Last week, a colleague and I were discussing polyamory vs. infidelity. The latter she called non-consensual non-monagamy. I had never heard it put quite that way before, but that’s exactly what it is. One person in a couple decides to be non-monogamous. Doesn’t tell the other.
People are so quick to judge someone who chooses a consensually non-monagamous lifestyle, but the operative word there is *consensual.* Everybody knows. Everyone is respected. Everybody is okay and secure and cared for. Everybody is safe in the honesty. In the know.
Non-consensual non-monagamy is another matter. Infidelity. Cheating. Lying. Deception. When this colleague said the words “non-consensual non-monagamy,” something clicked in my brain.
The word “non-consensual” says it all, really. It speaks to the inherent violation, conjuring up images of non-consensual sex; i.e. rape.
Infidelity is a rape of the heart.
It is a rape of trust.
It is a rape of the life built together. Of family. Of emotional bonds. Of marital vows.
So…here comes the controversial ethical dilemma:
If you know a person is cheating on their spouse and getting away with it, do you have an ethical responsibility to tell the spouse? Or do you keep quiet, allowing them to continue a life of deception, becoming a part of that deception yourself?
What if there are children involved?
What if you were the other wo/man?
What if the cheater is your best friend? What if the deceived is your best friend?
If it was your marriage/relationship, would you want to know your spouse was lying to you? Cheating on you? Or would you want to be kept in the dark? “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.”
What if this cheater was destroying other lives/marriages all while keeping his/her own spouse in the dark?
Under what circumstances would it be acceptable to inform the spouse of the deception?
This colleague gave me this analogy:
Scenario: Someone you know has a contagious, incurable STD. You know that they are chatting up someone new, but they haven’t come clean about having this STD.
Do you have an ethical responsibility to tell this new person about said STD? Why or Why Not? What if the STD is AIDs?
As in all ethical questions, the answers are not clear or easy. There are pros and cons to each decision. Ultimately, whose responsibility is it? If the deceiver doesn’t come clean, should everyone else just avert their eyes? Is truth or discretion more important?
In a society rampant with infidelity (ladies, as an experiment, put up a “missed connections” ad on Craigslist and see just how many married men reply), when does our silence become part of the overall problem?
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I would love to participate in a discussion on the topic. Please comment your thoughts/opinions below. Let’s talk.
-_Q **More Relationship Articles** -_Q