Is merely having a “crush” on another marital fault?

I recently handled oral argument on an appeal that resulted in the unpublished opinion. One unusual aspect of the case was Husband’s focus, and the opinion’s recognition, that, Wife had a “crush” on someone who worked with one of the parties’ children and that Husband learned of this crush when he caught Wife emailing a friend about it. The opinion then notes, “The crush did not develop into anything further.”

I assume Husband raised the issue at trial because he perceived Wife’s crush as marital misconduct or fault, which can be relevant on issues of alimony (S.C. Code § 20-3-130( C)(10)) and property division. S.C. Code § 20-3-620(B)(2). Is Husband correct that merely having a crush on another is marital fault? My opinion is no but would concede that a South Carolina family court judge or appellate court might disagree. The Court of Appeals mentioned it as part of a passage explaining the parties’ separation without elaborating on its relevance.

The saying, “The heart wants what it wants,” appears to have originated with Emily Dickinson. Finding fault with folks because their desires don’t meet social approval seems a harsh judgment. While marriage may give one an exclusive claim on a partner’s loins, my opinion is it does not give one the right to control that partner’s heart. At best we can treat our partner kindly, attempt to meet his or her desires, and hope that partner reciprocates.

Part of marriage (or any intimate relationship) should involve avoiding causing unnecessary pain for the other. Having a crush on another is always disappointing and often devastating to one’s partner. Revealing that crush to third parties can be humiliating. Could have, and should have, Wife better controlled her heart? If not, should she at least have keep this “crush” secret?

Is merely having a “crush” on another marital fault? For the right case that may be an issue worth litigating.

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