Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about lifestyle break-ups and divorces. It seems that some of the couples we used to know aren’t faring so well. We’ve been out of the loop for a bit and haven’t been privy to rumors and drama. We find ourselves browsing profiles and realizing that the couple we used to know are now playing separately as singles. It makes us sad. I hate the implication that swinging may have somehow been responsible for the split. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, both in swinging and outside of it. We began experimenting with inviting other players to the bedroom almost from the very start. So how have we nurtured our relationship (and our sanity) while exploring non-monogamy? I’ll share some ideas below. I’m not sure if my husband would agree or if he would have his own list.
We Were Both Intrigued
Early in our marriage, my husband had found an ad in the City Pages for a Swingers Halloween party. When he brought the idea up to me, I was intrigued. This wasn’t his idea, but a fantasy that we both found intriguing. How did he know that I might be open to the idea of attending a swinger party? Because he had taken time to understand who I was sexually. One of the most common themes that bring people to this blog is some variation of the question, “How do I talk my wife, husband, or partner into swinging?” My advice is to take about 20 steps back and ask yourself a new question, “How can I understand what genuinely turns my partner on, sexually?” Learn to enjoy each other in every way possible. Sex between the two of you should be an exploration in fun, excitement, and familiarity. Once your sex is amazing, try exploring some fantasy talk during sex. What happens when you tell your wife that you love watching her perform oral sex? Does she get turned on and work harder to give you good view? Or does she get shy and ask you not to watch her so intently? How does your wife respond when you ask her if she likes how you are touching or kissing her? Does she moan with an intensity that says unmistakably, yes? Does she shift her position in an attempt to coax you into doing something slightly different? Pay attention to her cues and respond accordingly. Learn how to turn her on. Find out what her fantasies are. I think almost every woman longs to feel desired. If you can tap into the deep sexuality that exists in her psyche, perhaps you will find out that she is intrigued. But let her find out for herself before you start trying to convince her.
We Allow Our Definitions to Shift
My husband and I have a fluid definition of The Lifestyle. We don’t limit ourselves to a single understanding of what it means to be swingers. Early on, we had a couple threesome experiences with close friends. When we got on AOL in the mid-90’s, we spent some time flirting with couples in chatrooms. We even took a road trip to hang out with a couple over the weekend. It was a purely soft-swap experience. I have fond memories of cuddling together as a threesome/foursome in the hotel bed one morning. I’m not even sure if there was any oral sex between partners, just flirting, kissing, and nakedness. We’ve been to house parties, hotel parties, on-premise clubs, and casual bar meets. In 2008, we joined an online community and began attending local events. We decided that we only wanted to play with couples. After about a year or so, we expanded to separate play dates. Swinging can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t worry that you don’t fit some preconceived notion of what being a swinger is all about. Make your own rules, play by them for a while. Then decide if you like them or want to change them.
We Honestly Assess the Good and the Bad
Things don’t always go according to plan. We want our experiences to be sexually satisfying and emotionally gratifying. When we leave the party, we want to come home madly in love with each other and glowing with pleasure. Sure, it happens. And when it does…..WOW! But just try hitting that jackpot twice; It’s not so easy. If you truly want to make it in this Lifestyle, you must be willing to honestly assess the good and bad. When there is friction after a party, discuss it. When your partner asks you what’s wrong, don’t say “nothing” or “I’m fine.” Just honestly express what’s going on. Are you disappointed about something? Did you feel left out? Did something surprise you? Are you hurt? Are you afraid? When your partner explains how they feel, take a moment to process their statement before you react. Remember you love this person! Something upset them, and it may even be something you did. If you didn’t intentionally hurt them, then apologize and consider how you might change your actions next time. Also, don’t just talk when things are difficult. Take time to assess the good times too. What made it work? Can you figure out how to increase your chances of having that much fun the next time too? My husband and I sometimes come to the realization that what we “think” we like and what we actually like are not always the same thing.
We Don’t Feel the Need to Rush
The great thing about being with someone you love is that you have all the time in the world. My husband and I have been in the Lifestyle “off and on” for 20 years. Some of our breaks have lasted years at a time. Taking a break has never been something that we “consciously” decided to do, but rather the energy in our relationship shifted and it became clear that outside sexual relationships weren’t the right thing for the moment. No need to worry that we’d never get to swing again. We just respected each other and our relationship enough to know that we could spend time together without constant pressure to “decide” if we were “quitting” the Lifestyle or for how long. During our most recent “break”, my husband would sometimes say to me that if I wanted to be done, we could be done. I explained to him that I just wasn’t ready “now” but that I was still open to the idea “someday.” He continued to play during that time, and very often would check in with me. He also admitted that he was sometimes uncomfortable playing if I wasn’t. I let him decide for himself based on my honest feedback. One day, I found myself ready to get out again. I’m not sure why the shift occurred, but it did, and I suspect it came about much sooner than it would have if my husband had constantly been asking me if I was “ready yet?”
Swinging can be an exhilarating experience. It requires sincerity, honesty, vulnerability, strength, forgiveness, and patience. It allows for a deepened understanding of love, commitment, and selflessness. I sometimes wonder if it’s easier to stay married longer because we’re willing to allow for non-monogamy. Are we somehow lazier than monogamous couples? I really don’t think so. When I consider the level of communication required to maintain this Lifestyle, I realize that we aren’t lazier or less committed. In fact, by committing to our relationship on the deepest, most permanent level, while allowing for sexual expression outside of each other, we are given a unique opportunity to experience a level of trust and connection that is unparalleled by many.
Image Credit: Simon Howden / Free Digital Photos