I’ve been feeling like the open-marriage / swinging / polyamory folk are more alike than they’ve led me to believe. Each seems to have a slight attitude about why they shouldn’t be considered the other, or why they’re better. Because, after all, polyamory isn’t about (disdainfully said) sex, it’s about love… And open marriage is just cheating with rules… And swingers are just old sex-crazed perverts… And so on, and so forth…
(Well, I may be sex-crazed, and I may be a pervert, but I am NOT old. So that’s settled.)
But seriously, within our little niches, we’re awfully suspicious and distrusting of the others. And we all sit on our lawn chairs or hippie blankets or swing sets on the side of the fence we supposedly share in the open-relationship community and snipe.
In my time as a swinger who trends towards both open marriage and polyamory, I’ve seen a shocking amount of closed-mindedness from a group paying lip-service to the idea of being open and free. And I think it’s precisely this bizarre internal warring that is keeping us superglued on the fringe of normalcy (read: crazy), instead of gradually evolving into a more and more accepted place within a society that is slowly opening up to differing ideals and perspectives.
Every time a poly disparages a swinger, or a swinger disparages an open marriage true believer everybody loses because we feed the vanilla majority (like that? it’s like the moral majority) more ammo than they deserve or would have otherwise.
Now, let me be clear, my assertion about this infighting is all about generalizations and the desire to not only segregate ourselves but segregate those we don’t quite understand. I submit to you, however, that these three subgroups are far more alike than different and would even ultimately call them all iterations of the SAME subculture. (Yes, I loved Jurassic Park, so sue me…and to those who GOT that…one finger pointed at my nose, one at you, too.)
The believers in traditional open marriage who go on dates with others without their spouses are but a stone’s throw away from the swingers who sleep with others as a couple, who are only marginally different from the polyamorous, who just so happen to add the (forbidden in the first two iterations) element of love to the proceedings. And somewhere between the open-marriage folk and the swingers are those who seek out threesomes.
To put myself and Marilyn out as an example of my point: we identify as swingers, yet we’ve both gone on solo dates with people, at the same time we care deeply about the couples we’ve grown close to, and are in the discussion period of adding a third to our relationship. All three iterations: one marriage. So, are we the aberration? The unique case that disproves the rule? Or, as I suspect, are we more along the lines of the truly-open-actually-more-flexible-than-we-usually-give-ourselves-credit-for?
In Tristan Taormino’s fantastic book Opening Up she (and some polyamorists) discuss a fear that plagues most in the open relationship lifestyles. What happens if my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/lover/etc. falls in love with someone else?
Well, as questions go, it’s a big ‘un, isn’t it? For many swingers, it’s the “WARNING: BRIDGE OUT!” sign in the road that causes them to go back to a life of (attempted) monogamy. Because it means your bond has failed, right?
I argue that it means no such thing.
Our critics ask how we can share intimacy with our spouse, as well as the hordes of others they’re sure we’re fucking at the same time. Our little dance is to (for us intellectuals, at least) remind them that the Starvation Economy Theory (one must lose for another to gain) doesn’t apply to intimacy, because being intimate with two (or three, or 12) people doesn’t mean they have to split some quantifiable supply of intimacy. (Can I come over and borrow a cup of intimacy?)
Nor does the Starvation Economy Theory apply to love. You don’t love a first child any less when you have a second, after all. (You don’t love them less, right? We just have dogs, by the way. Children confuse and frighten me; but that’s another article for another time.)
Taormino’s answer to the question is an option:
1) You immediately cut off contact with the one who the feelings have developed with and focus on “saving” your primary relationship. (Which may or may not be in danger.) 2) You dissolve the relationship you’re in because one person can’t have this thing that they need. OR 3) you could see the potential for evolution and discuss whether your relationship can sustain the evolution into a triad, or foursome, or moresome, where love and sex is a shared commodity with an infinite supply (as I believe it is!).
“Get a job, you dirty hippy!”
Will someone please remove my father from the chamber! And make him stop shaking his fist!
True, what I’ve just suggested slides about as far into polyamory as you’re liable to get, but my suggestion is sound. After all, why are we swingers? Because the conditioned monogamous relationship and marriage definitions that have been riding around the world for 2,000 years have conditioned us in some ways. But AS swingers, don’t we see that sex with others isn’t part of the black-and-white storyline we’ve always been told it was. (BAD! It’s bad, you’re bad! WHORES and SLUTS are all of us.) So, upon rejecting this tradition, why are we then closing ourselves off to the rejection of other beliefs and traditions that are really only there because they’ve been instilled upon us?
Do we REALLY believe that there is one love for us? Do we really believe there’s one cock or pussy to fuck for the rest of our life? No, hell no we don’t. So why the hell should we believe any of the other preconceptions we’ve been taught and programmed with?
Is it possible that every hiccup in this wacky road could instead lead to the evolution of your relationship, and you ought to be at least open to the idea of going along for that ride?
And is it possible that maybe, just maybe, you should call all three of those iterations one thing… open-lifestyle?
This article originally appeared at Life On The Swingset