AHH! I feel dirty. My husband and I are experimenting with the swinging lifestyle and we have put an ad on a website. On the one hand I feel excited and on the other and I feel ashamed and guilty. My husband and I have talked about it as something that would add to our marriage but my sister says and we’re just breaking up in a round-about way. Is she right? Are we crazy to be doing this?
Did you feel awkward sending this question in? Because you shouldn’t. Firstly because I rewrote it so no one would recognize your quite distinct communication style, and secondly because you’re hardly alone. It’s one of the most common questions I get submitted to the blog or approached about in my practice.
Let’s start by remembering that people want to be good and acceptable. So we generally do as we’re taught and told. And like some strange game of dress-up and act-out, we perform as the others do. Some of learn some songs and to wear certain clothes, and other places learn other songs and different clothes.
Our culture is formed by our beliefs about which performances we’re supposed to engage in. And people take those thoughts very, very seriously. And as it did with your sister, this conversation challenges some long-held beliefs.
Most people don’t mind so much when you poke at controversial subjects. But they’ll sure get angry when you poke at fundamental ones. You can’t disrupt people’s bedrock without a repercussion. There’s certain ideas that society has heard repeated so many times that many of us have zero separation between the idea we were taught and how the natural world actually works. We cannot get wet from fears about water.
But whether we want to notice what’s really going on or not, the simple fact is that you can be taught that you shouldn’t cheat on your husband, but that won’t stop your nature from noticing and being aroused by muscular workmen etc.
Words are not things. Husband is an idea, not an actual state of being. You can feel being horny with no story at all, but you can’t feel being married without telling yourself a story about being married. A marriage is a legal agreement. But love has a pull over every part of our being. Even with that, it’s possible for some that arousal can simultaneously be quite magnetic to their loins in an entirely natural way.
Okay, so while many not be interested themselves, there’s nothing unnatural, bad or wrong about the ideas you’re contemplating. And no sensation you experience through that process can be wrong. No feeling is right or wrong. It’s just a direction-finder. Steer using your feelings. Trust them.
If it feels right for you and the people you’re with, then let your own sense of things guide you, and don’t panic if the situation needs nudging this or that way. Everyone inevitably makes mistakes in life along the way no matter what, but in cases like these they will likely start off feeling more awkward so good communication will likely help.
Since you would prefer your sister not judge you, it would also be good to avoid judging others. What you get enthusiastic about may not be what others enjoy. Others are made individuals by the differences between their tastes and ours. There is no meaning in attempting to judge that. But we are free to not engage with it if we prefer that.
We can’t tell a masochist that she shouldn’t enjoy pain. That’s like us telling the person their shoes don’t fit. The style of shoe may not be for us, and they may appear tight, but that doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t wear them if they feel comfortable and bring enjoyment into their life.
Same for you and your sister. Your feelings are both right for yourselves but not for each other. There are many ways to be a happy couple.
Surely there are some monogamous couples out there who would find it nearly impossible to cheat on each other for very natural reasons having little to do with society’s rules.
Yet others would feel the tug of desire almost every minute of the day. And they will feel that pull whether they tried to bind themselves together with words or not. That is simply who they are.
Some people like music way more than others. Others like to read way more than others. Some like sports way more than others. And some like sex way more than others. None of these preferences are wrong. They are simply expressions of our individuality. You can’t tell someone they’re wrong for liking mustard or blue or football or sex.
Now I want to be clear: my examples above were about natural desire. I am not pitching swinging as a solution for a cheating issue. I’m just communicating that our sexual interests and desires exist before language and custom and societal norms. These things –like hunger or thirst or taste– exist on our most fundamental level.
You being interested in swinging is neither good nor bad. It’s not a definition of you it’s an expression of you.
All of this can absolutely positively be done in a loving, relationship-enhancing way. Not by everyone. But by more people than most might guess. Again, I get asked about this a lot and you would be surprised at the variance between the askers.
Next time you’re at the supermarket just look around. Those people—roughly speaking—that’s who’s asking these questions about group sex. Young, old, every religion, job, race, background—they’re all people, just like you.
The main reason you’re questioning a feeling even though it arose naturally within you is because you’ve been taught that people should mate for life. And yet there’s a lot of biological truths that suggest that that model only suits some people.
The simple fact is humans are not really constructed very well for monogamy. Our egos create ideas like sluts or cheaters or dirty people, but really people just mean people that are freely realizing an aspect of themselves that many others find challenging because the behaviour exists outside the boundaries of what they were taught is correct.
But let’s take away that veil of social mores—those quiet rules we’re all supposed to follow. What if we existed outside of those rules? What if there were no lines to colour between? What would we do then? Who would we be? It’s possible you might be a swinger by nature.
Imagine a tribe of pretty average people but they live like 10,000 years ago. Just like in our societies some people on average will be more aggressive about sex, and on average some will be less aggressive about getting it (and yes, I know there are many, many exceptions).
Scaling that model, let us say that just like many big cities, this tribe has a lot of people who aren’t getting as much of the kind of sex they want. So there’s lots of horny people, but they may not be married to each other.
So say we have three horny women and eight horny men—that won’t be a problem in the 10,000 year old tribe like it is for us because they don’t have much culture yet. No rules. So they follow their nature.
If they genuinely want to have sex then they will because they won’t be stopped by word-ideas like slut or wrong or bad. They just have nature without all of the second-guessing. So your issue isn’t that you’re dirty. It’s that we’ve been so far removed from our nature that sometimes when we encounter our true selves it actually feels like we’re a stranger.
There’s a lot to think about when swinging and maybe I’ll address that in another blog using someone else’s question. But no, you’re not crazy or non-spiritual if you have physical desires that it feels joyful to pursue. If those feelings arose naturally within you and you’re following them respectfully then that just means you’re freer of ego than most people dare to be.
Many of my friends and clients have heard me make this “society is not necessarily healthy or accurate” talk when relieving their fears. When it comes to swinging, over the last bit I’ve had two friends and two clients both send me a link to the same video and each of them felt that in that video, Christopher Ryan is essentially suggesting exactly the same idea I did with them.
Rather than leaving you with more of my words, I’m going to pass you over to Mr. Ryan for his version of this description. With any luck it should help you feel less pressure from the thought-barriers of society and feel more freedom regarding your own natural state of being. Enjoy.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.