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. 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. And the only reason I had delayed my response was because I wanted to find the right angle. I had to find the material as a writer. Because it can be a challenging subject.
People want to be good and acceptable. So they do as they’re taught and told. And like some strange game of dress-up and act-out, we perform as the others do. 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 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 their bedrock. There’s certain ideas that they have heard repeated so many times that they have zero separation between the idea they were taught and how the natural world actually works. But whether they 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.
Okay, so there’s nothing unnatural, bad or wrong about being aware of what’s going on around you. And no sensation you experience through that process can be wrong. No feeling is right or wrong. It’s just a direction-finder. You steer using your feelings. Trust them more. Or is your life going so amazingly perfect that you don’t want to try something new?
Don’t judge what you get enthusiastic about and don’t judge others for their tastes either. I can’t tell a masochist that he shouldn’t enjoy pain. That’s like me telling him his shoes don’t fit. The style of shoe may not be for me, but that doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t wear them if it brings enjoyment into their life. Same for you and your sister. Your feelings are both right for yourselves but not for each other.
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. And yet others would feel the tug of desire almost every minute of the day. And they will feel that 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. So 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 you’d think. 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. Young, old, every religion, job, race, background—they’re all people just like you.
The main reason you’re questioning an unrequested 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 challenge the likelihood of that. The simple fact is we’re not really constructed very well for monogamy. And yet our egos create ideas like sluts or cheaters or dirty people, when really people just mean that these people are freely realizing an aspect of themselves that many people 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 you do then? Who would you be?
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). But 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 tribe like it is for us. Because they’ll 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 foreign.
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 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, my descriptions are fairly consistent because I’ve found some excellent examples in real life. That said, 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. So rather than bore 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.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.