The central conflict is the pull between loyalty and infatuation, security and the unknown, and the failure to truly know if the latter is something real or illusory. Both the man and woman are trapped in shallow lives, both seek a more satisfying relationship, a spark that makes life worth living. For example, when the pair are at dinner,
"Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers, but after dinner they walked side by side; and there sprang up between them the light jesting conversation of people who are free and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where they go or what they talk about."
However, despite these positive indications of a chance for more "alive" living, neither one is ready to give up what they know or feel comfortable with in their lives. The story concludes with a sour grapes sort of line: ""There's something pathetic about her, anyway," he thought, and fell asleep."
The conflict of defining what is moral/morality is at the center of the story. Should the lovers stay with their spouses even if they do not love them, and are in love with one another?
The viewpoint seems to be that it would be wrong to live a lie and that they should leave their spouses and be together because they truly love each other.