Background: cheating to polyamory
What got us to poly (I say "us" but really it's me so far 100% yes, husband on the fence... but if you average our enthusiasm for the idea it constitutes a greater than 50% yes, so it's a go, right? little joke...) Damn it, let me start again - what got us to this point of discussing poly was me cheating and/or dating more than one person over and over my whole sexual life. I found the xeromag piece on poly to be a great Q&A but I disagree with the idea that even ex-cheaters are to be utterly disdained by true polys, or as he says: "If you can't abide by the rules of a monogamous relationship, then poly isn't for you. If you cheat, then poly isn't for you." - this is a vast oversimplification (on the level of Dan Savage saying he has never been to a 3-year poly anniversary celebration therefore implying "you do the math, poly relationships are too complex to succeed" - and moreover echoing the assumption that a relationship's success should be gauged solely by its length).
I would tweak it to say that people who intend to go on acting unethically in any way are not going to be good candidates for poly. I think there is a good percentage of people who are transitioning or have transitioned from cheating to poly, people who have sought to change patterns of dishonesty and betrayal... people who don't want to hurt anyone anymore through lying and violating their partner's boundaries.
Let's back up to the lay of the land set in Opening Up: you have 3 options under mono, assuming you are in a decent existing relationship, when you become attracted to or develop feelings for someone else:
Mono 1: cheating
Mono 2: serial mono (I am defining serial mono as already having a specific person B in mind when you decide to dump person A), or
Mono 3: conscious/ethical mono. They communicate all relevant information about other attractions with their partner and only act within their partner's boundaries, so in a monogamous relationship, they must drop pursuing other attractions either emotionally or physically, in brief, people who communicate to their partner before
anything happens, who can be honest, kind, and respectful, and who are willing to prioritize their partner's feelings over their impulses to act on any feelings for others that might arise.
Here are your options in the same scenario under poly:
Poly 1: unethical poly (bad communication, lying, cheating, treating others without respect, kindness, or honesty) or
Poly 2: conscious/ethical poly. In brief, people who communicate to their partner before
anything happens, who can be honest, kind, and respectful, and who are willing to prioritize their partner's feelings over their impulses to act in any way that violates their partner's boundaries.
So I think - know - that it is possible for someone to examine all of this stuff in earnest, to plan to be ethical going forward, and to transition from cheating (or serial mono) to either a) conscious monogamy, or b) conscious poly. These are the only 2 ethical choices from among all the mono and poly behavior models.
Think about the vilification of erstwhile cheaters who go to poly in the context of the fact that some people come from serial monogamy to poly - are they equally vilified? I don't think they are - however, serial mono is unethical, not because it is dishonest but because it is disrespectful and unkind - it treats people as expendable - it may be even more obnoxious in one way than cheating: serial monogamists might be completely oblivious of the unethical aspects of discarding person A as soon as person B comes along - hey, some of them even recycle (drop person B and go back with person A), patting themselves on the back the whole time for always remaining monogamous as they dump imperfect people and chase after perfection. While some of them may feel guilty for treating people like styrofoam picnic cups, I believe (based on no evidence whatsoever) that there are more cheaters going around feeling guilty, like they are a bad person for what they are doing, because at least they know that cheating is outright unethical. The subtleties of why it would be bad to treat humans as disposable are, I believe, lost on your average serial-monogamist. The reason I believe that may just be because I was a cheater who at one point stopped even trying to rationalize my actions (a la, "he made me cheat, he didn't X enough"). I knew what I was doing was wrong, I felt like a complete shit for having feelings about other people, and even more of a shit for choosing to act on them. I carried around that feeling of being a bad person like a constant weight. Stopping all rationalization was, incidentally, my first step toward choosing ethical behavior for the future.
While cheaters are not better than serial monos - cheating is disrespectful, unkind, and dishonest, while serial mono is not dishonest - a serial monogamist is still looked upon far far less unfavorably by society/culture at large than a cheater, and I ask polys to question whether they are buying into that too: the idea that cheaters are just vile scum of the earth and once a cheater, always a cheater. If anyone knows Franklin Veaux or how to contact him, I would like to pass this on to him and ask him if he might be sorta jumping on that bandwagon, and if he might consider rephrasing "If you cheat, then poly isn't for you." to read instead: "If you intend to continue to act unethically (lacking honesty, respect, or kindness), then poly isn't for you." He also says he has never heard of a single healthy triad that has originated in infidelity with the same three people. If we are judging the health of any given relationship not necessarily by its length but by the people involved's honesty, communication, kindness, and respect, there is at least one example of such a relationship discussed on this board, and probably a lot more "out there". This woman: http://technomom.com/love/cheatingtopoly.shtml
is also pretty certain that it can never happen ethically. I think it can. Saying it can't underestimates people's capacity to change from unethical to ethical behavior. In my case, that particular scenario is not gonna happen because the other guy is a serial mono walking hot mess and has no idea - thank Bon Jovi I realized that through the NRE haze
Ethical or unethical depends on the people involved and how they are treating each other.
I agree with the other poster who said that people are capable of profound changes in beliefs, views, and behaviors. Just watch the show Hoarders. When someone has an epiphany that they don't want to live that way anymore and is capable and willing to do the work to change, it's totally different than people for whom that epiphany never even comes.
Amory to all.
Quote of the evening is from Joss Whedon: "Always remember to be yourself, unless you suck."