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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Couple wants to call the "Poly Police" on friend's cheating behavior

Dear PWA:

I have an important question and would like to ask it anonymously. 

I am in an open marriage, she and I have full disclosure. I am actually the one who brought her into this lifestyle. She asked me a question and I gave what I think is the right answer. So now I want to take it to others.

My wife has a friend in an open relationship who has been flirting with someone else without telling her partners, including receiving gifts, sexting, and telling this other person she is not and has not been with anyone, and that she is in love with them. But in fact she has been with some of her partners almost as long as she has been talking to this other person. There has been no physical activity with the new partner, but they have said they would be intimate on a visit to see each other. 

She has lied repeatedly to the other person about her poly relationships. She received gifts from the other person and intercepted them from one of her live-in partners. If she was lying to one of them could she have been lying to the others? Is that cheating or not?  Why have openness with your poly partners but hide it from another you say you love? 

We suspect her long-standing partners do not know about this new person. We also suspect that she has lied to them saying this person is just a friend, when in fact there is proof otherwise. Is this cheating and should the record be set straight? Should her other partners be told the truth of her deceitfulness?

Looking For Answers

Dear LFA:

Like Lucy Ball, your wife's friend likely has got some 'splainin' to do. But I'm not sure it's as cut-and-dried as you're presenting it.

To address your question, what is cheating? Relationship rules may differ, but whatever they might be, cheating means breaking them.  It's possible she's technically not breaking any, but my instinct is there might be more to the story. The tone of your question seems to suggest you want to feel vindicated rather than educated; it reminds me of my sister trying to get me in trouble with our mom twenty years ago for hitting her, but leaving out the fact that she totally started it!  In other words, I'm curious how your wife or her friend might present other sides of the story had you not written us first.

Regardless whether she and her partners have covered this scenario via clearly established rules, dishonesty is never the best policy. The things you're describing certainly sound like flagrant red flags, but without understanding the full situation it's difficult for me to say you are right and she is wrong. If this bothers you and your wife as much as it appears, I suggest the two of you pull her aside privately, express your concerns for her well-being, and ask her whether this behavior you're describing is accurately perceived or whether you're off base? I'd give her the chance to explain her behavior before deciding whether or not to "out her" to anyone else with whom she's in a relationship. That might not be your place to do.

Personally, I don't think it's anyone's place to "out" someone, unless it's as a murderer or some actual threat to society. One thing we say at every meeting of Open Love NY is that everyone has the right to live how they want to live, and what works for some may not work for all. Even if you think you have all the facts (which I doubt) unless you are actually one of these affected (potential) partners, I would advise you to keep your comments to yourself. 

Of course, I agree with Leon that dishonesty will likely lead to trouble, but openness as it relates to relationships does not equate to total honesty. Many people distort facts to achieve their goals, even if there is a reckoning in the future. Perhaps your wife's friend is willing to take that risk, but that is her own business.

Unless you are friends with any of the other parties, the only thing I'd advise you to do is for your wife to talk to her friend (you can join if you are also friends with her, but this may be more of a one-on-one kind of talk) and express concerns that her behavior may lead to trouble. Anything more than that comes under the heading of sticking noses where they don't belong. 

2 comments:

  1. The person who is being lied to deserves to know the truth. The liar is trying to have their cake and eat it too with some people that allow other partners but holding this information from another lover is unethical. Why have openness with certain lovers and not all? They will continue to misguide others on what being poly means and will continue to deceive people within groups. I perceive from these responses it is ok to continue to lie and hurt others the truth will never be known and you can continue to hurt others as long as you are poly with some but not all.

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    1. Neither of us said that lying is OK - quite the contrary. What we are saying is that unless you are directly involved in a multipartner relationship you have no "standing" to reveal something that those actually involved choose not to reveal. If you are that outsider and it rubs you the wrong way, you can stop being friends with the liar, but talking about someone else's relationship without all the facts is dangerous ground. If you don't want outsiders meddling with your relationship based on their own ethical code, then you shouldn't be doing it to them.

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