Sex Yes, Cheating No

Friday, January 20, 2017


Dear Patrick: My spouse and I recently had a threesome with one of my female friends. She is someone that we both find attractive (of course), and he knew how much I had wanted to make love with her. Our rule is that we only take outside lovers if we are both present and both agree to the encounter. It was a night I will remember forever, very special, tender and silly. But then it was kind of ruined when she got dressed to go home and asked us to please keep it a secret. It turns out she is with somebody, and he doesn’t know what she did with us.

I feel awful. I don’t want to be a part of somebody cheating on their significant other. One of the men I dated cheated on me after we had agreed to be exclusive. It broke my heart. My husband feels that we should talk to her again and strongly encourage her to tell her boyfriend the truth. I feel that it is none of our business. But it’s a mistake we made because we didn’t question her closely enough about who else was in her life or what her agreements were with them.

Do you think I am right, or is he following an ethically higher path? I don’t want all of my beautiful memories to turn bitter. I just want to keep her secret. She has already hinted that she would not mind a repeat of the experience, but I have not flirted back. Should I tell her why?

—Sex Yes, Cheating No

Dear Sex Yes, Cheating No: Oh, no! I am so sorry this happened to you. What a mess.

By all means, in the future, inquire about your partners’ arrangements with their significant other(s)—also known as S.O.’s. You have learned an important lesson here that you can use to prevent future harm. Take comfort from the fact that you never intended to deceive her lover. I think the responsibility for doing so rests on her, not the two of you. She is the cheater, not you and your husband.

Now, of course, there is a question about what to do—if anything. I have to say that I side with you rather than your husband. If you don’t see this man regularly or have an independent relationship with him, it is not your responsibility to police his relationship. Whether either one of them is faithful or not is between the two of them. Informing him that his wife had a threesome with the two of you will probably hurt him and cause friction in his relationship. It will also make her feel that her privacy was violated. Besides, there are couples who simply agree “don’t ask, don’t tell” about their sexual adventures outside of that relationship. You might not know enough about their arrangement with each other to judge whether she did a bad thing or a good one.

If her partner is a good friend or  business acquaintance, and he finds out about this later on, there will be accusations from him that the two of you deceived him and maintained the connection under false pretenses. That could be quite ugly. But instead of taking it upon yourselves to inform him, I would tell her what an awkward position she was putting you in and strongly urge her to come clean. Once again, getting involved in other people’s relationship issues can blow up in your face in dramatic ways that are hard to predict. Why cause a huge fight if it can be avoided?

Finally, I think that if she is flirting with you, you need to tell her how you feel about what happened. Explain why this makes you feel terrible, and puts you in an uncomfortable dilemma. Let her know that this isn’t going to happen again unless her S.O. is fully informed. You don’t have to be mean about it. In fact, a quiet and simple statement of how you and your husband handle non-monogamy will be more effective than any value-laden phrases. If you get too emotional, you will only be perceived as slut-shaming, and she may write you off.

I’m glad you had a good time and hope that eventually this will get ironed out so you can remember it as an erotic piece of nostalgia. I wish we lived in a world where poly was the norm or at least was accepted so that those of us who are not monogamous wouldn’t repeatedly run into the indignant noses of those who think we are libidinous degenerates. It actually takes a lot of self-discipline and mutual care to successfully keep a relationship open. You and your husband are to be congratulated for knowing how far you want the bedroom door to be ajar, and what needs to happen to make a happy occasion out of entertaining a guest.


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