One sided Swinging - An Intimate Look at Going it Alone

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Whatever the relationship, swinging alone can be a tricky issue. SHM takes a look at different scenarios to explore secret and consensual single swinging.*

Alicia speeds down the motorway with excitement. She knows that in forty-five minutes she'll be in a hotel room, meeting a man, and they'll be enjoying hours of fun together. But Alicia is a married woman and her husband knows nothing about her swinging activities.

I ask if she doesn't 'get enough' at home, and she laughs out loud. If she wants sex, she tells me, she can have as much as she wants from her partner of ten years. There appears nothing wrong with their sex life - they regularly watch porn together, use toys, have anal sex - all the things that indicate a sexually active and adventurous couple. So I ask her why she chooses to swing alone.

'I don't do it for the sex, I do it for the thrill. There's nothing like it when you're flirting, texting, on your way to meet someone - you get this feeling in your stomach.' It's a bonus if the sex is great, she explains - but what gets her off is the buzz.

Old habits

I'm surprised when she reveals that she and her husband had previously been on the swinging scene together. Things went wrong after one particular meet and they split up for a little while. They'd invited a single lady to join them, who Alicia felt was more interested in her husband - uncomfortably so. Alicia felt jealous and believes her fears were justified when her husband went off with the other woman during the time they were separated.

They haven't discussed swinging since getting back together and haven't had any involvement in swinging as a couple since. Alicia does though. My question as to whether she thought her husband still swings but does it behind her back - as she does - is met with a categorical 'No, no, no, no'. But how would she feel if he did? 'Oh God, I don't know. I'd be upset that he couldn't come to me and talk to me about it, because I'm open minded.' At the same time, Alicia admits she doesn't talk to him about her need to swing, feeling that he would take it personally and think that it was something to do with him - that he wasn't fulfilling something in their relationship. 'But he is,' she acknowledges.

Some regrets

In some repects she'd like her husband to know about it and join in. From her own words, one can sense her fear of his reaction - and possible rejection. 'How do you explain to a long-term partner the thrill - and that's what you're looking for? How do you even approach the subject? If I could approach the subject without him getting upset, without him feeling inadequate and without him flying off the handle, I would. I'm just not confident enough to bite the bullet.'

One's own needs

Differing levels of frequency of sex needed by one partner could be the reason why some people choose to swing alone, without their partner. But just how often is 'normal' can be a worry, especially with the overinflated amount of shagging one sees going on in Sex and The City and other TV series. It bodes well for a couple if they are well matched in their sexual desires, although if not, it may just be they have a different perception of the same thing.

Woody Allen's film Annie Hall is a perfect example: Her boyfriend's therapist asks how often they sleep together; Alvy laments 'Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week'. On a split screen, Annie's therapist asks if they have sex often; annoyed, she replies 'Constantly. I'd say three times a week'. But this isn't always the case...

Swinging as sexlife

Terry is a married man in his forties who's been with his wife for twenty plus years - but they haven't had sex for three years. He's been swinging for a few months now and previously had a mistress. He suspects his wife might find the idea of swinging erotic - she used to get turned on by him talking about different scenarios, such as other men having sex with her.While she might like the idea, Terry honestly doesn't think she'd have the bottle to take it further and accepts that some people are just happy with the fantasy.

He has a high sex-drive and enjoys lengthy sex sessions, which is contrary to his wife's needs. She went through a variety of health problems, a common reason for the loss of libido, and he tried unsuccessfully for eighteen months to improve things before seeking sex elsewhere. He finds it easy to swing without her finding out because they've always had a relationship based on being free to do what they like in terms of going out and not having to tell each other where they are going.

The moral dilemma

Terry still loves his wife and feels he has a lot of moral values, which he admits sounds hypocritical. He doesn't talk about his secret world very often because what others think of him is important, and he knows others might view him as 'a bit of an arse'. He doesn't believe he is, because he feels the things he does don't detract from what he has with his wife. Terry originally started swinging because of the frequency of sex he needed - he says 'frequency' isn't the right word, but he can't pinpoint quite what is. 'Swinging is so easy-going, you don't have to worry about wondering if you'll get anywhere. At a club you're halfway there and there's a buzz about that.'

He would consider telling his wife if it wasn't damaging and if something constructive could come out of it. In fact, he concedes that, if she were to ask where he'd been going, he doesn't think he could or would lie to her.

Terry sums up his situation, 'I'm cool with where things are because it's working. In an ideal world my wife would swing too, but I don't think that's possible because of her mind-set and because she's very conscious of her figure. It would be interesting to know how the swinging partner would feel if the roles were reversed.

In my case I'm not a jealous person; I like pleasing people and I get a lot of pleasure if they get pleasure. By that I mean, if she was getting a lot of pleasure from someone else, it would make me happy. If you have strength in your relationship, jealousy doesn't come into it.

Alone in being curious

Some people are interested in swinging but have not yet taken the plunge. David is in his early twenties and has been with his girlfriend for three years. He now finds himself less attracted to her than he once was and they now have a sexless relationship. But for him, it's not just the frequency of sex he feels is missing. 'I have a high sex-drive and there's a lot of things I want to try out, be it with or without my partner.

Finding the swinging site, I have found like minded people to fulfil the things I want.' David is on the verge of going ahead with his first meet. He says swinging has never been directly talked about in conversation with his girlfriend - just in passing comments after using his computer and noticing a link to a swinging site. Her reaction indicated it is something she doesn't approve of and isn't interested in. David feels swinging is one of those things you either love or hate - and she would most certainly hate it.

He fears his girlfriend would see swinging as a form of cheating, and a sign of him wanting to be with other people for more than casual sex - and that he doesn't love her. Asked if he had thought of any alternatives to fulfil his sexual needs, such as an affair or using an escort, he replies, 'I love the person that I am with deeply, so would not intentionally go out to have an affair. If I met the person of my dreams, who knows? But it's definitely not something I'd do intentionally. Escorts are something that just does not interest me in the slightest.'

If one takes the plunge

David would feel disappointed that his girlfriend wasn't able to know what it was he was wanting, what he enjoys - and must live out his fantasies with other people instead of her. If she did find out, he would be honest, seeing little point in lying any further.

'If it's something that I enjoy, then it's something of the person that I am. I'm a laid-back person - if she wants to join me great; if she knows I want to, and is fine with me doing that, also fine. If I'm able to swing alone and she never found out, then that is also fine, as at the end of the day everyone would be happy. Swinging will not change anything about my relationship with her, as I would keep the two completely separate. If she wanted to split up, then it's her decision, as it's an opinion I have on something that I enjoy and would want to continue. From what I imagine, she would not approve and if she found out it would probably result in our splitting up.'

Another scenario

Not all partners in a relationship swing alone without their partners' knowledge or consent. Some couples choose to swing together and by themselves. One couple is currently deciding whether going it alone is right within their relationship... Penny and Alexander were both single swingers who met on the scene and have been together as a couple for a number of months. Since then, they have swung together, and even though neither of them knew how they would feel about seeing someone they care about with another person, they've found no jealousy between them when they are together sharing the swinging experience.

They are now discussing whether it is right for one or both of them to swing alone. As this is the only relationship with, and as, a swinger for both of them, they have nothing to compare their situation to and are finding it a minefield, deciding where the boundaries are for them as a couple and what would constitute crossing them.

The question is, how do they meet their needs while keeping their relationship intact?

Open relationship?

Alexander's perception of swinging alone is that they would effectively have an open relationship, which he doesn't want. Penny however believes that an open relationship is one where nothing crosses the line because there are no boundaries - each party does as they please. And she firmly believes that they do have boundaries, even though all of them are not agreed on yet. Before getting together with Alexander, Penny was an active single bi-fem swinger and she's going through a transition - what she used to do may not now be acceptable within the remit of a relationship.

Some changes are subtle, some not so - but she feels staying overnight with someone else and going out for dinner are no longer appropriate - both have elements of intimacy more than 'just sex'. A boundary they have jointly agreed on is kissing - they concur that for them, kissing is more intimate than a blow job. For non-swingers this may sound contradictory, but their perceived intimacy of kissing someone else means neither of them will cross that line.

Finding a balance

They are now firmly in the grey area - what is left is not black and white, and they are getting closer to identifying where the line is crossed for them - but they still haven't made a decision about swinging alone.

Alexander has said he doesn't want to swing alone and has no desire to - he likes it when he 'shares' the swinging experience with his new partner. But he admits that if Penny swings alone, then his attitude will be 'fuck it, I may as well', which she perceives as some kind of revenge or retaliation - just doing something for the sake of it.

This assertion from Alexander makes Penny weary of deciding one-way or the other. In fact, Penny feels no burning desire to swing alone at this point in time, but prefers a 'never-say-never' approach. 'I don't want to commit to something that I might change my mind on later.'

The discussion is ongoing, and only time will tell what boundaries they decide are right for them but they feel lucky in that they can discuss things very openly and honestly.

* All names of interviewees have been changed