Is an open marital relationship considered cheating? Monogamous people may think that any romantic or sexual relationship outside the primary union is cheating. The dictionary defines unfaithful as “practicing fraud or deceit, breaking rules, or being sexually unfaithful.” It seems simple enough, but the word “unfaithful” can be tricky. If you’re committed to someone through marriage or monogamy, is sleeping with another person still considered “unfaithful” if you’re honest about it with your partner?
Being faithful means being true to one’s word; consistently committed to love, respect, and trustworthiness. Being unfaithful means breaking one’s word or duty, being disloyal, and being unreliable. Therefore, infidelity has less to do with the physical act and more to do with the violation of trust and mutually agreed-upon rules.
To have a strong marital relationship, you need to love each other, be faithful, and know where you belong every night.
Open marital relationships are consensual, meaning both parties have agreed to have sexual, intimate, or romantic relationships or encounters with people other than their spouse. Since both agree, it’s not considered cheating but rather “consensual non-monogamy.” However, the play partner must also be consenting and “in the know.”
Staying Within the Lines
Let’s face it, lying is not attractive.
An open relationship should not just be a reason to have sex with every person who walks by. Many people have established rules to keep all partners safe, both physically and emotionally.
Some common rules are:
- Approval before a play date
- Approval of the new partner
- Scheduled time for play dates vs. primary partner dates
- Limitations on sexual behaviors, such as no anal
- Limitations on body fluid exchange
- Sex only if both partners are involved, i.e., group sex
The rules can vary by couple as most have their own goals and comfort level in mind. Some open their marriage to spice things up but still want to keep it casual, so they choose swinging. Some people seek more committed non-monogamy, like polyamory, and enjoy several long-term relationships.
The rules vary from couple to couple, but they are also ever-evolving. As a couple gets more comfortable in their open marriage and with their partner’s play partners, they may relax some of these rules. For instance, “Sally is clean of STIs, and my partner has been having sex with only her and me for six months; let’s 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 the number of partners you have, the rules may be different for each one. If you find yourself with a complicated flowchart of guidelines for your partners, you may want to keep a “cheat sheet” to make sure you color within the lines.
Cheating still happens.
Can someone in an open relationship cheat? Absolutely, yes, they can. It’s definitely cheating if one partner no longer consents to the other person and the non-monogamous relationship continues to engage in intimate relationships with other people. Both people have to be actively consenting on a continuous basis. If a partner breaks the rules, this is cheating. You’re cheating if you lie about a new partner or what you do with a current partner. In an open marriage, it all comes down to trust. You’re cheating on them if you break your partner’s trust. Because trust is such a big part of any marriage, breaching that trust can be damaging, and an open marriage is no different.
Monogamy does not exclusively define marital relationships any more than having children does. Monogamy is not mandatory, and its absence does not invalidate a marital relationship.
The truth may not always set you free. Often, societal expectations around “traditional” marriage can be difficult for couples in non-monogamous relationships to navigate. While it may feel exciting to keep this information between you and your partner, sharing it with others can lead to unhelpful reactions. Many people still do not understand or support open marriage.
The traditional crowd often views open marriage as cheating, regardless of honesty and openness. It is common for people to assume that one spouse pushed the other into an open marriage because they want to sleep around.
If you plan on coming out about your open marriage, be prepared for many people not to be accepting. They may even assume that you are hitting on them or adamantly assert that they could never be in an open relationship. Traditional relationship dynamics can feel threatened by a relationship that deviates from the norm because it challenges what they believe is a fundamental requirement of marriage: fidelity.
If you have a long-term partner besides your spouse, coming out may be crucial. However, it’s a good idea to wait until you and your spouse are strong in your open marriage so that you can handle any external pressures that come your way.
Feeling unsure or emotionally overwhelmed is normal. If you don’t talk about these feelings with your partner, they can fester inside of you and eventually undermine your primary relationship. The key to a successful open marriage is being able to talk openly about sexual experiences and feelings.
If you find yourself struggling, it’s important to speak with your partner and take advantage of online non-monogamy groups like those on AdultFriendFinder. There are excellent forums where other people in open marriages discuss the joys and pitfalls of their relationships. In addition, you can talk about these issues with others who have been there and get their opinions and insights. Finding other people in open marriages who 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 also has a great online community that supports, educates, and discusses the wonders of open marriage.
An open marriage is not just open sexually; it is open in actions, thoughts, and feelings. Open is broad and all-encompassing.
Open marriage is consensual, meaning both parties have agreed to have sexual, intimate, or romantic relationships or encounters with people other than their spouse. As a couple becomes more comfortable in their open marriage and with their spouse’s play partners, they may relax some of these rules. However, breaking the trust that is such a significant part of any marriage can be damaging, and an open marriage is no exception.
If one partner no longer agrees to the non-monogamous relationship and the other continues to engage in intimate relationships with other people, it is considered cheating. Breaching trust can be devastating to any marriage, and an open marriage is no different.
Traditional relationship dynamics can feel threatened by a relationship that deviates from the norm because it challenges what they believe is a fundamental requirement of marriage: fidelity.
Open marriage is consensual, meaning both parties have agreed to have sexual, intimate, or romantic relationships or encounters with people other than their spouse.