April 14, 2010

Poly After Cheating

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 10:44 am by Kathleen

It seems to me that one of the hardest ways to become poly is an open minded approach to healing after cheating. I don’t mean telling your partner that your cheating was actually poly and trying to get them to go with it, I mean working, as a couple, to make the decision to open your relationship after as big a mistake as infidelity. It requires a lot of trust on the part of the wronged partner, and can be an extremely emotional process, I would imagine.

For some people, cheating is almost inevitable. I don’t condone it, but I can understand how hard it is for someone who is hardwired for non-monogamy, particularly if they haven’t been taught that there is any alternative. While some of these people invent the wheel for themselves and simply start out dating many people openly (Becky was one of these) many others try to force themselves into the mold of monogamy. Will all of them cheat? Of course not. Will they be happy? Probably not very.

While some people, myself included, can be happy whether they are poly or not, others will always feel a certain lack in their lives if they try to ignore that part of themselves, much like a gay man trying to fake a straight marriage. If this is you, and you feel driven to cheat, talk to your partner. If you already have cheated, well, talk to your partner. It is not going to be an easy conversation, and maybe not a pretty one. Your relationship may not make it, but if you really do need poly in your life, then a purely monogamous relationship was already doomed anyway.

Be clear about your need to express love and trust for others in a romantic way, and provide examples, if you can, of what great poly can be like. It can be very hard for someone to process this kind of thing quickly. Back off, give them time to think, and whatever you do, please keep your hands to yourself until the relationship is officially over or your partner agrees to a poly lifestyle. There is nothing worse you could do than to cheat again.

A poly relationship that starts in this way might start out with a lot of restrictions on the cheater. You might have more checks and balances in place, and it could feel like punishment, but please remember that this is hard for your partner, and that they really are trying to make things work between you. If you accept sometimes difficult restrictions as a direct result of your actions, eventually things will even out and your relationship may make it through intact.

Poly generally takes a very strong relationship to work. Cheating makes things much harder, but it is possible to successfully open your relationship if you are patient, open minded, and willing to communicate clearly.





  1. Spectre said,

    Thank you for this. I think many people are unaware of polyamory as an option until they find themselves in love with another person. This is how Wife discovered non-monogamy. And since nearly all of the guide advise discussing poly BEFORE you develop feeling for a person, we were rather adrift. We’re still together and poly/mono, but it does take a lot of work.

    • Kathleen said,

      Congratulations on putting the work in, and thank you for being brave enough to share your story here.

  2. I’m very thankful that my husband knew he was poly, and was up front that accepting that was part of the package of a relationship with him. It makes it much easier when someone knows themself that well.

    It took us awhile to get into the groove of things though. I placed a lot of restrictions, which he went along with, but he eventually ended up cheating. Luckily when it happened, I was in a good place, and I was able to see that the restrictions I’d placed were not reasonable given who he was. I accepted his apology and we revised the rules to be ones who better honored who he is. It took some sacrifice of control on my part, but I realized that I had to let go in order for us both to be happy. I did let go, and we have been happily married for almost five years now since that incident.

    • Kathleen said,

      That’s a lovely story, thank you for sharing it. Cheating challenges a relationship, but it doesn’t have to end it. It sounds like you two did very well.

  3. Cooper said,

    I think what a lot of people in life don’t realize is that there are other options. One of the biggest things my wife and I have seen since we opened up our marriage is that most people only have fleeting awareness of poly and swinging, and what they do know about it, they learned from their parents distaste or from the 1970s and 80s and thought they both died when AIDS showed up.

    I’m hoping that more and more people decide to explore beyond the shackles of the old monogamy plan.

    When our marriage was having issues (that would’ve lead to cheating on both our parts) we luckily recognized what was happening and looked into our options. Divorce on one extreme, open marriage on the other. We rolled the dice and took a gamble on swinging and open marriage and have never been happier.

    Going on a year and a half now. Success story!

  4. Taryn said,

    It always makes me so happy reading things like this. When I was married, we were in an open loving relationship. It was truly distressing how much that offended some people – particularly people who had a history of cheating. It was almost as if cheating was ok, but being honest was not ok?? I understand one fits into the ‘norm’ and the other doesn’t, but cheating is not ok in my books and I was offended by their offence.

    Of course then my marriage ended and I met a serial cheater who became my next partner. Gosh, the arguments we would have about cheating and open relationships! She was dead-set against them while I was horrified by her unapologetic past. Finally we both managed to see each other’s point of view. Her inability to be honest about her needs had led her to seek it elsewhere, while my fear of cheating pushed me into open relationships. Eventually we did try an open relationship only to discover that it was ME who no longer wanted to share, lol.

    We’ve split up now but it was an amazing learning curve.

  5. James said,

    “For some people, cheating is almost inevitable. I don’t condone it, but I can understand how hard it is for someone who is hardwired for non-monogamy”

    So if I’ve never cheated on anyone or felt a need to, I’m not poly? It’s something people are born with, that makes them prone to cheating?

    • Kathleen said,

      Dear god no! For one thing, I said almost. But really, those who are so strongly poly that they just can’t handle monogamy… they’re either serial monogamists, or they cheat, or they probably think about cheating. That doesn’t mean they will, or that they’re bad people, but it DOES mean that they’re not going to be satisfied with one partner.

      My husband and I are what I call bi-poly, which means we’re pretty happy either way, and neither of us has ever considered cheating, even before poly. Poly people come in all types, and SOME of them are just going to be tempted to cheat when they’re in a monogamous relationship.

      • Davin said,

        I’m afraid I will have to disagree with you on this point, Kathleen. A non-mono mindset is no excuse for cheating. It’s a scum move and poly leanings are no exemption from that fact. Keeping one’s hands to themselves is a choice, and a cheater chose to shit on their relationship. If someone really cannot do the mono thing, the only ethical call will be to split from the mono partner.

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