April 14, 2010
Poly After Cheating
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.