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Swingers, Swapers, Polygamy, Polyandry and Open Marriage

Be it on TV (e.g. Big Love, Swingtown), the internet, the newspapers, church, the park, at work, or Walmart, it seems everywhere we look these days we run into people who are experimenting with various sexual and relational extra marital activities within their marriages. People have been cheating and destroying their marriages by having affairs for as long as their have been marriages. In the last few years we've become increasingly aware of something else that has apparently been going on for at least a few decades as well. It seems that these are mutually agreed upon affairs in generally strongly committed and loving marriages. My wife has expressed openness to trying this. I have to admit to being a little curious about it myself...but not so much that I'd risk my marriage. We are curious what other people think. We are especially interested in knowing what people think of it who have actually tried or are currently doing this. What sort of experience (good or bad) have you had?

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HI Michael,

I think the blog monitor was refering to another poster who simple left his phone number for those interested in contacting him to swing with him/her.

I do think swinging is only for people who have strong realationships. The people I know who "swing" do not have major marriage problems. They do not swing to fix their problems they do so because they are comfortable and want to add a bit of something different to their marriage.
Thanks Heather,
Your comment are very similar to what our swinging friends said, which was, "Swinging is like having kids. You shouldn't do it to fix problems in your marriage, but because you love each other so much that you are strong enough and there is love enough and room enough to add this element. And that swinging and having children are alike in that they are both multiplying factors on your relationship strengths and weaknesses. If you are weak it makes it worse. If you are strong it enhances."
The experience of Brett Williams the marriage counselor above could be verifying the weakness part. Who knows? Maybe those troubled marriages were nearly doomed already for lack of fidelity, communication, trust, love, or whatever. Maybe they tried opening their marriage as a last ditch but failed attempt to save it. Maybe they were just looking for a way to cheat. Maybe they didn't have the maturity to deal with various feelings of insecurity or jealously or fear that came up. Maybe they didn't have the love or sensitivity to consider how their spouse felt. Maybe they weren't in agreement and one felt pressured to do it and the other didn't care.
I read one one forum that it is usually the guys idea and he looks for ways to drag her into a swinger party and once she has experienced it for about an hour then he has to drag her out. Some guys seem to expect it will be one way and it turns out differently. It might be tough for him to watch his wife get a great deal of attention from other men (and perhaps also from other women), while the other women are not all clamoring to be with him. If he isn't assertive he might sit alone all night and his wife is the center of attention. That makes her feel good about herself, but makes him miserable.
In our situation it would be different (at least that is what we are letting ourselves believe). We aren't talking about going to swinger parties (at least not for sex -- maybe just to observe). With us it is a couple who have been our best friends for over 20 years. We've vacationed with each other most of the time. All our kids are like brothers and sisters with each other (except a couple who seem to be having a budding romance of their own). We four adults regularly do things together e.g. travel for a concert or a game and share a hotel room (but so far never a bed). We don't walk around nude but we've seen each other naked enough that we don't think too much about it. We are all comfortable changing in front of each other. We share their hot tub and when the kids aren't around we do so sans clothing. Most importantly, we all four know each other very well, and we trust each other completely. We love each other. But we've never been sexual with each other. Or maybe I should say we've never had sex with each other's spouse and there is no infatuation or romance. However there has sometimes been attraction or even arousal at each others mates and sometimes a flirty sexual tension. On more than a few occasions over the years that led to some great sex with our own spouses in the same room at the same time but in different beds and with the lights out.
The sexual tension (which we all seem to enjoy) has grown since they've talked to us about trying switching beds.
So Heather, if you think swinging is only for people who have strong relationships, it seems to all four of us that that is the case. However, someone has suggested about swingers that if they could even consider having sex with someone beside their spouse of be o.k. with it if their spouse had sex with someone else then that is by definition a troubled marriage. We don't know. But thank you for your words.
Well, we aren't rushing into anything. If anyone reading these words has any advice or arguments one way or the other please share it with us here. Thanks.
-- M & M
This is an interesting discussion that I happened to stumble upon. I thought I would throw my two cents in. The way that I see it is that sex is what makes my relationship with my husband different from every other relationship that I have. I love multiple people but yet I don't have sex with them. I have sex with only him. If I started having sex with other people as well then what makes our relationship different. Sure, I love him but is sharing children and bills what makes it different? Where is the fun part? The sex.
Your friends make it sound like some kind of progression of your friendship. That we are such good friends that we should share everything with each other but should you? Will it make you closer friends but less closer as a couple? Where do the boundaries come in?
I totally understand the whole sexual tension which can be fun. I have been married to my husband for 18 years and sex can become routine so finding ways to add some spice will enhance it. But is sharing your spouse with your best friend the answer? There is alot of emotions that go on here. Not sure that I have added too much but perhaps some things to think about.
Thanks for your 2 cents Tammy. We do appreciate your perspective. You challenged us with some excellent questions that caused us to think and talk some more. And that alone is worth much. Our answers in response are still a work in progress, but here is what we've come up with so far.

...sex is what makes my relationship with my husband different from every other relationship that I have. I love multiple people but yet I don't have sex with them. I have sex with only him. If I started having sex with other people as well then what makes our relationship different. Sure, I love him but is sharing children and bills what makes it different? Where is the fun part? The sex.

We totally get what you're saying. We've assumed, thought, said the same things for most of our marriage. Even though we were virgins when we married and have never had intercourse with anyone but each other, we can't say that our sexual activity together is the main element that makes our relationship unique from all our other relationships. If we had to identify one thing that makes our marriage relationship different it would probably have to be our commitment to each other. Our wedding vows (and our assumptions against divorce) have held us together through thick and thin. We both promised some things and we've both kept our promises. Usually. When we break our vows we talk about it, admit it, eat crow in humble pie, apologize, forgive and drive on. Neither of us can actually remember what the exact vows actually were anymore. We have probably changed some over the years what we in real life we continue to promise, but it has been by discussion and agreement that we added, dropped or changed some things. We promised to love each other but we don't recall promising not to ever have sex with anyone but each other -- even if we did assume it. For us right now, sexual exclusivity is an area where we are discussing our assumptions with the possibility of renegotiating our
promises and expectations.
Furthermore, even though we love sex and find it to be our favorite form of fun and entertainment, sex isn't the thing that makes our marriage relationship stand apart from our other relationships because there have been several stretches when we didn't have sex (one of them for several years) never-the-less, we were still married and we still loved each other (usually). We may have hated each other but we still loved each other. Because of various factors such as "the baby years", work, stress, fatigue, immaturity, protracted sickness, mid-life crisis most recently, or unchecked anger and other emotions, etc... because of these we periodically have had a sexless marriage. Sometimes there was no end to sexlessness in sight. We would both be deeply hurt if the other of us had an affair. We'd be hurt by far less than that because it would be a violation of our trust and confidence. But if we gave each other permission to do more with someone else (perhaps even have sex with them) we can't imagine that we would or could ever love each other less. If we started freely sharing each other with others we cant imagine our relationship would be different (at least in a negative way.

Your friends make it sound like some kind of progression of your friendship. That we are such good friends that we should share everything with each other...
That sounds worse when you say it. But basically you're right about this point.

...but should you?
Great question! Actually that's been our question on this sight all along. In our thinking "should" is usually sort of a moral term. Our sense of morals and values aren't offended...but we don't necessarily always fully trust our own senses. If it is just fun we're looking for then by all means we "should". Your question leads our discussion from "should we" to "is it wise?" Is there a trade off where for any fun you get up front there is a price to pay later in marriage difficulty? Is there some cost analysis we could do to determine if this is worth it. Would swinging with our friends for sure hurt us or our marriage our our friendship? We think no it wouldn't... but there are many voices and antidotal claims that disagree.

Will it make you closer friends but less closer as a couple? Where do the boundaries come in?

We think it would make us closer friends without hurting us individually or damaging our marriage. But we may be just fooling ourselves and talking us into trying something we are becoming more interested in trying. As for the boundaries -- the boundary would be a circle that encompasses the four of us.

I totally understand the whole sexual tension which can be fun. I have been married to my husband for 18 years and sex can become routine so finding ways to add some spice will enhance it.

Both we and our friends are going on 26 years of marriage. We've all 4 done lots of things to spice up our sex lives.

But is sharing your spouse with your best friend the answer? There is alot of emotions that go on here.
That is what we are trying to figure out. A lot of the emotions feel very exciting and good.
Thanks again,
M&M
Thought I would check back in on the discussion. Thanks, Michael for your responses. I mulled this over a bit more and some things came to mind. Hope you don’t mind a few more thoughts on the subject.
As to your first point about how that sex wasn’t the aspect that makes your marriage relationship unique, I would still say that it does. Even though there were times in your marriage when you went without sex, you still chose not to have sex with others. There was still the potential of sex within your relationship.
I wanted to throw out some other thoughts as well. Say that you do go forward with this then you must take into consideration all the factors. There is an assumption that equally for each of you that the sex would be wonderful and live up to every fantasy that you have had. But playing devil’s advocate here, your wife and friend have sex and it is absolutely amazing. You and friend’s wife have sex and it’s ho-hum. Do you stop?
Now your wife has a gleam in her eye and a skip in her step. She can’t wait to get together with your friends again. So do you go through with it because you are just so happy for her but it’s not all that great for you? Can you say you wouldn’t have some feelings of jealousy or resentment?
What if you tell the friends that you aren’t sure about this now and want to stop. Are there hard feelings because of some perceived rejection?
Or say your out of town on a weekend with the friends and your just not in the mood, do you say you 3 go ahead I’m going to bed? Do you float off to sleep knowing they are having a great time without you?
When I brought up about boundaries, I was thinking about boundaries as a couple. Does it become all right for your friend and wife to cuddle on the couch because you can cuddle with his wife? After all, you are having sex with each other.
When I spoke of the emotions, I understand that right now there is an excitement and thrill to this. A feeling of infatuation, which is wonderful. After all, you have been married for 26 years and there is this possibility of sex with someone else without all the guilt because you have given each other permission. But try to think beyond that to some what-ifs. Feelings of jealousy or perhaps feeling devalued in the relationship.
Also to I wanted to address something else. There seemed to be a point in an earlier post about the strength of marriage. I hope you don’t feel pressured to try to prove the strength of your marriage by having sex with others.
Hope I given a bit more food for thought.
Thanks again Tammy,
We don't mind at all! We are thrilled that you and others are giving us more things to think and talk about. BTW, for you or any others to whom we engage in conversation...please don't think that if we argue with you that we necessarily disagree with you. We may entirely agree with you but we are trying to get ahead of the curve in the argument. If we carry your argument forward to someone else (most likely our friends -- or maybe even our own indecisive minds), and then they comeback with a counter point, we want to know where any holes in our thought might be, what their counter is likely to be, and how we in turn might defend the thought, and so on. We are trying to be honest with each other how we feel (and honest with any who are joining along with us in this decision process). To that end let's look at the next step in the discussion.
You said: Even though there were times in your marriage when you went without sex, you still chose not to have sex with others. There was still the potential of sex within your relationship.
You are correct in your premise and argument, but your conclusion takes a disconnected skip in logic. For example: During those sexless patches in our marriage, at that same time we didn't go fishing together either, nor did we go fishing with our friends or anyone else. And there was still the potential of fishing within our relationship. Same is true for bowling, hunting etc... While to us sex is not in the same universe as these activities, if you hold that sex can be recreational, then you could argue sex (like other recreational activities) need not be central to what makes a marriage relationship unique.

...take into consideration all the factors. There is an assumption that equally for each of you that the sex would be wonderful and live up to every fantasy that you have had.

It isn't really our assumption that sex would be equally wonderful for both of us if we were with out friends. We are sure it would be exciting and fun for us, but when we go to a movie or eat out at a new restaurant or something, we don't both usually enjoy the movie, food, atmosphere 100% equally, but we usually do both land in the same camp as far as I enjoyed it or not. Even if neither of us like the food or movie, we still enjoy "not liking" it together. And it will generate conversation between us no matter if it was good or not. And the conversation we do like. We both are sorta heady and intellectual. (hard to tell eh?). And for SURE we don't expect "sleeping" with our friends will fulfill every fantasy we've ever had. For one our fantasy list is long. Seems like every time we try something on it the list just gets longer not shorter. No we aren't putting all our eggs in one basket with this. We have talked about what our expectations would be, what the boundaries might be, what to do if one of us gets uncomfortable with it all etc... Also, and this might seem a bit strange, our fantasy in this is not in our own sex with a new person. Sure that would be exciting too, but the real thrill for both of us (yes Fernando in this we both do actually see this the same way), our thrill would be in watching our spouse have sex with someone else. I know that seems sort of weird, but so is this whole conversation. Once you cross a line of assumptions in your mind, it's interesting what new possibilities open up. We expect our best fun and greatest excitement would be if our partner had their world totally rocked. The more fun it is for each of us personally, the more it excites us maritally. Conversely, if one of us isn't having fun personally with their interaction, the one who IS having a good time should attempt to have an EVEN better time, so that the one who isn't having a good time will get the pleasure of the other getting pleasure. That is how we deal with each other already. And we've agreed that that would be even more so if we do this. If one of us has a headache or (rarely these days) isn't in the mood, we will do our best to give the other person a good time (not the minimal amount to get by like we did in the old days). If I have a headache, I may not get as much enjoyment out of the sex itself, but I get enjoyment from her getting enjoyment from me. It has been a real win-win formula for us. We believe it would transfer into this particular swap situation.

... wife and friend have sex and it is absolutely amazing. You and friend’s wife have sex and it’s ho-hum. Do you stop?

Something would have to go seriously wrong for us to stop at that moment. Lack-luster sex on one side and barn-burner sex on the other is not something seriously wrong. Woody Allen said something like, "Sex is like Pizza. Even when it's bad, its still pretty good." Plus I think we addressed it above pretty well. If the my honey and my buddy were shaken the place and I suddenly couldn't perform, I'd use my mouth and hands etc.. to the best of my ability and try and bring my buddy to satisfaction. Then I picture we'd cuddle together and watch our spouses continue to go at it. Maybe it would heat us up to try it again. If it were really difficult overall for either of us, we have agreed we'd both stop, even it the other had a good time. And that goes the same for our friends. If they didn't both agree also, then that would be the end of it.

Now your wife has a gleam in her eye and a skip in her step. She can’t wait to get together with your friends again. So do you go through with it because you are just so happy for her but it’s not all that great for you? Can you say you wouldn’t have some feelings of jealousy or resentment?

You may be surprised, but we both have a gleam in our eyes and a skip in our step already. We both feel happy to be married to each other. Our sex life is WAY better than ever, even better than when we were young, and that was pretty good. We'd have to discuss it more at that time, but if it were great for her and just ok for me, I think we'd still go on with it. And vice-versa. But we don't know for sure. We'd have to talk it out As far as jealousy or resentment go, that would have been a big problem for us as recently as 8 years ago. It could have been a problem for reasons far more trivial that this topic too. We both had a few different issues. Those issues were hurting both of us. We did a round of marriage counseling and learned some things that have proved most helpful for keeping those weeds and roots out of our garden. I don't think that would be a problem, not sure of course. If it did become an issue, I am confident that we know how to work together to deal with it in a good way.

What if you tell the friends that you aren’t sure about this now and want to stop. Are there hard feelings because of some perceived rejection?

Our friends are persistent to a point, but in the end they're mostly Laissez-faire. They invited us to join them. They've talked to us at length about it. As long as we continue to discuss swapping partners with them, they will continue to pursue us. Since they found that we are considering taking them up and not just curious they've increased the intensity of our talks. But if we say no, they'll back off. If we say we really aren't interested then they would most likely stop trying. If we tried it with them once or for a period of time and then wanted to stop I'm sure they'd be fine. It's flattering to think they might be disappointed, but are both great friends and self-contained. They don't need us to feel good about themselves. But they do seem to think we'd all have a ball. "Resentment"? Not a chance.

...weekend with the friends and your just not in the mood, do you say you 3 go ahead I’m going to bed? Do you float off to sleep knowing they are having a great time without you?

Concerning "not in the mood" I don't know for sure. The times when we weren't in the mood, were almost always a warning signal that something was wrong. Never-the-less, hypothetically, if we had been sharing each other for a while and everything was working out, then I guess, if she wanted to have sex and I really wasn't in the mood then maybe I'd be thankful they took care of her. I really don't know how I'd feel. I doubt I'd float off to sleep. I'm more like the rock that plummets off to sleep. We have had several times when one of us didn't feel like doing what the rest of us planned to do. Tired, sick, headache, sunburn, stomach flu, kids, work, plumbing, etc... We've each had turns at being the one to stay behind and it wasn't a problem at all. Sometimes I (and I assume the rest of them too), would have rather been having fun with our group than whatever it was that kept me back, but it wasn't a problem. Granted the other three were just hanging out having fun, not having sex. The more I consider this question the more I think I wouldn't like it if my wife and friends were having sex and I couldn't be with them. Not because of jealousy or mistrust, but for some other reason: a feeling that I can't identify at this time. Great question - thank you. We certainly need to discuss this more as a couple and with our friends.

boundaries as a couple. Does it become all right for your friend and wife to cuddle on the couch because you can cuddle with his wife? After all, you are having sex with each other.

Wow! Another interesting question. You're exactly correct! If we are having sex with our friends, then Cuddling with them isn't a problem... it's foreplay or after-glow or flirting. Same goes for kissing, making out, petting etc... But the boundaries point is still very valid. Some things we do know at this time would cross our boundaries are secrecy, deception, misleading, or dishonesty. These are the sort of things that would be hurtful to us. But boundaries would still be an area we would need to better define.

...right now there is an excitement and thrill to this. A feeling of infatuation, which is wonderful. After all, you have been married for 26 years and there is this possibility of sex with someone else without all the guilt because you have given each other permission. But try to think beyond that to some what-ifs. Feelings of jealousy or perhaps feeling devalued in the relationship.

Excitement and thrill: clearly yes. When we simply talk about swinging with our friends, our hearts beat faster, and our sex with each other becomes MORE intense and passionate. I can feel it even in the soles of my feet. It feels like bungee jumping. We both like the feeling and so we talk about it a lot. Even that we CAN talk about it is a thrill. Ten years ago we wouldn't have dared to openly share our fantasy life with each other. Now doing so is a source of mutual pleasure. The pleasure has been multiplied as we find ways to fulfill each others fantasies. But this, for as hot as it is to us, is a different category. Even if w decide to do it, when it comes down to the wire, we might chicken out and keep it as a fantasy.
Infatuation: no. They are our friends. We love them and care for them, and are sexually aroused by them, but not infatuated. If anything we are maybe obsessing about the idea of it, not who we'd do it with.
Both they and we have been married 26 years, and the four of us were best friends together for even longer. Guilt isn't an issue for them in their swinging, nor would it be for us. Any guilt we have is over some of the ways we used to treat each other. Even that is more of a memory of guilt than actual guilt. If we were to experience guilt over swinging with each other it would have to be because something went very wrong and we hurt each other.

... the strength of marriage. I hope you don’t feel pressured to try to prove the strength of your marriage by having sex with others.

Our marriage has weathered many storms. That has given us toughness. We've done a few rounds of counseling and therapy. That has given us imporoved insight and skill. Our commitment, communication, love, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness have given us strength. Having sex with others wouldn't strengthen our marriage or prove our strength. We wouldn't do it out of pressure from others. The only way we'd do this is if we both agreed to it because we were certain it would give fun and pleasure, and that we were certain it wouldn't pose a risk to our marriage or hurt each other (or our friends) in any way. At this point we are pretty sure it would be way fun. But we are not yet positive that it can't hurt us.
Thank you so much for your food for thought.
--Michael
For my wife and myself, sex involving other people is still about her and I having sex together. It's a sexual experience we share as a couple. We never meet or play without each other.

It has been a very intimate experience between us, largely because we have gotten to see and particiapte in each other's sexual expression. The focus is still us as a couple.

We only play in ways that are comfortable and nonthreatening for us both. IT's really deepened our relationship and brought us closer.
l tried swinging its not fun on tv it looks like swingers are cool in real life they are usually nasty fat perverts like on a nude beach in real life they dont look hot like on tv also you can get stds or worse aids i dont believe in polygamy thats just weird trust me the fantasy on these trips is ALWAYS better left a fantasy
Wow, all I have to say is that this the best advice you could ever give to someone. I will certainly share this with my friend who had considered swinging and no, not with me. If you are not a therapist Tammy, you should be!
I see that you (and I am not clear is that one or two people) write in the "we".
Before going any further try writing your stuff in the "I" and send the notes to your own partner. Your partner can then write back to you in the "I" from their perspective. Is your partner being kind indulging your views on this? How can you trust the answers?
My mother who grew up in a commune in the 1950s was always ammused when one partner was totally taken a back when say, the woman had a man on the side, and then when her partner took a woman on the side, then things seemed different. Huge arguments arose, sometime relationships recovered..... The funny thing was that others seemed not to learn from the experience. Her father who set up the commune, was the first to leave with his 3rd wife and family.
Good luck
TM
Dear Michael,

My husband and I are not going to have kids in our lives. I think this is a big reason why our open sex life works. We also talk alot. At parties we admire other people, we like watching the beauty in sex.

In your case perhaps you might want to go to a party and just watch others at the party. Then go home and talk about it.

I would hate to look back at my life and regret that we never took the chance to at least try something different. I have been to a couple swinger parties is was an experience but truthfully i found most of the people to be ugly and not compatable with us. For us kink parties work because people tend to wear more clothes, corsets, thigh-high, stockings, high heels.

I also have the feeling from the responses that some of those who have responded are assuming you are having sex problems in your marriage. I am assuming your marriage is fine, you have talked about this idea and now are getting the nerve to really try it.

I do agree that if a couple has problems swinging is the fast track to ending the marriage.

Heather
Hi Fernando,
Thank you for your comments. We do plan to respond to you soon.
M&M

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