An experience of cheating

One of the many people I’ve interviewed about monogamy and nonmonogamy is Nell (not her real name). Nell has given me permission to share her experiences here.

Here is Nell describing her experience of being unfaithful:

“I was monogamous for seven months with one boyfriend. When an opportunity for sex arose with a close female friend, I was very happy to go with it. But now I knew I was supposed to be monogamous, and so this was clandestine. She knew of him, but he was unaware. For the following year I was increasingly sexual with others. My boyfriend remained mostly unaware, though I sailed close to the wind several times. I understood that the status quo was supposed to be monogamy, and I simply saw myself as destined to be unfaithful. I knew that I didn’t love my boyfriend any less because I was sharing sexualness with other people, in fact some of these others offered things that he never could, and maybe it helped us remain together. I rarely had guilt at my sexual relationships with other people. I knew he would find it hard to know, but I was becoming increasingly aware of my own discomfort at this dishonesty.

“It seemed wrong that the person I professed to love most was not the person I could share everything with. It’s not the practice of deceit – I’m exceptionally good at deceit, and always have been – by nature I was secretive and I found the act of dishonesty very easy. However, emotionally, it had stopped making sense. I needed to be able to share the fullness of my life and relationships with the person I was having my most important relationship with. Yet I didn’t know how to do this without destroying that relationship. Already, several times, I had had to admit to being sexual with another, and twice, he had broken off the relationship because of this, though only for a matter of weeks. He had also asked me to be monogamous, and I had said ‘yes’, because I didn’t know how to say anything else. Each time, shortly afterwards, I had broken that decision and given myself a hard time about my inability to trust myself to remain faithful. And yet knowing, still, that I didn’t love my boyfriend any less.

“In the end what happened was it seemed to be that if I said I would be monogamous, almost immediately I’d be sexual with someone else. It was like I was proving to myself that I couldn’t keep that promise. Apparently I didn’t want to even try. Reading my diaries, I had written something like ‘I can’t even trust myself, I only promised last week that I wouldn’t be sexual with other men, and here I am, this has happened, and I can’t keep my promise’.”

Have you had an experience like this? Have you had a secret affair and felt guilty? Have you promised yourself that you would never do it again, and then broken that promise? There is a solution.

Nell later discovered for herself that it was possible to be nonmonogamous in an open and honest way. Many other people I have interviewed have also discovered this. She learnt about polyamory, which means having honest, loving and/or romantic relationships with more than one person. I’ll write more about polyamory in the next post: it is not exactly the same as open fidelity but has a lot in common with it.

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