-By Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, Sexologist [sexwithdrjess.com]
One of the highlights of my job involves hosting Playboy TV’s reality series, Swing. Each episode follows the story of a newbie couple that is considering the possibility of swinging for the very first time. I introduce them to a group of experienced swingers and walk them through their very first “lifestyle” experience. Although I leave before the real fun goes down, I return the morning after to check in and support them through a debriefing.
Though I’ve been working with swingers for ten years, each show presents a learning experience. Some couples dive in headfirst and immediately establish themselves as lifelong swingers while others retreat and conclude that they’d rather remain monogamous. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from real-life swinger couples:
1. Swinging isn’t for everyone.
Just like monogamy, swinging isn’t a universally successful experience – nor is it a panacea for a failing relationship. Some people are simply more inclined toward open relationships and others thrive on a lifetime of serial monogamy. Some couples find that swinging improves their relationship, but others find it exacerbates existing problems.
Just as you should consider the potential positive and negative outcomes of marriage, so too should you weigh the pros and cons of swinging. You may even want to make individual lists and discuss them together.
2. Pressure is the antithesis to pleasure.
I often receive inquiries with regard to how one can convince their partner to swing. The short answer: you can’t.
If you have to talk your partner into swinging for the first time, you’re likely destined for disaster. In an ideal world, swinging brings you closer together, but this outcome is near impossible in the absence of mutual desire. Being a bit nervous is normal, but if your partner seems reticent, make your relationship a priority and put swinging on hold until you’re both feeling fully prepared.
3. Rules are absolutely necessary
You’ll often hear experienced swingers proclaim that the only rules that matter are your rules and they couldn’t be more correct. You are the experts in your relationship, so although you can learn from relationship experts and more experienced couples, your unique insight and understanding of subjective experiences makes you the ultimate authority.
Establishing rules in advance is of paramount importance. Ask and answer as many questions as possible to prepare for a variety of outcomes:
- Are there sexual activities that are off-limits?
- What sexual activities are you comfortable engaging in?
- How will you communicate that you’re (un)comfortable with a particular couple?
- Do you have a safe word/signal that you can use in case you need to take a break?
- What would you like your partner to do if you use your safe word/signal?
- Are you interested in singles, other couples or groups?
- Would you rather “play” in private or in public?
- Are you willing to play with the same couple more than once?
- Are you looking to develop lasting friendships with other couples or simply seeking casual sex?
- What will you do if your partner is interested in someone else, but you’re not interested in that person’s partner?
- How will you check in with one another during the experience?
- How will you meet other couples — online or in-person? And is it acceptable to contact others online alone or only with your partner present?
- How will you debrief after your experience?
Revisit your rules periodically, as your feelings, desires and boundaries might change over time.
4. Vulnerabilities are your greatest strengths
As with all sexual and relational experiences, swinging will elicit both positive and negative emotional reactions. Be prepared to talk about them: the good, the bad and the ugly. I find that some couples are so enthralled with the concept of swinging that they sometimes forget that problems can arise.
Jealousy, insecurity and fear are normal emotions, so it’s important to acknowledge them. They’re not a sign of a failing relationship and when you talk about undesirable emotions openly and offer your partner feedback and reassurance, they can become sources of strength in your relationship.
5. Voyeurism has its perks
If you’re new to swinging, I suggest that you spend some time hanging out at lifestyle clubs or parties with the agreement that you’ll only observe and engage in friendly conversations. Making a pact not to engage in any sexual activities for the few visits can help to alleviate pressure and allow you to familiarize yourself with the scene. Many clubs offer tours for newbie couples and the host couples will likely be willing to answer any questions you may have about the lifestyle.
So there you have it – five guidelines for exploring a healthy open relationship. Use this advice to keep the conversation going with your partner. If you’ve got some helpful advice for newbies that you’d like to share, feel free to contribute in the comment section below. And if you have additional questions, consider this a judgment-free zone where you can ask any questions that you might have regarding the exciting lifestyle of consensual non-monogamy.