THE BLOG

Does Cyber-Infidelity Shield Your Polyamorous Need -- Yes Or No?

Were I to ask you whether or not you're cheating online as you sext, chat, flirt with a person who is not your partner, you'd probably say no.

20/09/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 20/09/2017 03:57 SAST
Daniel Sheehan Photographers/ Getty Creative

Were I to ask you whether or not you believe in cheating, you would answer "no"? I'm betting that even Cyril Ramaphosa would say he believes in the principle of fidelity and marital honesty. Were I to ask you whether or not you're cheating online as you sext, chat, flirt with a person who is not your partner, you'd probably say "no".

Only when your partner discovers and falls into a traumatic state of crisis, may you consider that in fact your online peccadillos could be considered nonconsensual nonmonogamy.

Your fatal mistake was that you kept your online life secret from your significant other. Were I to ask you if you have ever felt attracted to another person while in a committed relationship -- and for a moment in time wished you could spend time with this person, chatting, doing a mutually pleasurable activity or even having sex... without having to give up your committed relationship, what might you say?

Compulsory monogamy is the simple idea that in our culture, monogamy is somewhat less than optional. The rules around compulsory monogamy are pretty standard and strict: you have The One, you idealise the institution of monogamy and if you break it, you are cheating. Ouch. As I mentioned, no one wants to be defiled by being called a "cheater". However, the desire to expand yourself out of idealised monogamy is strong.

Solution to this conundrum? Cyber-infidelity. With a click of a finger you can connect and get to feel alive, romantic, sexual or merely asexually and aromantically attracted to another -- or more than one -- other people online. You probably do not get online with the intention of cheating. You may well be happily committed to your partner. Once online chatting, however, the seduction of having multiple people in your life suddenly makes your life full, satisfying and richer.

Once the trauma recedes people are way more open to discussing an alternative to compulsory monogamy.

Voila! Problem solved as you move out of the binary model of compulsory monogamy into the openness of nonmonogamy. The only problem is that you've forgotten to discuss and negotiate this with your partner. And therein lies the rub. Opening up a discussion about opening up your relationship is taut, tight and terrible.

However, rather than suppressing your need to open up your relationship, I'd prefer you avoid cyber-infidelity and have this difficult conversation with your partner. Once cyber-infidelity occurs, people are so shattered by the trauma, that negotiating an open trusting consensual nonmonogamous, non-normative relationship structure, is difficult.

On the other hand, once the trauma recedes people are way more open to discussing an alternative to compulsory monogamy. Most people do not want to leave their long-term partners. And in a time of crisis, people are most open to discussing alternative ways of staying together -- in a more safe and trusting manner.

Perhaps the accessibility, affordability and anonymity of cyber-infidelity leaves people with an on-hand mechanism to escape the rigidity of monogamy and create more interesting nonbinary forms of attachment, such as polyamory.

Do you prefer to live a part-time monogamous life? In other words, engage in cyber infidelity whilst living an openly monogamous agreement.

Questions for you to ponder:

  • If you are cyber-engaging with another/multiple others, what are your motivations? Emotional intimacy/romance/sexuality/friendship?
  • Do you think it is ethically wrong to connect with people on Facebook who you once knew and maintain an ongoing online-only relationship with them?
  • If you have committed cyber-infidelity, have you and a partner discussed opening up your relationship?
  • Was this as a solution to avoid ending your relationship?
  • Was it a nonnegotiable option presented to you?
  • Did you buy into the compulsory monogamy model until you found yourself online and want to keep connecting with other people?
  • Do you prefer to live a part-time monogamous life? In other words, engage in cyber infidelity while living an openly monogamous agreement.
People don't want to break up. It's considered a fatal failure. So more and more people are seeking alternative road maps for relationship development.

A married man spent half the year working in partial isolation, abroad. To while away boredom and meet his instinctive need to connect with multiple people, he spent hours chatting to other women online. Over time he formed a significant emotional bond with another woman. His wife wanted the marriage to end.

However, both were reluctant to lose their property, investments, shared time with children and neither wanted to lose each other as companions and friends. Once I broke them out of the binary model of either monogamous marriage or divorce, they were visibly relieved. Creatively and painstakingly they began to think about an alternative relationship structure.

I say, get off the traditional relationship escalator which is a strong dogmatic scheme of how a relationship should develop. Face reality, which is that you go online, connect with another, escalate it really quickly into a hyperpersonal space until it feels exquisitely significant. And begin to tell lies as you hold secrets from your 'In Real Life' partner.

There is nothing wrong with choosing monogamy. If you do then do it ethically and avoid cyber-infidelity. The pain of this is so intense that managing jealousy, social stigma, confusion, division of time between multiple partners in a polyamorous situation, feels like a walk in the park.