Is There Such A Thing As "Ethical" Cheating? This Website Says Yes

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If you can't be monogamous and your spouse isn't into having an open marriage or polyamory, you need to sit down and discuss the status of your relationship.

One solution might be to suck it up and remain faithful, while another might choose to separate (and ultimately divorce) so you can be intimate with as many people as you like.

But here's the thing about having multiple partners when you're in a committed relationship: both partners need to be on the same page.

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It seems rather obvious, but for some reason, people can't get it through their heads that cheating is cheating, even if you give it a fancy new name like "ethical cheating."

What is ethical cheating?

The term ethical cheating was invented by the founder of the website OpenMinded, Brandon Wade, in 2015. He published an essay called "How to Cheat on Your Wife," which advises men to tell their wives of their intent to cheat before they begin to date.

"Expect a bit of defensiveness," the essay warns, which sounds to me like it's saying that even if the wife isn't on board, as long as you've told her your intent you're free and clear to do whomever you please.

"Monogamy in the traditional sense is not working for the majority of us," said Wade, who is currently on his third wife. So, that means he's had some experience as a married person. "It has not worked out for me. There is a growing movement of people who are able to be honest with their mate that the traditional model isn't working."

If both partners are OK with polyamorous partnering, that's not cheating.

Openminded.com had over 150,000 users in 2015, with more than half of its members identifying as couples who are in open relationships. The site's members are more likely to be men than women, 68 percent of members have earned a bachelor's degree, and 40 percent are 18 to 35.

While Ashley Madison is all about having an affair, OpenMinded.com is really geared to both partners expanding the boundaries of their marriage.

The OpenMinded users are asked to define themselves by romantic orientation (biromantic and sapiomantic are options) and other attributes, while the Life Choices section dives into issues such as marijuana smoking.

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Under the Looking to Meet heading, users indicate the type of relationship they're seeking, such as monogamish, poly-dating, swinging, and the identity of those they'd like to meet. 

There are dozens of different options, such as pangender, two-spirit, and intersex.

As long as both parties want an open marriage or to be polyamorous, that's OK. But it's still not ethical cheating.

Ethical cheating is an oxymoron. You aren't cheating if you have your spouse's OK and knowledge about what you're doing. And if you're cheating without being honest about it and sneaking around on your partner, there's nothing ethical about that.

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Other websites Mr. Wade created include Seeking Arrangements (which is a sugar daddy site), and WhatsYourPrice.com (a site where users can auction off dates).

"Most of my dating websites have been created out of a personal need. OpenMinded is my next evolution in my relationships," Wade added.

Before marrying his current wife, she and he discussed his progressive views about monogamy. "I told my wife, 'If this relationship doesn't work out, I'm never going to get married again.'"

I have no doubt that if he's ever single again, he will merely create a phrase like ethical cheating to describe his status or a website in which he can pursue the types of relationships he desires.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in July 2015.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.