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When it's actually OK to seek sex outside your marriage

Catherine Conelly is a Senior Love and Health Editor at SheKnows.

WE tv's Sex Box tackles the difficult question about what is considered cheating

WE tv's Sex Box is an out there concept, no doubt about that, but despite everything you could criticize, it tackles some pretty important topics.

Because here's the thing, it's not really about the sex. It's about relationships. What first seemed like a show trying to be the Jerry Springer of 2015, is actually about more than using shock tactics to create drama on stage.

If anything, it's a healthy reminder that, one, relationships definitely don't fit in some cookie cutter box we've tried to contain them in, and two, no couple is perfect just because they say "I do" (something that's easy to forget in today's Pinterest-obsessed culture saturated with photos that convey a one-sided view of happily ever after).

Case in point:

Last week, Sex Box featured two couples who, for different reasons, battled the idea of sexual partners who weren't their spouse. In one scenario, a man faced an unnamed medical condition that turned him into someone just shy of a sex addict. He describes being turned on around the clock due to an enlarged something or other and his wife rightfully couldn't keep up.

He wanted her to be open to the idea of a "substitute." Basically, someone he could have permission to sleep with to keep him satisfied and prevent his wife from feeling the pressure to do the nearly impossible task, a pressure that was clearly eroding every other ability to feel happy in their relationship.

Now here's where it really gets interesting...

She confesses to being bisexual and having cheated on him with women. Their very unique, admittedly dramatic, situation raises a good question about when it might be OK to have sex outside your marriage. Is it still cheating if it's with the same sex? Does a medical diagnosis make it OK? The obvious answer is that cheating is never OK. The not-so-obvious answer is that sex outside the marriage doesn't always have to be considered cheating.

Dr. Shannon Chavez, clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist, helps explain. "Sex outside of the relationship is only cheating when it is done without the partner’s consent. If it is openly discussed and boundaries are established, it can be done." She continues, "It is often through fantasies that couples learn to open up sexually, find the language to articulate their feelings, heal sexual shame and learn how to explore areas of their sexuality together that need improvement."

So, yes, in the scenario above, she cheated. And he was hurt, even if it wasn't with another man. But she went on to say that being with him trumped her other sexual needs (at least for their future). She loved him and wanted to be with him. And for both of them, it made sense to discuss bringing someone else into their bedroom.

"Often partners will find that when communicating fantasies and desires openly, they can explore their sexuality together. The discovery is less painful than the disclosure of an act of betrayal or cheating," says Dr. Chavez.

Communication, ya'll. Don't take it lightly.

You can watch Sex Box Fridays on WE tv at midnight/11c.

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