Ever get the feeling that some people are part of the... uh... "Lifestyle"? Whether this lifestyle is dropping their keys at a party, or going over to a "friend's house?"
These people have been there before. They've put white rocks in their garden, they've put a pineapple in their grocery cart. While other people are worried about diseases spreading, these people have embraced their lifestyle and never let it bother them.
Here are their stories.
Set Some Ground Rules
“Basically about a year ago our relationship had been kinda shaky, she didn’t want to be tied down by one man, doubts about the relationship (this was the longest relationship she’s been in, just over 4 years).
So being the problem solver that I am, I decided that opening up the relationship would be a swell idea. I mean, who the heck wouldn’t? You get to hook up with other women, she gets to see if this is what she wants. If it is what she wants, everything is great. If it is not, that’s fine, I don’t need anyone else for my relationship to be fulfilling, and we’ll just chalk it up to experience.
OK cool, set some ground rules: One date a week, no hookups without the other partner knowing whats going on, we talk it over, and we have priority for each other (if there is a conflict in timing, the SO gets priority).
Simple enough, talked it over for about a day. Made some OKcupid accounts, and got to it. Since it had been about 4 years since I’ve ever tried to date someone, and being a guy on OKcupid is like trying to find fish in the Sahara desert. She ends up going on a date every week and hooking up with them every week. This went on for about 2 months. In that time I went two dates with people I didn’t really click with (I just went for the sake of it at that point).
The combination of the two punched my self esteem to dust. The impossibility of me being able to get a date, the thought of me being so replaceable (she was having doubts, had mentioned probably breaking it off during our test run of the open relationship). Yes, I was jealous, we tried to talk it over, it did not help that much.
We ended up stopping with the whole open relationship, she figured out she didn’t want to be with anyone else. I had thoughts of proposing to her before this whole thing, now not so much.
Things still aren’t quite the same. Mostly cause I can’t not think about it, late nights usually end with me mulling it over and making myself feel like garbage. I know should be over it, I don’t know what keeps me back. I hate what happened and is probably the only thing I wish I could undo.”
He Opened Pandora’s Box
“My wife and I started swinging and drinking at my suggestion, as a way to ‘escape’ from the pain of a major loss in life. I wasn’t totally innocent but she was when we got married. She had always loved doing it and could have it five times a day. She absolutely loved swinging and being a ‘hot wife.’ She went crazy for it. We’d be out all weekend. She flirted a lot during the week as well and said yes to every guy that asked; guys at work (remote warehouse), the grocery clerk, mechanic, cable guy that showed up at our house, the AAA guy. She got it on with me and at least one additional guy every day for six years. At work, bar washrooms, various homes. 10 different guys over seven weekends and 23 different guys in 30 days. It was crazy. Then we stopped …. or so I thought. She settled into a steady affair with four other men for six years. I was devastated. I opened up Pandora’s box. Biggest mistake of my life.”
Not A Hint Of Jealousy
I have a girlfriend and a boyfriend. I’ve never really experienced jealously.
I have been cheated on in past relationships where we had agreed to be monogamous. I wasn’t jealous then, either. It was the betrayal of trust that ended that relationship.
When I see my partners with their partners or lovers, it makes me happy. When we’re all hanging out together and one of them hugs or kisses their partner, I feel joy and excitement that they’re happy. They feel they same for me.”
It’s Not For Everyone
“For some people, it is a huge turn-on, myself and my wife included. We were in the scene for about five years, both before and after our marriage. But, and I can’t stress this enough, IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. You can very easily get into the lifestyle for the wrong reasons and end up detonating your relationship–and we have seen it happen (though it’s a strikingly narrow minority of the people we have met). Protection is a must, and communication is essential to ensuring that everyone is comfortable with what is going on.
Typically our rule of thumb was that everyone had to be in the same room (with some rare exceptions for couples we knew well and were very comfortable with), and if anything uncomfortable occurred, it stopped immediately. We also didn’t play with couples who didn’t reciprocate–that is, I don’t care how much you want to hook up with my wife, if your girl isn’t willing to hook up with me then it’s a deal breaker and we all move on.
We still maintain a close friendship with one couple we met through the scene even though we don’t hook up with them any more. We attend each other’s birthday parties, we hang out regularly, and we dote on their kids (who are too cute for words).
We did go to a club one time and didn’t enjoy it as much as we thought we would (though we did hook up with a few folks that night and met a nice couple as a result).
I also want to stress that we never viewed our swinging as being an ‘open relationship.’ Our relationship is very much closed; we will never love other people as much as we love each other, which is one reason why we can make this work. Open relationships are not for us.
Equally irksome are the people–usually men, in my experience–who claim to be polyamorous as a front for trying to hook up with your SO without any repercussions. There is one really sketchy guy who overlaps some of our (non-swinger) social circles and tries to come on to my wife every time we see the dirtbag. He is very open and vocal about being a polyamorist, but what he really wants is to hook up with other people’s wives and girlfriends and talk them into it by acting like he is so much more evolved than their partners because he believes in polyamory and is ‘mature’ enough to deal with it. These people are dirtbags and you should stay away from them if you decide to try swinging.
With that caveat put out there, we are actually currently in a polyamorous relationship with a third person (female). However, we all came to this conclusion on our own without outside pressure or influence, and just because the three of us can make things work does NOT mean that we love everyone else in the same way or expect them to become ‘enlightened’ enough to hook up with us. If you can’t respect other people’s boundaries, you need to stay the heck out of the lifestyle… and pushing your needs onto others in an unwanted manner is a good way to get physically hurt by a jealous spouse or SO.”
It Backfired Badly
“I wasn’t a swinger technically, but I was in an open relationship. It truly does take a very specific personality type and major ground rules. That being said, my experience was awful. My husband (now ex) was unable to cope emotionally with my sleeping with other men and women, all only after having asked and received his permission. However, if I expressed even the simplest question about the women he hooked up with, I was being ‘jealous and possessive.’ At any point in time, if he had said no I would have stopped. Really I think he wanted a free pass to cheat but got mad when I got more tail than he did. It takes an extremely strong person with a great deal of personal insight to make a swinging or open relationship work.”
It Started So Innocent
“My wife and I started dating in our mid-teens, were each other’s first, got married at 18 and were having our second child when we were 21. We’re now 28.
I cannot stress enough how much uppers and drinks (way more so drinks than street uppers) were the beginning and the end of so much of this. Basically, we started having lots of late night skinny dipping parties that were fueled by drinking, and we each had a few hook ups that we later talked about at length. Then she became pretty promiscuous and it was pretty openly word amongst my peers that if you came up and got smashed with her, you’d get some. Honestly, that really didn’t even bother me. Things started to go south with me when I turned away from my friends and isolated, doing increasingly hard stuff along the way until I found myself shooting dope and coke with people that I would have been terrified of as a child. The only really great hookup I’ve had with anyone but my wife in the past five years was literally with crack girls. I got clean and tried to find a nice girlfriend (obviously, with my wife’s approval) and faced rejection after rejection. While I know objectively that these rejections had a lot more to do with the fact that I wanted someone I could casually date, but the girls I was approaching wanted a husband that I couldn’t be to them, it is still pretty painful to think about how many times I’ve heard, ‘You’re a really nice guy, but…’
She got involved with a guy who got sick. She has all but destroyed our relationship with one of the most extreme cases of drinking abuse I’ve ever witnessed. I stopped drinking at the beginning of this year when she lost her job because I FINALLY got the ‘be a man and take care of your family’ notion that I wish I had had all along. I’ve had my slip ups, but all in all, I know that my kids (9 & 7) know that they can trust their dad to be there for them regardless of if mom is in the hospital, in rehab or passed out in the back yard. For her, the drinking escalated with the attachment to a person that she thought would be dead in three months and that she couldn’t help. At some point, she stopped talking to me about him, about any other guy friends, and then just about anything at all.
She’s since alienated herself from anyone and everyone. I’m in bed with her right now and I guess I love her because I can’t bring myself to throw her out on the streets. Like I said, this is probably more of a story about drinking than polyamory, but it’s my story.”
His Selfishness Got In The Way Of Her Good Time
“My ex-fiance and I were swingers and we kept things simple. We established the fact that we don’t necessarily tie lust in with love and agreed that we were okay with the idea of swapping. We had an account on a swingers’ social website and enjoyed the community as a couple. Sometimes we met up with another couple, other times we went to parties with multiple people. Neither of us was ever uncomfortable, and if we had been, all we’d have had to do was say so. We enjoyed seeing each other have fun.
Things started to change when he got selfish. We both openly admitted to being a bit shallow and wanted to see other couples who took great care of themselves physically. We were both in awesome shape so it’s not like we were asking for more than we gave. He started looking into couples’ profiles where the photographs revolved around the woman and there was little or nothing of the man. Or worse, the man was in bad shape. My ex became all about looking for potential partners for himself. There were a couple of times where I bluntly stated that I wasn’t interested in this or that couple because the guy wasn’t at all my type. Yet he still insisted that we give them a chance because he was so turned on by the woman. Around this time, we weren’t getting it on with each other anymore. But that ties in with other things that eventually lead to our break up.
Moral of the story: If you’re going to swing, stay connected with your partner and don’t get selfish.”
Honesty Is Key
“My husband and I have been married for nearly three years. Even when we were dating, we had an open relationship.
It started because we were dating online, living in different states, but still wanted to get laid. Hooking up is awesome, after all! So he continued to hook up with guys online (he goes both ways) and I continued to hook up with my friend with benefits.
Now, years later, I have a boyfriend and he has a couple girlfriends. He and I jointly go out to gay bars and I titter and enjoy a few drinks while he gets to have guys tell him how cute he is and buy him shots. It winds my clock just as much as it does his when we go out together for him to get hit on. Riotous hookups to follow when we get home, because we are both so excited.
For us, the key to keeping things ‘cool’ has been to be totally honest with each other about what is going on with our other partners. Everyone involved in our little group is clean, we always use protection just in case. There is a clear understanding that no matter how much we all enjoy rutting with each other, the romantic mushy lovey-dovey part of our being together as husband and wife is exclusive. His girlfriends know that it is hookups and release. It is fun and enjoyable, but he isn’t going to drop his wife and kid to marry them.
He is my best friend and my number one guy, and I am his best friend and number one gal. We can hang out as friends and talk about how exciting this partner was, or how he is winding some girl up, we honestly don’t get jealous because we each have our options and neither of us are being ‘left out.’
If I have a guy I want to hook up with, I talk to my husband about it to see if he is comfortable with that person. If he thinks I am missing something that could be a problem later on, or some other potential issue. I then talk to said guy, tell him about the rules, and we go from there if he agrees and understands. Usually my husband talks to him at some point as well to let him know that, ‘Yes, you really can hook up with my wife. No I am not going to get mad.’ Likewise with girls, I usually talk to the girl and let her know I am not going to go psycho just because she wants some hot stuff and he isn’t just feeding you a line about his ‘understanding wife.’
It isn’t for everyone, I have friends who are swingers who have really struggled or had their relationships fall apart. Honesty, honesty, honesty. That is what makes such arrangements work. You have to be honest with yourself and with your partner. It will not work if you are doing it ‘for them.’
The rules are hard set, you both stick to them. Do not break the rules, do not bend the rules, they are there to make both of you safe. They are there to keep your partners safe, too.”
They’ve Really Thought It Through
“I’m 28, been with my partner 4 years, we are cohabiting with a dog, a very happy little family, and we opened things up 6 months in. Some main findings:
I like girls and guys. My partner loves women, but he’s a straight guy. So sometimes, I wanna go on a date with a girl, alone. Sometimes I want a girlfriend on the side. Luckily, my partner sees that as a cool thing, and doesn’t feel some sort of injustice about it. I imagine that other guys might not feel so accommodating about the whole thing. Of course, my partner knows that any moment he could come home and be tied up by myself and some random hot girl, so I guess he feels like it evens out somehow.
We DO have rules, though. We have to be completely honest with each other. We only have separate partners when we are out of town and away from each other, and even then, we try to give each other heads-up about our wild plans (esp. for safety reasons). We try to be as communicative about our needs and desires as possible, and we know that if either of us is not cool with something going down, we each have unconditional veto power to put a stop to it. There was only one situation where either of us used it, and it was totally cool.
Adult clubs are the most entertaining to me, though as a somewhat different thinking young person, it can feel a little… cheesy at times. I have different solutions for this depending on my mood. Sometimes there are no cute young couples and we play with each other at the club or just go home and play alone. Other times I get sloshed and apparently have gone around slapping people’s butts while they fool around, giving them pep talks, telling them they are doing a great job. Sometimes you just feel like being silly and it doesn’t feel right. Important for you both to understand your partner’s random whims and have flexible expectations.
It really does make things more interesting and spice them up! We’ve had couples over for play (the key is to allowing each other to call the shots.. if I’m uncomfortable, situation is over; same if he’s not comfortable. We make decisions together!). We’ve been to swingers’ clubs and we’ve both been with people when we are away from each other. It’s all a different and uniquely exciting situation.
Yes, there can be some jealousy and weird feelings at first. But once you try, you realize how fun and freeing it is, and you also realize that there is little basis for jealousy when you have a real strong bond with your SO.”
The Difference Between Love And Lust
“I enjoy having open relationships. I currently have three boyfriends, with varying levels of severity. I have my partner, who I make my living with. I have a boyfriend who’s pretty serious, and I’m the only person he’s regularly getting it on with. I also have another boyfriend who has his own husband, and a couple other boyfriends. Other than that, I have a few regular Â partners, who I don’t love, but like diddling in their pooter.
I love. I love a lot. I also like to bang a lot.
Love does not equal lust. Lust is freaking awesome, but I don’t love any of my boyfriends because they’re great in the sack. I love them because I want to spend time with them, and they make me feel… special. Special isn’t the right word. They make me feel important. I guess it’s pretty hard to describe love.
Banging is an entertaining activity. I don’t have to be around my partners every time they’re being entertained. Frankly, our entertainment needs are always the same, and we don’t always need to same amount of entertainment.
A good analogy is to imagine having a lot of partners is watching a movie. One partner could be romance movies. Now imagine committing to only watching romance movies. You wouldn’t get bored entirely of watching romance movies, but some days, you want an action flick. What wrong with watching an action flick? Then a horror film. Variety is the spice of life.
Now onto how do I handle it. Well, since I don’t connect lust with love, I really don’t have any jealous issues. That’s not entirely true for my partners. To counter this, I am extremely open and honest about where I am, who I’m with.
I also put no priority or hierarchy on my partners. In polyamory, the terms ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ often get used. I don’t use these terms. To use them would imply that one is more important than each other. Each hold a special place in my heart, and each will get as much attention as I can possibly give them.
I also play safe. If I unknowingly get infected, it’s more than just one, more than two, more than three people getting sick. It’s many people. I have a responsibility to my partners not to put them at risk.”
They Benefitted From Experimenting
“I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for 5 years, exclusive for two years, threesomes only for a year after that, now we’re fully open. We always knew that monogamy wasn’t for us, but we wanted to establish who ‘us’ is before letting other people in.
It’s been pretty awesome with way more ups than downs. The biggest down being a brief adjustment period. I myself can have a physical relationship with someone and just be friends. Literally friends with benefits. The woman I see now has been in my life on and off for ten years. We chill, play video games, smoke, eat dinner and hookup a few times a year. My girlfriend likes to drink and dine, court women…date essentially. This was hard for me at first, as I thought we both would be doing more casual things. Now what I realize is that like me, she can date them, sleep with them, even love them and it changes nothing. I do love my friends with benefits, but that has no bearing on my fiancée and my relationship. I am her future wife and she’s mine. We chose each other to go through the ups and downs of life and everyone else is secondary. Meaningful but not life changing. It’s also important that we convey this fact to new women. We let them know they’ll be treated well, they are ‘allowed’ to have fun, enjoy this for as long as it lasts but if they’re looking for a traditional relationship, it won’t happen. This isn’t a foot out of the door experiment. We’re madly in love. A couple of women have had issue when they fall in love and they want to know what’s next (as in house, kids, marriage) when they say the three words, but most appreciate our honestly when we say nothing comes next. Some stick around, some move on but thus far none have felt bad about any of it.”