Monday, June 9, 2008

Slippery Slope

I've written before about my philosophy on cheating in relationships. I don't do it and I don't support others to do it. There was a time when I looked at cheating a bit differently. I was clear that I wouldn't cheat on my own partner, but I held each person responsible in the way that they carried on in their own relationship. The way this played out, at least theoretically was thus:

If I was your friend, and say, your husband and I found ourselves sexually attracted to one another, if you and he had an agreement to be monogamous, I wouldn't cheat on you with him because you and I would have a relationship with one another, thus making me responsible to you.

On the other hand, if I didn't know you therefore there was no relationship between the two of us, I might have, theoretically anyway, sex with your husband, leaving it up to him on how he carried out his agreements in his relationship with you. I would have considered what he did and did not tell you, along with who he did and did not have sex with, his business.

I felt justified in my ethical considerations and removed myself from all responsibility in the choices another adult made.

Then I found myself in a sexual relationship with someone who was married and I was friends with her husband. They had an agreement to be monogamous. But there were many other considerations. Nothing is ever black and white of course. Some of the considerations were that that she was really the one who was my friend and that I was only friends with him, only knew him, because of her. Their marriage was in desperately bad shape. They didn't communicate. He wouldn't have sex with her. She needed me and I was a safe haven for her while she figured out what to do with her marriage. It wasn't like I was trying to ruin her marriage. It was already in very bad shape but I sincerely hoped they would eventually work things out. It was a slippery slope.

In the end she told him everything and he told her everything (they were both cheating on each other) and they ended their relationship. That was a confusing time, when she was considering coming out with the truth to him but hadn't yet. I knew he would hate me and never forgive me. If they were to ever work it out, it was doubtful that he would want to work it out with me--he would feel betrayed and never want me in their home again, etc. And we both knew that we weren't going to give each other up so that complicated things with her and him. What a mess. There is of course, lots more to this story but the gist of it is that I realized that I was supporting and encouraging a behavior in my friend that was hurting her heart. Aiding and abedding someone to lie to someone they love is not something a true friend does...(ok, well I was a true friend and I still did that's not something I believe to be an act of true friendship.) In the end I realized this and vowed to never put myself, or someone I love in that situation again. I want no part of that.

So now it's very clear to me. Not only would I not cheat with your husband if I know you, I would also not cheat with your husband even if I don't know you. The point is, that I know your husband and if I care enough about him to want to have sex with him, that means I care enough about him to want to protect his heart, and to protect the heart of the one he loves. I would never encourage a friend to cheat. But nothing is ever black and white and I discover another slippery slope...

I have a friend who is in a relationship with a don't ask, don't tell agreement. Now, my friend would like more open communication with his partner but up until this point, she hasn't been willing to discuss their arrangment in anymore detail. She has agreed that it is OK if they both have other lovers but she does not want to know anymore than that. In fact, she has another boyfriend and when my friend suspects that she has been with this other person he will ask her and she will confirm yes, as she doesn't lie to him, nor him to her. But she will never ask him if he has been with someone else as she does not want to know. Now, my friend has expressed interest in opening up this communication but it still stands as a don't ask, don't tell agreement, at least coming from the direction of her to him. Like I said, he can ask and she will tell, no graphic details but that much of the truth is revealed.

Where do I stand in all of this? Well...lets see. I know things aren't black and white. Humans are complicated beings. I'm not interested in being a self-righteous know-it-all. I'm a flexible person, open-minded and open-hearted and I try to be very aware of my judgments and opinions. This is their business of course and they have every right to carry on in the way that best suits them, or doesn't suit them as the case may be. But who am I to think I may know what's best for them?

Well, I kinda do think that I know what's more likely than not to be what's best for them but still, every relationship is unique and besides, it's their relationship and they need to figure it out for themselves. My hope for them, as for all relationships, is for more and more of the truth to be revealed, for more communication to happen, more secrets to be shared. I've had enough experience in relationships, with my own partners and with clients, to believe that the path of greater transparency creates more intimacy and grows love greater than withholds and the don't ask, don't tell rule.

But as I try to put my personal judgments aside, I still have my commitment to my own vows and my awareness of the slippery slope. Part of me relates to this don't ask, don't tell agreement as a free pass to cheat. What if I decided to have sex with this friend and then later I see him out and about with her? She's made it abundantly clear that she wouldn't want to know about me. So it seems to me that the only respectful thing for him to do in that case would be to avoid me altogether, or perhaps introduce me in a way that negates who I really am to him--a lover. Humm, that doesn't feel very respectful after all...

Besides the respect issue, I'm confused about my vow to protect and care for my friend's heart. No, this isn't out and out cheating. No, they aren't actually lying to one another. Yes, they have an agreement that it's OK to have other lovers...but...but...but...don't ask, don't tell just seems like a very slippery slope to me.

And of course the problem lies in that the fucking slippery slope looks so darn fun sometimes!

No comments: