to cheat or not to cheat?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in his moment of indecision, asks the age-old question, “To be or not to be?” It is a conundrum for poor Hamlet, who is besieged with doubt. What do we do as LGBTQIA+ people in a long-term relationship, when the sex has gotten dull, repetitive, and wholly uninteresting? We ask ourselves, “To cheat or not to cheat? That is the question.” Will cheating destroy my relationship? Does cheating make me a bad person? Is a “reach around” in the steam room at the gym cheating?

2The questions are an endless source of unhappiness and frustration for many couples when our cultural standard promotes monogamy. Is monogamy a sustainable reality? Many studies state that over 78% of married men and 68% of married women cheat on their spouses. Men cheat. Women cheat. LGBTQIA+ people, even transitioning people, will eventually fall into a category of being physically male or female.  It’s not unnatural for human beings to cheat. Not cheating is a discipline; much in the way a priest takes the vow of chastity. Monogamous couples take a vow to be exclusively with one another; no one else is allowed into the sexual life of either partner.

3What happens when, although we truly love our partner (we love our life together, our friends, our brunches, our dinner parties, our binge fests on Netflix), but the sex; we don’t love that so much. What do we do? Sex therapists often encourage trying new things to rekindle the flame. Couples might read a book on sex, watch porn together, or act out their hidden fantasies. They try and try and try and still the heat is gone. Trying to fix a broken sex life is kind of like the old Wisk detergent commercial, where the weary housewife says,

“Those dirty rings. I’ve tried, soaking, scrubbing, powders and sprays and still RING AROUND THE COLLAR.”

A limp noodle sex life is certainly more complicated than a shirt stain that you can fix with the right detergent, but the problem remains. You’ve tried everything and still NOTHING. Does a stale sex life mean that you’ve fallen out of love? Not necessarily. Love is far more than sex. Love is intimacy and having that one person who knows YOU for the real YOU, not who you present to the outside world. The you that gets sad, scared, angry, jealous, happy, giddy, silly, stupid and all the other things that come with being human. Unfortunately, the emphasis in our culture is to have it all with that one special person. Expecting one person to be the one stop shop for all of our needs is unrealistic and detrimental to a relationship and both individuals.

Variety is the spice of life. Variety in all things is what makes life exciting. Tasting new foods. Trying a new sport or activity, like snowboarding or skydiving. Getting a new challenge at work, a project to wrap one’s mind and skill around. The same is true with sex. One partner might want to have sex in a park with the chance of being caught, which is a total turn-off for the other partner. Do these differences mean that such sexual adventures are to go unfulfilled for a LIFETIME? Repression is something, as LGBTQIA+ people, we know all too well and it’s no fun. If couples are locked into the monogamy idea, when the wandering eye starts; then the secrets, lies, and guilt start too. Secrets, lies, and guilt have destroyed more relationships than a little fun on the side.

A long-term relationship doesn’t mean holding a person hostage, a prisoner to the relationship. What’s special about the other person is the whole person. It is not a penis or a vagina or ass or tits or lips. You love the heart, mind, soul, and body of the person. If partners allow each other to grow, learn, and experiment; then there’s going to be even more to love. It’s like your favorite neighborhood restaurant, a restaurant that you’ve been to hundreds of times, had everything on the menu multiple times and yet sometimes you want sushi or Thai food or Mexican food. You want something different. Your favorite restaurant is reliable, you know what you are going to get, you know you’re going to love it; and you love it even more when there’s something new and unexpected on the menu.

4 5When asking the question, “To cheat or not to cheat?” The answer is simple, “Don’t cheat.” Cheating is a betrayal of trust. Betrayal is a mountain, not a molehill, to overcome in a relationship. However, the discussion about having an OPEN relationship is an adult decision. Two people, who are secure in their relationship and accept this decision without jealousy or angst, can discover adventure, fun, and ultimately newfound respect and love for their life partner.

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Will Willoughby is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Cinema-Television production program. He has also worked in the theatre on such Broadway production as Grey Gardens, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Inherit The Wind. A Squirrel Story is the title of his first published book.