I’ve received a lot of interesting questions and comments after coming out as being polyamorous. A good chunk of them are from friends who are monogamous, but have shown an interest in pursuing a polyamorous lifestyle. Unfortunately however, on some occasions they come from a place of misinformed disgust and judgment.
Monogamy tends to be the societal norm in terms of relationship dynamics. The predefined boundaries that are most common, is the understanding that you will not kiss, sleep with or indicate that you have any romantic feelings for anyone besides your partner. There’s a wide range of opinions on what is deemed as cheating but the general consensus is: no touchy.
Polyamory can be whatever the participants of the relationship create it to be. One commonality is an understanding that a person cannot meet their partner’s needs fully, therefore they are at liberty to form more than one relationship whether it be emotional, sexual or romantic.
When I try to explain this, the question I get on occasion that really makes me cringe is:
“Well isn’t that just cheating?”
No Susan, it’s not cheating. Though when you think about it, monogamous cheating and polyamorous cheating are somewhat the same in the sense of betrayal and broken trust. For instance, if my partner has a sexual or emotional relationship with someone and didn’t tell me, that would be cheating (to me). If my partner slept with someone else and doesn’t use a condom, that would be cheating. Cheating generally revolves around breaking predefined boundaries whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous.
Boundaries are the keyword here. Let me ask you a question, would you count cuddling as a form of cheating? What about a friendly kiss on the cheek? Your significant other having a best friend of the opposite sex? I know that everyone’s answers will be different. Unless you fully communicate your thought process, chances are you’ll assume you’re on the same page. This is where miscommunication happens.
Granted, I have also heard Tinder horror stories of men and women using the ‘poly’ label to justify being unfaithful to their partners. This gives people an extremely poor outlook on what polyamory is all about. A few instances involved the tinder match asking to speak to the significant other to discuss boundaries one on one, and having the individual who was claiming to be poly, disgusted by such a proposal. That is cheating. Why was it cheating? Right, yes, broken boundaries, broken trust, betrayal and deception on multiple counts.
In summary, no, polyamory itself is not cheating, however, it isn’t a foreign concept to the relationship dynamic. What it comes down to is, the definition of what cheating actually is has been misconstrued. It was never the act of sleeping with or forming a relationship with someone other than your partner, rather, it is breaking the boundary of exclusivity in a monogamous relationship.
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