People thinking about open marriage may be unsure if the practice is considered cheating or not. They may also be worried about the potential negative affects it could have on their relationship. To assuage those concerns, we talked to Adult FriendFinder members who are currently in open marriages to get their take.
Is open marriage cheating? Those who practice open marriage, polyamory, or consensual non-monogamy will probably tell you no. Those who are monogamous on the other hand may say any romantic or sexual relationship outside of the primary union is cheating. So the real question is…what is cheating?
The dictionary defines cheating as “practicing fraud or deceit, to violate rules, or to be sexually unfaithful.” Seems clear enough, but the word “unfaithful” can be a bit tricky. If you’re committed to someone through marriage or monogamy, is sleeping with someone else still considered “unfaithful” if you’re honest about it with your partner?
Being faithful is being true to one’s word; steady in allegiance to affection, reliable, and trustworthy. Being unfaithful is breaking your word or obligation, disloyalty, and being unreliable. So then by that logic, cheating has less to do with the physical act and more to do with the violation of trust and mutually agreed upon rules.
You have to have a very strong marriage, a love for each other that no one can break, and you have to know where you belong every night.
Open marriage is consensual, meaning both parties have agreed to have sexual, intimate, or romantic relationships or encounters with people other than their spouse. Since both have agreed upon that, it’s not cheating, but rather, “consensual non-monogamy.” That being said, the play partner needs to also be consenting and “in the know.”
NewlyFreeBburg from AdultFriendFinder.com said, “I’ve always thought it would be hot to be with a woman who is an open marriage. Married women are just hotter. I have no desire to help someone cheat on her partner.”
Staying Within the Lines
Let’s face it, lying is not sexy.
An open relationship shouldn’t just be an excuse to have sex with every Jane, Tom, and Harry that walks by. Most people have rules established, and these rules keep all partners safe, both physically and emotionally. Some common rules are:
- Approval prior to a play date
- Approval of the new partner
- Scheduled time for play dates vs. primary partner dates
- Limitations on sexual behavior, such as no anal
- Limitations on body fluid exchange
- Sex only if both spouses are involved, i.e. group sex
The rules can differ by couple, as most have their own set of goals and comfort level in mind. Some open up their marriage to spice things up, but still want to keep it casual so they choose swinging. Some people are looking for more committed non-monogamy, like polyamory, and want multiple long-term relationships.
“You have to have a very strong marriage, a love for each other that no one can break, and you have to know where you belong every night.” Said mrssquirt4u from AdultFriendFinder.com
Not only do the rules vary from couple to couple, but they are often evolving. As a couple gets more comfortable in their open marriage and with their spouse’s play partners, they may relax some of these rules. For instance, “Sally is clean of STI’s and my husband has been having sex with only her and me for 6 months, lets remove the need for condoms. However, if a new partner is introduced, they are not fluid bonded with us and condoms must be used.” Depending on how many partners you have, the rules may be different for each one. If you find yourself with a complex flow chart of rules for your partners, you might want to keep a “cheat sheet” to make sure you color in the lines.
Cheating still happens.
Can someone in an open relationship cheat? Absolutely, yes they can. If one partner is no longer accepting of the non-monogamy relationship and the other person continues to engage in intimate relationships with other people, it’s definitely cheating. Both people have to be actively consenting on an ongoing basis. If a partner violates the rules, this is cheating. If you lie about a new partner, or what you do with a current partner, you’re cheating. In an open marriage, it all comes down to trust. If you violate your partner’s trust, you’re cheating on them. Because trust is such a huge component of any marriage, violating that trust can be devastating and an open marriage is no different.
Renowned sex columnist Dan Savage says, “[C]ouples don’t have to be monogamous to be married or married to be monogamous. Monogamy no more defines marriage than the presence of children does. Monogamy isn’t compulsory and its absence doesn’t invalidate a marriage.”
The truth may not always set you free.
Often times the social pressures of a “traditional” marriage can be hard to navigate for the monogamish couple. It’s not uncommon to feel happy about your open marriage when this information is kept between you and your spouse. When you tell your friends, families, or that random person on the street, however, the reactions can be less than supportive. Many people still do not understand or support open marriage.
The irony is that most monogamous people are more comfortable with the idea of a cheating spouse than a marriage with multiple lovers that’s complete honest and transparent. The traditional crowd often views open marriage as cheating, regardless of the honesty and transparency. It’s common for people to assume one spouse pressured the other into an open marriage because they want to sleep around. You might even be slut shamed because people view it as a perversion, and these outside opinions can put a lot of stress on a marriage.
If you plan on coming out about your open marriage, be prepared for most people not to be accepting. They may even think you are coming on to them by just telling them, or adamantly assert that it is fine that YOU are that way but they are definitely not. Traditional relationship dynamics can feel threatened by a relationship on a non-traditional path, because it is challenging what they believe is a basic requirement of marriage…fidelity.
To avoid some of these pressures, it can be a good idea to keep your monogamish status away from your vanilla friends. Ask yourself if being “out” is something you need. If you have a long-term partner besides your spouse, then coming out may be very important. For some people, just the ability to be who they are in all its non-monogamy glory is important. It is a good idea to wait until you and your spouse are very solid in your own open marriage, so if the outside pressures come at you, you can just brush them off.
When issues do arise, and they will, communication is important. Jealousy is something that will happen. Insecurity will happen. Feeling unsure will happen. Doubt will happen. Share your feelings, no matter how silly some of them seem. If you don’t they can fester inside of you and ultimately sabotaging your primary relationship. The key to a successful open marriage is being able to talk openly about the blowjob you gave, the sex you just had, and the feelings you have about those things.
If you find yourself emotionally struggling, make sure you talk to your partner and take advantage of online non-monogamy groups like the ones you’ll find on Adult FriendFinder. There are great online forums where other people in open marriage will discuss the joys and pitfalls of their relationship. You can discuss these issues with others who’ve been there and get their opinions and insight. Finding other people in open marriages that have experienced what you are going through can be very comforting. AdultFriendFinder.com not only helps couples in open marriages meet other couples and singles, but has an incredible online community that supports, educates, and simply discusses the wonders of open marriage.
An open marriage is not just open sexually; it is open in feelings, thoughts, and actions. Open is wide open.