If you met me, you wouldn’t hate me. In fact, you would probably like me right off the bat. I’ve always been good with people — warm, outgoing, friendly in a way that (I’m told) never reads as insincere. And yes, I am a serial cheater (which I personally define as someone who has consciously, deliberately cheated in all or most of their personal relationships, in some form or another), but you wouldn’t know that. I don’t tell anyone about what I do in my relationships — not even my best friend — because people talk, no matter how much you trust them, and ultimately the only person you can be sure will keep their mouth shut is yourself. One of the essential components to being a successful serial cheater is having perfectly separate double lives. To my friends, family, colleagues, and — most importantly — boyfriend, I’m a totally moral person. And that’s how it will always be.
How do I get away with it? How do I maintain a good distance, particularly in this hyper-connected world where everyone knows everyone? I start by staying offline. I meet people in bars and restaurants and on airplanes (I travel a fair amount for work), and I never create a profile on some sordid hookup website. I don’t attach my real name or picture of myself to anything I do. When I can, I take lovers who are in other cities. When I’m in my own (very large) hometown, I stay far away from the circles I run in, and, even if I see someone more than once, never give them a real name or any true information about myself. I used to have a separate phone that I used only for longer-term affairs, but I got rid of that a while ago. These days, I’m with someone who mostly satisfies my needs, so my flings are few and far-between. No need for elaborate planning.
I have been in a long-term relationship for some time, and intend to marry the man. He is wonderful, and I couldn’t ask for more from a person. I love him deeply and treat him like a King, because in my view, he is and always will be. My extra-curricular activities have nothing to do with him. But this relationship — along with all the others I’ve had, both legitimate and secret, have taught me a few things about love and dating (and sex, of course). Here, the six most important things I’ve learned so far.
1. The less “online” your relationship is, the better.
My aversion to internet activities is not limited to the lovers I take — every kind of relationship I have is as real-life as possible. I avoid social networking, I text very little, call when needed, and always make a point to see people in person when possible. My boyfriend and I met at a dance class, and never became friends on any kind of social network, because maintaining a certain amount of distance and mystery is important to me. And frankly, whether with someone you’ve been seeing for years or someone you’ve just met, it heightens every pleasure. When we see each other (as with a lover I might meet up with on a business trip), we’ll just give a restaurant and a time, and not speak until we meet. Our contact is intense, deliberate, and entirely in-person. We touch while we talk, and we look each other in the eye. The less you can do via technology, the better.
2. Sex is wonderful, and should be enjoyed like food.
I want to dispel the notion here that a relationship that is sexually healthy will not result in cheating — to the contrary. My relationship with my boyfriend is intensely sexual, and when we’re together, I think of (and need) no one else. We make love often and are constantly exploring one another in new, exciting ways. But we have been together for years, and while his love stands far above any other I might have, it’s not the only love there is to be had. He is my favorite dish, and I can order him each time I’m at the restaurant, never tiring of his flavor. But the world is vast and delicious, and I want to try as many dishes as possible while I’m here. My explorations only enhance my desire for him, as well. I taste something unfamiliar but thrilling, and then I yearn for the comforts of my favorite dish. I would never deny myself strawberry simply because I prefer chocolate.
3. Monogamy is not the ultimate form of love, nor is it only related to sex.
First of all, I have never believed in monogamy, because I don’t think that humans are built for it in any meaningful way. But even if I did, I know in a very personal way that one can be monogamous in many more ways than sexual. With my boyfriend, I am completely monogamous in intellect, in emotion, and in true intimacy. I want to have his children, and wake up beside him when I’m 80, and buy a house along the Mediterranean to drink wine in and watch the sunset. In that way, there is only one man in my life, and I have no interest in another. I can know someone’s body without wanting to know them as a person, and I go into my affairs knowing that it is for the physical pleasure, and the personal affirmation. They can be fun, and new, and thrilling, but they don’t compare to the real monogamy that I have at home. And being able to “look in the window,” so to speak, only affirms my knowledge that my boyfriend is my true partner.
4. The most important relationship you have is with yourself.
When I take a lover, I do it for myself. I find it empowering and exciting, and it makes me feel deeply alive. It’s a story that I have entirely to myself, a sun that rises and sets in my own mind. Part of the reason I seek affairs instead of an “open relationship” is because I profoundly enjoy the privacy and the intimate knowledge I share only with myself. I love myself in a way that is as visceral as the love I have for my partner, or a close friend. I want to be good and generous with myself, and indulge the desires I have, while indulging those of others. At the end of the day, I am deeply satisfied with the love story I have cultivated in me.
5. You can cheat on someone without cheating them.
It is true that I sleep with other men and my boyfriend is unaware of it. There is no getting around that, and I’m not afraid to say it (to myself, of course). I am not in denial about what I do, and I quite enjoy it when I think of it. But in practice, in our relationship, I cheat my boyfriend out of nothing. I am a giving and thoughtful partner, and an eager lover, and am as concerned with his needs and desires as I am with my own. No matter what I’m doing at any moment — even if I’m in bed with the Argentinian photographer Matias whose body makes me feel lightheaded — if my partner calls me, I will catch the next plane home to be at his side. His priorities are my own, and my lovers only invigorate and ignite the passion I have for him. I think of myself, in some ways, as his loyal Queen who happens to have a few cicisbeos. At the risk of sounding conceited, I believe that he is the happiest coupled man he knows, and it is my pleasure to know that he wants for nothing. My lovers are taken on my own time, and never interfere with what we have.
6. Life is long, and should be lived well.
I suppose I’m lucky, in that I’ve never felt particularly constrained by society’s ideas of what a relationship should be. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of my sex, and I never have been. But as I’ve grown, I’ve learned more and more that life is far too long (and too beautiful) to be tediously wasted doing what you believe is “right,” and not what works for you. There are many years ahead of me of travel, love, exploration, and evolution. I will have children, and meet new people, and learn things I did not know yesterday. And I intend to do all of it while being happy, fulfilled, and wonderfully free of judgment. I wish you all the same.