This post was originally published at lifestylecouch.wordpress.com on July 14, 2018 and is revised and edited in this new post for openogamy.com. The owner/author is the same for openogamy.com and lifestylecouch.
Curious about swinging? Interested in having sex with people outside your marriage/relationship? While you are not alone, it is estimated that only 4% of committed couples engage in “swinging.” Not all of those participating in the swinger lifestyle participate for the same reasons. In fact, the reasons couples swing are so varied that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Divorce rates in the U.S. are nearly 50% with many of those due to extramarital affairs. As I’ve previously blogged, monogamy is a myth, exemplified by the 40% of married women and 50% of men reported having sex outside of their marriage. But what about why committed couples become swingers?
Strengthen The Current Relationship
There is not a tremendous amount of scientific literature on this subject, but there is more research being conducted on this topic as it has entered the public consciousness. Marisa Cohen’s exploratory study on non-traditional relationships showed that couples mutually agreed to engage in the swing lifestyle. Her findings indicate that mutual agreement to participate means that they are in the lifestyle together, as a couple. Cohen found that the couples who agreed to join the lifestyle together were less concerned about their partner “cheating.” Fascinating, right?! By mutually engaging in sexual relations with other couples or singles, couples have fewer concerns about “cheating.” But cheating can still occur if your partner(s) is not aware of the sexual exploits. Become comfortable with the notion of ethical, consensual non-monogamy to strengthen the relationship.
Sexual Identity Factors
Cohen’s study found that over 46% of study participants identified as heterosexual. However, it was also found that 38% identified as bisexual and 2% as homosexual. This is an extremely important finding. Society has not been historically safe to explore one’s sexual identity. Those who are married and monogamous have limited opportunities to explore their sexual identity. However, those couples participating in consensual non-monogamy have a different pathway to explore their sexuality with same-sex or non-gendered or non-binary individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. It is important to note that people who identify as heterosexual but find that they are attracted to the same sex does not mean that a person is bisexual, although this can still be true. There is a growing amount of science that shows sexuality is fluid in that situational sexual expression with a person of the same sex is not equal to being bisexual. Terms used for sexual fluidity have included: bi-friendly and bi-curious. As couples explore their sexual identity, it is essential that they explore comfort levels, biases, and how they will respond if or when a sexual scenario is more fluid.
As indicated above, nearly half of married men and women reportedly engaged in some sort of extramarital sexual activity. Fantasies of both men and women often include threesomes and orgies, according to the findings of one sex researcher. Why is this? There is a great deal of literature that would indicate that this aspect is all about sexual variety. I highly recommend reading Justin Lehmiller’s Tell Me What You Want to learn all about our sexual desires and fantasies. As non-monogamous, sexual beings, we crave, desire, and maybe even need to be sexual with more than one person during our lifetime. Consider whether you have you been sexually intimate with more than one person during your life? You may be married and monogamous right now, but have you always been with that one person? If not, then you are not monogamous. You’ve simply made a decision to be with one person, to live monogamously. In fact, if you tend to move from one monogamous relationship to another, you are considered a serial monogamist, but this is still non-monogamy.
Sexual variety includes more than just having intercourse with another person. Variety may include exploration as well. We know of those who act out fantasies through role-play in a multitude of ways. This is probably not news as it’s been in mainstream conversation, such as television sitcoms, for quite some time. One of the funniest episodes of Modern Family, we think, is when Phil acts like a different person and attempts (poorly) to pick up his wife, Claire, in the bar. While comedic, this example is all about variety. We crave the heightened excitement of being sexual with someone else.
The need to explore the constellation of sexual partners, desires, and fantasies is very individualized. In fact, not all couples share their fantasies with their primary sexual partner. We have heard the fantasies of one sexual partner and learned that the other partner was not even aware of those fantasies. It is important to learn about your partner’s/partners’ fantasies and desires and to share yours with them in order to really know how exploring consensual non-monogamy can be the most fulfilling experience for all involved. While there are those who seek variety outside of their partner’s awareness, we recommend avoiding these situations, if possible. Such scenarios are bound to have negative consequences regardless of how exciting it might be. We will explore cheating within the lifestyle in another blog.
Conclusion: Couples engage in consensual non-monogamy (e.g., swinging, polyamory) to strengthen their relationship, to explore their sexuality, and to enjoy variety. Couples strengthening their relationship tend to be very “couples” focused. They typically require inclusion versus exclusion of their primary partner and those with which they are having sexual encounters. They typically want to enjoy swinging as a couple, but this is not in every case. Communication among all involved is an absolute necessity. If you are not a strong communicator, there are ways to strengthen that skill, which we will publish in future posts. No matter the fantasies, desires, and needs of the couples or individuals involved with consensual non-monogamy, communication with all involved is always the safest bet to limiting frustration, anger, jealousy, and tears when exploring the lifestyle. But, if we are being honest, isn’t communication and respect sort of central to maintaining a healthy relationship whether its in the lifestyle or not?