The Loopholes Involved With Exclusivity

Okay. So we’ve all heard about The Weiner scandal, right? The politician who was sending around cock shots to random women across the country?

I happen to think that this sort of behavior, where people in serious relationships engage in sexual banter, flirting, etc, is ridiculously common. More so than I think most women want to acknowledge. I agree that in the confines of a fantasy situation, where there’s no threat of one or both parties getting attached, that this is not cheating. However….

I understand why some people do feel this particular situation was “wrong.”  This wasn’t as simple as some guy anonymously sending shots of his genitals to random women. He was conducting an ongoing relationship with a young woman who knew who he was, what he did, etc. If you read the transcripts you’d know that this woman believed there was more going on between them than just a fantasy.  When Weiner ceased communication with her, she went from, “Hey baby. You hard?” to “I won’t be ignored, Dan.”

When the person on the other end of the internetz threatens to out you, it’s no longer a fantasy. Had the woman Weiner been involved with been a little bit older, I have no doubt people would have called her a psycho. (But for the record, if she were older and she knew the guy was otherwise committed or unavailable, she loses her right to cry foul. I cringe when women go this route.)  At 19, 20, 21 you don’t really understand that all this stuff the guy is saying isn’t real. Of course she was going to get attached. A man so much older, like Weiner, should have known better. What he did was alarmingly reckless. That, to me, is what’s truly disturbing about the whole situation and these situations in general.

I’ve watched women on Twitter and Facebook publicly lash out at guys who refuse to acknowledge them.    That’s why, to me, these situations are so fraught with landmines. If you’re going to look outside your primary relationship for attention or physical gratification, then you better be damn skippy sure that who you’re swapping bodily fluids with (even if you’re just jerking off to them) knows it’s a fantasy or has an expiration date.

Whether or not these situations are cheating is up to the individual couple. To dismiss all situations that involve this behavior as “just a fantasy” is  ignorant. I think it’s easy to brush this behavior off as nothing when you have been without a relationship for an extended period of time. I know that’s how it was for me. The longer you stay single, the easier it becomes to forget how it feels to fear losing someone.

A recent relationship, while short, had moments that made me remember. Reading things while naked in bed, silly in jokes, learning (and being annoyed by) someone’s little quirks.  Even something that lasted only a few months had me re-thinking how I’d feel if I knew, or thought, I wasn’t enough for someone.

So much so that when a guy re-entered my life recently, someone I had met earlier this year, I was baffled at his personal view of commitment. In a nutshell, he suggested we get together for a drink. But “to be honest” he “got” in to a “relationship thing”  since the last time we spoke.  I asked him to define “relationship thing.” He said he had a girlfriend.  I said I understood and that meeting wouldn’t be appropriate. He said it “just kinda happened.” Hmm…Moxie intrigued.

Is it an open relationship or does she think you’re exclusive?

He said:

She thinks we’re exclusive. I’m just being honest here. I definitely think you’re hot and think we could have a lot of fun.

So I said:

Well, bonus points for “being honest.” But maybe try being honest with your GF first.

And the funny thing is? I believe that “it just happened.”  I do believe that some men just find themselves in a situation where they tell the woman they are her boyfriend..just for the hell of it. Sure. We’re exclusive. Sure. We’re a couple. You want to call me your boyfriend? Alrighty then. But the minute it becomes too serious/obligated/not fun, suddenly they feel trapped. And you know why I think they do it? Because being able to say that you’re in a relationship is a great way to avoid being in a relationship.

The girlfriend isn’t a partner, she’s a beard. If she’s particularly young or inexperienced or too understanding, the guy will pretty much get away with murder. And he knows it. So he has the girlfriend at home waiting for him while he’s out shagging whomever. And then he’s using the girlfriend as an excuse why he can’t stay longer or give more. These situations are ideal for men who aren’t emotionally evolved enough to carry on a true, committed relationship. In this scenario, the fantasy is the committed relationship. There is no reality involved.

I guess what all of this has me thinking is how we have individually developed various definitions for monogamy and cheating and commitment. It used to be that we wanted to know if the person we’re dating was on the same page as us in terms of the direction of the relationship. There’s just too many loopholes nowadays.  Too many ways to cheat, too much temptation.

Now it feels like we have to make sure we both agree upon what constitutes fidelity, cheating, monogamy and commitment.




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21 Responses to “The Loopholes Involved With Exclusivity”

  1. nathan Says:

    women do this too. it’s not just men. there are plenty of emotionally unavailable, not able to commit folks out there.

  2. amazingg0477 Says:

    “The girlfriend isn’t a partner, she’s a beard.”

    This had me laughing so very hard. Then it made me sad, because that poor girl doesn’t know she’s a beard.

  3. Joe Says:

    Might I suggest that exclusivity carries with it a responsibility to make a concerted effort to fulfill the needs of your partner.

    (Don’t get me wrong; If you establish a relationship where exclusivity is promised [or implied by moving in with each other or getting married] and one person neglects the other, that doesn’t give you license to cheat. It means you need to fix the relationship and if that doesn’t work, then end it.)

    • Mandy Says:

      I don’t think exclusivity is ever truly “implied”. It needs to be stated. And the couple needs to be able to communicate with each other about what that means to them. I think a lot of problems come in when one member of the couple thinks something is implied. To some, the terms girlfriend/boyfriend mean exclusivity, but to others they do not.

      My boyfriend talks to female friends and sometimes will meet them out somewhere for coffee, etc. I’m aware of this, and usually invited along. It’s not cheating if they’re just friends. At least to us it’s not. But I would have a problem if he was carrying on sexual and intimate relationships on the internet, even if they were with people he would never meet in real life. To me, that’s crossing a line.

      • Joe Says:

        I’m sorry, but when you move in together or get married, exclusivity is damn well implied. To have to agree to it explicitly is one of the lamest excuses used by cheaters.

        As for other relationships, YES it should be explicitly stated along with a discussion as to what exclusivity actually means. What are the expectations? (I’m sure everyone knows at least one couple who are “exclusive” but insist on doing things alone and with their best friends and then complain about how the other isn’t there for them.)

        • amazingg0477 Says:

          You know the old saying, assuming makes an ass out of you and me? Even in the context of couples that are living together and/or married it can’t hurt to have things explicitly stated. The ways and degrees to which people can cheat on each other are no longer limited to just penis in vagina (or mouth, or whatever) encounters. There are twitter flirtations, facebook affairs, sexting, etc. etc. There are even those that consider looking at porn alone cheating. I think it’s essential that boundaries are discussed in ANY relationship so that nobody can claim that they didn’t know where the line was.

  4. Mike Says:

    People have their preferences. Many people have a special somebody at work, social clubs or at church. They are having an emotional affair with somebody that is not their spouse. Sometimes it becomes physical and sometimes it just stays emotional. My personal preference is not to have an emotional or physical affair with somebody who is married. It has not been easy but I do not encourage it when the opportunity presents itself. If a woman is single and their seems to be a mutual interest in between me and her then I will get to know her. If it does not seem like a fit for exclusivity then I will not maintain a flirting relationship with her. This is just my personal preference. I am aware that if I were to get into an exclusive relationship then my partner may not hold herself to the same value.

  5. Christina Says:

    That’s why communication is so incredibly important. With the increasingly flexible definitions of commitment, it’s foolish to assume anything. Of course, one or both parties can talk a good story and stray anyway, but at the very least, you need to be sure that you and your partner are on the same page.

    I’m just amazed at the endless political sex scandals. You’d think that people with so much to lose would exercise a lot more discretion, or find a way to better control their impulses.

  6. chuckrock Says:

    I think generally speaking, if you wouldn’t readily share the fact that you are doing something with your partner then it is a form of cheating.

    • Angeline Says:

      The idea that carrying on a back and forth flirtation with another actual human being is not cheating is startling to me.

      Looking at porn, either by yourself or with a partner? Fantasy.
      Interaction with another human, via whatever means? Not fantasy.

      They might be engaging in fanciful stories and scenarios during these chats/emails/phone calls, but they are interacting, and that is fact. Not fantasy.

      Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of cheating in someone’s personal playbook, surely anyone can see that the real partner is getting shorted by the time and attention spent on the partner on the side.

      • Mandy Says:

        I don’t think flirting is cheating. Ongoing flirtation with the intent to build an intimate relationship? Yes, that is cheating, but it’s really the intent behind the flirting and not the flirting itself that’s a problem.

        But personally, I don’t consider every minute I spend thinking about or interacting with someone outside of my partner to be time I am short changing him on. I have a lot of things in my life, not just him. I spend time with friends, family, work, hobbies, etc… that’s not taking away attention that’s meant for him. And neither is the time I spend flirting with the cute guy at the bar while I order a drink when out with the girls. In that scenario, I guess it’s time away from my girlfriends more than anything else!

        • Angeline Says:

          Oh I didn’t in any way mean the lighthearted, silly flirtatious fun with the bartender or the checkout guy at the grocery, I meant ongoing chat/emails/phone calls with the same person, where even if you’re only known to each other via an alias, it is an ongoing flirtation. It may well be a fantasy that there is the slightest chance of them ever meeting in person, however there is still a very non-fantasy interaction going on.

      • Angeline Says:

        I meant to post this as a general reply, not directly to your post, chuckrock – I wasn’t disagreeing with your post. Comment fail!

  7. miss yellow Says:

    Moxie, I’m one of your constant readers, I read all your posts, it’s like another website that I have to check after NYT :) Anyway I’d like to say that this is the best post. I agree that each person in relationship would have different definition of what counts as cheating and different tolerance also.

  8. Trouble Says:

    So, for some people, you actually have to clarify, out loud, that sending pictures of your genitals to other people is “cheating”? Glad I’m not dating one of those people.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      This reminds me of how Kathie Lee Gifford used to repeatedly tell audiences how she had the one husband who would never cheat. And then he did.

      You have no idea what your man is up to when he’s not with you, Trouble. I’m not suggesting that your BF is a cheater. But I think it’s really, really dangerous for any person to just assume *their* mate is different.

  9. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    “And neither is the time I spend flirting with the cute guy at the bar while I order a drink when out with the girls. In that scenario, I guess it’s time away from my girlfriends more than anything else!”

    I think Angeline conceded too quickly. You are describing fairly disrepesctful behavior, in my opinion. Why is it “okay” to flirt with a guy at a bar when you are out with your girlfriends. I suspect it’s because you draw the “cheating” line just far enough that it won’t cover the disrespectful behavior that you’d like to engage in. The two conditions necessary for you to be “okay” with your conduct is that it makes you feel good and, since you’re out with your “girlfriends” your significant other “doesn’t have to know.” Under your logic, why wouldn’t it be okay for your boyfriend to kiss a woman at a bar when he is out with guys? He doesn’t intend anything more than “innoncent” kissing and you are none the wiser. And, while we’re on this slippery slope together, why don’t we just go home together? I mean, we don’t need to tell our partners They’ll never know and it’s just “innocent” fucking so what’s wrong with that? There is no difference in principle. Only in degree.

    For those who think “innocent flirting” with the bartender is okay, I’d really like to hear a principled reason why that is not a betrayal of trust but kissing the bartender would be.

  10. Angeline Says:

    Hmmm … I’ve had this discussion with friends and dates and even my ex-husband before, and the consensus between them was that I come across as pretty old-fashioned about it. Flirting is near about a universal thing here in the south. But I maybe have assumed a fairly specific meaning for flirting, when even that phrase is wide open for interpretation?

    Flirting is, in my opinion: That little moment when someone says something complimentary, or makes a joke to engage your attention, and you respond with a smile and a laugh. It is what makes moving around through life and waiting in line at the bank have a little less drudgery. I have experienced these kind of little flirtatious overtures when I’m *with* my boyfriend, and he gets a kick out of it, sometimes nudging me and pointing it out because I’ve missed it. I think that attitude of engaging and enjoying the people you come in contact with isn’t limited to just opposite gender, and maybe that’s why my various partners have never had any problem with this definition of flirting. They know, because I make it clear, that I’d never act on it, but the connection for that instant just makes moving through life more fun. That is the way I greet life in general – being open and friendly and ready for a laugh. If the female barrista or the male bartender wink and make a joke, that’s just enjoying being human, as far as I can see.

    To respond with a smile and a twinkle in your eye doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t risk any closeness with my partner. To respond with a phone number, or to stand there and extend the moment, does. Does that fleeting enjoyment of interacting with another human rise to the level of a transgression? I don’t think so, and I’m generally pretty restrictive on what I think is acceptable along those lines.

    Basically, nothing I’m talking about would be the remotest bit embarrassing or inappropriate *in front of* my boyfriend, so maybe it doesn’t even rise to the level of flirting by general standards. But that’s what I meant by it.

  11. Evie Says:

    “Now it feels like we have to make sure we both agree upon what constitutes fidelity, cheating, monogamy and commitment.”

    I agree and disagree with your post. The above statement is absolutely true. WHEN that happens is unique to each relationship. Too soon and one of you may get wigged out, too late and boundaries that you never defined could have been (alright, most likely were) violated.

    I would argue all of these things are required in open marriages as well, sans the monogamy part. Take a look at my post with all the things we’ve defined in terms of our open marriage… it isn’t comprehensive, but what a conversation starter.

    On another note, I would argue that flirting with others helps a couple. Not everyone agrees, I know I wouldn’t have agreed about 10 years ago, but I’ve since changed my mind. I highly recommend listening to a Dan Savage podcast or 100… the price of admission is a brilliant way of looking at relationships.

    btw, love your blog and so happy to have found you via twitter!

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