Fortunata Syndrome: Addiction to Forbidden Love

Fortunata Syndrome: Addiction to Forbidden Love
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

Fortunata Syndrome takes its name from a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós entitled Fortunata y Jacinta. It was written in the 19th century and turned into a film in the 1970’s. Because of the great psychological depth the characters have, their names have been used to describe a certain phenomenon in romantic relationships.

The novel tells of the stormy relationships between a man, Juanito Santa Cruz, and two women: Jacinta and Fortunata. The first is the wife and the second is his lover. Over time, Fortunata becomes a prostitute and then marries Maximiliano. However, the relationship between Fortunata and her lover continues and she has two children with him.

The most interesting thing about the novel is not the plot itself, but the psychological analysis of each of the characters. Fortunata represents women who are adept at having relationships with married men. People who act like her, then, are said to have Fortunata Syndrome.

“Those who are unfaithful know the pleasures of love; whereas the faithful knows love’s tragedies.”

Characteristics of Fortunata syndrome

We shouldn’t consider Fortunata Syndrome a disorder or a disease. Instead, it’s a rather unusual condition that afflicts certain women. In short, they feel more attracted to men who are already married.

Woman with a red coat: Fortunata syndrome.

The main traits of a woman with Fortunata syndrome are the following:

  • Very strong, unconditional, deep feelings of love for married men.
  • An inability to feel attraction for other men.
  • Always ready to do anything for the man she loves.
  • Convinced that life has no meaning without him.
  • Feels that she has a “right” to him, and that it is quite right for him to prefer her over others.
  • A desire to have children with the man in question.
  • Ambiguous towards the man’s wife. Sometimes she is empathatic towards her and sometimes she hates her.
  • Constant fantasies about having a future with this man she loves.

To summarize, women with Fortunata Syndrome deeply love men already in a relationship. And yet, at the same time, they feel that this love is unattainable because of the man’s legitimate partner.

What is behind the Fortunata syndrome?

The first love triangle we experience in life often takes place at a very young age. Freud wrote about this in the so-called Oedipus Complex. He says that children may experience attraction for their mother, and they unconsciously desire to take the place of the other parent.

Fortunata syndrome

In other words, the boy wants to displace the father and the girl, the mother (this called the Electra Complex). The solution is a prohibition of incest: accepting reality and renouncing all incestuous desires. All of this takes place unconsciously.

Fortunata Syndrome indicates a lack of resolution of the oedipal conflict. In adulthood, a person’s partners somewhat recreate their own father or mother, their first great love. The conflicts, expectations and desires they had as children towards the parent of the other sex project into their relationship.

If “Oedipus” resolves itself, a person’s adult relationships will be healthier. Otherwise they will be somewhat like their first love triangle. The woman, then, would be more attracted to married men, which represent her father. And she will feel that the other woman is the source of all her frustrations, as was the case with her mother.

Aspects to consider

In addition, when a woman exhibits Fortunata syndrome, other character traits are common.

  • Poor self-esteem.
  • Trouble recognizing her own feelings.
  • Dependency.
  • Highly valuing the supposed sacrifice they’re making, seeing it as a sign of love.
  • An idealized concept of love.
Many images of same woman

Women who have Fortunata syndrome want to win over the wife of the man they love. They don’t do it consciously; it feels impossible to resist. In general, they end up suffering greatly and being very frustrated. As for solutions, psychotherapy is often recommended.



This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.