Is there cheating in open relationships, such as Polyamory or Swinging? That depends on your definition of cheating and what your relationship commitments are to each other. But yes, there is cheating even in our world. An open relationship doesn't mean you can't cheat on your partner…sure you can. This is a common question, but one that is always hard to put into words. But I'm going to try to explain it the best way I know how to here.
Every relationship has its own commitments, doesn't matter if you're Poly or Mono. There are certain lines in the sand, rules, boundaries…etc., that you never cross. These are things that are set up with each individual relationship, which is why the definition of cheating is hard to explain in an open relationship.
In my personal relationships, I don't consider my partner cheating on me unless he or she lies to me or keeps something from me. I don't really have my own set rules or boundaries with my partners beyond that. I just expect them to keep me informed on everything, to always be truthful and not keep things from me. My relationships are that simple…and I can be pretty sure to tell you that these are things that all relationships have a commitment to…open or not.
Other relationships have other boundaries and commitments. Some may have a fluid bond between them. Which is to say that the partners have a commitment that they only share bodily fluids with each other. No cumming in, on and/or (in some cases) with someone else. Other partners might have a boundary with kissing. No kissing on the mouth with anyone else but the partner(s) in that commitment. The boundaries are a wide range of things. But like anything in these lifestyles or in any relationship out there, cheating, commitment, love and priorities are what each person and each partnership makes of it.
I can't sit here and tell you exactly what act is cheating when it comes to any relationship. In closed relationships it's a little more well defined and easy to assume. But with open relationships…a lot of it is about honesty and communication. Anything outside of that realm is going to be what commitments are in the relationship. Cheating maybe defined as one thing in one relationship and quite another in a different one. It's what you are comfortable with and it does take sitting down and finding your boundaries and your partner's boundaries within and outside of your relationship. Don't ever be afraid to tell your partner you aren't comfortable with something, chances are it's better to talk to them about it rather than waiting until it happens or becomes an issue between you. You're more likely to get a good reaction out of your partner if you are truthful and reasonable about things. And always remember when you are setting your boundaries with your relationships, compromise. Realize that what you might be comfortable with, your partner may not be and vis versa. Don't give into something that will make you resentful…but find a middle ground you are both okay and comfortable with. Realize that when you are in a new relationship or new to this lifestyle you need to be willing to shift your boundaries at times and readjust. Be fair and reasonable to each other. If you are and always communicate in honesty you are as safe as you'll ever be in any relationship.
I would have to agree with you…having been in the “lifestyle” for 10 years, and now looking at having a “adjusted form” of an “open marriage” communication is the key…hell it is the key to everything! Nothing worst then the gut wrenching conversation that come, when one part has decided to “shut down” or turn off what the other part is trying to express.. cheating is always a possibility, but I think with the right communication, and ground work, it can be greatly reduced.