Monday, December 3, 2012

Swinginge Will Ruin Your Marraige

A couple of weeks ago Jake and I were hanging around enjoying some post coital conversation with some other like-minded people. We started talking about an idea that a lot of monogamy advocates promote, namely the concept that swinging and other extra marital dalliances will ultimately cause a marriage to fail. This idea is perpetuated widely by popular media. Every time swinging is featured in mainstream media it is portrayed in a very negative light. Established swingers are often portrayed as sleazy sex fiends who can't keep their hands to themselves or their pants on. 'Innocents' who are lured into the glitzy world of swinging often suffer irreparable damage to their relationships. Movies like 'Eyes Wide Shut' and the more recent television series 'Swingtown' are classic examples of this moralistic message.  
In addition to couple looking for that extra spark or to explore their fantasies in a healthy and safe environment the lifestyle does tend to attract a certain number of people who are looking for something to substitute for a piece that is missing from their existing relationship. It is not uncommon to hear stories of couples who go into swinging and have failed encounters because they cannot get past their jealousy of seeing their partner having a good time with someone else or who despite being able to sample a wide variety of merchandise with their partner's consent and blessing insist on shopping without their partner's knowledge. 

The moralists look at these examples and use them as evidence that the marriage failed as a direct result of swinging. I would argue that these marriages would have failed in due course even if they never encountered swinging. To me it seems obvious that these couples had issues that were causing a fundamental flaw in their marriage and if swinging had anything to do with the failure of their marriage it was merely to hasten the inevitable.
You know when you go to the makeup counter and the attendant gets out the mirror that magnifies every spot and wrinkle on your face so that think you look like an ogre and then you spend your entire salary for the week on miracle face creams? Swinging can be a bit like that for your marriage. Every flaw and imperfection is magnified. For some people this is an opportunity for improvement for others it is an excuse to wreak havoc and give their partner grief. 


Every introduction to swinging I have ever read, every conversation with successful swinging couples has the same message. You both have to be on the same page and you both have to be able to communicate with each other. If you have issues in your marriage that need attention, if one partner cannot be honest and open about how they feel all the time or they feel their partner doesn't take them seriously, if there has been infidelity and it has not been disclosed properly or the hurts around it resolved, if there is unresolved jealousy about a previous partner; Then getting in to bed with some other people will not make things better.

Jake credits our first steps towards swinging to an infidelity earlier in our marriage. I won't go into the details here but I will say we had done the hard yards and worked through the incident in detail over a year before we walked through the big red door at Couples International for the very first time. We had learned and practised absolute and complete honestly with each other for some time. So when we hit the bumps and jolts of any fantastic journey we had the tools and the attitude to deal with it. These days we have a very different view of infidelity than most people. For us cheating is not about the physical act. A night of passion with a lover is not an infidelity if all partners are in the know and are happy with the arrangement. A stolen kiss, if your partner does not consent or if you choose not to tell them about it for some reason, is. Lies are lies whether they are about sex, kissing, how much those shoes cost or where you went after work yesterday. Cheating isn't about WHAT you do exactly it is about deception. For Jake and me deception is unacceptable. Any deception is an infidelity. I am scrupulously honest with my husband about everything. Right down to telling him I put the cold beer I just purchased in the pantry instead of the fridge. (For those of us who don't drink beer apparently if you let cold beer get warm again it is not going to taste any good when you re-chill it. I know sounds stupid but Jake believes this absolutely. The grief I get if I commit the sin of letting cold beer get warm is unbelievable.)

Sometimes you see discussions in forums about what is the symbol for a swinger. What type of jewellery or tattoo or such like do swingers wear to let other swingers know they are a swinger. For me the symbol of a swinger is a wedding ring. I know that sounds a bit weird but when I am playing it is often the thing I notice. Something that I find intensely pleasurable is watching a couple who are so intensely in love with each other that they feed of each other's pleasure without the selfish need to be directly involved. I feel privileged when I am permitted to watch this at close quarters and it always makes my night better. Oddly swingers are people too. They come in all shapes and sizes with all kinds of interests and ideas. There is no such thing as a swinging 'type' unless you count a person who is honest with themselves, their partner and the people they interact with.
Of course the journey through Wonderland can be bumpy sometimes and not every experience is mind blowing. Sometimes unexpected things come up. Like every other bump in the road of marriage the healthy marriages deal with it and the not so healthy ones fall apart just that little bit more. There are couples who do not survive the swinging journey. Watching a relationship fall apart is not pretty but any couple who attribute their marriage failure exclusively to swinging is kidding themselves and each other. The pressure on the relationship from swinging may hasten the inevitable but it does not deal the death blow. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post. We have long said the same things you say here, namely that swinging is stigmatized in the media, and the only time it's depicted is negatively, i.e. shown to always fail. We are aware of the depiction of swingers as degenerates, or as you phrase it "sleazy sex fiends", and we know it to be untrue. It's upsetting because in some ways it's inhibited us from being more open about our own extramarital dalliances, to the extent that that's what they are. We can't tell most of the people we know, be they family or friends, that we're not entirely monogamous because we know that rather than having these people change their opinion about swinging because they know a couple that
    does it, these people would instead change their opinion about us because we do something they have decided is immoral. Granted, that's more of a statement of the people in question than of anything else.

    Yes, we are aware that some swing in order to compensate for what is missing from their lives or their relationships. But we've met far more people who seem to have no issues, no deficiencies whatsoever. We are especially conscious of the misconception that women in non-monogamous relationships are victimized by their male partners, i.e. a woman couldn't possibly choose to be a swinger. She has clearly been manipulated or forced to do so by her boyfriend or husband. This is actually a major reason why we've been so unwilling to go public even with our most trusted relatives (not that it's any of their business, really). We feel that no one would believe that this is something we mutually agreed to do, but rather that I somehow coerced or leveraged my wife into accepting.

    You point out that it is not uncommon to hear examples of couples who attempted non-monogamy and failed, and that those who oppose swinging blame swinging on the breakup of the relationship. While I agree that these relationships would have failed regardless, I think a much more important point is that the mainstream never seems to give examples of non-monogamous relationships that work. There is no counterpoint to the couple that tries swinging and breaks up in the aftermath. There is no testimonial from the non-monogamous couple celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, happier than ever.