Is It Strange To *Not* Feel Jealous If You’re Cheated On?
The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
Hi Dating Nerd,
This weird thing happened to me. A little while ago, I found out that my girlfriend of a couple years has been cheating on me for awhile. She feels terrible about it, and she wants to keep the relationship going. That’s not the weird thing. The weird thing is that I don’t feel that upset by it. I’m pissed off that she was dishonest, and I don’t want her to leave me for someone else, but the fact that she had sex with someone else doesn’t bother me. I’m finding that I don’t care at all. But, like, shouldn’t I care? Does this mean I’m not, like, a man, or something? Or that I don’t really care about her? What does this mean, and what should I do?
– Confused Carlos
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with you whatsoever. You’re fine. This is not a sign that your love for your partner is insincere, or that you need to get your testicles examined. You’re just wired differently from a lot of other men. You just deviate from the stereotype, which is that men are deeply disgusted by the idea of physical infidelity, as opposed to women, who are stereotypically more upset about emotional infidelity. On average, this is true, according to clinical research, but there’s no law saying that you should be the average man. Almost nobody is the average man in every single way, and there’s nothing intrinsically good about being normal.
Moreover, one of the dumbest ideas floating around our culture is that an important part of masculinity is being jealous, controlling, and having a never-ending competitive drive that pits you against all the other men of the world. It’s the vision of sexual difference in which being a man is primarily about being a chest-beating neanderthal who sees his woman as his property, upon which no other man’s eyes should fall. It’s the notion that men should go around their lives conquering and taking things, women included, and then should fiercely hold onto their plunder, so that other men don’t come along and steal it all.
This is hysterically stupid. (Also, it’s the sentiment that lead to the word “cuck” being mainstreamed.) While a little bit of jealousy is natural — it’s just a sign that you’re attached to the people you care about — a lot of it is toxic. It can erode relationships like nothing else. It’s at the root of a lot of spousal abuse. The fact that you don’t apparently have a lot of innate jealousy is amazing. That makes your life a whole lot easier.
Moreover, I think that of all the traits that are classically associated with masculinity, the best is self-assurance, also known as the ability to not give a crap what other people think of your preferences and ideas. According to this advice columnist, as long as you’re honest, principled, and kind to the people who deserve your kindness, you’re a man, by any reasonable standard. (These are also decent guidelines for being a person of any gender.) Really, it doesn’t matter if you’re OK with your partner having sex with other people, or if you want a dominatrix to stick things up your butt, or you secretly like wearing frilly panties. You do you.
Ultimately, what’s happened here is that you’ve learned something about yourself and your emotional makeup. You’ve learned that you’re a little bit weird in this one particular way. You don’t experience sexual jealousy. That’s cool, because a big part of being a good partner is knowing how you’re weird, and structuring your relationship to accommodate that. Relationships are basically about solving an engineering problem: How can two people, with all of their quirks and drawbacks, keep each other happy indefinitely? The more you know about your quirks going into that process, the better.
And the fact that you’re not a jealous person actually opens up some fun opportunities. Like, maybe you can have an open relationship. And maybe you should, because it seems like your partner isn’t totally sexually fulfilled by you. I don’t mean that as an insult. That’s the most normal thing in the world. Modern monogamy is wicked hard. And I know lots of married couples who used to have the most amazing sex of all time, but are now locked in a sexless hell, because the human brain is unfortunately designed to desire novelty. Even the greatest sex can become routine. And you can really start to hate your partner if they stop making you feel like a sexual being, even if they’re overwhelmingly pleasant, and you want to be buried beside them in a beautiful marble tomb after having a nauseatingly beautiful marriage. You can do everything you possibly can for your girlfriend, and she might still want to get all up on that dumbass she sees at the gym.
By being a non-jealous person, you’re uniquely equipped to solve this most persistent and difficult of human problems. Lots of women I know have tried open relationships, but have failed in their efforts, because their boyfriends are fine with getting laid on the side themselves, but absolutely can’t handle the idea of anyone’s dick going anywhere near their girlfriend. But that won’t happen with you. So, instead of your partner feeling terrible about going behind your back to get laid by idiots she doesn’t care about, you can make it an actual option. You can even encourage a little extra-relationship sex, to the extent that it would make her happier. She would probably love that. And, in exchange, you might get the opportunity to go on Tinder, or whatever dating app you prefer, and see some other people naked too, if that’s something you’re interested in, which, presumably, you are.
So, as with basically every other relationship problem, you should start by communicating with your partner. Tell her that, actually, you don’t even really care whether she sleeps with other people occasionally — that dishonesty enrages you, but that sexual dalliance doesn’t. Make sure that she knows that isn’t because you don’t love her. And ask her if she still might want to sleep with other people again. She’s probably feeling raw and ashamed and filthy right now, and this news could come as a huge relief. Weirdly enough, this whole episode could lead to a better, happier relationship for both of you.
Think you could use some dating help, too? Email the Dating Nerd at firstname.lastname@example.org.