The Space Between Monogamy and Cheating

by lauran on July 6, 2011

An article by Johanna Lyman makes a great point about the monogamy versus non-monogamy debate.

The “either/or” philosophy makes sense when one choice is appealing and the other is unappealing. But what happens when both choices are attractive?

For example: what if you want to be socially monogamous with your partner but enjoy sexual relations with other people?

In many cases, you choose both, but do so in ways that don’t support open, honest and loving relationships. In other words, you cheat. Cheating eventually supports the “either/or” mindset; by not being honest, you deny yourself the ability to have both options.

Cheating destroys the foundation of long term relationships by eroding both trust and honesty. Without trust and honesty, you’re left holding the shell of a relationship.

Those are powerful words. And their power goes much deeper than whether you’ve had intercourse with someone other than your spouse. It goes to the heart of how people honor themselves and their relationships.

If you’re going to live in the space between monogamy and cheating you have to live with fidelity. Here’s what the dictionary says fidelity means:

1. strict observance of promises, duties, etc.
2. loyalty: fidelity to one’s country.
3. conjugal faithfulness.

The first definition means simply doing what you said you would. Following through on your promises. Most of us break promises to ourselves so often that we think little of breaking the promises we’ve made to others.

There is power in being careful with what you promise yourself then following through completely on those promises. Especially when no one else is watching. When you can do that, you can learn to do it with others.

Loyalty, the second definition, reminds me of every good dog I’ve had the pleasure of living with. Dogs are loyal to the end. It’s just the way dogs are. But it’s not the way most people are. Most people’s loyalties shift with the latest whim like a balloon on a string in the wind.

There is wisdom in learning how to be loyal in the face of ill winds and tough times.

And the third definition is about conjugal faithfulness. I always thought the word conjugal meant sex between a husband and wife.

What it really means is of or relating to the married state or to married persons and their relations. In other words, conjugal faithfulness means relationship faithfulness in a married couple.

So what we have now is that fidelity means keeping your promises, being loyal and faithful to your relationship.

The opposite of fidelity is disloyalty, faithlessness, infidelity, lying, treachery. Sound like most of the stories in the news these days.

And that’s the point of all this dictionary madness.

Look at the state of marriage in the United States. Most experts believe that about half of all married the people will have an affair. Half of all married people lack fidelity. They are being disloyal, lying and are treacherous.

Now look at the how open marriages, swingers and polyamorous families function. They have done the work in the relationship so their promises are clear. They are loyal to their partners and faithful to the relationship – as they have defined it.

Choosing to have relationships with other people in the open light of day with everyone living up to their agreements takes more maturity than pretending to be monogamous.

Other people may be threatened by the way we have chosen to live. They may believe we are breaking some kind of religious rules. But the only issue for each person to look at is this: are you living in fidelity or not?

If you are, then you are living a more true life than half of all married people in the United States. Even if you have sex with dozens of people at a swing convention.

If not, then it doesn’t matter what the outside of the box looks like. It’s rotten inside and everyone can smell it.

I’m not saying that everyone in the swing or poly world understands this and lives in fidelity. People are immature with little understanding of the damage they do themselves when they break a promise. Even if they look like an adult they may still act like a spoiled brat.

From one perspective it may seem like we’re splitting hairs with little ground to stand on when we claim to be faithful to our relationships while having sex with others.

From my point of view, living with fidelity creates so much space between monogamy and cheating that anything is possible.

As Johanna says:

“Either/or supports a belief that one must choose between two things; as if the world were not infinitely abundant with enough room for ‘both’.”

The world is not black and white. It’s a rich spectrum of colors. I only learned to experience true fidelity in a relationship when I stopped pretending to be monogamous, embraced my sexuality fully and began living with others who are willing to be as real as possible.

After living with hole inside that could not be filled for most of my life, I’ve discovered that this is an abundant world after all.

Let me know what you think…

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