What Is Cheating? What Counts As Cheating? And Why Does It ANGER So Many Readers?

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I have a very serious subject I would like to talk about today. It’s cheating in MM romance stories, and what counts as cheating, and why it angers so many readers.

And please understand, I do not approve of cheating. I have been cheated on. It hurt me terribly. So rest assured of that.

1) I found a source that stated that 17% of divorces happen because of infidelity. This same source says that as much as 70% of men have admitted to cheating on their wives. Other sources say similar things. I read a book about gay relationships years ago and it said that it is the rare gay relationship where by the seventh year, one partner has slept with another man.

My ex cheating on me was devastating, but after the first few times, I forgave him. We promised each other for better or for worse. His cheating was certainly “for worse.” I wanted to fix us. Sadly, in my case, there was no fixing us.

Which is why I find a fascinating subject is stories where a partner cheats, for whatever reason, and the two of them work through it and get what I didn’t. A happily ever after.

(please note, luckily with the man who came after him, I certainly got my happily ever after!)

The fact is, a lot of men cheat. It can be for whatever reason. It can be the case of some villains in my story where they just don’t give a shit about their lover. But in most cases it happens for very human reasons. Maybe the lovers have been having a really bad patch and one turns to someone else for a human touch. And then feels crappy about it. Or maybe it’s a drunken night and he wakes up in bed with this guy and is like, “Oh no! What have I done???”

For me, this makes interesting stories. How a guy makes a mistake and because they love each other, they find a way to move past it and love each other forever.

I’ve discovered that if I even talk about writing something like this, publishers advise against it. Readers advise against it. There will be people who won’t even think of reading it.

I would love reader’s thoughts.

2) I find that so often in MM love stories, from the cute meet on, in chapter one, if one of the two characters has sex with another man it upsets readers, and I would like to know why.

Now if the two men have promised fidelity, I get it. I lived with a cheater for years and when I would start reading a gay novel and one of them was a cheater I found I often couldn’t even finish it. It struck way too close to the pain deep in my heart. It hurt hurt hurt.

But if the two men haven’t yet committed themselves to each other? If they met and maybe fooled around but hadn’t realized that they really like each other? I mean, in my single days, one day did not a commitment make!I would love people’s thoughts on this, I really would. Why does it upset people so much? Are readers wanting a fairy tale vs realism?

One of my favorite of my short stories has two men meet who have other lovers…and in the process of the story going by, they realize they love each other. Readers were upset that they continued to have sex with their lovers after they met!

I would love readers thoughts on this.

3) And I get surprised at just what readers think constitutes cheating.

In one of my novels, a character who is terrified of falling in love–falls in love. It scares him so bad he runs, hits the road, leaves. While on the road he has anonymous sex with a stranger. This lead him into realizing that he can’t have one night stands anymore. He’s been spoiled by love and has to go back to the one he loves. But some readers were very upset. They stated this cheating, even though the two men were no longer together!

Or how about that man is cheating on a wife. He doesn’t want to. But he is realizing he is gay and he can’t stay away from a man he meets and falls in love with. This is SO real! This is SO that story of how so many men come out. For whatever reason they married a woman. Maybe it was religion. Maybe his family. Maybe he felt he had no other choice. He resisted his homosexuality for years…and then one day it happened. The inevitable. I find reader’s can’t even stand this! Even though it is so real. Even if I make him feel horrible about cheating. I would love to write this kind of book but reader’s feelings are so strong on the matter and I would really like to understand.

Or maybe a man is living in a stagnant relationship and finds his life changed when he meets another guy. If I have them so much as kiss, people hit the ceiling.

So I again would love to hear people’s thoughts on this.

WHY is anything that even smacks of cheating so verboten with readers? SO taboo. SO hated!

Why is it a trigger with so many readers?

Please help a writer understand!

And PLEASE leave your answers here instead of various posts on Facebook so that I will have them in one place.

Hugs and love,
Namasté,
B.G. Thomas

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95 thoughts on “What Is Cheating? What Counts As Cheating? And Why Does It ANGER So Many Readers?

  1. Hi I’ve been having a big think about this and wanted to share my thoughts. My father was a serial cheater & that influenced me but didn’t stop me getting drunk & cheating back when I was 18. That did affect me rather be single than do that to someone again.
    But regarding cheating in books and in real life (other people’s relationships) I guess I’m more nonjudgmental? (Not sure that’s quite the right word)
    Cheating for me isn’t about love or a lack of love it’s about respect for someone else you care/ have cared about and their feelings. People make mistakes it’s the level of deliberation and intent those mistakes that make it cheating for me.
    Sorry I rambled a bit.
    Caroline

  2. I think the scenario in say, your story in Spirit, is very realistic (ghostliness aside of course!). It makes perfect sense to me that societal pressure causes a gay person to marry, but discover themselves at some point. I can’t imagine needing to deny such an essential part of myself.

    I don’t like callous, deliberate cheaters. People who just don’t care. I don’t believe once a cheater always a cheater. I’m probably in the minority with this. I don’t really get open relationships, but I don’t mind reading about them. I read a series once and I can’t remember but I think it was Mary Calmes.. or Marie Sexton. Strawberries for dessert was one of the series. Anywho.. the video store owner was turned on by watching his bf with other guys. There was a bit of a shit storm over that. Initially I was a little uncomfortable with it, but I got over it after realizing my fantasy of a HEA and love relationship isn’t everyone else’s and I shouldn’t really judge. After that I enjoyed that story. I do think it’s the perfect fantasy where everything is tidy and the guy gets the guy, or whoever and it’s hard for people to imagine that anyone could be happy after cheating. Maybe it’s too realistic?
    I will say, to this day, I hate a heroine from MJ Putney’s Silk Road series who left the man she loved when he needed her, took off for years and had lots of sex. There was no redemption there for me. But the deliberate hurting and abandoning of her husband was what did it for me. Amazing book, incredible writing and research… but I do not like that character!
    I don’t care if characters sleep around, but aren’t monogamous. But I know a lot of others don’t like it. I think they like the perfect fantasy. Probably an equal number seem annoyed with unrealistic instalove. I guess I’m not much help. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t 🙂

    • Silk and Secrets was the one I didn’t like the heroine. I loved the heroine in the first book, even though she was engaged to another man, I just couldn’t get over the callousness of the heroine from book 2.

  3. You know me, Ben, I’ve always found the conventions that bind romance writers baffling. In genre fiction there’s no ban on cheating and I read romances in the same frame of mind. I don’t mind the protagonists of a story having sex with people other than each other but all too often cheating is just an excuse to write more sex scenes and that’s boring. As with everything else in the story arc, cheating has to be logical for the character and if he’s previously made promises of fidelity to the other protagonist and betrays that promise then he MUST suffer the consequences or be shown to be an antagonist until he can make proper amends, just as he would have to if he was a soldier who betrayed his unit or a spy who betrayed his country. “Cheating” can be plot dynamite if it’s handled well.

  4. There’s an underlying expectation that romance novels should be just about the Primary Relationship. I can understand readers choosing to avoid stories that have the main characters involved with other people at some points, but that doesn’t make it CHEATING. That’s the leap that I don’t understand (as a reader or an author).

    Stories with actual cheating are a hard sell for me. It always depends on how it’s handled. I find it easier if the cheating involves someone other than the main characters. That is, I have more sympathy if one of the characters cheats on a bad/loveless relationship than if they cheat on the other primary character(s).

  5. Interesting! It depends. Getting drunk and having sex to me is stupid but then I don’t drink so I can’t imagine why anybody would do this.

    Being married to a woman, admitting you’re gay and sleeping with men whilst still married is cheating. Get a divorce. No, it’s not “better for the children” to stay together.

    Being officially separated (guy leaves town, has sex, returns to declare true love is best) isn’t cheating to me.

    Blatantly sleeping around and not caring of course is cheating but then the “other half” should have enough sense to kick him/her to the curb anyway. I’m not much for forgiving this.

    Having a relationship where both partners agree to sleep around isn’t cheating but it is a disaster waiting to happen the second one or the other of the sleepers gets jealous of the current sleepee or wants the same one and the other doesn’t want to share. Again, a disaster waiting to happen. Be single and sleep around.

    Cheating, then divorcing only to fall in love again is kind of hard to imagine. I suppose it’s possible to behave but I wouldn’t bet money on it! Be bed partners but don’t commit again.

    Was it this one? http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/

    Later!

    • “Being married to a woman, admitting you’re gay and sleeping with men whilst still married is cheating. Get a divorce. No, it’s not “better for the children” to stay together.”

      Now here is the problem with your scenario. Realize you might be gay, end your relationship, go through the possible months and months to get a divorce, and then lose your virginity with a member of the same sex? Really? God, after all that would you even be able to get it up?

      And as far as having a relationship where both partners are allowed to sleep with other as being a disaster waiting to happen? I don’t know. See as I said to someone else, I hardly know any gay couples that are monogamous. And I am talking LONG term here, I mean open relationships for years and years and years and years and they are going strong and love each other fiercely. Why one couple I know had sex with a man the night they got legally married!

      Their reasoning? Well, one loves to watch his lover have sex with other men. They’d been together for well over ten years, maybe closer to twenty when they got legally married. They didn’t see why they shouldn’t do what they wanted to do.

      In fact, I have found that most of my gay friends who have broken up did not break up because they had an open relationship and then got interested in a sex partner and left. No. It was because one insisted on monogamy, the other wanted more, he wound up cheating (hated himself for it) but found the sex so liberating he left. He is now with someone else, in love, and they are open. The other guy? He’s angry and bitter and single.

      It is a crazy world.

      • Non-monogamous couples can and do last. It’s all about the communication. Been married twenty two years now (anniversary in just two weeks!) and we’ve had an open relationship the entire time. There was never any strife over it or hurt feelings. It’s all in how you approach it.

        Not surprisingly, cheating does not bother me in books. But cheating and having an open relationship are two separate matters. I hate how Bobby treats Wayne, for example, but I will not avoid a book or down rate it because there is cheating. (I hope I remembered their names right…)

        And when does Wayne’s story come out? 🙂

      • Wyatt’s story? I am hoping for fairly early next year. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written in my life. Very close to home.

      • I can totally see that, and I could get into it if there wasn’t the whole pregnanvy’n’kids issue involved. Procreations complicates these things. I know of a couple or two that was MMF or FFM and they lasted years and years. The MMF couple separated once the woman got pregnant, so the MF part got married and started a regular family. When the husband died in an accident, the other men appeared rather seamlessly, which was a great comfort to the woman.

        If my DH would share, I think I would, but that takes a totally different mindset from the MF dynastic view of the world. It’s more about love and lust and less about financial security, I think, although nowadays women grow up knowing it’s best if they know how to fend for themselves.

        In my fiction, I try to incorporate more guys sleeping “flexibly,” (and by that I don’t mean “around,”) because what you describe is what I’ve heard other gay men say and I try to make my books realistic rather than genre-compliant. I’m okay with cheating in fiction as long as it’s relevant to the plot, and as long as the characters have redeemable traits and strong, relatable psychological motivators. (My book Breakfall got slammed for “cheating” even though the guys were in an “off” stage of their nascent relationship.)

        In real life, my grandmother took me aside once I was married, and explained to me that when men hit 50, they all experience “the last rising of the sap” and act silly. She advised me to just ride it out and have sympathy, because that too shall pass. My other grandfather turned out to be a polygamist with a 2nd family on the side, which was revealed only after he passed on. My dad was a skirt-chaser. I guess I’m hardened to the realities of life, and I don’t particularly need a white picket fence fantasy of two gay guys being entirely monogamous for decades.

        In addition, I think the whole anti-cheating contingent is a vocal minority who needs a structured, escapist fantasy and isn’t really all that interested in real people or original literature.

      • My book Breakfall got slammed for “cheating” even though the guys were in an “off” stage of their nascent relationship.

        See, that is what pisses me off. I am dealing with the fact that a lot of romance readers don’t want real (I disagree with your idea that the anti-cheating contingent is a minority–but am fascinated with your thought otherwise) but I get upset (it is one of the only thing that can upset me nowadays in a review) when a story gets slammed for cheating when there is a circumstance like the couple being in an “off” stage of their relationship. A lady I count as a friend slammed one of my favorite books for the same reason. She was a friend so we could discuss it and she couldn’t even explain it–she just said it ruined the book for her.

        What I suspect, and even more so with some of the replies here, is that a lot or readers have been cheated on. I suspect that culturally, they were raised in a way where it was something they never suspected could be a problem and they thought once they got married, they would live HEA. When their spouse cheated or left them for another woman it devastated them. My own father had an affair and it nearly destroyed my father. They wound up staying together but to this day my mother’s conclusion for what my dad did was that he never loved her. I was stunned. My dad adored her. He couldn’t breath without her. He was simply part of that 70% and it happened well into 20 years of their relationship and at just the age a lot of men do such a thing. I forgave him because really, he didn’t do anything to me. It was between him and her. My mother used to read between five and fifteen romances a month. After what happened, she could no longer read them. She said she didn’t believe in true love anymore. I think most readers have been hurt and it is only through unrealistic stories that they can find their ideal stories. That is okay. We all read what we want. But me myself? I can’t escape into a story–even one that I am reading to “escape”–if I don’t believe in the characters and the situations–and in the case of gay men, that they act like real gay men.

        Thank you again for taking so much of your time. It means the world to me.

  6. I don’t get this. At all. Harlequin shiz aside – lots of my gay friends have open relationships. They bring a guy home to play, catch and release, and then go on about their lives. It happens. It happens a lot. Then you have the books where guy A and guy B break up. They’ve been apart for five years, and then fate brings them back together. They haven’t been with anyone else in that whole time because blah blah blah. They’ve obviously never met a gay man. No gay man I know would be celibate for five years in bereavement of a relationship. Not get serious? Sure. But celibate? Maybe it happens, but I can’t think of anyone I know who’d give up sex because of a five-year-old breakup.

    • Thank you, JP. I agree with what you have said here. I knew a guy who went through a long celibate period because his lover died and his grief was so huge it didn’t want any kind of intimacy. As I said to Alan above, I think when the average person reads in this genre, reality is now what they are looking for. I think they want a fantasy minus knights and wizards–but one almost as fantastical. I mean when my character ran for the hills and had sex with someone in a bathroom, how could anyone consider that cheating? But the word went out warning people there was cheating in the book. I also am not sure that I know more than one monogamous gay couple right now. There are couples that I don’t know what they are, but almost every single couple I know that have been together for more than, say, three to five years have rules that allow them to play with other men. It might be the “only when one of them is out of town” or something, ore once or twice a year, but there are allowances for such behavior. Most readers consider that cheating and I don’t know how it can be cheating if both partners know about it. Cheating means breaking rules. Anyway, thanks so much for responding. Love you.

  7. I think each relationship should define, in itself, what constitutes cheating.
    I also think that there is a vast difference between M/F, M/M & F/F relationships as we are inherently different creatures. I also believe that m/m relationships aren’t necessarily meant to be modeled after heteronormative relationships. I think many are due to the lack of other healthy ways relationships can function being shown in our culture.
    Full disclosure, I’m married to a man and we have a 3rd in our life and have had for the last two years despite the age differences.

    • And I totally understand what you are saying, Alan. I think though what I am finding is that when the average person reads in this genre, reality is now what they are looking for.

  8. Wow! What an interesting topic. It’s amazing the response to get from people on this and how differently people react to it.

    Like in your novel that mentioned above. After reading it, I never thought of it as cheating because the two characters were broken up, and I was surprised when I found out that many people saw it as cheating. They weren’t together at the time and it’s the “cheating” act that makes him realize that he loves his man and goes back to him.

    My second novel, “Dilemma”, deals almost exclusively on this topic: a closeted gay man who marries a woman and feels trapped in a lonely, unfulfilling marriage. It’s only when this man meets and secretly dates another man that he feels happy, but at the same time, terrible that he is cheating on his wife. The story doesn’t condone the cheating and the characters involved know that the cheating is wrong.

    But, that didn’t stop some reviewers from knocking the entire book from the get-go because it dealt with that topic. It wasn’t because of the writing or the story. The simple fact that the book was about cheating automatically made some reviewers rate it low. Some people, however, did view the way I intended which was that the cheating in the story was wrong, but it’s true to life, it’s human and it does happen. Especially, as you mentioned above, a closeted man marrying a woman to hide his sexuality is very common.

    When I wrote “Dilemma”, I didn’t realize what a hot-button issue the cheating was. I simply wrote the story as I wanted it to be written and there were a few people that really “got” what I was going for. I think it’ll always be a controversial topic that some readers will never really accept.

    • Luckily you didn’t publish that story through a company like Dreamspinner, because at least your book didn’t promise to be a MM Romance, but more MM literature. And yet still…HOT button!

  9. My basic premise is that people don’t want reality in romance novels; they want the fantasy of HEA without any kinds. I get it. It is soothing. We all feel hurt and frustrated in our lives, and the perfect couple’s perfect HEA makes us feel good.

    I think cheating in a romance novel can be handled in a way that drives the plot, develops the characters, and moves things to the desired ending. Trust is at the core of all long term relationships; repairing broken trust can be a hugely powerful and healing event.

    But, romance novels never (or almost) deal with the stresses of long-term relationships (and I mean 10, 20, 30 years, not FIVE for God’s sake). Anyone who cheats in the first year is just an a-hole; but a 40-something who slips after 15-20 years in a moment of weakness…that’s a learning opportunity.

    All that said: the man who did my civil union for me and my (now) husband, cheated on his wife of 30+ years. She was a good friend of mine, and witnessing her world fall apart because he married her under false pretenses all those years ago (for whatever good reason–clearly class and religion in this case) left me with a very low opinion of cheaters.

    And a final shot: open relationships work better in theory than in real life.

    • Ulysses, I think you are right. I think people don’t want reality when they are reading romance.

      I think your thoughts on rebuilding a relationship is powerful, but I am thinking those books must fall under some kind of literature instead of romance (at least as far as most romance readers are concerned).

      And as your final shot, I have now been out for over 25 years. Pretty much ever successful gay relationship that I’ve witnessed is at least partially open. Like maybe it has to be a three-way or it is only allowed at this one annual event they go to every year, or this one guy is allowed when he goes out of town on business and his lover doesn’t want to know about it and safe sex is a must. That way the one who doesn’t want monogamy gets to play once or twice a year and the one who doesn’t want an open relationship doesn’t have to see and never has to worry about bumping into the guy his lover was with or hear about it second hand from friends.

      This is NOT 100%. I know a couple who has been together for at least 30 years one one of them tells me they have never been with another man. By the way, I’ve never asked his lover if this is true….

      To me what is so important is commitment and fidelity. And fidelity doesn’t have to mean monogamy. It means total honesty and never lying and for SURE telling his lover if he is even sort of having feelings for another man so that they can deal with it, Usually it is secret crushes that turn into affairs. Keeping it out in the open disarms a crush almost every time.

      • Point well taken. My husband and I have been together 40 years. The first 13 were open-ish (i.e. allowing for just what you suggested above). AIDS surely helped us decide to close our relationship – but so did the fact that it was exhausting to keep thinking about “what if” all the time. So, you’re quite correct. And, I totally agree…monogamy and fidelity. Or Monogamy and sexual exclusivity are not the identical thing. Semantics. But, you know, the “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to openness would simply kill me. I would want to know. And sulk, if necessary.

      • Yeah, there is no way I would want a don’t ask, don’t tell. It would simply kill me as well. And sulking should be allowed.

  10. OK, I’ll take a different tact. I read romance and lots of it–straight romance. Except for the occasional historical where the H might take a mistress until he gets his head on straight with the h, there is very little cheating, if any. I personally hate it. It upsets me and I find the H or h who does it almost irredeemable. You just don’t find it very often in straight romances. I cannot speak for MM or FF because I don’t read much of it. It’s all about the HEA, and it’s hard to get to if there is cheating. Just my two cents.

    • And I appreaciate your two cents a lot Julie. When does it become cheating? Is it right after the H and h have met? Or after they have made some kind of commitment to each other. I mean, if you went on a date tonight and wound up being sexual, but you weren’t sure about him. Then you went on a date next week and wound up getting sexual–and there was something about what happened that made you realize you really like Guy/Date #1, did you cheat? I know of a lot of readers who would say yes.

    • I wanted to comment on this because I’ve thought a lot about it in the past. Straight relationships are different, IMO. Hence straight romance is different. While it’s not true that all men can separate sex from love, I believe they can do so far more than women. (Me? I can only sleep w people I have feelings for. And if I don’t have feelings before the sex, I will when it’s over. Hence I wouldn’t cheat. Because that would be opening the door to divorce.)

      Anyway—most gay men I know are perfectly capable of having one night stands and never caring to see the person again. Sex with the other person is like live-action porn or a video game. It doesn’t hold the emotional sway it would for me, or a lot of women.

      If a straight man cheats, he should know the woman he cheats with WILL have feelings. And he will be hurting her as well as his main partner. Same with straight 3-ways. Likely, someone will feel used or hurt.

      If a gay man sleeps with someone else…meh. The guy MAY turn all Fatal Attraction, but most likely not. There;s just not the same emotional charge.

      Anyway, that’s my take. LOL. For me, I like writing gay men because I enjoy imagining I could have “recreational” sex. It sounds fun. In real life, I know it would suck donkey balls. But after all, I read for fantasy.:)

      • Thank you so much for commenting. It means a lot to me. And understand, gay men can have DEEP emotional feelings and commitments that are incredibly powerful. But we can also do the one night stands. For me, in the past, they often left me feeling more lonely than I was before the sex. On the other hand, when we both knew what was going on, it was amazing the powerful connection we had even though we both kew it wasn’t going furhter than that one night.

        I long to write abuot this…but I think I need to wait for more gay men to find MM. Thankfully, I have discovered taht one reason that te genre is growing is gay men……

  11. My main problem with cheating is when one MC is cheating on a wife or girlfriend (even in a loveless relationship). I feel it’s about respect. End one relationship before you start another.

    However, if there is no commitment, then it’s not cheating, IMO.

    As well, I know that relationships can recover from cheating, it is real life, and if it is treated well, with respect and remorse, then it works. I’ve been cheated on, and for awhile I couldn’t read anything with cheating in it. It hurt. I questioned the strength of the relationship. But that is me personally.

    • Being cheated on hurts a lot. God, do I know about that!

      The thing I see when a gay man cheats on a wife is that some times it was what led him to finally realize that he was gay. Once or twice? While not right, it is experimenting. What if it was just a curiosity and once he tried it he realized that he didn’t like it at all. It happens. That is why I have encouraged a few married men who came onto me in my life to tell his wife about his fantasy. See it they could do something about it, maybe with her using a strap on or something. See if that takes care of the itch. I have not helped a married man cheat on his wife. I just couldn’t. I kept remembering how much I was hurt when I was cheated on. I remember thinking, “What kind of asshole helped my man cheat when they knew he was cheating? There weren’t single men out there for them to F with?” So how could I help him hurt her? I just can’t see him leaving his wife though, getting a divorce, and *then* trying gay sex for the first time. I think that could be a recipe for disaster.

  12. I think some of it goes back to the meaning of the word cheat:

    to defraud; swindle
    to deceive; influence by fraud:
    to elude; deprive of something expected:
    to violate rules or regulations:
    to take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answers.

    None of those are traits that heroes in a story or real life are suppose to have. And I, as a reader, read to escape. So while I like a touch of real life in a story, there is a reason romance books are supposed to have a HEA. Because that doesn’t always happen in real life. In your scenarios, a couple of them are a bits of gray areas for me. If the two aren’t together yet, then no, not cheating. Most of us have sexual pasts. If they’ve been together then split, it’s a mostly okay thing with me. A lot of it depends on the characters. As for the married to a woman scenario, although not as much as a problem for me, I think that most people feel bad for the woman. She’s the injured party through no fault of her own. Most people don’t understand or have the background of being a person denying their true self. Is cheating an absolute “no read” for me, no. But the story has to be by an author I love or truly compelling for me to pick it up.

    • Thank you so much for these comments. Just what I needed. And I hope I must might fit on that list of writers you will go ahead and pic up. Since it’s gray areas. And Max never cheated on his wife–at least physically…. We can’t help what our hearts do, we can help what our bodies do. Yes?

  13. To be honest, Ben, I don’t like to read about cheating.
    Perhaps because once it was me who was the one who got cheated on. My bf slept with my best friend (haha, great friend!) and I can tell you I was devasted. So cheating is something that will ruin a story for me. Plain and simple.

    I read because life is hard and unforgiving and I want to escape reality for a little time. I want to see there is a chance for a HEA. That’s the reason I read ROMANCE. I mostly don’t want too much reality. 😉
    But that’s a personal thing. If you want to write about cheating, do it.
    I’ll probably won’t read that book but I won’t rafe against you (or any other author) or never read a book again you wrote.

    But I have to say I have strong opinions about how I define cheating personally.

    Cheating for me is when you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship and then have sex on the side with someone other. When you willingly and with open eyes hurt your partner and be unfaithful. (and sry, even if you sleep with someone when you’re drunk… I knew some people who got drunk every weekend just because they could use that as an excuse why they slept with someone else who was not their partner. Poor excuse for me and nothing else. But again, that’s my opinion.)

    If you just met and are not in a relationship and choose to have sex with someone else… no cheating for me. (even if you went the whole way at the first meeting)

    You broke up and later realised you love the other one and while you were broken up, you slept with others: no cheating

    You’re in an open relationship and you both are fine with that, you both agreed to that: no cheating.

    Being married to a woman and then sleep behind her back with a man: for me cheating. I understand your comments and thoughts about that point and can accept your opinion but for me it’s still cheating. At least as long as the man just goes and sleeps with others.

    If I were the woman in such a situation I would like to have my husband speak to me about that and explain me his thoughts and wishes.
    Yes I know probably fairly uncommon but at least I wouldn’t feel as if my trust had been broken deliberately. And I’m a really open and understanding person.

    I know there will never be just one opinion on what exactly is cheating. I’m probably more flexible and accapting as some others but what I define as real cheating for me is something I don’t want to read about in my romance books.

    You mentioned a book where the cheating happened outside the book and they are now working through the issue and try to get back together. That’s something I would read but I can’t tell you why that is.

  14. Thanks so much Stef. This is exactly that kind of comments i was looking for. I also edited your comments because it appeared you were telling me something that you might not want other people to read. I hope I edited it fast enough. I also saved it for me because I was touched with your openess to me and I am glad you are happy.

    If you didn’t mind that paragraph being there, let me know and I will put it back.

    Thank you again for your heartfelt comments. I was deeply moved.

  15. As a “mature” reader, I find I gravitate toward stories with more mature characters who have had multiple partners/ relationships and know the difference between love and sex. So it’s a great question. Just like the question of what “counts” as sex. Does it have to be penetrative? What about cyber sex etc? I am intrigued by an author that makes me think about and question like this. I would never give a negative review because I didn’t like the way a character behaved if the behavior moved the story. Bad reviews are for plot holes or poor editing or such.

  16. I’m with Ulysses: I think what a lot of readers want in a romance novel is the perfect fantasy, albeit tinged with enough conflict to make it believable, and to make the happy ending feel like it’s been earned. There’s a reason the soulmate trope is popular: it’s an attractive fantasy that once you meet your one, perfect mate you’ll have eyes for no one else, regardless of whether you’ve actually coupled up yet or not.

    Is it realistic? No. As you say, in real life many guys cheat, and many couples work through it and carry on. But in a book? That’s probably a little closer to the bone than a lot of romance readers are looking for.

    • You know, the big thing for me is how there are some things people will consider cheating.
      For instance, a three way. How is that cheating?
      Of if they haven’t coupled yet, as you said. If they’ve met and maybe they are in the dating scene and they think, nice guy, but they have a date tonight with someone else, it was already made. How is that cheating?
      When I entered the dating scene after I split with my first husband, I DID not want to settle down–even after I met my future husband. But after I went on another date or two with someone else, and so did he, I quite suddenly realized that I no longer wanted him to see anyone else, I had no interest. But if I write a story like that, I think many readers would consider that cheating.
      This is big part of what I wanted to understand….
      And why any kind of cheating is such a HUGE trigger for readers….

      • Some of these opinions are generational. I’m 50, and when I was in college, people dated or hooked up. Nowadays, I see my daughter’s generation get into fairly serious relationships early on. The young ones are more conservatives than we are, and my parent’s generation was the hippies, free love, and all that. My MIL says it was common to date several guys at once, just to see. It was in poor taste to sleep around, but people still did. They were discreet. Nowadays, if a girl dated 3 guys at once to see whom she likes the best, she’d get crucified.
        I don’t know how that translates into gay relationships, though.

      • See, I think it is terrible that anyone would be dissed for dating more than one person. Now if it was clear that someone was falling for you and you didn’t feel the same way, you should say something. I think you should be open that you are out there dating. NEVER let someone think you are only dating them. If for some insane reason I found myself single, I certainly don’t think that going out with some dude once would mean I can’t see anyone else! This is a BIG point of my questions here. I dated this guy once, and the first couple dates were nice, and then I started to see the real him. He was nuts and I STOPPED seeing him.

  17. If they aren’t together, yet. I don’t see it as cheating and definitely read on. If he is still with a partner (male or female), if they meet – I would still read it. As you said, it’s life, it happens, so it can happen in stories. I would feel sad, worried or angry with the characters, not about the story itself. I also read stories about characters who cheated on each other, but I must say, the author would have put a lot of effort into writing it in a way, so I could forgive the cheating character. Even if his partner would choose to forgive, I needed very good reasons (and not just I love him and he swore he would never do it again), so I could forgive and trust this character again, to really be a good partner for the other character. Cheating is something I don’t think I could ever really forgive and every one can imagine the hurt. You feel for and with these characters. It’s like: When your best friends boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on him or her, maybe your best friend would forgive him/her – but you would always feel a spark of mistrust and resentment, for he hurt your best friend.

  18. When I wrote my first published story in the Goodreads anthology, it featured a man cheating on his fiancee and I came up against the people who will never read cheating in stories and was shocked this was an issue. I have no problem with such infidelity, especially under the two circumstances you describe. Many men have relationships with women denying their sexuality, such as the rugby player Gareth Thomas, before coming out, and they may cheat on their partners with men. Again, you may sleep with someone else before you get together for the HEA. I have no problem with this as a reader and I think it’s interesting to write. I have a story atm, set in the 60s, where the two MCs don’t only sleep with each other, but I’m hesitant. People aren’t perfect, and I like to read about characters who are real, not like something from a fairytale.

  19. Ben, I for one, do not mind the cheating in books, even if it involved a committed couple and this is why. This stuff happens every day in real life, so why not in the books I read too? And yes, I realize that this is why most people read fiction, to escape to that happy place that books take them and they don’t want to read about someone cheating. I can understand that, to a point, that is not why I read though. I read for enjoyment and yes, I love a HEA just as much as the next person. But I don’t use reading to escape from reality. I actually love reading about the ups as well as the downs of a relationship, it helps me move forward with my own. Even if I end up bawling my eyes out over something that happens in a book, I still want to read it.
    I’ve been on both sides of infidelity, it’s not easy, but nothing in life is. We got through it and are still together.
    But reading about cheating before, during or after, I’m okay with it.

  20. In a nutshell the ‘cheating’ breaks the fantasy of happily ever after for the reader, which is why they don’t like it. Keep in mind many readers read romances for that fantasy of True Love Always Wins. If one of the men/women in a romance novel has sex with someone who isn’t part of the central ‘love unit’ (I won’t use pair here because some readers like menage more than a twosome) then that fantasy of True Love Always Wins is ruined and that ruins the entire book for them.

    • But can’t they still have HEA if one of them messes up? I look at my friends who couldn’t forgive a infidelity and I feel sorry for them. I talk to people who have been together for decades and they’ve told me how there was a cheat once, but they loved each other so much that they were determinded to work it through. That they thank God they worked it out. Isn’t riding through anything, even an infidelity, incredibly romantic?

      • Simple answer…no, you can’t and here’s why: This isn’t ‘reality’ it’s a romance, a fantasy of sorts and not the real world. People don’t like reminders of infidelity to intrude on their escape from the real world. That’s why writing cheating is a trigger for so many readers. You’ve ‘broken the contract’ you made with the readers when you bend or break the ‘rules of romance’ and that’s what it’s all about, reader happiness. To most readers, no it’s not. It’s a sign that one of those characters is irredeemably flawed. They didn’t believe in True Love so they cheated. Like I said, it’s all about fulfilling reader expectations and not breaking that ‘romance contract’ with your reader and using hot buttons like infidelity.

      • So where are these rules? I don’t know about them (except possibly the trigger one). I don’t remember signing a contract. HELP! Is there a list somewhere? I aslo didn’t know the one about how you can’t kill a dog and I paid hell for that one even though it is one of my most highly prized books….

      • Actually the only reason I know about ‘the rules of romance’ is that a very nice romance author, Barbara Karmazin–she passed away a few years ago–told me what they were and said ‘break them at your own risk’ but she also said that they can be broken to some degree if you are careful. So a stolen kiss with an ‘oh my god what am I doing?’ as it happens can work while full cheating doesn’t. I know a lot of people will say you can do it, but keep in mind that used to be a big trope in romance in the late 70s to the early to mid-90s and is considered ‘bad’ now. Unfortunately a lot of out of the loop journalists still harp on the fact that ‘romance novels are about people cheating on each other’ and they really aren’t. Not anymore.

      • I would love to know these rules. Seriously. Barbara passed them on to you. Any chance you would pass them on to me? It would be very helpful.

      • I also am not good at writing fantasy. It’s why if you look at my back log you won’t find one story about elves, fairies, or unicorns. I don’t believe in them. I could write SF because I believe one day we will go to the stars. I can even write some kinds of paranormal because I believe there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of, etc. But two twenty or thirty-something virgin gay men? No. Two GAY men that aren’t tempted? No. I try and write it, but it doesn’t ring true and my fingers tangle on the keyboards and the fake words won’t come out. It is very frustrating. I have a solid fan base but I know I would sell 100 times more if I could write about men that don’t do what most gay men do–or men period. That statistic! 70% of straight married men have admitted they cheated on their wives!

        I want to read stories where even when something horrible happened, instead of one getting dumped and being alone and hurt and angry and bitter, that the one who made the mistake does anything he can to fix things and get forgiven so they can go on to celebrate their 50th anniversary. But if I do, people won’t read it….

        *Sigh*

  21. For me I thinking unfortunately cheating is a part of life and keeping it out of books is unnecessary. I would rather read a realistic book fluffed up to reach a HEA rather than read nothing but fantasy about The One that is unobtainable to the common person.
    I’ve read books that include cheating and sometimes it’s necessary for a character to grow or change / realise they may have lost their one true love and it’s inspiring to see them work hard to get that person back.
    This isn’t just for MM books it’s relevant to all genres and I really do think if you start cutting out all cheating you then have to rethink other vices like smoking drinking gambling those who sell themselves to make ends meet.
    If a book is written well I believe nothing should be missed out expect for the extremes like beastiality child porn etc.
    Hope this helps

  22. I won’t even look at a book that has cheating in it. I look at romance stories for the happily ever after, true soul mates and if I wanted to read cheating relationships then I would have stayed married. If there is any hint of cheating whether they are gay married to a woman or just cheating on the boyfriend then I put the author on a back burner because I don’t want to read about it… I don’t mind m/m/m but anything else is a no go…

    • Okay…. That is what I am asking. Why?? Why is it such a trigger? I lived with a man who cheating on me constantly. It hurt. I dumped his ass when I finally realized he was never going to stop. If he had stopped, if he had stayed in thearpy, if he had stayed in SA, if he had stopped cheating, I would have stayed with him and we would now be together for thirty-five years. I want to know WHY the cheating–or even the tinest hint of cheating–is SUCH a trigger with people in fiction.

      Now I TOTALLY understand the downright cheating where one partner is cruely breaking trust and CHEATING.

      But human beings slip sometimes. Sometimes it’s that one time thing he regrets. A total mess up. And if he tells his partner and they worl through it, it is still a no-go for a novel?

      I by the way have not cheated on my husband. I have been in a situtation where I knew if I didn’t get the hell out of there it would be very tempting, but I did not cheat,

      And what about my novel where they split up and one had sex, do you count that as cheating?

      • Ben, I think this goes back to what I said in a previous comment—women (generally speaking) are very different when it comes to the sex/feelings connection. Personally, I get offended when people say you “should” be able to separate sex from love. I can’t. It doesn’t work. WhenI have sex, chemicals get released that make me feel for the person. Actually, I tend to think this has something to do with reproduction. Women are designed to react to sex by thinking “this guy may make a good father. I wuuuuuuv him!”

        It isn’t immaturity, as the patriarchy would have us think. It’s nature. It’s the way women survived arranged marriages and being forced to marry their rapists for generations. If we didn’t automatically develop feelings for those who slept with us, it would have been far harder to raise kids and survive life.

        Men are not like this. They can get off and get out. THIS, IMO, is why gay couples can be open without as many negative repercussions. To men, sex is just sex. Or at least, they CAN think of it that way. To women, there is always this primitive, unavoidable thought that a man will impregnate someone else, she’ll fall in love with him, and he will remove his love and resources from your children and your household.

        I’ve seen the devastation on women when a man leaves to marry a mistress and often it’s catastrophic for her and her children. This is the way of nature. Women NEED to keep a man’s focus on them and their kids. And just because we have birth control and alimony etc doesn’t erase the bone-deep, survival instinct of women to HATE the notion of their man sleeping with someone else.

        Anyway, that’s my take.

  23. First, let me say how much I’m enjoying this respectful and insightful discussion. Thanks everyone! I think every person (M/F/gay/straight) is going to have their own definition of “cheating” and their own personal lines in the sand. It’s almost impossible to come up with something that works for everyone, so you’ll never be able to make everyone happy. For me personally, cheating is about the deception (once you are in a committed relationship) and it has more to do with the deception (especially ongoing) and causing hurt to your partner than the sex itself. I used to believe that everything was black or white–cheating was cheating–but I’m old enough now to appreciate all the shades of grey you’ve pointed out and know that I can’t render a definitive judgement.

    It’s not in my nature to not read something because of personal beliefs. I don’t believe in murder but I read a tonne of mysteries and thrillers! As long as it fits with the character and is handled well, I can be convinced of almost anything. In fact I like to push my boundaries–I once thought I was totally against threesomes or triads and have now found 2 books where it actually works within the context of that story. I’d actually love to read about a couple trying to recover from a cheating situation because a) it’s realistic and b) I’d like to try and understand it more. More and more I’m attracted to writers outside the “traditional” M/M who are exploring more realistic scenarios but still with a romantic context.

    As a writer, I believe in writing what feels right to you and the characters, not worrying about what people or the market will think. That can be challenging. My newest novel has the main character having sex with other people right up to the half-way point because he and the other character are not even romantically involved until then. To me that’s definitely not cheating but I guess I’ll see how that goes over when it comes out next year. My characters are on opposite sides of the spectrum: one firmly believes in monogamy and the other doesn’t. I have probably “copped out” with the ending, but it was my decision, not pushed on me by publishers or because I felt the genre called for it.

    • Wow! Thank you for this. Very insightful and it gives me a lot to think about. I would love to know what the two triad books you liked are, by the way. And your book sounds like one I would read….

  24. BG as to not ‘writing fantasy’ all fiction writing is ‘fantasy’. It seldom portrays the real world and if it did few people would want to read it. Fiction isn’t meant to ‘be real’ it’s meant to take a reader on a journey with your characters, to erase the ‘real world’ for a short time and take them to a place they have never been. In m/m that means going into the minds of two great guys that, for a time, become their friends. They learn all the secret baggage good and bad your characters carry with them and live, love and laugh along with them. This is why people read books and why–I hope–we’re all writing them: to take those readers to places they’ve never gone to on their own.

    • I have just found that when I am reading a book and the people don’t act real, where they are close to perfect, who don’t seem to have a penis until they have fallen in love, etc, is a book I can’t finish. I read this great novella where the two guys admit they are in love and we know sex is next. She wrote a sequel that I eagerly bought and got no more than about ten pages in. She decided to string out how long they were going to take to have sex–for some reason they didn’t have sex that night they were crushing their denim clad erections together while they made out–and by a week or two in I just rolled my eyes and stopped reading. I did NOT believe these were two men and when I couldn’t believe in them any more, I couldn’t read.

      • Devil’s advocate here. I just read a memoir of two gay men in a 50+ year relationship. At the beginning of their relationship, they didn’t have sex for MONTHS because one of the men (who had plenty of casual sex with other dudes before meeting this guy) wasn’t “ready”. It almost broke them up to wait, actually, because the guy who was “ready” didn’t get it. Anyway, they eventually had plenty of sex (not that they recounted it in detail in the memoir!). But while I can see this being an unusual thing between two men, here’s a case where it happened in real life. Interestingly enough, I see plenty of gay guys complain about the other end of the m/m romance spectrum by saying that the men often have too much sex and too fast. LOL! *sigh* Can’t win for losing.

        I do agree that it’s irksome at times for readers to label something as cheating when the partners are apart. In my book, The River Leith, there’s an incident that takes place while the one guy doesn’t even know the other fellow exists (because amnesia) and people labeled that as cheating. I was like, “How can they even be together when the amnesiac doesn’t know him anymore? They are by default NOT TOGETHER.” But readers draw their own conclusions. There’s nothing to be done about that. 🙂

      • And Leta, your novel is just the kind of thing I am talking about! It is very frustrating for me because while I certainly want to entertain, I also want to write something real. I’ve tried to write romantic fluff, and I can’t. I always wind up throwing something into the mix (cheating, illness, anger, angst, unresolved history, etc), that has to be dealt with for the two to be HEA. Thank you for your comments.

  25. Ben so how about this. You can write realistic relationship stories and label them as such, maybe have them come out under DSP. And then write other characters, using the romance “rules,” and label those as HEA romances. You get to both be creative AND sell what half of your readers expect. There is no deceit, no misunderstanding, because they will be labeled properly. (I use the blurb for that.) Would that work for you?

  26. In one of my stories, the character has sex with a stranger before he realizes he’s in love with his best friend. While I got a lot of messages about the story, there was only one who complained. (The story was written after a prompt, so I had to go that way.) The others liked the story, especially since the ‘sex with stranger’ element was needed for the plot. So, apprently, there it was okay.

    When the couple is already together, though, then the author needs a damn good reason for cheating. I want to read about a love affair, not someone hurting his lover. It’s as simple as that for me. I don’t mind drama and I also don’t mind open relationships, but no cheating. My characters are far from perfect, but if you love your partner (in book or outside) you don’t cheat. At least that’s my belief. And that’s why I have a hard time liking someone who doesn’t espect his partner enough to not cheat.

    • Yeah…cheating on your lover is a pretty horrible thing. It’s pretty reheprehensible. But in life, people do slip…. And I like to see people who love each other so much that they find a way to make their relationship work no matter what. Stories like this can also explore if their were any other reasons beside a hardon that made him quit. I had a friend who had little affiars all the time because his lover had NO libedo, they hadn’t had sex in years, and the lover refused to let him get sex someplace else. He told him he needed to jerk off if he was horny. A reason to leave? Maybe. But in every other way they were perfect for each and had been together for years and years. All this makes great stories–but it seems that is in teh gay literature genre and not MM I guess…. I saw a movie called “The Redwoods” and the character had an affair, not because he was a shit, but his primary relationship had stagnated and his lover took him for granted and he was desperatly lonely… Life is complicated….

  27. I have a different approach to the topic. In my personal experience, m/m readers actually have divided in two different directions (overlapping of course always possible).

    There are those readers who got tired of the usual romance plot, who are looking for a HEA with a more realistic story. These readers are okay with cheating, they maybe don’t love it but they see it as a part of the story that helps the characters to develop, they accept threesomes, etc. These are also the readers who want their guys to actually behave like guys. You could say, they would/should read gay fiction but they want their HEA.

    Then there are the readers, who actually have transferred their expectations of f/m romance to m/m romance. The success of some authors, who write books where you are not sure if one of the characters shouldn’t better be a woman, is evidence enough. Also for example the launch of Dreamspinner’s Dreamspun Desires. These readers don’t want/accept certain behaviors in their stories.
    Of course – there are enough readers, who are in the middle of this.

    My opinion is – everybody defines for themselves, what triggers are “no go” in a book. Everybody has different reasons for them. Everybody defines “cheating” differently. Where does it start, a kiss, a thought, sex? You’ll never be able to please all readers.

    I would assume, writing a book you are passionate about will always be better than one you can’t believe in because it just doesn’t fit with how you see the world. So if you want to write about an open relationship or a married guy finding out he’s gay – do it. Don’t restrict yourself, just be open enough in the blurb that people can decide if they want to read it (and those who don’t read the blurb, sorry, their problem).

    Not every book with a man married to a woman but in love with a guy is getting trashed (e.g. The General And The Horse-Lord, rating 4.14 on GR). If you can write it so that the reader understands and feels it – there is no reason not to do it.
    If you want to please the masses – stay on the safe side.
    But it’s the edgy books that stay in the minds of the readers, not the one that can be exchanged with dozens others.

    • Awesome comments. Thank you so much.

      Okay…now untimely I write because I love to write and I am going to write some stuff that isn’t popular with some readers because I will explore issues they don’t like. As you say, it’s the passion that counts. However, I do want to make a living as well. By the way. I wrote Spring Affair and the married man doesn’t have sex with the man he falls in love with until he and his wife split–I was shocked by how many people wrote me thank me that they waited…. Where I put the realism there where he “cheated” in his heart and felt guilty about it. But he was forgiven because we can’t help falling in love, but we can help what we do with our genitals….

  28. I don’t like to read about cheating because it hurts me. I’ve never been cheated on by anyone important to me (it happened once with someone who I’d known wasn’t forever and didn’t much care when I found out after we’d broken up) but when I read a book, I really, really get into it and feel what the characters are feeling and it cuts me, it hurts so much that I don’t like it. I’ll suffer through it if I have to, to get to the good part, but I don’t enjoy it.

    In real life though, I’ve told my husband of twenty years that if he were to cheat, once, for sex only, slipped like you call it, then I would hate it, probably sulk for a while but I wouldn’t want to throw away our great life together just for that. If he were to fall in love with someone else, however, then there’s nothing I could do about that and we’d split up.

    If I read a story where the characters aren’t together, they’re on a break (like Rachel and Ross in Friends – hahaha!), they’re separated, then it’s not cheating.

    If I read a story where there’s a bunch of misunderstandings, half-truths or any other nonsense that sounds fake or contrived, then I won’t finish the book. When it’s the author doing more deceiving than the characters, I’m out.

    If it sounds real and honest, then I’ll plow through the cheating, even if it hurts me personally.

    I absolutely LOVED All Alone in a Sea of Romance BTW. I’ve loved all the characters in your books, and when they hurt, I hurt. Poor, poor Max and Sloan too; so glad they got their chance 🙂

    • Thank you so much Phoebe for all your thoughts and words. Awesome comments. And I pretty much agree with all you have to say. And thanks also for your comments on my books.

  29. What an interesting topic! I enjoyed the chance to read everyone’s responses because I didn’t realize there was such a strong reaction to the subject. Even though I am a hopelessly romantic goofball in my daily life, I tend to gravitate toward novels that depict the darker side of things. So Ican’t offer you any insights, but just wanted to say thanks for bringing it up.

  30. Shit happens.
    Unfortunately it happens all the time.
    Relationships and marriage isn’t easy. And it isn’t for the faint of heart. I think a lot of people think so. I think a lot of people steam right into love expecting this HEA fantasy to be reality and I think they get their feelings hurt when it isn’t. And that’s normal.
    I don’t know how many relationships I went through, with great guys. I can’t count. I felt love for them. I wanted to love them. But I think in a lot of ways people don’t know how. Once you’ve paired off with someone, everything you once did alone now has to be factored into the life of someone else. And that is a precarious balancing act. Figuring each other out. And then there is the rest of the world you have to face together. And as you all may well know, that shit doesn’t ever ease up.
    But I think its imperative to keep in mind, that people are not perfect.
    They fuck up. And sometimes its with someone else.
    But cheating is usually a symptom of another problem. And it most of the time has nothing to do with the one who was cheated on.
    Having the ability to fight through a case of infidelity takes a lot of guts and a lot of courage. But just like all things relationship wise, it takes two to tango. And sometimes cheating has nothing to do with wanting to.
    One symptom of PTSD is hypersexuality, for instance.
    That doesn’t mean the cheater doesn’t love you, it means something is awful going on in their headspace.
    Or maybe, like me, they didn’t know HOW to commit or how to love.
    This problem especially in the gay community which spent how long being ostracized from the rest of society?
    Whether or not the ‘readers’ throw ten kinds of holy hell over things like this, is another matter altogether.
    As far as that is concerned, you have two camps. Ones that are writing for entertainment and ones that are writing to tell about the life and times of the author. Their experiences, what they’ve been through, how they handled situations, and the process is cathartic and its meant to reach others who’ve been through the same things. So the reader is also in these camps. One reading for entertainment escapism, and others looking to connect.
    C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone.”
    And while everyone is different, and while every relationship has it’s own dynamics…there are threads that bind us together because we’re just human after all.

  31. I haven’t read the comments because there are so many so if I’m saying the same thing as another reader, forgive me.

    Romance novels, whether straight or gay are fantasy and we want the perfect story. Real life is full of cheating men so we like to read a story about a guy who doesn’t do that. In a perfect world people who fall in love only have eyes for their significant other. No it’s not reality and in real life people don’t have blinders but give us the fantasy for just a while.

    I’m one of the people that are bothered when the main character goes out and has sex with someone else after deciding he is in love with the other MC. I don’t give up on the story, it just makes me uncomfortable.

    That being said I am currently writing a book where the main character is fighting being gay and goes back to his ex-girlfriend for a while so I’m a bit of a hypocrite. :o)

    • I understand what you are saying about the fantasy. Many years ago, when I was with my ex, I read this book I was loving abuot this lonely man who finally thinks he has found “the one.” I was loving it! But then he starts cheating on his love over and over and over. He justifies it as “just sex” and that he would never cheat emotionally. I was a wreck. I kept saying to my ex, “How can he do this if he loves the guy???” and my lover said nothing. What I didn’t know was that he was cheating on me. When I finally found out I remembered that book…and his response.

      I guess the reason I want real is because I have been so badly hurt. And rather than bury myself in unreality, I would rather read how bad things are overcome. I want to believe it’s possible. D and I were not able to overcome his cheating because he wouldn’t stop and I finally had to leave him.

      You book sounds real and like just the kind I would read. No, he is not cheating if he has left the guy. What frustrates me is how many readers would not only say it’s cheating, but even pass the word warning people not to read such books.

      I want to read how your guy learns to accept he’s gay and goes back to his man! Please let me know when it comes out.

  32. Having been married to a gay man who discovered he was gay after we got married, I can’t tell you the heartache it caused me. I don’t think he suffered a second about it except for the fact that I was the only wage-earner. After we divorced, I was very angry for along time at gay men who I saw as lying, deceitful people. When I realized what this attitude was doing to me and how many of the close friends I’d lost were gay men, I realized the only person who was getting hurt was me. My first husband’s cheating nearly destroyed me, so reading a book about a guy who cheats is like pouring salt on a deep wound. Why would I do that deliberately? Maybe some people can read about it, maybe some aren’t affected like I was, all I know is my past hurt would preclude me from reading about cheating.

    You’re right. This is an interesting topic.

    • Wow…. I am so sorry that he hurt you so badly. What’s worse is his lack of remorse. That might have helped you. Can you tell me how you got from thinking gay people were decietful to getting to the point where you enjoy gay romance?

      • Oh, so many things to say about this, but I’ll just answer the question: My lesbian teaching intern and I had innumerable conversations about who was to blame and at the same time we had an overload of gay and lesbian students, so she forced me to take a long, hard look at myself. I didn’t like what I saw and changed back to the open person I was before I met him. Obviously there’s much more to the story, but that’s the concise outline of my change back to the self I liked and respected.

        BTW, I reviewed gay romances for a few years and now write them.

  33. Oops, a long time, not along time. Sorry! Too verklempt to write coherently. Can’t wait to meet you at GRL in KC. My daughter, who will be with me, and I greatly enjoy your writing. Happy holidays!

  34. I’ve tried to comment several times now and it keeps getting deleted. Summary: romance readers are monogamy nazis. Personally, I find the concept of open or exploratory relationships vicariously thrilling because I’ve always had very steady monogamy in my life.

    I’m not a cheater. I’ve never been w a cheater. Most of my BFs were more dorky and conservative than me. So I have no triggers about extracurricular sex. Three ways, swinging… Doesn’t bother me. Sex while broken up? It’s all good.

    But I like my gay men real, not a heteronormative Disney movie remake. And for sure I like my characters more interesting than my boring, monogamous ass.

    Genre is genre. Readers want romance to follow the rules. That’s why I’m having a ball writing YA for now. I can only follow the rules for so long. (In my writing that is. I life? I’m freakishly boring.)

  35. I personally don’t mind when cheating is portrayed in books. Cheating is an unfortunate reality in many relationships for a host of reasons. So having a fictional character experience this does not seem off putting. But many of my friends in my book club hate it in romance, because for them reading is a way to escape the harshness of the real world.

    Is this a fair restraint? I don’t believe so, but if you go against it there is a chance your work won’t be well received.

    I personally think it’s a chance worth taking, if it’s a story you really want to tell. There will be those who hate it without ever opening a page, but there will be those who love it. Romance is not always boy meets boy, sparks fly, and they live happily ever after. Sometimes people have to fight tooth and nail for their HEA.

  36. I’m finally getting around to cutting and pasting my FB post about this —on B.G.’s request (so the rest of you don;t think I’m hijacking th thread. 🙂

    This has me thinking lots, in particular about one insightful comment that MM readers have sort of split into two camps: those who prefer stories closer to gay fiction and those who want their MM to follow the rules and conventions of straight romance.

    I’ve never understood reader’s issues with dabbling with other people in MM (like as developed between Zack and Angelo in the Coda series.) To me, men are different than women.

    Like many romance readers, however, I’d NEVER enjoy reading a MF couple who sometimes dabbled with a third or fourth person. To me, that would be a disaster waiting to happen.

    But I like writing men because they are different from women. Not ALL men, and not ALL women. But generally speaking, men are less emotional about sex. And I enjoy imagining what it would be like to be able to have sex with someone without developing anything more than mildly friendly feelings towards them.

    Anyway, yeah. I suppose I’ve slipped into the “gay fiction” camp, as I no longer really like stories where the one guy gets a boner for the other at the start of the book and doesn’t lose it until they have sex. (Actually, I think I’ve only ever liked that in straight romance. In MM? …not as much.)

    So where do you fall? Do you like your standards of romance maintained whether it’s between men and men or men and women? Or do you read MM specifically for the differences?

    (BTW—This article is about “cheating,” but I’m more talking about open relationships, three-ways, etc. Cheating, to me, is alway wrong.)

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