the latter would have been morally equivalent to what she did (again, it would have been a subset, so even just mathematically they couldn’t be equivalent), then we are essentially saying that there is no ethical way to break up with someone when you realize you have feelings with someone else. This is obviously insane (besides being an Orwellian thought crime scenario). Again, I will die on the hill that there are gradations. kissing being a rat and what YH did an elephant: both mammals? Yes, but with obvious differences.

        I think that not only morally equivocating between YH’s cheating and what DH and JA share in terms of a connection (and they should continue to share, even if they were to remain as friends, even if he stayed with his wife… it’s such a precious relationship!), but even not seeing how precious of a relationship it is, on account of some made up, paranoid notion of robotic purity that instead of concerning itself with actions attempts to police one’s thoughts and emotions, as if the slightest fantasy was the moral equivalent of a year long betrayal in the physical world (a physical affair, conspiring to get her husband out of a job, etc.), is indication of something repulsive and rather inhuman. I also don’t think that calling the slightest inappropriate behavior “cheating” is at all useful to clarifying the discussion. I would say that the very fact that people can genuinely have different opinions on what constitutes “emotional cheating” should make people stop and realize an obvious difference with an actual physical affair where basically everyone acknowledges the gravity of the situation (there is no possibility to equivocate or any plausible deniability in YH’s year long physical/emotional/financial betrayal, nor does she attempt to deny she is cheating). There could be genuine difference as to what is within and beyond the line, and if my search on the topic taught me anything, it’s the importance of clearly clarifying this with a partner. But, more leniently, that in terms of signaling a violation here might not be an indication of a lack of investment in the relationship, but simply miscommunication about the boundaries. With what YH did, there is no such consideration: everyone realizes it’s beyond the pale and there is no discussion to be had. The very fact that there is a discussion to be had about whether a behavior constitutes cheating or not is a rather important difference -so, no, flirting is not the moral or factual equivalent of going through the Kamasutra forward and backwards-. I also don’t think that the danger to the relationship should enter the discussion when dealing with the moral evaluation of the behavior. Whether having feelings for someone else hurts more or less a partner and is more or less relationship ending is besides the point when discussing if it should be considered cheating. It’s not an action, it’s an emotion, by themselves they are not something we *choose* to feel (sure, you can choose what to focus on, but you cannot, for example, force yourself into liking something or someone you feel repulsive, for example). Certainly, you can choose what to focus on, and manage your emotions with the help of your rationality (for example, it’s not good to love a wife beating drunk).

        In this sense, I should also point out that, in line with JA’s point about YH not being owed anything, in light of her actions, and her and DH having sex being something she has no leg to stand on and complain about, loyalty to someone that, like manifestly YH, does not deserve it, is not a virtue: for example, it’s not a good thing for a wife to be loyal to a wife beating drunk.

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      2. Bottom line, JA was the only person that truly understood him, he needed space (despite forcing himself to spend time with his wife), and he certainly couldn’t have had these discussions and healed talking with his wife, given that she was a big part of the reason why he felt so hurt and depressed, and that in any case he didn’t want to tip her off to the fact that he knew of her affair. In other words, on one hand she couldn’t know he knew, on the other hand this would be like looking for consolation from the very person that heaped this emotional abuse on his head, when merely looking at her car caused him emotional anguish. A non starter, and this is even without considering how self centered she was: she was willing to gaslight him even in the middle of a supposed apology, right after he told her she made him feel worthless. JA thankfully was listening and told him he was a good person.

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      3. I mean, on the same line as her not considering her lover trying to fire him with the help of an accused murderer a deal breaker, when him lying to her about camping was, or not even caring whether he could keep his job when it was no longer about her (talk with JA in the apartment), I think that YH’s behavior when DH came back all beaten up speaks volume about the supposed “priorities”.

        When she was hurting over the breakup with her lover, and then when she fell sick, DH stayed with her and fed her porridge, etc., at a time when he couldn’t stop thinking about her being with her lover when he was at home, and was unable to even enter the apartment, at one point, when he saw her car downstairs. He had the need for space, space that even when knowing he knew of her affair she did not give him, gaslighting him instead of understanding how one might not want to see her and would need to have some space instead, to process what she did, after discovering her massive physical/emotional/financial betrayal.

        By constrast, when DH came back beaten up, she went to the other room and almost called her lover when her husband was in the next room (which she did, without even bothering about checking whether DH could hear, telling her lover that it didn’t matter whether he knew they had met up a few more times -I mean, apart from the suffering and humiliation it would cause him, but that was none of her concern-.

        He was left to take care of himself, unable to even take off his sweater without flinching. No help on her part. In a mirror of her behavior towards his firing, her focus was on what him getting beaten up by her lover would mean for her self image. The same reason she tells her lover about how shameless she ought to be to pretend he didn’t know -I guess that the answer would be that that lack of shame ought to have come from the same place her lack of shame when she was lying to his face in the past year came from-. Another example of her self absorption.

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      4. Bottom line, they both had reasons not to take care of the other when they were sick/beaten up. DH prioritized taking care of her, despite at one point being physically unable to enter the apartment when he saw her car downstairs. She was more concerned with contacting her lover, and left him DH to tend to his own wounds. Her focus was, once again, on her self image, and what would mean it her lover beat up her husband, the same way she tried to get him out of a job -a very risky move given his lack of capital and experience managing people at that level, which he would acquire in the future, financed by mortaging his house- in an attempt to make herself feel better, but didn’t even care about whether he could keep his job when it was not about her anymore, as she told JA.

        Bottom line, JA was 100% correct in claiming that she didn’t have any right to complain even if her and DH had slept together.

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  2. When JA heard YH actually say that she didn’t care whether DH even kept his job now that the fight was not about her anymore, I can 100% understand why she would tell her that DH knew. In the end, with her behavior she managed to shame her into seeing how she was supposed to have his back as his wife and family, and was instead willing to stand by a man that wanted to fire him with the help of an accused murderer that had already framed his boss, only breaking up with the guy when she heard him talk s**t behind her back and learned that he lied about camping, while JA was hired explicitly to betray DH but had his back in the way YH should have had but didn’t. She was more of a wife/family to him in that respect than YH.

    100% in agreement with JA telling YH that even if she had slept with DH, YH would have had no right to complain, and the very idea that she would be owed such consideration was so ridiculous as to be funny. In that respect, in The Magicians I 100% supported the protagonist’s wife sleeping with another guy after the protagonist had cheated on her with her friend. He broke their vow, so she does not owe him anything and he has no right to complain.

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    1. Bottom line, to paraphrase as I don’t remember the exact quote: “It’s/you are funny. Are you seriously asking me whether we slept together? Lady, you did much worse”. You have no right to complain. Amen sister, you go girl!

      A tried to make YH see her horrific behavior and how much DH cared for her (telling her he knew of the affair, and making her see the kindness of him always calling to ask her whether she needed something, always thinking of her when he came home, etc.), and in the end managed, at least in part, I guess, to make her realize both how repulsive her behavior was (seeing JA have DH’s back made her feel “bad and even worse” as YH herself admitted) and appreciate DH’s actions (the way she flashbacks to JA telling her about DH asking her whether she needed anything, and frankly even the flashbacks to his kindness in the face of her treating him snappily/shortly/curtly, and him nursing her back to health, preparing porridge, caring for her, and all this while he knew perfectly well she was betraying him physically/emotionally/financially with his worst enemy that he was in a fight for his life, livelihood and reputation with).

      JA did all this for DH, because she thought he wanted to save his marriage, despite evidently, correctly, thinking that YH was not worth of his trust -for self evident reasons, as she had broken and exploited exactly said trust for her complete physical, emotional and financial betrayal-, and even hating her (again, for self evident reasons).

      Again, 100% in agreement with her telling YH on the rooftop that it’s funny and ridiculous to even entertain the thought that she had any right to complain, even if her and DH had slept together, given that she had done so much worse. You go, sister! Amen!

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