Confession time. I've cheated on partners before. Not often. Not as a rule. But it's certainly happened. In the past, though, I wouldn't call it cheating, I'd call it 'little, drunken run-ins'. I wouldn't call it lying, I'd call it 'simply not telling'. Not surprisingly, the lines between what's cool and not-so-cool in the Book of Good Couples Conduct became a little blurred over the years.
So when, fresh into my new relationship with Mr Hardman, I found myself rocking out on the dance floor at Red's birthday party alone, it was no big deal for me to fall into the arms of a lovely young man and put my tongue in his mouth.
A drunken dance-floor snog. It was nothing but a misdemeanor measuring about 2 on my Richter scale of inappropriate behaviour. In Mr Hardman's world it measured about a 9. Or so.
I found this out later that evening when, in the throws of messy, but even more drunken, merriness, I thought to regale him about 'just the craaaaazzziest thing that hap'nd earlier with that guy! You know! That guy! Ha ha ha nudge nudge ha...that guy ha... ha? Kissed... um... what?'
So now, after the third time around on this relationship, Mr Hardman and I have a fully verbalised exclusivity deal: no hand-holding, no fucking, no oral, no petting, no stroking and no wanking of other people. And definitely No Kissing. Of either gender. Oh, and no soliciting of sex online or otherwise, and third parties (or groups of) are to be brought in on mutual agreement.
Luckily, flirting, looking, laughing, talking, imagining and breathing are still allowed.
Jokes aside, Mr H and I have very similar views on sex which makes it easier to be honest about what we each want; what he finds attractive, what I find attractive... who he finds attractive and who I find attractive... its an approach that's apparently not that big in most monogamous relationships.
Point. Miss America's attempting a relationship, and the new boy has suggested a threesome. It's enough to make her want to walk out. 'I just feel that he shouldn't be thinking about other people. If this is someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, I should be enough for him you know,' she
whined said to me the other day. And then sort of paused mid rant with a 'Oh wait, no, you don't know. YOU think this sort of shit is NORMAL.'
Well, yes, yes I do.
How can you ever always be enough, be everything, all the time for one person. And vice versa. I mean, how exhausting. How impossible.
The best we can do to manage our fidelity and nurture trust is to not lie about our attractions and desires. To not lie about the connections we know our partners would find threatening – whether it's face-to-face or face-to-screen.
I love the emails I get; those emails looking for validation that something is not actually cheating. That 'emotionally charged' emailic 'not relationship' is not cheating, because there's been no sex. That office snog is only that and will never go anywhere else (read 'penetrative sex'). I love them because they all sound so familiar to me, to my 'little run-ins' that never needed talking about. But needed all the justification in the world.
But the fact is, if you have to lie about it – or purposefully avoid the topic – it's cheating and someone's going to get hurt. Right?
So isn't it easier to be honest? And if you can't be honest with your partner, why are you with them? Surely it's easier to accept that your partner has desires and fantasies and appetites that might not match yours, instead of expecting a duplicate of yourself? Isn't this something to talk about?
Maybe we're too scared about what we'll find.
I think Miss America's expectations are unreasonable. I think it's that sort of thinking that leads to extramarital affairs. We're dished the Hollywood version of soul-mate romance and the man-porn version of sex – we think our relationships should be easy, always and forever, and sex always and forever easy.
I'm still not sure what my stance is on monogamy as a workable life-long construct, but I do know if it's going to work, you and your partner have to be reading from – and talking about, often – the same little Book of Good Couples Conduct.
For now, Mr H and I are mostly on the same page in the same book, so that's a good thing. And although it's still a problem that I love kissing all and sundry, it's a compromise I can live with. Mostly.
Do you think cheating on your partner is ever justified?
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