Your "cheating?" heart
Big Love, Episode 5
By Rob Wilson
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Rob is a member of this online community. This series of reviews is his first submission to us. He can be reached via email, or through our forums.

This will be an ongoing review for the entire 12 weeks of the HBO drama Big Love. Previous editions of this review can be found in the Monthly Columns archives.

The purpose of these articles is to create discussion. Well the most current episode of HBO's new series Big Love did exactly that at my house as my wife, her boyfriend, my girlfriend, her teenage daughter, one of her friends and me all curled up on a creaking and over crowded couch to watch the most recent show. Our two dogs curled at our feet and my cat purred quietly on the lap of girlfriends' teenage daughter. Jokes about what Norman Rockwell may have said were bandied about before the start of the show.

Each show has a certain theme to it, which may or may not relate to the polyamorous community in some way. Before the credits were even done rolling up the screen, the discussion started over exactly what "cheating" is and what it details.

It all begins when Barb, his first wife, turns on the charm at a historic preservation event which causes Bill to see her in a whole new light. Excited they have a spontaneous quickie by the side of the road which reignites their sex life. Soon they are sneaking off to have clandestine trysts at a local hotel. All without telling the other two wives.

This is where our little family debate arose. Can you have an affair when you’re already married to the person you’re having the affair with?

At one stage Barb rolls over in bed and says "We are having an affair."

"How can we be having an affair if were married?" Bill jokes in return.

"By not being honest Bill".

Barb goes about hiding the phone calls Bill is making to her from the other wives, going so far as shutting doors and pulling drapes closed to keep them from prying eyes. They go sneaking off to a motel and arrange clandestine meetings during lunch. Where as this seemed to be a classic sign of an affair to the males, the females in our little group saw it as an adventure, where the thrill of getting caught was just one more exciting piece to the sexual puzzle.

Nicki, the second wife, has her suspicions that Bill is thinking about bringing in a fourth wife. Suspicions she feels are confirmed when she discovers a hotel soap wrapper in a bathroom wastebasket. Beside herself she confronts the first wife insisting that they approach their mutual husband and find out "who is bringing sin into our house." Barb, clearly uncomfortable, tries to avoid the issue together.

Again these are classic signs of a guilty conscious, Barb is clearly aware that what she is doing is wrong. Our informal focus group agreed that it was wrong, but only because they were hiding the frequency of their encounters from the other wives. The majority of the group saw it as a communication breakdown between the woman, and possibly some spice to an otherwise predictable sex life.

Interestingly enough it broke down upon gender lines. The women stating that Barb and Bill were not having an affair, while the men - vastly outnumbered by a margin of two to 1 - said that yes; they were having an affair.

Communication also played a role in the secondary stories of this week’s episode as Margie, the youngest of the wives, made friends with one of the neighbors. She has been feeling isolated and lonely and needs adult companionship.

Barb warns Margie to be careful, and states that one of the best things about how we live is that we’re a community. By creating a circle of friends and lovers, we are fulfilling some deep seated emotional needs. As well as creating family structures that may be stronger than those we originally came from. There is also a line to the effect of although their lifestyle may be isolating at times, it does come with rewards . . . sadly however they do not go into any details on what those awards may be.

As my little focus group sat and watched this show, we all hugged and shared a silent laugh at that line, we know what the rewards are.

Margie’s dilemma started another discussion, when to be open about your relationships. Polyamorous relationships of any sort can be isolating at times, particularly when you do not feel you’re being true to yourself but are expected to be honest in all other parts of your life, this duality can be rather depressing at times. Having someone to talk to in a similar condition is needed, or in this case, someone other than the people you see every day.

Finally our little group was very impressed by a sex positive message that was briefly alluded to. The oldest son in the family, Ben, has decided to attend Mormon seminary after school. His girlfriend assures him that thinking about sex is a good thing, and that attending seminary will only brainwash him into thinking that something natural and normal will somehow be vile.

I would be interested to hear what you think. Please feel free to contact me or post on the bulletin boards.

folks have read this article.