I got to talking with a new friend last night about being non-monogamous. It was a conversation that (surprisingly in my experience) went ok, but this may be because she's a bit alternative herself.
Most times that I have come out as poly/open (our relationship is both. I use the language that's most acceptable in the course of the conversation I'm having, and explain it as fully as can, given what the other person knows about my life.) to people, they have either been other poly/open people, and it's been ok, or it's been to non-poly/open people, and I have been viewed as a person with two heads. As some kind of monster
I remember a clear example - I was chatting with a friend, and we were joking about me never having kissed anyone with a tongue piercing. She laughed and said she would kiss me, then remembered that I had a girlfriend. I said it would be ok with my gf, as we had an open relationship. The comment started off an absolute tirade about what kind of person I was, and how could I do that to my gf, that it wasn't fair on her, that if I was going to do that kind of thing I should pretend I hadn't, and have an affair, because THAT wouldn't hurt her
That, unfortunately, seems to be the norm. I have had several friends (many of whom had had at least one affair) tell me that my lifestyle is wrong, that I am hurting my partner (who is quite happy with our arrangement) and that if i HAVE to seek out other relationships, I should have an affair
The problem lies in a couple of places - one, because the 'normal' reaction is obviously to be monogamous, they assume that she is only 'putting up' with this. They (most of them) can understand having an affair, because that's 'all about the sex' (many of them say they couldn't be in love with more than one person), but they cannot understand it being ok to KNOW their partner is having sex with another.
Two, society is set up for binary dyads. Many of us are aware of bisexuals being told they're 'confused' (you can only like men OR women) for example. With affairs, I know of people who have brought their affar partner into a social circle, and that affair has been completely accepted, *because that's all they see* - that's the dyad they're looking at. They know they can't ever refer to the affair in front of the relationship partner, and that's ok. that's the way the world works. There's the 'affair' dyad and the 'relationship' dyad. If all relationships are ok, then that confuses the dyad system. People feel bad about mentioning my (hypothetical) partner A in front of my (hypothetical) partner B because that breaks the dyad system.
But to have a loving, accepting, honest relationship where both partners are secure enough within each other to allow open/poly relationships, that is outside of many people's experiences. Some people just aren't wired that way - I get that (although equally, many people are serial monogamists - they go from one relationship to another with almost no break. I am willing to bet sums of money that some of them are stil having feelings about that old partner whilst they are developing them for the new partner), and some people ARE wired that way, but aren't secure enough to allow their partner that freedom. I often hear people say things like 'what if she leaves you for X?' and my answer is that if she WAS going to do that, not being poly wouldn't stop it. Affairs are alive and well and tolerated. I would much rather she was honest with me and said 'I really like X person and I'd like things to go further' knowing that it would be me she came home to, than that she try and pretend she DIDN'T feel that, and lie to me.
Because to go back to my first response comment - it hurts me a lot more if my partner is lying to me. It hurts our relationship. We have no secrets, no barriers. If she was hiding something from me, I'd know. And I've seen relationships ripped apart, where one partner feels they are going crazy, because they feel something is being kept from them and are constantly told 'no, there are no secrets' to eventually find out years or months down the line that they were right all along. Some of these people have sought specialist help for their 'paranoia'. I am not sure how that is in any way 'better' than being honest with your partner. At least if your needs do not match hers, it is out in the open and you can make an informed decision on where to go with the rest of your relationship
If it's not compatible, it's not compatible *and it can't work*. Cheating is not 'making it work'. You don't have to be poly yourself if your partner is, but it will struggle to work if you cannot accept their polyness, if the poly partner cannot accept being monogamous. And if it IS compatible, well then, happy times all round. When I told my partner I was poly (right at the start), she wasn't sure. She wanted to try. We were honest with each other - I told her what she asked for (without intimate details about other people) and we have talked every step of the way. We've been almost four years with each other, and married for two. I've been poly all this time, and have had several partners as well as her. She has had her own fun that she wouldn't have had in a monogamous relationship, and all is well. Some day, we'd like to find a person that will fit both of us, and live 'happy ever after' as a triad. The difficulty will be in finding someone who appeals to both of us, and someone to whom both of us appeal...