Can You Still Cheat In A Polyamorous Relationship?

All polyamorous couples define their relationship in their own unique way and form their own boundaries, but cheating is still possible. Many think that if you’re in a polyamorous relationship, it’s impossible to be unfaithful. This isn’t completely accurate, though. Each relationship, whether a primary, secondary, or lateral relationship, has its own agreements. The definitions of cheating can be different in polyamory, but the results are just as hurtful and can end relationships. Here are some signs that your partner in a polyamorous relationship might be cheating on you.

  1. They aren’t telling you about new partners. Not all polyamorous relationships require individuals to share their other relationships. Sometimes there is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement. This means one partner consents to the other having relationships outside of their marriage or partnership but they don’t want to meet other partners. They don’t even want to know about them. However, in most polyamorous relationships, there is some agreement of disclosure. Partners may not need to share specific details, but they often expect partners to share when they start dating someone new. If your partner starts seeing someone and doesn’t disclose or intentionally hides the new relationship, this can be cheating.
  2. They’re crossing boundaries. Every individual should have their own boundaries. Polyamorous couples usually agree on certain boundaries to make their partners feel safe and validated. A married couple might create the rule of not having other partners stay overnight in their home. Some polyamorous couples consider crossing these boundaries as a form of cheating.
  3. They’re ignoring agreed-upon lines. Lines are like boundaries but a lot more strict. When one person has drawn a line, the other partner knows crossing it could end the relationship. As a result, sometimes one person will choose to cross the line and hide it. Eventually, it comes out though. Crossing this line constitutes as cheating.
  4. They’re starting a relationship with someone who is out of bounds. Sometimes when a couple embraces polyamory after they’re already in a relationship or even married, one person may ask that the other doesn’t date certain people. These out-of-bounds people could include family members, best friends, people they work with, or even parents who have children in the same school as their children.
  5. They’re ignoring the sexual safety rules you’ve set. Most polyamorous relationships have fairly strict rules about sexual safety to avoid the transmission of STI/STDs as much as possible. Some couples are fluid bonded, meaning they only have sex without condoms with each other. Others may allow fluid bonding with other individuals within certain time frames or after a number of STI/STD results that are negative. Breaking sexual safety rules is a big deal in polyamory.
  6. They are lying about where they are and who they are with. You might think this would not come up in polyamorous relationships very often, but it does. Some people have a hard time being open about who they are with and what they are doing. Lying can be considered cheating. Couples can avoid cheating and lying by having open communication about expectations and disclosure.
  7. They’re canceling your plans to be with someone else. Most polyamorous couples take set plans fairly seriously. As you can imagine, time with a partner is even more valuable than when you are monogamous because you don’t get as much of it. So, if a partner cancels plans they have with you to be with someone else and they do it fairly often, the canceled partner might consider this to be a form of cheating.
  8. They are not communicating. Not communicating is one of the biggest sins in a polyamorous relationship. Polyam individuals need to feel like their partner is being honest with them at all times. If communications between one set of partners decreases or dies out completely, this can lead to hurt feelings. Lack of communication can cross the lines into cheating if that uncommunicative partner continues to be open and honest with other partners.
Danielle has been a freelance writer for 20+ years. She lives in Canada with her dog Rogue and drinks a lot if coffee.