Is there cheating in open relationships?
There is still a stigma that surrounds open relationships, with a lot of misconceptions about the dynamic. Still, in 2022, we are in a world that sees monogamy as the ideal & normal. Anything that doesn’t follow this 1 on 1 love model is seen as threatening. But me, my friends, my partners and others in open relationships are just as valid as any other form of relationship.
Yes, they represent an alternative to the main social idea of a relationship, but this offers a chance to break the norm and to live authentically in a way that makes you and your partners happy.
As a sex-positive thinker, it’s really interesting to explore the near-universal issues that all couples, triads & quads face. But let’s look at both types, monogamous people and ethically non-monogamous (ENM) people still are just building relationships together, setting boundaries, establishing communication and having a mutual understanding of what your relationship means.
The hard point for mono people to understand is just because there is potential for sexual or romantic relationships with other people in open dynamics, this doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all.
‘Though the rules of engagement are different in an open situation and are up to the people involved to define, it’s still vital to respect your partner’s boundaries and honour your relationship agreements, otherwise, you are in fact cheating on them,’Pam Shaffer, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
So this leads to my question Is there cheating in open relationships? The argument that ENM people/couples can’t cheat on their partners because they’re allowed to have sex with whoever they want is pure BS and false.
Does cheating happen in open relationships: Is it even possible?
Right out of the gate the answer is YES. Anyone can absolutely cheat in open relationships. These open relationships, just like the “normal” monogamous relationships, have boundaries, guidelines that are mutually agreed upon by the partners or parties involved that wonderful thing called communication which I right about so much on here. So the cheating here is essentially the breaking of the agreements and betrayal and can happen in any relationship.
So a nice example for this is if you’re in an open relationship where you both can sleep with other people, but not romantically date them, is a boundary agreed upon. Then If you fell in love with another person and began seeing them more seriously in secret or hiding those feelings from your partner or with of them, that would be cheating. You’ve broken your open contract, in most EMN relationships where partners have sexual relations in the context of an open relationship, it’s not a free-for-all fuckfest.
I was speaking about this next example of cheating/openness last night with friends as it really does puzzle people who aren’t familiar with it. So “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” is an EMN style that happens when partners agree not to disclose the levels of the details of any sexual adventures they have with other people, this can be graphical or any detail. Again this is completely different from infidelity/cheating because there is a conversation that happens and a mutually agreed-upon preference in this relationship.
Just like In monogamy, the agreement is that you won’t sleep with other people well usually assumed in the norm, this also happens In open relationships, where there is an exclusivity set like in closed triad, quad open relationships. The main difference is an openness for the conversation you’re tasked with talking to your partners and it’s decided on together as a 3 or 4. In either wake breaking the boundaries is still possible, and you’re not free from the threat of betrayal just because you don’t adhere to strict mono relationship rules.
It still happens and a partner can violate trust in an open relationship, cheating can happen and it is every bit as damaging as in mono relationships, like in monogamous relationships, what looks like cheating to one non-monogamous couple may look different to another non-monogamous couple. And No we are not just talking about sex that counts as cheating, these boundaries that are agreed upon normally extend to the physical and emotional realms as in any sort of relationship.
Polyamorous couples normally place more of an emphasis on the romantic and emotional sides of relationships with multiple partners. Meanwhile, a strictly sexually open relationship is a primary couple who engages in sex outside of the couple, rather than full-blown relationships. Now I have to say it’s impossible to make strict statements about these relationships, as the beauty of an open dynamic is that they mean different things to different people. A saying I like with my relationships is “my poly is not your poly” as in not pushing your dynamics on others. Love is infinite and we are able to love a variety of different people in a variety of different ways.
So back from the explaining where does cheating come into all of this? If you’re interested in deeper emotional bonds with longer-term partners, there is certainly an opportunity for boundary-crossing. Again, just because you’re poly, open, whatever it doesn’t mean there are zero rules.
Boundaries can be violated in a poly dynamic, for example, I was in a polyamorous relationship with someone I was having unprotected (no condom) sex with. The agreement was that we wouldn’t have unprotected sex with anyone else without prior discussion. So, one night, when it slipped out that they had gotten drunk and had unprotected sex with another person and didn’t tell me until after we’d had penetrative sex, it felt like a huge violation and put me at real risk.
So how to protect yourself in ENM relationships
Just like in Mono relationships there is a wave of a wand and you are safe from possible transgressions/cheating within your relationship, there are some good ways to protect yourself these happen when you sit down and talk implementing to keep boundaries intact.
It’s of utmost priority to set up clearly communicated boundaries beforehand. You to really talk and be clear about what is expected, what is accepted, what you are both comfortable with, what is a hard limit. All of this needs to happen way before going into open scenarios, such as dating, play parties, threesomes and moresomes.
If everyone involved in your relationship understands what the boundaries are, then they are easier to navigate. As always the major emphasis is on open communication and emotional management for those in ENM relationships these are tools that most monogamous couples don’t have. When strict monogamy is assumed and not discussed, there is room for potential grey areas to emerge and this can lead to a really horrible time.
If you’re reading this as you are thinking about opening up and venturing into an open dynamic, plan some time to sit down with your partner and discuss what that may look like. The beauty here is there are no solid rules like mono when it comes to your alternative relationship models and you get to decide what feels best for you together.
I would completely recommend that regular check-ins are done for clarity and alignment. Talk to each way more than you ever think you need to. The more you understand where all parties are coming from, the better you can figure things out, Its going to be great.
Cheating doesn’t always have to mean the end of a relationship. Hell yes, it really can mean that, if you want, but there are ways to get back to one another if a boundary is crossed. If you cheat it might signify a problem in the relationship that needs to be addressed and looked at. Sometimes the betrayal feels like it’s too much and really hurts but if you both go in with the focus of rebuilding safety in the relationship it can certainly happen, Safety needs to be established first and foremost after infidelity.
People make mistakes. We just need to be able to grow from them