It’s Friday night, you’re going on your usual date night with your favorite woman in the whole world. She’s wearing that black dress that makes you want to rip it off as soon as you see her, and she hints in your eat that’s maybe not wearing any underwear. You order a bottle of wine, wait for your appetizers and flirt with one another seductively under the table. After the meal is complete, you head to a bar where you meet another attractive couple.
The female half of the relationship is beautiful, like your girlfriend, but she’s different: Where your lady is petite and fit, this woman has long leg and red hair, a trait you normally wouldn’t go for, but hey, sometimes it can be sexy. As you both chat and catch-up, the conversation turns a bit R-rated. Yep, you’re both flirting — and before you know it, you’re giving the signal to your girlfriend that it’s time to go home… and take the other two with you.
When you’re in a swinging relationship, this might be a normal weekend tradition that adds a bit of spice, character and non-monogamous touches to your relationship. While it requires an active participation from both you and your partner, when there is consent going in each direction, you can explore, engage and learn so much more about your sexual preferences and desires by sleeping with other people.
“Swinging, which is sometimes referred to as ‘the lifestyle,’ is a form of ethical non-monogamy where both partners consent to a non monogamous relationship with agreed upon rules to keep the primary relationship healthy, sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT says. “Swingers are typically heterosexual couples and individuals with a variety of forms of ‘swapping’ or exchanging partners.”
If you’re curious about giving swinging a chance — and possibly talking your partner into the idea of it — the experts share everything (and yes, we mean everything!) you need to know about this type of romantic lifestyle arrangement:
1. What Is Swinging?
Just as Geter explained above, swinging is a form of polyamory where your sexual inhibitions extend way past the bedroom and from your committed partner and include bouts of sexual play with other willing partners. Sex expert, psychologist and author, Dr. Jess O’Reily is the host of PlayboyTV’s show, Swing where each episode follows the story of a newbie couple that is considering the possibility of swinging for the very first time.
She introduces them to a group of experienced swingers and walk them through their very first experience. Although she leave before the real fun goes down, she returns the morning after to check in and support them through a debriefing. With her vast experience talking to swinging couples, she says that there is no universal definition of “swinging” because each couple sets their own rules. However, it is different from polyamory.
“The exchange is primarily sexual — not emotional. This doesn’t mean that swingers don’t engage in meaningful friendships which come with some emotional connections and reactions, but simply that the connection isn’t primarily focused on love,” she says.
“Swinging” is often a pretty outdated term, O’Reily says. Because swinging has been in practice for a long time, and thus more widely accepted (at least a bit anyway), the new term is ‘The Lifestyle’ or ‘Lifestylers.’ “The term swinging is considered outdated by some younger couples, for whom it conjures up images of key parties and velour tracksuits” she explains.
2. What Are The Different Types Of Swinging?
Just like with any sexual practice — from anal sex to orgies — there’s always various ways to try out the lifestyle. As Geter explains, before you try swinging, you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself and your partner into. Some basic terminology to remember include:
When you’re first getting started in the Lifestyle, a good first go is participating in a soft swap. Especially for couples who have been together for many years or are potentially married, opening up your bedroom and bodies to other people for the first time can be overwhelming and ignite jealousy you though you didn’t know you’ve harbored long-time.
Geter explains that a soft swap does involve sexual play like oral sex, kissing, touching, fingering or hand-jobs, but does not involve “going all the way.” Do make sure the other couple is onboard with this arrangement so no one is disappointed, confused or uncomfortable during the swap.
You could probably guess what a hard swap means: Everything that’s included in the soft swap is on the table, as well as sexual intercourse. This may be a type of swap that you have to build yourself up to, and that’s okay! Taking it slow in the beginning will help you figure out firsthand if this type of relationship will work for you and your partner. Not every couple is going to be up
To be part of the swinging community, or Lifestyle, can mean many things, depending on your preferences, and of course, your partner’s, too. “Some couples swap with another couples, some couples bring a third female into the sexual play, some couples only swap together or some allow swapping when the other partner is not present, such as out of town or long-distance relationships,” Geter explains. “Rarely will swapping involve two males engaging in sexual play together. Swinging can also involve partner-only play or group sexual activity, like an orgy.”
When you want to learn how to cook, you take a class. When you want to get involved with your local politics, you might join an interest group to rally together. Just like you’re intrigued by other things, within the swinging community, the social aspect can be an essential part of the enjoyment. “Swinging is not always just about ‘hooking up’ with other people. For some individuals and couples, the social aspect is also very important,” Geter explains. “Some individuals or couples will create friendships and socialize in non-sexual activities.”
3. What Are Some Benefits Of Swinging?
In addition to the obvious fun of being able to sleep with more than one person at a time and have it be an approved practice with the person you love, there are other big benefits of having a swinging lifestyle. As the experts note, adventuring into an unknown practice might awaken your fantasies and improve your sex life, but before you get started, make sure everyone is ready to take on the challenge of something new. Here are some important, sexy benefits:
To be able to express your desire to try swinging, you’re already inviting a new healthy dialogue into your relationship. While it might be a tough thing to say at the beginning, over time, and as you invest more in the swinging community, you’ll learn how to communicate more effectively and candidly.
“Any form of ethical non monogamy needs healthy and strong communication to ensure that each partner and the relationship stays healthy. Partners become comfortable stating his/her needs and hearing the needs of others. Keeping in mind that swingers have rules for the relationship or self. Not all couples or individuals have the same rules,” Geter explains.
“Therefore, before sexual play occurs, conversation begins about these rules and working out what works best for that particular swap. This skill can also transfer into other relationships including friendships or work relationships.
It Improves Respect
Typically during a swinging agreement, it is two couples agreeing to swap partners. But the person you go home with? Your girlfriend or wife. So above everything else that happens — your sexual performance or pleasure or your new partner’s — you have your main squeeze at the top of the priority list. You both want to ensure the other feel safe and is enjoying themselves.
“The culture of swinging also creates and enforces respect and boundaries, which connects back to communication. For instance, if one partner or participant reports a hard limit, or an activity off-limits, then other partners will not engage in that activity. If an activity is reported as a soft limit or an activity where consent is provided though with restrictions, then communication occurs to understand the boundaries during play,” Geter says.
“Also, it can happen where sexual play begins and one partner becomes uncomfortable. When this is communicated to others involved, everyone respects that person’s wishes to cease play with no shame or guilt. Instead, conversation may occur to understand what that person needs to feel comfortable and self-care.”
A Better Sex Life
“Most swingers will report enjoyment with swaps and play though they report amazing sexual activity with each other immediately after the swap and for days or weeks later,” Geter says. “Some studies have also shown a decrease in infidelity and divorce in swinging couples.”
Though it might seem counterintuitive, being in a swinging relationship might make you feel more connected to your partner because you’re open about everything you dream about and want, without worrying about being judged. This not only improves your sex life, but builds your chemistry and intimacy, too.
“Some preliminary research suggests that swinger have more frequent sex and more satisfying sex lives. They attribute this to the fact that they’ve re-injected passion, mystery and anticipation into their relationships,” O’Reily says.
“The act of ‘sharing’ your partner, defying cultural norms, embracing taboos and trying something new and risky is bound to deepen your intimate connection if it goes well. Many of the couples I work with report that they feel closer to their partner after a consensually non-monogamous encounter.”
4. What Are The Drawbacks To Swinging?
“The downfalls of swinging can include a change in preference for one partner resulting in a potential change in rules. Depending on what changes, this could also impact the relationship remaining intact or dissolving,” Geter says.
This is why it’s important to communicate in the beginning and be very vulnerable and truthful about what you’re comfortable with and what you can’t accept or tolerate. “Discussion about each person’s desire for non monogamy and creating a plan for what happens if one person changes his/her mind. Although we can’t always plan for the future, a conversation can help keep things amicable,” Geter says.
She also notes that for some couples who decide to give swinging a try, finding likeminded couples might be a barrier. After all, you must seek a twosome that both you and your girlfriend find attractive enough to sleep with.
“At times, finding a consenting partner is not always easy or achievable every time you go to a party or club. Swinging is very much like dating, where communication occurs to assess if we go to the next step. Unlike dating, two or more people are involved and must provide consent,” Geter says.
5. How To Prepare To Swing
As first-time swingers, there are a few steps to make sure you’re ready to open your relationship, your current sexual boundaries and truly engage in something out of the ordinary for your relationship. Here’s what she recommends before you get started:
“Before you and your partner agree to open the relationship. I also suggest seeking support from a trained professional (such as a sex therapist) to explore your interest in swinging and how to create conversation with your partner. A sex therapist can help you explore if your interest will be a healthy addition to your relationship and if there are other factors needing to be addressed before opening the relationship. A sex therapist will also help you explore your own sexual development and biases that may be impacted from ethical non monogamy,” Geter says.
“Finally, being able to tell your partner why you’re interested in an open relationship is important. Be prepared that your partner may take this personal or that you are not satisfied with the sexual relationship. Having the skills to articulate and communicate your desires without creating blame is important. Show your partner the research you’ve done and what you’ve learned about yourself. Once there is an agreement to open the relationship, creating a set of rules to follow is key. This builds trust, respect, and boundaries. It also shows unity in the relationship.”
“Your research may give you an idea of where to begin with creating rules or your therapist can help guide this process. Remember that your rules can always be adjusted as needed. The plan is never a final plan. In fact, I strongly recommend that all plans are reviewed on a regular basis whether it is once a month, two times a year, once a year, etc. This is based on your own unique relationship.”