Lines. Everybody has them and they all seem to be different.
Think about office supplies. Most people know it is fairly common for office supplies to be "stolen". Some people think taking a stapler is no big deal, to others it is a crime. Some will take anything they can get their hands on, others think even the removal of a single piece of paper is theft.
What about relationship lines?
A partner of mine and I have each run into something of a moral dilemma recently that has made us question our relationship lines. We have each become interested in someone who is not poly and already in a relationship. For myself, the person of interest is married. For my partner, the person of interest is in a committed relationship and lives with their partner. The people we have been interested in have both made it clear they are not poly, not really interested in becoming poly, but would like to have an affair without their partner knowing.
My partner initially refused to even consider having an affair with someone we will call Lucy. Being friends with Lucy, my partner heard a lot about Lucy's failing relationship. How they weren't having sex and the relationship appeared to be more of a financial arrangement than a love situation. Of course, my partner knew they were only getting one side of the story and probably not the whole picture. After spending some time around Lucy, my partner realized most of the story was true but still held fast and refused the affair. Before long Lucy found someone else to have an affair with but was still interested in an affair with my partner.
For me, the person of interest we will call Ethel is an old friend whom I dated in High School. Having recently become reacquainted we found that we still have strong chemistry. As with Lucy, Ethel tells of how her marriage is loveless. She is unhappy but stays because of the children. But again, that is only one side of the story. I have made it clear to Ethel that I cannot have a physical relationship with her without the consent of her husband. Like Lucy, Ethel has had affairs with others. Making things even more challenging is that I run into Ethel at play parties.
My partner and I both have the strong conviction that all parties involved know what is happening with the relationships. We don't want to help others cheat, regardless of whether they are Poly. But holding that moral ground becomes difficult when we see the people we are interested in cheating anyway. While discussing our situations my partner and I both thought; if they are going to cheat on their partner anyway then would I really be helping them cheat? Obviously that question ignores our morality and instead provides us a reason to do something that may be against our morality. But it leads to the bigger question of where the morality lines are drawn.
At what point in a moral dilemma is your morality transferred to another party?
Let's talk about Ethel again for a minute. My morality says I can't sleep with her if her husband doesn't know because that is cheating and it is wrong. But wait, I'm not having a relationship with Ethel's husband so why do I have to abide by relationship rules I can only assume he has in place? I've never spoken to him so maybe he doesn't care about monogamy. And again, I'm not in a relationship with him so why do I have to abide by any rules he may or may not have anyway? I'm wanting a relationship with Ethel so as long as she agrees to sleep with me I'm not morally doing anything wrong. She may be cheating and breaking a morality based agreement with her husband, but I'm not. And what about Ethel cheating on him regardless of whether it is with me or someone else. In that scenario would it be better if she cheated with me since I care about her instead of someone just out for meaningless sex? Maybe morality at that point suggests I should sleep with her for her own safety. (Ok, the last one was a bit of a joke).
I know what you are thinking; morality is morality and if you know it is wrong you shouldn't do it nor should you try to justify doing it by placing the morality on someone else. Now, before you start throwing stones I want you to think about some things.
Have you ever known anyone who was planning to commit a crime? Even a small one like TP'ing a house with toilet paper? (Yes, TP'ing is illegal). Maybe you have even TP'd a house yourself. Did you call the police on the person? Did you turn yourself in? Why not? You know it was wrong and I'm assuming since you are capable of reading this article you know right from wrong, which is morality.
Ever broken something and hidden the fact you broke it? Maybe a dish, or a piece of your Mom's jewelry? Maybe you dented Dad's car with a baseball? Why did you hide it? Again, you knew it was morally wrong to hide it but you did anyway.
Is it because those examples are minor you did nothing? But cheating on a partner is serious, right? Wait, is it serious? Maybe to you it is but to them it isn't. To assume cheating is serious for everyone is imparting your morality on them. Do you have the right to decide which morals can be broken for everyone and which can't?
Weigh in people. Where are your moral lines? How or where would you draw them in the examples I've given?