Is porn cheating? (What is monogamy?) - Brian Gerald Murphy

Is porn cheating? (What is monogamy?)

Is it cheating to watch porn while you’re in a relationship? I’m sure you have an immediate, decisive answer to that question. And someone else has an equally immediate, equally decisive answer that is the opposite of yours.

Asking this question gets to the heart of the question of what is and is not cheating. Some things we would all agree are not cheating (a work meeting with your boss), and some things we would all agree are cheating (having sex with someone without your partners knowledge or consent while you are in a relationship you’ve explicitly agreed to be monogamous). But there’s a whole lot in between those two extremes and smart, thoughtful, well-intentioned people might draw the line in different places.

So when does cheating happen? What is monogamy anyway? And why does that matter for you and your relationship — whether it’s monogamous or not?

Okay, so porn: in my mind we’re all already doing it, but for a surprising number of people, watching porn while you’re in a relationship is actually pretty contentious. I think that that disconnect has implications that go far beyond whether or not you’re watching porn while you’re in a relationship.

If you’re in a monogamous relationship, you probably have a pretty clear idea of like what monogamy means to you. But it might not be the same thing as what your parents think monogamy is, or what your college roommate thought monogamy was, what your best friend thinks monogamy is, or maybe even what your boyfriend thinks monogamy is.

For most people, you’re either monogamous or you’re not, and if you’re not monogamous, “well then, I guess you’re in some sort of open or polyamorous relationship.” But I think rather than being a black and white, either or, yes or no situation, that monogamy and nonmonogamy exist on a spectrum or web and we draw the line of what monogamy is or is not according to…

How we define monogamy is actually very different from person to person and relationship to relationship.

Here’s a list of hypothetical things that you might be doing or want to do. And I want to know where you would draw the line at where cheating happens.

Where do you draw the line?

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. There’s not a one-size-fits-all definition of monogamy, let alone how to structure an open or polyamorous relationship.

It’s not a problem to draw the line anywhere you want to draw it, the problem comes in when you’re drawing in a different place than your partner—whether you don’t know you’re doing that, you’re not positive where they draw the line but you think it might be different than you but you’re just not gonna talk about it, or you know you’re defining monogamy differently than each other.

If you’re gonna be monogamous, getting clear on where that line is is super important.

It’s really easy to think, “Of course, monogamy is very clear on what it is,” and “Of course you know exactly what that is,” but my invitation to you today is that whether you’re monogamous yourself and you want to stay that way, or whether you’re considering polyamory or an open relationship, to really take some time and get clear on what you think monogamy is for you. If you want to stay monogamous, what you would like monogamy to be for you.

This is especially important if you’re in a relationship with someone right now. And it’s gonna be important for you as you enter into your next relationship if you’re not in one currently.

I know that talking about sex and monogamy can be a super scary thing, I totally understand that. Even broaching the conversation of “can we define what monogamy is?” can bring up feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. You might worry that your partner will judge you for this or will think it’s weird. Those are totally all natural, normal reactions.

Feeling those feelings and having the courage to talk with your boyfriend, husband, or partner anyways to get clarity on the structure of the relationship is going to set a foundation for success for you going forward.

I would take some time to reflect on what is or is not comfortable for you, or what you think is allowed or not allowed in the current confines of your relationship. And then find a way to open up that conversation with your partner. It doesn’t have to be in a way that changes anything, or you can just say like, “I want some clarity from you, can we define what it is you think we have agreed to?”

This is an opportunity for some real growth and depth in your relationship and it gets ahead of any potential landmines in the future where you’re operating under one definition of monogamy and your partner’s operating under a different definition of monogamy and you or they do something that then causes a crisis, feels like cheating, or feels like a betrayal. By getting clarity now, it’ll help you have a stronger, more fulfilling relationship over time.