Which direction should this relationship swing?

My wife and I have enjoyed swinging as a couple for years, and we decided to look into opening our marriage for solo hookups. We agreed that we’d try some encounters, she told me that she would be OK with finding a partner for a one-off hookup, where she and the guy would have their fun but he’d never need to contact her again.

Once she tried it, however, I realized I wasn’t OK with it – but not the sex part! My wife has always felt a sense of sexual freedom since she lost her virginity to her first husband at 18 years old in a conservative marriage, and sexual openness has never been a problem for us. She finally had the opportunity to sleep with a guy she always was hot for, it was no secret to me, and when the situation presented itself – with my consent – she did it.

Afterwards, I felt a sense of jealousy and insecurity that I wasn’t expecting. When they slept that night she didn’t disclose to him that I was aware and the arrangements that we had. I felt that because she liked him for so long, that she might like him more than me. Also because he is a friend of friend of a friend, I thought about all the macho pride insecurities, about his hypocrisy of telling her to say hi to me with the full intention of sleeping with her that same day behind my back. I knew that he was going to want more, and later it turned out to be true.

A couple of weeks later he contacted her to ask her for a second night together. She told him no and to please not to contact her again, and in the process she told him everything. Ironically, it bothered him that I knew and that he wasn’t consulted, but had no problem sleeping with her and wanted to continue it behind my back.

I honestly don’t think that her having sex and maybe even having another relationship besides ours, is wrong. My rational brain agrees with it, moreso I know she always had this desire for having sex in private with other partners without me. I know she believes in that freedom and I know that she considers me first and foremost as the focal point of her love and affection. I truly want to get to the level where I get rid of all my jealousy and insecurities to be able to take the next step. I asked her and have no reason not to believe her when she said that if we pull the plug on swinging and opening our relationship she will be happy just with me. I must say our relationship is solid and sex without all this is through the roof and in all honesty the hurdle is me the husband. She claims that she is not looking for or buys into the whole having another relationship, that it is strictly sexual for her, yet I believe that in order to know someone and explain to them what we have in order for sex to take place, it involves a level of intimacy I’m not quite sure I can handle yet; swinging is easy – it’s sex and that’s it.

Finally, my question: Is it wrong if after honestly trying it and working at it, I decide opening our marriage is not for me? I honestly want her to enjoy her sexual freedom – I’m the one encouraging it, since she was in a repressive marriage before. But I feel it’s hypocritical if I take a step backwards concerning open marriage, I’m fine with and enjoy swinging and one of my biggest turn-ons is seeing her have sex with other men! I’m not looking for validation, but I guess your best opinion based on your experience.  What do you think?

Swinger Worried About Poly

 

Dear SWAP:

You’re learning an important lesson – that despite the media lumping them together in one taboo “naughty” basket, swinging is VERY unlike polyamory. Sure, they’re both nontraditional forms of consensual nonmonogamy, but there’s a huge mental difference between having multiple sex partners without risking your heart, and having multiple emotionally-vulnerable relationships (regardless of sex). Sounds to me like you don’t consider your wife having sex a threat, but you are very concerned about losing her heart.

It’s not wrong to have second thoughts about opening your marriage, but it can be a Pandora’s Box – once you explore that path, it might not be so easy to stuff the genie back into the bottle. The most telling predictor for me would be whether you BOTH agree the experiment should be put on indefinite hold, or whether one of you wants something the other doesn’t.

My suggestion is, since you’ve gone this far, and it seems like there are a lot of potential healthy turn-ons for you both here, why not focus on communication and strengthening your underlying relationship? If you are able to identify and share the situations that trigger you, perhaps you could proceed in ways that help you both have new experiences while respecting, and possibly safely expanding, the other’s boundaries. Only if you’re hitting walls you’re not capable of handling together, should you next need to talk about shutting it down.

 

I don’t think it’s hypocritical to take a step back and reevaluate your feelings about exploring the boundaries of your marriage. In both polyamorous and monogamous relationships there are always challenges as the relationship grows and changes and they all require work.

However, if the step you’re trying to make seems too big to take, usually the best thing to do is to break it down to smaller steps and test your reactions. For example, I’m guessing part of the failed experiment had to do with the fact that she did not fully explain the arrangement with the other guy and obtain his consent for what he was getting into – that was probably a mistake. If you agree (and maybe even if you don’t), then future attempts should start by making the situation clear for all parties, inside and outside the marriage.

As far as taking baby steps, you could map out a series of agreements that apply to each of you in order of increasing flexibility that would lead to a fully open marriage. I’ll give you a few examples that you might adjust for your situation:

Phase 1: Sex happens with another partner only at an event where both of you are present (not necessarily in the same room)
Phase 2: Sex happens only with approved partners in specific places and there is a check-in by phone or in person within a specified time afterwards.
Phase 3: Sex happens anywhere and with anybody without prior approval and without specific timeframes for check-in.

During each phase you should try to communicate openly about how it’s working or not working and make whatever small adjustments needed that will balance freedom with connectedness/intimacy. I think you’ll find that small moves are the key to making big changes in a relationship work. 

Good luck!

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