Poly Means Many: polyamory and cheating
There are many aspects to polyamory, but sometimes you just have to go back to the basics. Is it possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship, and if it is what does that look like? I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me if it is possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship, or have thought that my polyamorous relationship is the same as cheating.
After the Ashley Madison data leak the spot light is on marriage, cheating, and mistresses. These are all ways to have more than one relationship, that fall under the heading of cheating. But what does it look like to have more than one relationship, and for that to be not cheating? What does it look like to cheat when you are in relationships with more than one person?
In my relationships and my experience, the definition of cheating is to do something outside the agreed parameters. My family is, to all intents and purposes, a closed group. This means that, within the four of us, there are no relationship restrictions. However, if one of us wishes to start a new relationship, they need to discuss that with the other three, and get all of their agreement.
Cheating is therefore defined as going outside our rules. That would mean having sexual contact or starting a relationship with someone without the agreement or knowledge of the family. That doesn’t mean that new sexual and romantic relationships are not possible. We have, in fact, recently recently added a new relationship to our family, someone I am immensely proud to be able to call a metamore.
The fundamental difference between monogamous and polyamorous relationships is usually the variety of shapes and situations that are possible in a polyamorous relationship. There can be a very small or very large number of people involved. There can be very strict rules and boundaries, or things might be very relaxed. Regardless of the agreed structures, cheating in these circumstances is any action which breaks those agreed rules, whatever they are. By comparison, monogamous relationships are very simple. The defining feature of a monogamous relationship is that you have one sexual and romantic partner.
Defining what is cheating in a polyamorous relationship can be more difficult, but it is still very possible.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility as sexual and romantic partners to be aware of the responsibilities we have to those we are in relationship with. Being faithful to the rules that we have agreed to is the essential foundation to healthy and nourishing relationships, weather monogamous or polyamorous.