Friday, November 16, 2012

Litmus Test: Is It Cheating?

I was attending a polyamory discussion group the other night and this little nugget came up.

We were discussing what to ask potential partners who may be new to polyamory.

A great first question to ask to whether or not they consider their date as cheating.

Another great question would be whether or not their other partner would consider what they're doing as cheating.

I thought this was a great observation.

  • Polyamory is about open, loving relationships that are conducted in plain sight of other partners; cheating is an attempt to conceal relationships, feelings, and affections from other partners.
  • Polyamory admits not one person can fill all needs whereas cheating is about displacing another partner to meet one's needs.
  • Polyamory espouses trust and cheating is all about dishonesty.
  • Polyamory is about transparency; cheating is about secrets.
  • Polyamory encourages open and frank communication between all partners so that they can get what they want; cheating isn't about communication between partners. 

It's probably a great first question to ask a potential partner but also a fantastic question to begin with yourself. If you can honestly look at this criteria as a litmus test for yourself, that's a good thing. Your intentions are probably in the right place. However, if your potential partner can't look you in the eye when you're asking some of these questions, it's probably a good time to clarify theirs.

Consequently, I think a great follow-up question to this one might be: "So. When do I get to meet your partner?" That will kind of seal the deal.



Unknown said...

Hi S1.mon - I had a question about your post. Is the situation that of a partner in a poly family "dating" a potential candidate member of the group?
I have been occasionally screened by someone from a poly group to see if there was a "fit". The screener made their intentions clear. The topic of "cheating" didn't come up as neither of us considered the date a cheat.
I suppose it would wise to ask someone involved or considering poly relationships what their views on cheating are.

Unknown said...

Hmm, for it to be "poly", do they have to meet your partner at all? Or vice versa? Can't your partner be perfectly comfortable with you having other partners but have no interest in meeting them at all?

Anonymous said...

Hey there, Annelle -

Great question. And I'm going to put disclaimers all over this response to reflect my own personal views and judgements (grin).

Myself, I don't think meeting partner's partners would be a pre-requisite for being polyamorous.

Although, for me, I must be able to have some connection to a metamour (a partner's partner).

I really want to meet them to validate that they're on the same page, and, that they can have some level of trust in me.

Otherwise, for me, I wouldn't feel that the relationship would be sanctioned, recognized, valued, or transparent. I'd feel uncomfortable about it.

In my own experience, obscurity breeds animosity or at best apathy. I've never seen a model of "freelance poly" (that particular brand of polyamory) work well because - in my experience - there's this underlying seed of discontent, distrust, contempt that creates discordant feelings between people; it may even create a level of unhealthy competition or attitude between, say, me, and my partner's partner.

My two cents only. I know plenty of people who freelance but, as an observer on their relationships, I wouldn't want it for myself.


polyfulcrum said...

@Dave- We don't date as a package, unless specifically requested by all involved, so our meetings with new potential metamours look a lot more like a get to know you, and a lot less like a job interview. Of course, as relationships grow closer, and people spend more time together, that is usually paralleled by them spending time with our other partners, because we often do things together, as well as in couples.

An existing partner might express concerns about someone new, and the mutual partner will attempt to address those concerns, which might take some direct communication, or negotiations.

Since all of us are free to date at will, there isn't cheating involved with going on dates. Not telling existing partners about going on a date? That could be a cheat.

polyfulcrum said...

@Annelle- For me, poly only works in a space where the question is, "When do I get to meet your partners?" instead of, "Do I have to meet your partners?".

I cannot imagine desiring a relationship where I wasn't interested in being party to more of my partner's life than just the chunk that is directly between us.

There are many people that do poly as you've suggested. It's poly. It's ethical. It just doesn't work for me, and I have seen it used as a front for lying/cheating, or a cover for jealousy. If someone needs to pretend, on a practical level, that my other partners don't exist to feel comfortable in a relationship with me, they aren't in a place that makes them a suitable partner for me.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I am fairly sure I could have a relationship with someone that has relationships with other people. That isn't influenced by whether I am the "primary" or a secondary partner, either. I just know for sure that if I could be happy in that type of relationship like I believe I could be, I would have no interest in meeting their other partners. Not because of jealousy or anything like that, and I'd still want transparency about other relationships but I hope I'd trust what they say enough for me not to need actual confirmation from a partner that all is above board. I don't see that being part of their wider life equates necessarily to knowing and meeting every partner, or even every friend. What if you don't like them? It's just awkward. What would you say? "I don't like your other girlfriend so I'm dumping you."

I mean, if you look on dating sites, the majority of attached poly people will give you the link to their partner, just so you can see them. And they'd usually have the same link too. I don't see the need to message them to ask if it's really ok to meet their boyfriend. I've also met someone who lied about being poly, it was immediately obvious they were just a cheat.

So yeah, in short, I don't think I could date someone who needed to meet my other partners or needed me to meet theirs to feel secure. I wouldn't feel comfortable with meeting someone's primary and have them scrutinize me. The whole first date nightmare over again. If we were making serious plans such as all moving in together, or a baby or something, then yes. But not for a good long while into our relationship. Not until we are very sure it is going to be something long term.

polyfulcrum said...

@Annelle- You are spot on with your self-knowledge. We just would have incompatible poly styles, and it's great to know that up front.

The type of poly we do is a lot more integrated/extended family, and a lot less separate multiple relationships. In addition to my direct partners, I consider most of my metamours a part of my family, as allies and resources. Without that aspect, poly is a lot less attractive to me, although I get it works completely differently for you.

polyfulcrum said...
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Stu said...

I am poly and have to agree with Annelle. My experience of existing partners meet new partners has always been bad in the end. I discuss the relationships openly, may even seek advice from one partner about the other, but as soon as they meet I have found insecurity slips in. I always have veto rights with my partner's. We are able to vocalize if something is causing concern, as we should be able to. The difference is, like with my last relationship, I vocalize that X is causing me concern because he is lazy, hasn't had a job for months and has a reputation of living off of the women he dates, she vocalizes that she doesn't like my new partner because basically, she isn't the type of person she would hang out with. I found it extremely controlling and we nearly broke up over it. It took a lot to get her to understand that it wasn't the same thing. Unfortunately it turned into a battle.of the sexes with our local poly community as the men sided with me and the women with her. It actually took her mother (totally monogamous vanilla lady) to say "actually, he's right." I have lots of different "types", so that scenario is likely to happen often. Now, unless I can see a reason other than the fact that I am in a relationship with both of them, they don't meet. Reasons might be that I know they have heaps in common, or a particular shared interest, or just similar personalities but I have had to enforce that this is MY relationship with x that you may or may not be a bonus of. Again, my view is tainted all by my experiences.

polyfulcrum said...

Wow, Stu... I'm sorry your experiences to date have been so disheartening, in regards to shared time with partners!

In the past, when I've had metamours that I didn't prefer to spend time around, I just didn't. It's kind of like teasing for me: If I don't like you, I'm not going to tease you. That's an intimate form of humor that I save for people I actually like. In the same way, if I don't want to be around a particular metamour, I just opt out. Not worth putting in the effort, time and energy, beyond basic courtesy and politeness, to try to build something with someone based purely on a shared partner.

Fortunately, these days, my partners tend to screen for whether a new person is going to/has any desire to "fit" with the current landscape before they go all in emotionally, so that tends to self-sort.

In your ideal world, what would work best for you, in regards to how your partners interacted?