I think of myself as a woman of integrity, a lady of honor, an upstanding broad. If you had asked me when I was in high school if I'd ever sleep with a man I knew was otherwise entangled, I would have given a proud and emphatic "no way, sister."
But as I got older, this view of relationships, among other things, got complicated. I've been married, separated, divorced, monogamous, polyamorous, celibate, and in recent years I've once in a while been the "other woman."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not going out looking to f*ck guys who have girlfriends. And when someone tells me they have a girlfriend, I never pressure them to sleep with me. I don't even disregard their relationship with some sort of "I don't care if you don't care," or "she'll never know." Usually I ask them what her name is and how they met. Sometimes they show me pictures.
The few times I've found myself the mistress, we have had deep, real, meaningful conversations about their relationships and their commitments, their heart and their body. I encourage them to honor their commitments if that feels good to them. And sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn't.
My lovers have been in complicated relationships that are basically over but they can't break up, and they are exhausted and need the kind of nurturing that you can only get when you are getting ridden hard and kissed passionately. I've had lovers with agreements that are unclear and undefined, with no way to clarify before one of us left town. I've had lovers who were very newly and casually trying out monogamy with someone and found that our long term friendship carried more strength, connection, healing and passion than their new quasi-relationship did. More than once I've had lovers who were separated, but not divorced, and we kept things under wraps for legal, or emotional purposes.
I'm not going to tell you that I ever just get carried away and oops, something happened. Far from it. In fact, I have been known to say, "Look, if I come over to your house, it will be very hard for me to be well-behaved. I don't want us to pretend we don't know what's happening here. I don't want us to say, 'Oh my, who knew we'd end up sleeping together?'" I like men who make conscious choices, and sometimes when I give that speech, they say "you're right, we'd better not, goodnight." No hard feelings there. I would always rather everyone feel right about it. I have sacrificed sex that I know I could have had because I demanded we go into it with full knowledge and intent, and they only wanted to sleep with me if it was drunk or "accidental." I don't do unconscious sex -- girlfriend or not.
I trust people to navigate the decisions that work for them, and think it isn't my place to police their morals. I'm not monogamous now, but when I have been, it's been my will power and my promises and my decision to honor my commitments that has kept me from straying. I would resent someone else trying to make me be monogamous by denying me the chance to hang out with them just because I found them attractive and interesting.
The few times I've found myself with a man who has a girlfriend, it has felt like an exception, a special moment outside normal rules. On paper it looks bad, but when I check in with my gut, and listen to my body, it feels right to move forward with our sexual relationship. I know some people will adamantly disagree with what I'm saying here. That's okay, I think you should do what feels right in your body, and if that includes never, ever being the other man or woman, then so be it. But for me, there are times -- few and far between -- where my body (not my libido, but my body wisdom... my gut) says that this connection is right and good and sacred. And when that happens, I pursue it. I pursue it with clarity, consciousness, and purpose. I never excuse what happened, or apologize for it either.
I'm sure some women will read this and worry about being friends with me. Up until now I've never slept with one of my friend's boyfriends. I can't imagine a situation in which that would feel right in my body. There are a whole other set of promises and agreements between me and my friends. Maybe we don't have a promise to not f*ck each other's partners, but we do have promises around caring for each other and if I thought my friend would be upset, I suspect I wouldn't be turned on. But if for some reason I am there with my friend's boyfriend, and we have a crazy intense connection and sleeping with him doesn't feel wrong in my body, I might do it. I feel the need however to emphasize that despite an incredibly vivid imagination, I can't actually imagine any scenario in which this would happen.
Relationships are complicated; and emotions and promises and sex and bodies are complicated. I don't think it's possible to make absolute rules. I know that in the messy, real, rawness of life, what sounds clear in theory gets muddled in practice. I have made choices in my life counter to everything I ever thought I knew about myself. That's true not just in my relationships, but also my cancer treatment, my body, money, friendships, and family.
I think it's too easy to look at the black and white of a situation and judge the morality of it. And while I don't go searching for men in relationships, I also don't pretend I feel nothing when it's not the case. I won't try to sleep with your boyfriend, and it's extremely unlikely, but I can't promise it won't ever happen.