I met a group of swingers on their own turf in their own village and spent a week with them. Following are a series of articles that outline what I believe to be the “5 top myths about swingers” that my clinical training taught me, and I believe is representative of how a lot of people think about this emerging sub-culture who seems to be leading the next sexual revolution.
In this second myth-buster installment, we explore the notion that swinging is a high-risk behavior, that exposes a marriage to dangerous and uncontrollable external forces.
Myth No.2: Swinging is a high-risk behavior exposing a marriage to dangerous and uncontrollable external forces
We are living amidst a cultural shift not seen before: For most of recorded history, relationships were dictated by communal norms that determined rules, roles and recipes for everything from child-rearing to decision-making on where to live and how to budget. Today, those prescriptive structures have dwarfed in influence and the rules are literally being made up as we go. The problem, and perhaps actual risk, to relationships is what we require from them and how ill-prepared we are to manage those demands.
To love is to risk. In today’s modern world, there is more risk to relationships than ever and a dangerous alchemy exists on a scale never seen before. But the real risk is subtle and insidious. It’s important to understand what the real threats to love and relationship are, and distinguish them from the mythology around them.
The answers we received from the swinging cruise participants was counter-intuitive to quote one, “Our relationship was at serious risk before we got into the lifestyle (we both went to the attorneys) -- most of our friends were getting divorced, those who stayed were having affairs, we were both bored, burned out and overweight. Today we manage those things to the point we’re both happier than we’ve ever been and feel more confident and secure in each other compared to when we first got married.”
We demand from love and relationships far more than we invest in them to be successful
Consider the impossible situation we put relationships in today: What we expect from relationships is at an all-time high. What we expect from ourselves and our emotional competence at knowing what you actually have to do to love someone is at an all-time low. The range of choices and access to alternative and covert erotic outlets given the advent of social media and digital temptation from interactive virtual porn to FB hook-ups with unrequited infatuations is now unlimited 24/7. All embedded within a model of relationships that tells us: “one person for everything” to meet all of one’s needs for a lifetime. Really?
Perhaps the risk is much more in the cultural alchemy of unrealistic expectations and ill-prepared partners too distracted and socially inept at love than what swingers do proactively in the light of day through collaborative non-monogamy to manage them.
The erotic lifestyle is a calculated risk. Let’s not be naïve about it. Opening the boundaries of conventional monogamy, we all were culturally conditioned into is tantalizing and frightening if you’re honest about it. According to couples actually in the lifestyle, they control “danger” by aligning how they choose to manage risk. For the couples we spoke with, the decision to enter the lifestyle was taken seriously, given considerable thought and deliberation over time, and was definitely a process that in some cases lasted years of gradual exposure through systematic desensitization as they evolved together in stretching the boundaries of their comfort zones. Most have explicit agreements clearer and more specific than any I’ve seen in a marital therapy context. The payoff? According to them, a new level of heightened transparency, vulnerability and candor in their communication fundamentally different than prior to their lifestyle experience.
This makes sense, doesn’t it? The true threat to monogamy is the absence of authenticity in exchange for secrecy and deception about what you actually desire. Definitely not the case for swingers where many hours of deep and meaningful conversations happen repeatedly over time forging a level of “intimacy” via raw vulnerability few couples might ever achieve over a lifetime of living together in a traditional marriage structure where such dialogues simply do not happen very often or sometimes, not at all.
Read the Myths About Swingers Series
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