I posted in the personal blog section a while ago that I was struggling with this dilemma. The guy I'm dating has also been seeing a guy long distance for the past year or so. When he and I hooked up, he didn't tell his guy about me.
I've never cheated on anyone, never lied about my activities outside a relationship, so it's hard for me to wrap my mind around dishonesty. But, as you say:
In reality things are seldom so cut & dry.
So, I'm stretching myself to consider all the variables. I don't think they had an exclusivity agreement with each other. This might sound silly, but my date's facebook status was "single". So, it's sort of out of the realm of outright "cheating" and in the grey area of deception, not telling the whole truth.
He's lived as a gay man for 20 years and I can just imagine him telling a monogamous gay man that he's been sleeping with for a year, "By the way, I met a woman that I like and we kissed". Especially when his ex, who he was poly with, freaked out when he liked a woman.
So, it really depends, I guess. He explained how he was trying to be compassionate and I understand how he sees it this way.
Years ago, I met a guy at a bar and we hooked up. After we'd made out, I looked and saw a picture of a woman. I said something about his sister and he confirmed that the woman in the picture was his girlfriend.
I panicked and then hummed and hawed for a couple hours before choosing to fool around with him. We never had sex. His "cheatin' heart" drew the line at sex.
The next morning, she phoned and phoned and phoned about every 5 minutes. Now, I'm not that naive and I realize that there's a huge possibility that he'd cheated on her before and possibly regularly. But, the way he expressed it, she was clingy and he couldn't handle it. He'd tried to break up with her, etc, etc.
I learned something from that experience. If someone's cheating, there's something wrong. Whether it's because they're poly at heart and don't have the language for it, whether it's because they feel stuck in an unhappy relationship... whatever.
If you are the cheatee, I don't believe that you are the cause, but a symptom of a problem that has nothing to do with you.
Another thing I'm wrapping my mind around. We all have different needs. Some people really would rather not know the truth. As long as in their world, the sun shines, their partner comes home at night and they eat dinner, then all is well. Why scratch deeper?
Personally, I'm not like that. I like to peer in dark corners and honesty is very important to me. So, I request honesty from those close to me and I'm honest in return.
Because this is my need does not make it everyone else's.
all people (individuals) should have freedom in how they live their lives and where they source their happiness and fulfillment from
I really like this. You are giving the power to others to choose for themselves. You are not withholding your affections based on a moralistic judgment. You are loving them, even though they're lying.
Phew, I have so much to learn.