Is cheating in a relationship acceptable or unacceptable?
June 25, 2004 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Is cheating in a relationship acceptable or unacceptable? How did you come to feel that way?
posted by KathyK to Human Relations (90 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If one thinks of it as 'cheating', then one probably feels it is unacceptabe.
posted by mischief at 7:55 AM on June 25, 2004


One of my friends used to believe that it was unacceptable when he was younger, however, now he's more laid back about it. He said it changed for him when saw more and more of his friends cheating on their partners and he's slowly become more accpeting of it. I personally believe it's unacceptable (having cheated in the past) and am wondering if cheating is now becoming socially acceptable.
posted by KathyK at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2004


In a marriage? Unacceptable. A commitment is just that.

Non-marriage, I guess it would depend on the level of commitment agreed upon by the participants. In most cases I would consider it unacceptable since "cheating" tends to be done in secret.
posted by bondcliff at 7:59 AM on June 25, 2004


It's unacceptable for me personally--if you're not satisfied with what you have, you should break up.
That said, it happens all the time, and people stay together for all sorts of reasons, sex usually not being one of them. I also know tons of people that cheat, and they still love the one they're cheating on.
posted by amberglow at 7:59 AM on June 25, 2004


Unacceptable. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. I guess it's how I define relationship though--a dedicated committment to another person, romantically, physically, emotionally, etc.

"Open relationships," however, are another thing. If both people communicate about it, then it's not cheating. (The reality of open relationships is a debate for another post.)
posted by gramcracker at 8:07 AM on June 25, 2004


Unacceptable unless both parties have agreed otherwise. That's why they call it cheating rather than open relationship.

If you're concealing something this significant from your partner, then your relationship is seriously flawed.
posted by aramaic at 8:09 AM on June 25, 2004


I think mischief hit upon the obvious answer: "cheating" implies that the behavior is out of bounds, whatever it is.

It sounds like your friend has decided to look the other way on inappropriate behavior instead of confronting the fact that his friends are cads. It has shades of this thread.
posted by alphanerd at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Depends on the nature of the original agreement, as everyone is saying. Aside from the morality, I personally have never seen two people who began their relationship as part of an affair ever learn to trust each other. Ten or twenty years later, they may still be together but they still relate to their partners as "potential cheaters."

A lifetime of drama and jealousy - fun!
posted by pomegranate at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2004


I think breaking a trust relationship with your partner is a bad idea. And I think lying about it is also uncool. It's acceptable in some larger sense, clearly, since people do it all the time, but I don't think that makes it right for anyone's particular circumstance. Not to get all postmodern, but this question breaks down into a few questions for me [beyond just "what is cheating"]

* do you think it's okay to cheat on your partner?
* does your partner think it's okay for you to cheat on them?
* is it okay for your partner to cheat on you?
* do you think it's okay for people to cheat on their partners generally? Or under certain circumstances?
* does society condemn people who cheat on their partners?
* does society claim to condemn people who cheat on their partners while actually tolerating it, and as a result no one can really talk about it sanely?

I'm most fascinated by the last question. I've found that my opinion of my friends drops somewhat if I learn they cheated on their partner, and yet I seem to be in the minority on this among my friends.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


what?
how is this a question?
I am so confused.
Open relationships = totally cool.
cheating= by definition against the rules. That's what cheating is. I can't see how you can interpret it differently.

I guess some people will say they have an unspoken understanding or something. And I guess I will just leave that to them to deal with, but in my world, you don't break promisesd or lie to people, especially not people you deeply care about, which I assume you do if you're in a committed relationship with them. I can't imagine that dishonesty has anything but a deadening effect on the relationship, either.
posted by mdn at 8:17 AM on June 25, 2004


Cheating is unacceptable, but - and it's a big but - it happens for complicated reasons and no one looking-on (as opposed to being directly involved) should be too judgemental about it when it happens.
posted by ascullion at 8:27 AM on June 25, 2004


If cheating, by definition, is totally wrong why do a lot of people seem forgiving and accepting of it? And even while using the word "cheat" to describe what was done.
posted by KathyK at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2004


Lying is bad, mmmkay?
"Cheating" implies "lying" or "sneaking around".

If everyone involved is above-board and knows what's going on, relationships outside the relationship are fine.

I find many other people are quick to assume that the latter implies the former, i.e. if they know you are having a relationship outside the main relationship, they assume you are "cheating" on your partner rather than accepting that everyone is aware of and consenting to the situation. So, no, I don't think cheating is becoming socially acceptable, since in my experience even obvious "not cheating/open relationship" is still considered "cheating" by many.
posted by Melinika at 8:32 AM on June 25, 2004


Based on the number of times I was dumped in the past, I really wish I would have just found someone else first and then cut the other person free. Before they got me. Now I'm married, with kids, so different rules.
posted by mecran01 at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2004


If cheating, by definition, is totally wrong why do a lot of people seem forgiving and accepting of it?

Because people have invested a lot in the relationship. Bcause they have been in the relationship for a long time and can't face starting over from scratch. Because they still love the person who cheated on them. For the sake of the children. Loneliness. Face.

Lots of other reasons.
posted by biffa at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2004


I've been accused of being as loyal as a dog, sticking with relationships (romantic and platonic) long beyond the point where I should have. I have never cheated on anyone in a romantic relationship.

However, I'm coming up on my 13th anniversary with my wife. Over time, I've come to think that it's naive to expect one person to be everything you need over the long haul. I still love my wife dearly, with a passion and depth that is wonderful. But, 13 years is a long time, and things change. People grow, adapt, evolve and sometimes devolve. Add kids and careers to the mix, and it's tough to connect. There are times when she needs affection and attention that I just can't muster up, and other times it's the other way around.

Additionally, the American idea that you can only have one partner at a time leads to all kinds of disastrous decisions for people. Some middle-aged guy, feeling like he's in a rut in his life picks up some fresh young intern for a little sideline fun. Then, because it's been ground into him for his entire life that monogamy is the only option, dumps his wife and drags the family through an ugly custody battle and gets smeared in public. Then, he marries the younger woman, and people whisper about him behind his back. Later, she decides he's too old, gets some extra from the pool boy, he finds out and divorces her too. And how, exactly is this better than everyone keeping a lover on the side?

Somebody named justgary made the a comment in the Bill Clinton thread in the blue yesterday that illustrates this POV perfectly:

Are you joking? When you can cheat and your wife accepts it what kind of accomplishment is that? Being married means giving up others. Clinton never did. If marriage meant having 21 year old interns on the side the divorce rate would go down and marriages up. (emphasis mine).

Now, having said all of that, "cheating" is wrong. Sneaking around and lying about it is just poisonous. I just think that we (as a society) would be a lot better off is the concept of the open relationship (however the couple involved defines it) were the norm instead of this Puritanical insistence on total monogamy.

I also think that jessamyn is on to something with her last question. I just hate hypocrisy, so I wish we could skip the public approbation on this subject.
posted by Irontom at 8:48 AM on June 25, 2004 [3 favorites]


Unacceptable. Echoing what is said above, it's called cheating for a reason. Unless they've had some sort of discussion or are in an open relationship with their partner, they are being a rat bastard and poisoning most or what I consider vital to a relationship: trust and respect.

I don't think monogamy is for everyone, or even most people. As a society we are increasingly allowing that to be expressed, and fewer of us are making life-long commitments to anything, much less relationships. That's only a problem when someone who wants monogamy is with someone who doesn't want or can't offer it. So, if you can't settle, don't. You don't have to! Find someone who feels/acts/wants as you do in the fidelity department, and nobody has to get hurt.

It's because I cannot find any moral justification for cheating, and can see plenty of easy ways to avoid it that I personally consider it unacceptable.
posted by nelleish at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2004


If cheating, by definition, is totally wrong why do a lot of people seem forgiving and accepting of it? And even while using the word "cheat" to describe what was done.

Cheating almost universally involves ignoring the rational part of one's mind in favor of baser and more appetitive impulses, so the idea that people will be consistent on this point is a bit idealistic.

People tend to conjure up various justifications for their behavior to give it some semblence of coherence when acting on emotion, and this can almost always be observed in the person doing the cheating. This can also come into play (though not in every case) when the person who is cheated on decides to forgive their partner... it can often be easier than rearranging emotional furniture in the wake of a betrayal.

Also, people's sense of what is accaptable and what is not can be greatly influenced by those around them, as I implied in my previous comment. Friends can be very influential, and people are often reluctant to condemn the actions of those close to them, especially when they wind up backfiring and hurting the perpatrator. I don't think this is a bad thing in and of itself, however I think it's bad to interpret it as tacit approval, and even worse when it is tacit approval. One's upbringing and the behavior of one's parents also tends to have a profound impact on one's attitudes toward relationships.
posted by alphanerd at 8:54 AM on June 25, 2004


I've actually been a little surprised at how much prejudice there is against polyamory in various MeFi threads, particularly in those that discuss gay marriage. If I had to guess I'd say that the prejudice is politically pragmatic, but is nonetheless (from my perspective) fabulously hypocritical.
posted by snarfodox at 8:57 AM on June 25, 2004


"Cheating" in this context is all about having sex with someone who is not your spouse. There are at least two reasons why it is wrong, IMO:

1. You made a commitment to each other. A life-long commitment, for better or worse, sickness & health, etc. Commitments of such magnitude and solemnity are not to be broken lightly, and there (rightly) are consequences for such.

2. You share your life with everyone around you: you go to sporting events with friends, you laugh with co-workers daily, you travel with associates, you talk with neighbors and friends. The single thing that embodies your commitment to your spouse -- the one thing that belongs to you & your spouse exclusively -- is the intimacy and romance of sex. The frequency, duration, or satisfaction of such varies, of course, but it is the one thing that you share with no one else.

YMMV.
posted by davidmsc at 9:03 AM on June 25, 2004


Cheating is cheating.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2004


It's totally unacceptable in any pairing that can be called a "relationship"(defined as more than a one night stand and when numerous lengthy phone calls have taken place), but I have been guilty of it and always forgiven for it. On the other hand if the tables were turned I would never forgive. Crazy double standard I know.
posted by oh posey at 9:10 AM on June 25, 2004


I suppose if you believe that what other people don't know won't hurt them, and that things are only wrong if you get caught doing them, then cheating is probably okay. It is precisely this attitude that has allowed the current administration to be so successful and that allowed Enron to be so successful until . . . oops, well, bad example there.

Sigh. It used to be everything in my head eventually led to sex; now it all leads to politics. Growing up sucks.
posted by vraxoin at 9:13 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Cheating is a bad response to a bad system. Polyamory is, I think, preferable to the insistence that one person be everything to you. However, choosing an open relationship is not necessarily easy; often open relationships are subject to greater approbation than cheating is. So I would say cheating, while not *good* is understandable.

Also, I've noticed that most attitudes toward cheating are like alphanerds: that it comes from something base and irrational. In many cases, I've found that that attitude is not only incorrect, but deligitimates open relationships by positing that wanting more than one partner is a result of greed and uncontrolled desires, rather than simply human, and perhaps totally rational.
posted by dame at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2004


Cheating is unacceptable, but - and it's a big but - it happens for complicated reasons and no one looking-on (as opposed to being directly involved) should be too judgemental about it when it happens.

On the other hand, if everyone is accepting about it, then people will be more encouraged to think of it as "no big deal" - social opinions affirm moral positions. It isn't about condemning people or suggesting that you're morally superior, but just about reminding them what they're doing. You can say they don't need to be reminded, they live with it every day etc, but the truth is, if all their buddies respond with, hey, don't worry about it, eventually they won't worry about it. Then they tell you, and you react with consternation and surprise - and they're reminded again of how they originally felt. I think some negative feedback is important.

If cheating, by definition, is totally wrong why do a lot of people seem forgiving and accepting of it? And even while using the word "cheat" to describe what was done.

I don't know that many people who are accepting or forgiving of it. But perhaps the difference is that open relationships are normal and acceptable in my community? Many people still choose monogamy, because they naturally feel jealousy, but this makes it clearer that a choice is being actively made, and one they would not want their partner to break, either. Is the cheating you're thinking of going on for both partners? Do they sort of know what's up? Maybe they have open relationships that they don't want to tell the neighbors about?

I'm probably just being naively optimistic there, though - people sometimes don't like to think ahead or back, to see the whole picture and recognize that some extramarital intimacy isn't destructive but dishonesty is - instead they get thrust around by the momentary drama, being heartbroken, then forgiving, then going into therapy, and then going through it all again...

The single thing that embodies your commitment to your spouse -- the one thing that belongs to you & your spouse exclusively -- is the intimacy and romance of sex. The frequency, duration, or satisfaction of such varies, of course, but it is the one thing that you share with no one else.

there's a reason it's called sexual "intercourse" (conversation). Is conversation with your best friend reduced to meaninglessness because you also talk to other people? You can have jokey little chats, friendly but brief connections, deep and intense outpourings... one doesn't have to take away from another.
posted by mdn at 9:18 AM on June 25, 2004


I've actually been a little surprised at how much prejudice there is against polyamory in various MeFi threads, particularly in those that discuss gay marriage

I think, like most instances, this prejudice is based on ignorance or not being able to understand something. I don't think I'm physically cabable of loving more than one person at a time, but I know I can't speak for everyone, and I know being polyamorous is right for many people. My understanding of polyamourous relationships doesn't include cheating (openness and mutual acceptance = not cheating), thus condeming the latter does not mean condeming the former.

I hope it was clear from my comments in this thread that I don't pass judgement on any particular level or arragement of commitment, only on being dishonest with someone else about how you expect the relationship to work.
posted by nelleish at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2004


Davidmsc's response brings up an interesting question I think, which may be at the root of people's clinging to monogamy as it is constructed: why does your spouse having sex with someone else devalue the sex you have? (Extra points for responses that do not involving having part of another person "belong" to you.)
posted by dame at 9:22 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


ascullion hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. It's almost always a whole lot more complicated than just "cheating", and I don't think that cheating means a person is inherently untrustworthy in all areas of the relationship, or that they don't love or respect their partner. It's a case-by-case sort of thing to my mind.

I think that the reason people are understanding of it is based on the thought that sometimes cheating is inevitable (the right kind and amount of temptation at the right time), sometimes it can actually save a relationship, and that people are human and humans are fallible. I do agree that if you're calling it "cheating", it's by definition outside the bounds of the relationship, but I think that a lot of people try and fool themselves into thinking that monogamy is the ideal, natural state for humans, and it's pretty clearly not, in many cases.

I don't agree that sex is the only thing that belongs solely to you and your spouse - that's a pretty odd definition of a relationship to me. Your life partner is someone you share your life with, not just your body, and how you individually and jointly define your relationship is personal - for some people, sex is a defining factor, for others, it's the knowledge that the other person will always be there, regardless of who sleeps with whom.
posted by biscotti at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2004


In my books, consenting, informed adults should be free to do whatever the hell they want. That includes polyamorous relationships, swinging, groupsex, whatever.

By definition, cheating is not consenting. You can only cheat if your partner is uninformed.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 AM on June 25, 2004


As FFF points out: it's all about informed consent.

If you go have sex with someone else without telling your partner, for any reason whatsoever, then you're an asshole, no two ways about it.

If you go have sex with someone else and do tell your partner beforehand, then it's up to the two of you to sort it out and I don't freaking care.
posted by aramaic at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2004


Also, I've noticed that most attitudes toward cheating are like alphanerds: that it comes from something base and irrational. In many cases, I've found that that attitude is not only incorrect, but deligitimates open relationships by positing that wanting more than one partner is a result of greed and uncontrolled desires, rather than simply human, and perhaps totally rational.

I'm not trying to insinuate that open relationships or polyamory are less legitimate than monogamy. To clarify, you enter monogamous relationship because you believe that it is the sort of relationship appropriate for you, for the same reason you might enter a polyamorous relationship. You may be mistaken about whether monogamy is right for you, but it is imperative that you properly discharge your obligations to other people before changing your approach to the way you conduct your relationships. "I want to have sex with someone other than my partner" should never outweigh "I have an obligation not to have sex with someone other than my partner." Maybe it wasn't rational of you to assume that obligation, but rationality, to my mind, is very specific about what you can and cannot do to alleviate yourself of it.

To put it another way... Suppose I tell my friend that I'll babysit their kids on tonight, but then bail on them to go to the shore without telling them. Someone condemning my actions is not taking a moral stance on going to the beach. My actions only lose moral validity in the context of the agreement I willfully entered.
posted by alphanerd at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2004


I'm going to join the 'it's wrong if it's cheating, right if it's open' pile on. My feeling is that whether you're cheating or engaging in acceptable behviour is dependent on the true feelings of both parties. If either person feels outside sexual relationships are cheating and wrong, then both people are bound by that. If both partners are able to reasonably look at the basis for their relationship and determine that there's room for outside sexual and emotional interaction, then it's not a problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:45 AM on June 25, 2004


I know, alphanerd.

What I was trying (poorly apparently) to say is that I think cheating is, at times, understandable (not okay; dishonesty is totally sucky and poisionous), especially since for many people the choice between monogamy and polyamory is not an equal choice, monogamy given such great precedence that people enter into it feeling there is no choice. One of the cases in which pro-monogamy propaganda is most noticeable to me is in the assumption that cheating is all about losing control to base desires, rather than a bad solution to a bad system. (Does that make more sense?)
posted by dame at 9:49 AM on June 25, 2004


If you're in a monogamous relationship, you must treat monogamy as policy. A policy is simply a decision that has already been made. Once you have decided to be monogamous, you do not ask yourself "shall I fuck her?" every time you see a desirable woman. The decision has already been made; the answer will always be the same no matter how many times you ask it; thus, there is no reason to even ask it.

Cheating is not inevitable nor is it "giving in to base urges." It is a decision one makes. No one in history has ever accidentally stuck their prong in the socket of someone who is not their mate.
posted by kindall at 10:24 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Dame: I think I see your point. It is perhaps improper of me to refer to such desires as base as it may have moral connotations that I don't want there. Sex drive, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. One's actions with respect to it, though, carry moral weight and we can involve them in a conversation about rationality. A polyamorous person might say (and forgive me if I am oversimplifying things here as I am not polyamorous and don't have tremendous contact with people who are), hey, I'm psychologically constituted in this fashion, why should I spend the rest of my life trying to repress these aspects of my personality when I could spend it enjoying them with like-minded individuals? Why should love be something that is exclusive to another individual? All of this makes perfect sense.

The problem I have with what you are saying is that you go a bit too far in your criticism of monogamy, referring repeatedly to it as a "bad system." It may not be the best system for you personally, or for other people personally, but for many people it is a valid choice that can ensure long term happiness and stability. The idea that people who wind up cheating are really repressed polyamorists is I think too simplistic (and this may not do justice to your view on the subject).

Many people who cheat want very much to be monogamous, and some of these people wish they could be in a monogamous relationship with the people they are cheating with but cannot escape the relationship with their committed partner for various reasons, some of which are quite compelling (e.g. kids). But all of them violated agreements they made to other people. All of them made a commitment to themselves to reign in their attraction to other people (which all monogamous people have). And all of them allowed their emotions to get the better of their judgement.

I will meet you halfway, though not on the point in dispute, and remark that people without a doubt overpromote monogamy and do not give polyamory the respect it deserves.
posted by alphanerd at 10:29 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Cheating and fidelity are based on primal human urges. We respond well to the idea of a commitment. We seek closeness, safety love.

We also seek variety. We crave attention. We fear aging and becoming unattractive. We seek revenge.

Questions like this seem like they're trying to setting (once and for all), should we go on cheating or should we stop? (I know this might not be the intent of the actual posted question, but it sparks this notion in my mind at least).

In other words, we're faced with two opposing forces, fidelity and infidelity, and we want to resolve the conflict. That's another primal urge: to resolve conflicts.

So I think we'll always want to be faithful. Even the cheater WANTS to be faithful or feels guilty about his lapses. And we'll always want to cheat. We'll never stop being temped, because the temptations will never go away. And those parts of us that respond to such temptations will never go away either. And we'll always want to resolve this unresolvable conflict.

Most of us deal with this by either pretending it doesn't exist (pretending we never even think about cheating, pretending our obviously cheating partner is not cheating, pretending we don't feel guilty when we do cheat) or by trying to move past it (admitting we feel tempted by refusing to give in to the temptation, working for forgive the cheater and move on).

The false world we conjure up for ourselves is that moral dilemnas are easy: stealing is wrong, so don't steal. One who steals is simply weak. Etc. We seem loath to admit that most moral battles are very very difficult and that they are never over.
posted by grumblebee at 10:31 AM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Also, though I'd agree that cheating is wrong, I don't think that label gets us anywhere. Life is so complicated. For instance, imagine a man whose wife never sleeps with him. He's spent the last 20 years going without sex. He doesn't leave his wife, because he loves her. In other areas, she's a great spouse. If he left her, he'd likely find someone who would sleep with him, but who would be less perfect in other ways.

Then he meets a woman who comes on to him. He has a chance to have the sex he's been missing constantly for 20 years. I would agree that it's still "wrong" for him to cheat on his wife. But now that I've classified it as "wrong," I admit to feeling some compassion for him if he does cheat.

I guess it's less wrong if he says to his wife, "darling, since you won't have sex with me, I'm going to have sex with someone else." But this might destroy his marriage. He might have a greater chance of keeping his marriage if he lies.

I'm not advocating lying. I'm not advocating cheating. I'm advocating seeing humans as complicated and looking beyond "right" and "wrong."
posted by grumblebee at 10:38 AM on June 25, 2004


We can argue in circles about whether or not an individual can truly "love" more than one person, whether multiple sexual partners is a good or bad thing, etcetera.

All of that has nothing to do with the morality of keeping one's intimate partner uninformed and incapable of making a personal choice as to their relationship with you.

Sheesh.
No one in history has ever accidentally stuck their prong in the socket of someone who is not their mate.

Honestly, I just tripped and fell on her!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 AM on June 25, 2004


For instance, imagine a man whose wife never sleeps with him. He's spent the last 20 years going without sex. He doesn't leave his wife, because he loves her. In other areas, she's a great spouse. If he left her, he'd likely find someone who would sleep with him, but who would be less perfect in other ways.

She would have to be amazing to command 20 years of loyalty in a sexless marriage.
posted by mecran01 at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2004


grumblebee, your scenario is an extreme outlier - does it change if he makes the first move? If the dry spell has only been six months? if he's more conflicted over his feelings for his wife? when does the agent have to take responsibility instead of blaming the conditions under which he acts?

I'm not saying good people are never pushed to do bad things, but just that a person has to recognize what's going on and inform the relevant parties - in this case, he needs to sit down and tell his wife, look, I can't be happy in a sexless marriage; we need to either get into therapy, open our marriage, or separate.
posted by mdn at 11:52 AM on June 25, 2004


does it change if he makes the first move?

Does what change? I said that I agreed that cheating is wrong. It's wrong whether he makes the first move or not.

My point is, what do we get after we know that it's wrong, besides being able to classify it as wrong?

You've made a blanket statement that "a person has to recognize what's going on and inform the relative parties." Okay, lets take a simpler scenario -- on in which the guy is deserving of much less pity than one stuck in a sexless marriage:

This guy is in a great marriage. He and his wife are friends and also terrific lovers. Then he's walking down the street and he runs into the girl he always wanted in high school. He hasn't seen her for 10 years. She suggests they have a drink to catch up. They have a few too many. He has sex with her. Afterwards, he feels TERRIBLE. He hates that he cheated on his wife, and he knows he will never do it again. And he never does.

Should he tell his wife about this lapse?

I don't think there's a right answer to this question. People are all different. He needs to think about his wife's needs and his needs and what's best for the marriage and make the best decision he can make.

In some abstract sense, I think people should always be honest with each other if they love each other, but real life isn't always this neat.

If I were this guy, I KNOW I would wind up confessing to my wife. But to be honest, I would confess out of selfishness. I wouldn't be able to carry around the guilt. But it might actually be better for my marriage -- and for my wife's happiness -- if I didn't tell her.

Ask yourself, if your partner had a one night stand -- or even a long affair that is now completely over -- would you want to know about it? My guess is some people would and some people wouldn't. I would want to know about the long affair. I'd rather not know about the one night stand.
posted by grumblebee at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2004


...would you want to know about it?

If honesty can destroy the relationship, then dishonesty has already destroyed the relationship.
posted by aramaic at 1:01 PM on June 25, 2004


Grumblebee: Even the cheater WANTS to be faithful or feels guilty about his lapses. . . . And those parts of us that respond to such temptations will never go away either. And we'll always want to resolve this unresolvable conflict.


The conflict is not unresolvable. The solution is to rethink the way we relate. That is not easy, but "not easy" is not the same thing as unresolvable. The first place to begin may be to understand that to some people being faithful and sleeping with only one person is not the same thing. And this conflict may begin with that assumption.

FFF: We can argue in circles about whether or not an individual can truly "love" more than one person, whether multiple sexual partners is a good or bad thing, etcetera.

All of that has nothing to do with the morality of keeping one's intimate partner uninformed and incapable of making a personal choice as to their relationship with you.


It has plenty to do with the shades of morality. The reason someone does something has some bearing on the judgement of that action. That's why it matters whether or not someone was insane when a crime was comitted.

Nearly mandatory monogamy can be seen as a sort of insanity. Ideally, people could live in a culture where every option was supported, where they could come to understand that jealousy is a choice not a life sentence, and all other crap that polyamorous people spout. In that case, continuing to be dishonest would be and should be roundly condemned.

But when choices are unequal and people are encouraged to display the worst, most ownership-based behaviors in their intimate relationships, then it makes the situation a little grayer.

Again, for the record, I'm not saying all cheaters are right and deserve immunity no matter who they hurt. Just that things are not so simple.
posted by dame at 1:21 PM on June 25, 2004


I feel that some of those participating in this thread feel that I have said polyamorous relationships are "wrong." I have said no such thing.

The ONLY factor by which I form an opinion is whether the participants are informed, consenting adults.

I don't give a damn what adults do with or to each other, just so long as they have chosen to participate.

If (one of) your lover(s) is not aware that you are also in a intimate relationship with someone else, you are in the wrong in my opinion. It is simply grossly disrespectful, unfair, and potentially harmful to the uninformed, non-consenting partner(s). I can see no way for that set of conditions to ever be "right."

If you have fucked up and "accidently" cheated on a partner, then you are in the wrong. What you do next will depend on the strength of that relationship and your understanding of how becoming an informed partner will affect your partner. It may well be better than they not know, and you ne'er err again.

No matter what, though, it was wrong to do it because the action of cheating has by definition changed the structure of your relationship, and placed your partner into an uninformed, unconsenting relationship.

If your partner(s) are informed and do consent, then go fucking crazy. Once informed consent has been obtained, all is cool.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:49 PM on June 25, 2004


> It's unacceptable for me personally--if you're not satisfied with what you
> have, you should break up.

Stop the presses, fuller and amber agree on something substantive!

Cheating is hurtful to the other person, when it comes out (and it will come out, don't kid yourself) and damaging to you because it turns you into a sneak.
posted by jfuller at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2004


A long time ago, before my first marriage, I was a wild cheater.

I'm now on wife number two, and never have, never will. While I'm very happy with my partner, I feel deep-seated regret for having abused a relationship of trust with wife number one.

(I had the good sense to straighten up before we married, but the damage had been done to he relationship.)

Regarding kindall's note that no-one ever accidentally had sex with someone, well... I understand your point. But I still have a hard time understanding my former heartbreakin' ways as volitional. This is volitional, and like much of adulthood, represents hard work and commitment.
posted by mwhybark at 4:48 PM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


If honesty can destroy the relationship, then dishonesty has already destroyed the relationship.

Are you really young, aramaic? This sounds like a comment from someone young or someone not in a very serious, committed relationship.

If relationships are BASED on dishonesty, then I can't see them working. But can they really work when based on 100% honesty either? When your husband spends four hours baking a cake for you, do you tell him it tastes terrible? When your wife is 70, do you tell her her looks have gone?

Real life can't be lived well by simple slogans like yours, above. People are complicated, and relationships have to be renegotiated every day.
posted by grumblebee at 5:00 PM on June 25, 2004


If my partner slept with someone else, the relationship would end. However, if a friend confided in me that she had cheated on her boyfriend, I wouldn't end the friendship. Cheating is widely accepted as wrong, but it's not as abhorrent as, say, torturing a kitten. I think that's what this question is getting at-- most people feel that cheating is wrong and unacceptable behavior in a relationship, yet it seems to be so widespread that it has become socially acceptable-- cheaters aren't outcast from society in the same manner as other wrong-doers.
posted by bonheur at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2004


Cheating is a bad response to a bad system. Polyamory is, I think, preferable to the insistence that one person be everything to you. However, choosing an open relationship is not necessarily easy; often open relationships are subject to greater approbation than cheating is. So I would say cheating, while not *good* is understandable.

This is why people don't like polyamorists -- because they tend to be self-righteous prigs who think they're so much more enlightened than the rest of us.

Monogamy is not a 'bad system.' It's not any kind of system. It's an individual choice which ideally ought to be made based on one's own needs. It is not 'insanity' unless you enter into it reluctantly out of some ridiculous 'fear of approbation,' in which case you're a moron and I have a hard time mustering up any sympathy. But believe it or not there are those of us who prefer monogamy on its own merits independent of societal norms.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:30 PM on June 25, 2004


Cheating's wrong. It's lying, and why would you want to lie to someone you claim to love? If you can't tell your partner(s) the truth (whatever that may be), then you shouldn't be in a relationship with them.

People have lots of different structures in their relationships: some people are monogamous, others aren't. It's not my place to tell someone else what they should be doing with their relationship(s), and I expect the same courtesy with regards to mine.
posted by eilatan at 5:37 PM on June 25, 2004


it's not as abhorrent as, say, torturing a kitten

[moves hand away from groin...]
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on June 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


IshmaelGraves: I've tried both ways. I doubt you can say the same.

Look, I'm self-righteous about it because I don't think they are equal choices, and I've seen a number of people I know and care for in shitty situations because they don't feel like they have an option. Yeah, it pisses me off.

And speaking of self-righteousness, who are you to say people are morons for feeling like they should fit in to the narrative that is most predominant in all of our lives? You have never, ever done anything because you thought it was expected of you? Look, we've found the only free man!

So for the thousandth time: if the choices were equal, it would be a different story. But they aren't. It is harder to do things that are not constantly reinforced by our culture at every level. If you are happy being monogamous, then good for you. I might suspect you have some ownership issues, but that is my totally uninformed opinion, which shouldn't matter to you and which I probably wouldn't mention.

However, lots of people cheat. That fact alone makes me suspect the system isn't working. Your anger does too.
posted by dame at 6:46 PM on June 25, 2004


"It's totally unacceptable ... but I have been guilty of it and always forgiven for it. On the other hand if the tables were turned I would never forgive."

oh posey - [much rantage removed here] I've rewritten this 3 or 4 times now to sound less confrontational. So, here goes:

How can you justify this kind of double standard? Clearly, it's happened more than once.
posted by Irontom at 6:51 PM on June 25, 2004


grumblebee, perhaps I should change my emphasis: if your relationship can be destroyed by honesty, then it was already doomed.

...I stand by that. Any relationship that fails because one partner cannot lie about a cake is doomed, because if that sort of penny-ante stuff bugs you you're going to be walking on eggshells the rest of your life together.

I've always gotten along fine with the simple rule: don't ask me if you don't want an honest answer. That doesn't mean I say "honey, this cake tastes like death", it means that if she asks me how the cake tastes I say I appreciate the effort and I love her for it, but it's not very good.

It's part of my "contract" with her: I will not lie. Sorry if you live differently, but that's your choice too.
posted by aramaic at 7:04 PM on June 25, 2004


What if you are on a break?
posted by TomSophieIvy at 7:08 PM on June 25, 2004


Two consenting adults who have clearly delineated a polyamorous relationship know what they can and can't expect for the most part. However, when a person "cheats" in what the other partner believes to be an exclusive relationship, it is a breach of the relationship.

The factor not being discussed is bringing home something to your partner as a result of that "cheating." For myself, I like to have my risk factors kept low for STD's and if the person is not thinking clearly enough to remember they made a committment to someone before engaging in sexual contact with a person outside said relationship, they probably aren't going to remember to use safe sex precautions!
posted by sillygit at 8:22 PM on June 25, 2004


I think it kicks ass!
posted by angry modem at 8:37 PM on June 25, 2004


It appears to me that dame's argument is simply stated thus: People in our society should just quit expecting their partners tell them they are going to cheat.

Sorry, dame, but no. For me to value my relationship, my partner must trust and respect me enough to tell me if she requires another intimate relationship.

If she can't trust and respect me for that, then our relationship is a failure and I do not want it.

If she does have that trust and respect, then I can decide how much I value the relationship, and make an informed and consensual choice.

Yes, there's a chance she might not like the outcome. But she must trust that I will take her desires into deepest consideration as I make my decision. If she can not trust and respect me, then our relationship is a failure and I do not want it.

Get it? It's not about you it is about your partner.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 PM on June 25, 2004


Oh Jesus fuck FFF, misrepresent much? I *said* cheating is bad, most precisely because it is dishonest. I don't think people ought to cheat. *I* don't cheat, and I never did.

Get it? It's not about whether cheating is bad or good. It's a broader comment on what cheating means.

I think it means the way things are arranged is rotten. If you have a bunch of kids cheating on a test year in and year out, you have to rework the conditions under which you give the test or accept that the test is totally invalid, not spend all your time making yourself feel superior to those assholes who cheat. I mean you can—you can do whatever the fuck you want—but it doesn't seem very interesting. Kind of shallow, actually.

I know from your other posts that you are not an idiot and are capable of reading. So will you please either argue the point (the preponderance of cheating suggests a systemic flaw) or STFU and stop claiming that I say things I explicitly say I don't believe just so you can get all self-righteous and feel shiny and extra-special. I have plenty of faults, so if you need to feel better than me that badly, let me know and I'll provide you a list. That way your asinine comments can have some basis in reality.
posted by dame at 10:05 PM on June 25, 2004


I don't think of cheating as good or bad exactly. I just envision scenarios of actions and consequences, and how the person who is being cheated on will feel when they find out.

I've cheated a few times - though not on my wife. I worked through the impulse before I got married. One common reaction I'm aware of, to the discovery that one has been cheated on, is stomach distress even to the point of vomiting. I've felt this sort of distress and dealt it more than a few times.

Humans - both males and females - desire fidelity and also variety. These amount to, I believe, reproductive strategies. There's a rich ethology describing the reproductive behavior of animals in terms clear to humans : jealousy, fidelity, the biology of love, attachment, and desire......

Also, I don't exclude the spiritual but consider that derived more from the sublimation of instinctual yearnings.

______________________________

As a practical tip, to spice up a dull sexual relationship - try fighting! (within bounds) : there's nothing better than a good fight except the resolution (in bed)...... And then, a delicious dinner.



But also, in the long run, I think like a Buddhist : Do what you will, and that way lies suffering - as does the way of all desire.
posted by troutfishing at 11:04 PM on June 25, 2004


Cheating is wrong, and I came to feel this way for two reasons:

1) Secrecy is counter to intimacy. Your partner is supposed to be the one person you can tell anything to. Not that privacy is bad, but bearing a big, dark, terrible secret they'd shit a brick to know about kinda precludes any level of be-all, know-all element in the relationship. It's limiting, perhaps, is the best way I could put it.

2) I came to feel that cheating is wrong because no one's ever cheated on me. Sure, you can stick your barbs in my flesh, claiming I just don't know about it, but really, I've been lucky to have relationships with very very good people, and they've set the bar high for me.

Contrary to popular wisdom, I think people cheat because they don't want to leave the relationship they're in. If people cheated because they'd found somebody better, they'd simply leave the old relationship and start another with their new partner. However, when people cheat, it's because they've found the one thing that was missing from their pre-exisiting relationship, one which they're otherwise happy with and don't want to leave. But as long as they can get away with it, they'd like to get that one little thing that's been missing. That thing isn't always sex, actually.

People who cheat actually convince themselves that they are, in fact, protecting their relationship. They're satisfying that unfulfilled need, in secret, instead of simply breaking up over it. Rather than grill their partner over what they aren't getting, they simply get it elsewhere, on the sly, and call it even. I'm sure people do this for their peace of mind, their finances, their kids, who knows their reasons?

It's a piss poor compromise of a choice. But it's a minefield shitstorm of a world that presents people with imperfect choices a lot of the time. I understand how and why people are driven to it, and it's not always because they're evil.

But it's still wrong.
posted by scarabic at 11:56 PM on June 25, 2004 [2 favorites]


If you're calling it cheating, it's wrong. That implies that secrets are being kept, lies are being told and one person is being disrespected. If both partners agree to have sex with other people as part of the relationship then that's a different story.
posted by skylar at 12:05 AM on June 26, 2004


So you say
  • cheating is bad
  • one shouldn't cheat
  • honesty is important to a relationship
    but that
  • if you want to be polyamorous
  • but got into monogamy by mistake
  • these terms are stupid
  • so this arrangement is awful
    and thus
  • ...? BTFOoM.

    Most of us are saying that that cheating is wrong. You state face-out that you feel cheating is bad. So that can't be what you're arguing about.

    Most of us are saying honesty is important in a relationship. And yet you agree with that, too. So that can't be what you're arguing about.

    Most of us have also said that if you can't handle monogamy, it's best you enter a polygamous relationship instead. You would seem to agree with that. Indeed, you seem quite adamant about it. So that can't be what you're arguing about.

    Pray tell, what are you arguing about, then?

  • posted by five fresh fish at 12:37 AM on June 26, 2004




    According to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the New Hampshire Supreme Court, eating isn't cheating.
    posted by kirkaracha at 8:25 AM on June 26, 2004


    It depends entirely upon the parameters pre-established in the relationship. Unilateral post-hoc alteration of any agreement is always bad.
    posted by rushmc at 10:18 AM on June 26, 2004


    Pray tell, what are you arguing about, then?

    If you don't know at this point, I'm either a terrible writer or you are being deliberately obtuse. Either way, attempting to explain anything to you is a battle I'm destined to lose. So if you really want to know, re-read the comments carefully. If not, just don't claim to know what I think since you clearly don't.

    (Hint: My point involves shades of gray.)
    posted by dame at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2004


    I'm most assuredly not being deliberately obtuse. I simply can not figure out what the thesis of your argument is. What I read indicates you simultaneously feel cheating is bad, but that it is okay to cheat because monogamy is hard. Seems more than a little self-contradictory to me.
    posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 AM on June 26, 2004


    It depends entirely upon the parameters pre-established in the relationship. Unilateral post-hoc alteration of any agreement is always bad.

    exactly.

    fff, I think dame is just attempting to make a secondary point, after the one we all agree on (that cheating is bad), that society in general should be more accepting of polyamory so that people actually feel comfortable making the suggestion to their partners without being accused of being some kind of freak. While I generally appreciate this suggestion, I think it's a bit more complicated. A lot of people really don't want to be in polyamorous relationships. they simply do not feel fulfilled by the idea; they suffer from feelings of jealousy, etc. They want monogamy from their partner, despite its being hard - or really, because it is hard (this proves their mate is willing to sacrifice for them, which somehow proves love)

    I personally don't feel this way, and would be happy to be in a polyamorous relationship. I've yet to find a partner who feels the same way. I have had one relationship where I was a secondary partner, and that actually did not end up that well (it was fine for me but the original couple had some issues). So it isn't just a question of abstractly being okay with it; it's also a question of personally feeling it's the right kind of relationship for you.
    posted by mdn at 12:36 PM on June 26, 2004


    To paraphrase the wise words of Chris Rock:

    I'm not saying cheating is the right thing to do, but I understand.
    posted by Fupped Duck at 1:29 PM on June 26, 2004


    FFF - I haven't seen anyone here say that cheating is good, but several have pointed out a set of circumstances where, for some people, it becomes the best of a set of bad options.

    I made an effort, above, to explain how some folks might even rationalize it as good for their relationship, as it can be a functioning outlet for some energy the relationship itself doesn't satisfy, which would otherwise explode, possibly ruining the lives of children, etc. Obviously, it's better not to arrive at that point in the first place, but, as they say: life happens.

    These are rationalizations, not reasons. Choices, not principles. But does any of us really live utterly without compromise, loyal only to our morals, in total honesty with everyone around us? Shades of grey indeed.
    posted by scarabic at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2004


    Thanks mdn; that's basically it.

    Though I would add that making polyamory and monogamy equal choices isn't just a matter of not being accused of being a freak (though that would be a nice first step). As you note, a lot of people really don't want to be in polyamorous relationships. they simply do not feel fulfilled by the idea; they suffer from feelings of jealousy, etc. I would argue that a lot of people feel that way because they are constantly exposed to monogamy, jokes about it, movies about finding it, all the little ways in which a culture goes about reinforcing its standards and preferences. Monogamy is embedded in the cultural marrow, and that leads to people making certain assumptions about themselves that they may not have otherwise made. It also makes it hard for them to rethink those assumptions.

    So they cheat. Which, though it is more likely to hurt someone, is more culturally acceptable. Bad, but understandable.
    posted by dame at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2004


    Dame: If this thread still has legs, I hope you'll indulge me on a few points:

    1) I agree with you that monogamy is pretty deeply entrenched in our culture, but I think there's a lot to be said for the fact that the overwhelmingly vast majority of cultures throughout history have something analogous to the institution of marriage. Does this signify that it's a fundamental part of who we are (I want to say genetically), or is it purely a social construct on your view, the kind of thing that dominator culture, monotheism, and so on puts in place to draw rigid boundaries? Your above post doesn't acknowledge anything intrinsically monogamous about human beings and talks about society pushing monogamy, whereas other people in this thread seem posit a tension between monogamy and promiscuity which conventional wisdom would probably tell us is resolved by working one's way through a number of partners (not necessarily monogamously) and eventually settling down.

    2) Couldn't the prevalence of cheating be explained by other social factors, without commenting on the validity of monogamy as a workable system? I guess I'd maybe suggest the fact that America seems to be increasingly tolerant of dishonesty not only when it comes to relationships but it a lot of areas of human interaction as the type of thing that I'm talking about.

    3) I suspect there is a rough analog to cheating in polyamory... that there are certain people that even polyamorists should not involve themselves with, for example, the monogamous significant other of a monogamous friend. I am uncertain about the frequency with which transgressions of this sort occur among polyamorists (as I am about the incidence of cheating), but would you be as quick to decry polyamory as you are monogamy if they occured with comparable frequency?
    posted by alphanerd at 2:49 PM on June 26, 2004


    I would argue that a lot of people feel that way because they are constantly exposed to monogamy, jokes about it, movies about finding it, all the little ways in which a culture goes about reinforcing its standards and preferences.

    Yeah, I appreciate this argument, but it's important to remember that cultural standards go both ways; they come into being because the majority of power desires them - this is either the majority of individuals or the most powerful faction of them. In this case, I think it's a majority of individuals. As I said, my community tends to be very cool with the idea of polyamory, but many of them simply don't want to include it in their own lives. (Of course, the fact that they've made this choice consciously rather than by assumtpion / default might contribute to their fidelity. )

    We can put it in language of possession, but that too goes both ways - wanting to own and wanting to be owned by another - to be lover and the beloved, to be the most important thing to someone else, etc. I don't think it has to be seen as a negative trait; it's just a different interpretation.

    These are rationalizations, not reasons. Choices, not principles. But does any of us really live utterly without compromise, loyal only to our morals, in total honesty with everyone around us? Shades of grey indeed.

    No one is trying to say humans are perfect, but cheating on your lifetime partner is not a shade of grey or a complex matter of compromise. It's breaking a fundamental promise you made to the most important person in your life. That's unacceptable and will only end up imprisoning you. Honesty is absolutely primary.

    I don't think there's a right answer to this question.

    yeah, well, there is :).

    This sounds like a comment from someone young or someone not in a very serious, committed relationship.... can they really work when based on 100% honesty either? ...When your husband spends four hours baking a cake for you, do you tell him it tastes terrible?

    I just don't understand this fear of honesty. Sure, you can interpret things in the most optimistic or friendly way - the cake tastes "interesting" or unlike anything you've had before - you can make it into a joke - you can go on about how you appreciate the effort - but what's the point of blatantly lying? He has taste buds too, right? Sometimes things don't go exactly right: big deal. "spin" is one thing; completely obfuscating any of your real experience in order to make their experience more pleasant just seems antithetical to the point of a human relationship, which is to share what you're actually going through... but this has fuck-all to do with cheating. Lying about a cake is not betraying a foundational principle of the relationship. Lying about an extramarital encounter is completely different and will build a wall between you.

    I'd like to hear more from oh posey, too, if this thread hasn't completely dropped off the page by now...
    posted by mdn at 3:00 PM on June 26, 2004


    It sounds to me like dame is saying that it is tough to discover/admit/commit to living openly as a polygamist.

    I'm sure it is. Life is tough all over.

    What I think I'm also hearing is that it's okay to be a polygamist while married to an uninformed monogamous mate. Or if not ok, at least not a big deal.

    In which case, what mdn said.
    posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on June 26, 2004


    Alphanerd: I'm more than happy to indulge.

    1. As a matter of fact, our own culture hasn't had something similar to the coupling we see today for all that long. It may have looked similar on the outside, but wasn't about love (rather, money), didn't last so long (all those babies killed off women mighty quick), was often arranged to one degree or another, etc. That the notion of marriage has shifted as cultural arrangements shift leads to suspect that monogamy as we have it is a construct.

    As for whether or not there is something instrinsically monogamous about people, I don't know. I think a lot of people are monogamous out of fear or atavism or ignorance, and I'm certainly not a genetic determinist. However, are there benefits to coupling up with someone of the other sex in order to raise children and share resources? Of course. But my partner sleeping with other people doesn't have anything to do with us being a team.

    Finally, the opposite of monogamy is nonmonogamy not promiscuity. In the past few years, I've fucked way fewer people than a lot of the serial monagamists I know; because I don't expect my partner to be everything, I don't have to choose between having needs met and having him, so a number of things that cause other people to break up are moot for us.

    2. I would suspect, actually, that cheating has become less acceptable in the last 300 years or so. I get the impression that having a mistress used to be far more acceptable.

    3. I'm not really involved in some kind of formalized polyamory. A number of my friends are involved in nonmonagamous relationships, and each has its own rules. Some people would say that being "the other (wo)man" is wrong, some wouldn't.

    I suppose if the nonmonogamous were breaking their own rules left and right, I would say that there was something wrong with the system, yes. But I can't think of even one instance where a partner in a nonmonagamous couple has broken their own contract (what I would wager is the nonmonogamous analog to cheating). The amount of dead honesty and understanding (of oneself and one's partner) required in nonmonogamy, along with the assumption that the contract gets renogotiated as things change, seems to make people less likely to lie—they don't feel like they have to.

    NB: Nonmonagamy doesn't always equate to fuck whomever you want. There are usually rules, which vary from relationship to relationship.
    posted by dame at 6:04 PM on June 26, 2004


    mdn:

    they come into being because the majority of power desires them - this is either the majority of individuals or the most powerful faction of them. In this case, I think it's a majority of individuals.

    I don't have so much faith that people always choose the best things for themselves. I don't always.

    We can put it in language of possession, but that too goes both ways - wanting to own and wanting to be owned by another - to be lover and the beloved, to be the most important thing to someone else, etc. I don't think it has to be seen as a negative trait; it's just a different interpretation.

    Do being lover and beloved or the most important thing to someone else require monogamy?

    FFF: Almost there (in a way that leaves out some of the nuances, but you don't seem to see a lot of nuances here). I'm saying that difficulty can make people more likely to cheat. I don't condone it, but I understand (more of those nuances).
    posted by dame at 6:12 PM on June 26, 2004


    Ah. Well, then, I completely agree. For some people, it's difficult to not cheat. For those people, monogamy is not working. Yup.

    For most people who believe they are in a both-sides-monogamous relationship, having a polygamous partner is a big deal. Yup.

    Where we disagree, then, is on whether it should be a big deal.
    posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on June 26, 2004


    dame - I'm going to muster up my best mother-of-Margaret-Cho voice and ask:

    Are you gay???
    posted by scarabic at 1:13 AM on June 27, 2004


    FFF: Yes.

    Scarabic: Not at all. I may be queer as in odd, but I *really* like boys. A lot. Different flavors. I do dislike that you think my sexual preference has anything to do with my ideas.
    posted by dame at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2004


    So you're basically saying that because monogamy is "hard," monogamists should give polygamists a break.

    We monogamists should be happy that we find monogamy easy, and hold nothing against our partner when s/he goes running about behind our back.

    Hold no expectations that they'll talk about it with us.

    And be okay with the risk that they'll bring home disease, or out of the blue and wholly unexpected by us, demand a quick divorce. Feel good that they're spending out hard-earned income to give their lovers gifts. Be satisfied that our level of intimacy isn't enough, and accept that they have no desire to find a mutually agreeable solution.

    Sorry, dame, but that sounds really goddamn greedy to me. Not to mention completely chickenshit.
    posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2004


    No no no. I think I misinterpreted the antecedent to your "it" FFF. I think that it shouldn't be a big deal *culturally* that one's partner sometimes fucks other people and that people seem overly attatched to the notion that sexual exculsivity equals some special sort of love.

    I do think they ought to have the guts to to talk about it. But I see why it's hard and why people find cheating easier. I wish they didn't, I don't think it's a good plan, and I wish we could revise our structures so that wasn't the case.

    Like I keep saying: Cheating: bad but understandable.

    I actually have a lot more to say than that, but I've finished my work and it's pretty out. Email me if you want to discuss further; I would enjoy it, I think, even if we never agree.
    posted by dame at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2004


    Er, okay. It looks like we're in complete agreement, then.

    We both agree cheating is bad.

    We both agree the cheater ought be talking to their spouse.

    We both agree polygamous relationships, with full informed consent for all parties, is the way to go if you can't hack monogamy.

    And we both agree that the only people who should hold any opinion about who's fucking whom are the people who are actually doing it.
    posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 AM on June 27, 2004


    Dame: Thanks for the response and for spicing up this otherwise uncontroversial AskMe thread.
    posted by alphanerd at 1:24 PM on June 27, 2004


    I don't have so much faith that people always choose the best things for themselves. I don't always.

    And yet, we usually choose better for ourselves than we do when we try to choose for others. What a conundrum, eh?
    posted by rushmc at 3:10 PM on June 27, 2004


    FFF: You are really allergic to subtlety, aren't you?

    Alphanerd: With pleasure.

    Rushmc: Good thing I wasn't proposing to choose for people but instead noting that majority chooses != good. Ass.
    posted by dame at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2004


    Or perhaps you're just really, really lousy at explaining yourself, dame.
    posted by five fresh fish at 5:09 PM on June 27, 2004


    Other people manage to get it.
    posted by dame at 6:27 PM on June 27, 2004


    Great. Point me at their posts, and I'll read them in lieu of yours.

    I continue to have no idea why you're so adamant that you're right and I'm wrong.
    posted by five fresh fish at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2004


    As an observer fff, let me try. You have inflexible "bright line" rules about your relationship with your significant other: how you treat him/her and how they are expected to treat you. Which is fine, perfectly cool - for you and your SO. However, you think those same kinds of rules should apply to everyone, and aren't very tolerant of people who can't/don't/won't live up to them. REGARDLESS of why.

    Dame, on the other hand, seems to have a more accepting view of the foibles of human beings, especially where their hearts and parts are involved.

    She already summed it up pretty well, so I'll quote her:

    "You are really allergic to subtlety, aren't you?"
    posted by Irontom at 5:04 AM on June 28, 2004


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