Originally published at
“My wife is cool with me getting involved with you, she just doesn’t want to know about it.”
Let’s assume that the person in question here is telling the flat out truth – that he has negotiated that muddy line of polyamory, the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell relationship.
So, is the DADT relationship polyamory?
That’s an interesting question. And one I couldn’t care less whether or not ever gets answered definitively. I am far more interested in whether or not it is ethical.
I have to say that it is ethical – under certain very specific circumstances.
I am one who would be unlikely to get involved in a DADT relationship. It takes a very long time for me to feel easy in relationships, and I have a strong preference to know my partner’s partners – even become friends with them if that is possible.
But even so, my personal tastes are hardly moral absolutes. If you follow these guidelines, such a relationship is ethical:
- You must state your intent clearly.”Honey, I would like to form sexual relationships with other people, are you okay with that?”
- You must get a yes. Nothing less than a direct affirmative is honest here. No eyerolls, no shrugs and statements of “I don’t care” accompanied by body language that says by God they do, too care! What you want is a direct, “Yes, I am fine with that. You may have other romantic/sexual relationships, but please do not tell me about them.”
The problem is, of course, that far, far too many people who simply do not understand the nature of love like to play with this one. You will hear claims along the lines of, “I love my husband and if I wanted to sleep with other men, it would hurt him, so I will not tell him. This is a loving thing I do. We have a don’t ask don’t tell arrangement.”
You do not have an arrangement of any sort! This is cheating. You cannot hide behind it, you cannot disguise it. If you wanna come clean and try polyamory, you might want to check out From Cheating to Polyamory. But don’t fool yourself. If you have not specifically negotiated, you’re cheating!
Yes, it’s a bit of a peeve of mine that people try to hide their cheating behind a guise of polyamory.
Problems for the DADT relationship can come in various flavors. There are people who will agree to it because they don’t like the idea of their partners being involved with other people, and just don’t want to know. While this can work, the partner who is having other relationships has a serious burden. You probably will wind up taking nearly all the steps you’d take to cover up an affair. That can be a real emotional drain.
A member of the PolyFamilies email list commented this to me once:
I just had a thought, don’t know if it might be helpful to you, but maybe the difference between DADT and it’s cousin, “cheating” is that with DADT, if my husband does find out inadvertently, there’s not gonna be a fight or a separation or whatever. Just his hurt feelings and my trying to reassure him that I truly do love him, probably for a really long time. No threat, I guess. Whereas, when I’ve cheated before, it was with a pretty clear understanding that getting caught was considered grounds for ending the relationship by my partner, and/or getting the shit beat out of myself. Maybe when you meet someone who claims to have DADT, you should ask what will happen if the one who doesn’t ask finds out by accident. If it involves lawyers, guns, and money – it’s probably cheating.
I don’t actually consider a truly negotiated DADT relationship a cousin to cheating at all, though. It’s a legitimately-negotiated agreement. My own personal tastes and preferences in relationships would call for a great deal more openness and knowledge about my love’s life than that, but…
No, it’s not unethical in the least.