“Is my marriage safe if I swing? I don’t know...is it?” Maybe the question should be, “Is my marriage safe if I don’t?”
What is safe anyway? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of safe is:
I think it’s “safe” to say that most of us who feel secure in our marriages would agree that these descriptions of safe are an accurate reflection of how we would describe our unions. So how can those new to the swinging lifestyle or those curious about expanding the boundaries of their marriage ensure they are heading down the right path?
First, you need to set up some basic building blocks to establish a strong foundation in your marriage. These building blocks are important whether you decide to swing or not. When we think of a marriage built on a strong foundation, what are some of the things that come to mind?
1. Communication: The ability to communicate with our partner about everything, and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It’s one thing to be able to talk about bills, kids, in-laws and whether you should install hardwood flooring as opposed to carpeting—now, don’t get me wrong, the ability to have conversations on these topics is important—but it’s quite another to be able to discuss our sexuality with each other. Our fears and egos will sometimes get in the way of our fantasies and desires.
Communication is our ability to explore through words the passions within us. For women, being able to let go of our embarrassment and really be honest about what it is we desire in the bedroom can be both a little unnerving and empowering all wrapped up together. I remember, for instance, how difficult it was for me to initially talk dirty with John because I was taught it was “unladylike.” I didn’t realize that not being able to talk about the most basic desires was keeping me from becoming my authentic self.
2. Trust: Trust is believing what your partner tells you—not just believing them when they say they’re going to the store, but also believing them when they say “I love you.” Trust also has so much to do with the level at which you trust and believe in yourself. If I trust who I am and trust the love that flows between my partner and myself, the more likely I am to trust everyone involved in the partnership. I think more often than not, fear lives right below the surface of trust, which is why trust can be so fragile.
John can tell me all day long he loves me, but if I feel out of sorts for whatever reason, I might not trust that he really does. This can keep me from wanting to move forward because my fear is blocking the path. Finally, trust is also about being transparent with our partner because we know he or she won’t use those moments of vulnerability against us in the heat of battle.
3. Sex Life: I tell any couple who’s interested in dabbling in the swinging lifestyle or open relationship that the lifestyle goal is to enhance their own relationship. This means the sexual relationship with your partner must be strong. You can’t be at odds with each other and expect swinging to fix the problems, because swinging requires a deep level of security with your partner. In the beginning of our relationship, John and I spent months cultivating and nurturing our sex life. We experimented with different toys and positions and fantasies. We embraced each other’s deepest sexual desires and we became safe houses when sharing these sacred nuggets of sexual truths.
4. Love: I can hear it now, “Duh Jackie, of course you should love your partner!” However, there are many different ways to love someone. We can say we love our spouse or partner, yet a great portion of that love can be entangled in control, which can materialize as a result of fear. Loving someone comes with a degree of letting go.
This letting go of our attachment to our partner helps clear the way for a more connected base in which to grow a compersion- centered relationship. I know in my relationship with John, the times I get caught up in my “attachment” are the times I move farther away from a loving feeling and closer to a fear based emotion...which is exactly the opposite of what I want. I feel the most connected and loving in my relationship when I can simply focus on the joy of being in love with my partner, right here, right now!
5. Honesty or Truthfulness: I’m not just talking about working up the courage to say what you don’t want but also being brave enough to say what you DO like or want! Being honest with someone doesn’t just mean not lying about something, it’s also about being vulnerable with the person who should be your most trusted confidant—your partner. If John asks me if I like something, it’s my responsibility to be honest with him about whether or not I like something, and it shows my partner how much I value myself in the partnership.
I remember saying more than once to my children, “I would prefer you be truthful with me than I remember saying more than once to my children, “I would prefer you be truthful with me than lie. I may not like the truth but at least we will know what we’re working with.” This is exactly the same thing that happens in any relationship. You can’t solve an issue if you don’t admit the issue exists. Besides, whatever it is you’re not honest about won’t go away. The issue may stay hidden for a period of time, but it’s been my experience that hiding something means you have to remember where you hid it. In the great words of Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
So you’ve read through the list and decided the relationship is powerful enough to explore some alternatives. You and your partner have exhibited all of the required core strengths and you’re ready to climb the mountain together and experience your union from a different vantage point. You’ve made a pact to give the swinging lifestyle a chance; to cross over the line in the sand and live life in the moment; to let yourself go a little crazy and wild and free! You may come away loving it or deciding you prefer the union just like it is, but whatever you decide will be a decision based on knowledge. You’ll recognize that safety exists when you take the time to educate yourself.