Rules and guidelines and breaking them in polyamory

This is the second of our guest posts; they were originally posted on FetLife.

There’s three big reasons why I’m posting them (with permission).

  1. They highlight and dissect some of the preconceptions around polyamory.

  2. They have a specific point of view and audience that may not be the same as my own (and that’s good).

  3. They show that relationships – especially polyamorous relationships, but it’s true of all relationships – are individual things.

See the preface from Monday if you missed it!

And since it needs to be spelled out, each post reflects an individual opinion and experience. Take it as such.

If you don’t know any of the terms (such as metamour), the glossary at is a great place to start.

On with the guest post!

“You couldn’t have been cheated on, you’re polyamorous. It’s impossible to cheat in your relationship. You have sex with other people.”

This is a statement I heard over and over again four years ago when I found out my then-primary had went outside our agreement. It was exhausting to constantly hear this and explain to others why he cheated.

Poly does not mean a free for all. Agreements are made between partners about what they constitute as cheating in their relationship. Also, about what the do’s and the don’ts of their particular relationship are. No two poly relationships are the same. Even relationships within the same polycule can have different agreements amongst partners. Complicated I know, but honestly it is one of the most rewarding relationships I have ever been in.

Cheating in a poly relationship can take many forms. Just like in monogamy. From the simple nondisclosure of information to sleeping with someone without your partners knowledge.

Communication is key in a poly relationship. The flow of information is very important. Though some couples are on a need to know basis, others share anything and everything. Therefore deliberately withholding information from your partner/partners in that type of an agreement would be considered a form of cheating.

If your agreement is to always use protection and you have an oops, a conversation needs to be had with your partner/partners right away. Even if you have a condom break, you share. Proper communication and trust are the basis of your relationship. Not following your agreement or if something happens that the agreement is somehow blurred even if no malicious intent was there a conversation still needs to be had. If this conversation doesn’t happen, the lack of information to your partner means you are withholding something from them, and therefore a form of cheating.

Some agreements a partner is allowed to have a new sexual encounter and then tell their partner later. Others the partners need to discuss things upfront. Make sure this is discussed thoroughly and you know how your partner wants/ needs the flow of information to be. For some finding out after the fact and not before hand is being cheated on. This is where it is crucial that you communicate effectively.

Cheating within a poly relationship is as easy as clogging up the flow of information. It can severely damage an amazing relationship, something not everyone can come back from. You know the old saying “if you have to hide it from your partner, it’s wrong and you shouldn’t be doing it.” I love that saying because it’s so true. With the digital age it can even be expanded on to say ” if it’s something that you feel you shouldn’t text, but have a face to face conversation about, it can wait until you discuss it with your partner/partners.” It’s simple if you feel this decision you are about to make could possibly have a negative effect or is important enough to discuss with your partner then that discussion needs to happen before the action. If you feel you are within the parameters of the agreement but the flow of information is that you tell your partner about, but its important enough information that you feel it needs to be done face to face; then it is my suggestion that you hold off on the actions and you have that conversation with your partner.

Like I’ve said many many times before, communication is always key. The flow of information is the most important thing. Know what your partner/partners expect from you, and follow your agreements with them. If you mess up, then fess up. We are all human and bound to make mistakes. Most of those mistakes are easily fixed if discussed immediately. Hiding things from your partner/partners is never good because it is bound to come out in the open eventually. The hurt from the nondisclosure is going to break your partner more then the actual offence.

As you can see cheating in a poly relationship is just as easy as in a monogamous relationship. Just because we have many loves doesn’t mean we are allowed to just walk all over those partners. We always need to take care of them and honor our relationships.

Featured Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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