March 5, 2008

Can Poly People Cheat?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:42 am by Kathleen

It might seem like a silly question.  I mean, if you are poly, then there can be no cheating, right?  This is entirely false, and I will show you why.

When you enter into a poly relationship, you hopefully do so with the consent and the knowledge of all those involved.  When you find a new girlfriend, you do not “forget” to tell her about your wife, nor do you remove your wedding ring when you head to the bar.  For unmarried couples who are getting into poly, these same rules apply.  To do otherwise is deceptive to the person that is kept in the dark.

Let me make it clear, also, that if you are having sex with other people and your partner does not know… this is not poly, it is cheating.  Trying to dress it up with a legitimate label is false, and it sure won’t save your butt when you get caught.

That said, it is also important to know that poly relationships differ from each other.  My husband and I are fluid bonded (obviously), but we are not allowed within our relationship to have unprotected sex with other people.  If I were to go enjoy some fellow, everything would be find in our world.  If I did so without a condom, it would be a violation of his trust, and would be considered cheating.  Some couples require that sex only be engaged in when both members of the couple are present with the third (or more).  Some prefer that their partner inform them at least 24 hours before they have a date.  Some require permission before anyone is allowed to enjoy another person physically.

Whatever the limits of the poly relationship, breaking those limits is a betrayal of trust and, yes, it is cheating.  Some people even cheat on purpose, perhaps seeing the person that they care for but that their primary partner does not approve of.  In poly, trust and respect are very important, and cheating is a devastating betrayal of trust to which even we are not immune.



  1. ianeksi said,

    Although it is not my lifestyle, I am glad you made the effort to clear up this misconception. I too find it very offensive when people (men AND women) use a Poly relationship as an excuse to cheat. Excellent post.

  2. Rori said,

    It’s all about communication. For some people, having a relationship in which both partners swing is fine. For others, swinging is NOT fine, and any relationship outside of the marriage needs to be about a deeper connection and happiness, not about physical pleasure.

    I’ve talked to a lot of people about what I consider cheating. Is an emotional, non-physical connection with another person cheating if you don’t tell your s/o? Is cyber sex cheating? Is phone sex with a stranger? What if it isn’t a stranger?

    Personally, I think that any kind of connection that would hurt you s/o to know about is cheat. That’s where the communication comes in. Where are your lines? For example, my master has mentioned that he wouldn’t be upset about me having some online fun, as long as it was with a random person. Any couple – regardless of whether they are poly, swinging, or totally vanilla – needs to talk about boundaries.

    Errr…sorry I left a comment BOOK. lol.

  3. sexplory said,

    It’s really hard to maintain a polyamorous relationship without honesty. There is often that misconception that an open relationship connotates that you have ‘cheat for free’ card or something. The only way that these things work is with honesty… just like a mono relationship.

    I like hearing when poly relationships work out – it really helps to hear and learn from other’s experiences when it is a subject that isn’t as often approached as other relationships. Thank you!

  4. Kathleen said,

    Rory, it was a very good book. 🙂

    Thank you all for the wonderfully thought out comments. I really love taking an honest look at relashionships in this way. Communication is indeed vital, and I love the way that Rory put it. If you are doing something that would hurt your SO(s) to know about, then you are probably cheating.

  5. Three of Us said,

    My wife and I entered into the poly lifestyle 3 years ago when she fell in love with her best friend and wanted to explore her bi side. I too fell in love with her girlfriend and she with us and we decided to make it a triad.

    We have had our challenges but have seemed to always pull through. However this last fall we caught her cheating and then came the awful truth that she had cheated multiple times for no clear reason.

    She did so when times were very good and she did so when we had various challenges. She cheated with men and with women. She cheated with close a friend of ours who was married without the consent or knowledge of his wife and she cheated with people who just happened into her lfie. The thread that seems to run through the affairs is “convenience.” She cheated when it was convenient.

    We’re trying to work our way through the forest of suspicion, broken trust, and broken hearts simply because we love her. We’re still together 6 months after we discovered the terrible truth but we take it only a day at a time. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever make it through to the other side.

    While we embrace the poly life, we have to admit we were so much happier when it was just the two of us. We enjoy having a third person in our relationship but could do with the cheating and dishonesty.

    Oh well, just saw the topic and thought I’d vent. Thank you!

  6. Kathleen said,

    Welcome, Three of Us.

    I’m sorry to hear that you had this trouble with your partner. If you are open to the idea, you can also open up her ability to have such relationships with other people in an allowed way, but that is obviously up to you. It might help her to enjoy others without having to cheat, but some people are just compelled, it seems, to betray. That kind of person might start breaking other boundaries, like refusing to use protection with their lovers, or other undesirable behavior. Only you know if your relationship is worth it, but I would definitely suggest finding a poly friendly counselor to talk to.

    • Three of Us said,

      Dear Kathleen,

      Thank you for your kind words and your suggestions. We’ve talked about a poly friendly counselor but we live in a very ultra conservative community and have yet to find one, though we have been looking.

      The really sad thing about the whole ordeal is that our partner was free to see or date whoever she wanted just as long as we had a heads up but after much persuasion on her part she convinced us that that wasn’t the kind of relationship she wanted at all and she maintains that to this day. We had finally agreed, the three of us, that if she ever wanted to open up her part of the circle just to clue us in and of course use protection if things became sexual. The heart break is that she neither clued us in nor did she use protection. And so now we deal with not only heartbreak but also a healthy dose of fear and trepidation at her risky behavior.

      Is the relationship worth it? Sometimes we just don’t know but the person is worth it and so we keep trying. Progress has been made with both examination of the dynamics of the relationship and also personal reflection on the part of each of us. We’ve agreed to a new understanding and only time will tell the story I suppose.

      Thanks again for the forum! It helps to talk about it if only through a medium such as this.


      • Kathleen said,

        I really wish you well… I have seen situations like this end badly so many times in the past, though, that I am a little nervous for you. Sometimes people like that are just too broken for you to salvage.

  7. Alisha said,

    just wanted to drop a thank you for wording this so well. i’ve recently encountered being cheated on by my husband. we’re in a mfm vee, and i thought we were doing well. i guess now its time to rethink and learn a valuable lesson. i’m not quite sure what to do, but i know that i feel immensely betrayed, and this blog has helped reassure me that i’m not overreacting.
    thanks again.

  8. Kathleen said,


    Thanks for reading. I am very sorry to hear about your situation. I am getting a lot of mail recently from people saying that their poly partners are cheating on them. I am not sure what is going on, unless maybe the stress in the air is causing people to go a little nuts. Whatever it is, it makes me sad to hear about. I hope the two of you can work things out wit this.


  9. Alisha said,

    We are absolutely doing our best to work this out. We’ve been calmly discussing our goals and hopes for the best possible outcome, as we have a family and need to do what is best for our children, first and foremost. Though this is indeed a horrible situation, we’re learning from it. I’m still trying to understand how and why, but I’m trying to have hope that this can become a moment of stumbling, instead of a moment that destroyed everything we’ve worked for. Communication is still key and if we can keep the conversation from degenerating into blame, we still may make this work. Thank you for your advice.

    • Kathleen said,

      I’m very glad to hear that you are working hard on your problem. The best of luck to you both, and I hope that communicating and leaving the blame off will be enough. It certainly gives you better odds!

      A few years ago Michael broke one of our major agreements without realizing it, and it felt like cheating to me. I had never been angrier in my entire life, and it took us a whole day to sort things out to the point where I was going to be okay, and a few more days before I was comfortable being really intimate with him. Things like this can take time and a lot of talking, but the hurt can go away.


  10. Damien said,

    thanks for writing this. im struggling right now for my feelings to be validated, and this piece helps. a week ago, my girlfriend cheated by breaking our “always use a condom” agreement, having had sec with a man who we consider to be a sexual health risk. we’ve broken up because of it.

    and you’re right, breaking that kind of trust is devastating.

    • Kathleen said,

      I’m sorry to hear about your loss, but it does sound like the right call and an enormous breach of trust.

    • Zgirl said,

      Hi Damien, Hi all,
      Unfortunately, I’ve been through the same thing: last year my bf reconnected with his f.. buddy while I was away on tour and they had sex without a condom. It took a month for him to tell me and it literally felt like an exocet was fired at me. The most horrible thing was that he didn’t seem to realize how serious this was. I had to explain like you would to a class of 10year olds (risks about HIV etc etc), told him you can never know what your partner has done even if you sometimes talk about it (she is the type that dates loads of guys just for sex ). He must have thought he could trust her but to me that’s being naive.So he and I got an STD – not a serious disease thank god, but still I had to go to the doctors and get medications(how nice!). I really felt like he cheated on me that day, breaking so many rules, the fact that he had had unprotected sex one night and unprotected sex (with me his primary partner) the night after… Protection was a major rule form the start of our open relationship. He actually put it forward in the first place. same as “not falling in love” or at least telling me when that happened. And well : he only told me he had fallen in love with his f… buddy after he fired the exocet at me.
      So if you wanna know, yep we’re still together. I’ve been through all this but gave a another shot to this relationship. Things are much better now, but my self esteem is very very low, and I’m not sure I trust him like I used to. Now the idea of opening the relationship makes me feel very insecure : most of the time I feel ugly, stupid and below every other women. I’m so tired of feeling like this and I don’t know when it’s going to stop. I need to wait for that moment when the penny drops and I understand why i feel this way and how i can get better.
      Hope tis never happens to you, it’s a lot of stress and pain no one deserves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: