Couples who have broken up discuss the details of their relationship’s demise in hushed tones, like clinicians at a post mortem of a bloody, dismembered corpse. “It was the lifestyle,” they whisper, referring to the unconventional and somewhat taboo practice of ethical non-monogamy, aka swinging.
The lifestyle has come a long way from a pile of keys in a fishbowl at some retro party. It’s alive and well and much more prevalent than you think. People try it for a lot of reasons; it really works for some and others completely fall apart. They blame that last orgy, threesome, or party for ruining their marital bliss. If only they had not been so curious, they might still be together.
The thing is, it’s just not true.
Be careful not to blame a failed cure for damage caused by a pre-existing condition. That’s like blaming CPR instead of a heart attack. We still train people to perform life saving measures, but cling to the perception that an open relationship is a fatal wound. To those who say the lifestyle is to blame, consider why you were there in the first place. Was there something missing? Were you trying to fix something that was broken? Maybe you picked the wrong thing to try to save your marriage. In some situations, ethical non-monogamy is the worst possible cure.
Swinging takes well-thought out communication. A lot of sharing and heartfelt listening is needed to make sure everyone has fun and nobody gets hurt feelings. If your communication is strained with just two people in your relationship, adding another (or more) is not the answer. The only thing you should consider adding at that point is a thesaurus to help you express yourself more clearly.
Communication is not the only thing that can cause strife. If the underlying problem is that you are with someone who is inherently selfish, deceptive, inattentive or irresponsible, swinging gives a bigger stage to amplify those character flaws. In the lifestyle, you will have plenty of opportunities to display just how narcissistic, sneaky, and reckless you are and there will be plenty of witnesses. It’s a game of “choose your own adventure” and who you are deep down dictates your choices. You can’t blame the book for how it turns out in the end. It’s the perfect way to exaggerate all of the little things your partner does that bother you, and connects them to something innately personal and emotional: sex.
But the reality is, the lifestyle didn’t wreck your relationship. You used it to try to make things better with someone who was already lacking in character and it didn’t work. People use swinging to prevent the worst and that’s just not realistic.
There is a fairytale that swingers never cheat and an open relationship is your ticket to marital harmony. It’s true that swinging might alleviate boredom-related cheating. Some folks have noticed that monogamy and monotony rhyme. In some instances, boredom might make cheating seem like a rational way to escape the excruciating same-ness of it all. Swinging decriminalizes experimentation. But that’s not the end of the story. The thing is, a power and control, forbidden fruit-focused cheater will still cheat because it’s not about being dissatisfied, it’s about having a secret and the risk of discovery.
Swinging will not rehabilitate your cheating partner who is not bored or who just wants to try new things. It will be more of the same, but you might get to sleep with other people too.
In the end, you can’t find the answer to your failed marriage in a fishbowl full of keys. You just have to look at the person across the breakfast table, or at yourself in the mirror. After all, it’s not the cure that kills you, it’s the disease.
(This author has chosen to post anonymously)