“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”
This quote by George Elliot hangs on a plaque in my backyard. I’ve had the sign for years. I can’t remember why I purchased the plaque in the first place, other than the words spoke to me. There was a yearning, I guess, deep within me to find out who I was, and this sign was a reminder that maybe someday I would. It reminded me to never give up hope…that it was never too late.
If you would’ve told me just a few years ago that I would find out who I was within the swinging community I would have thought you were crazy. If you would’ve told me I would find peace and contentment from a lifestyle so far outside anything I had ever been taught growing up I wouldn’t have believed you. I was struggling enough with the fact that I was divorced.
Attaching “swinger” to my identity would’ve seemed like just another one of those outside the box moves Jackie would make in life, another in a series of bad decisions, another regret to add to the list. Little did I know that my “outside the box attitude” that strove for my peace at all costs would give me the courage and fortitude to give this swinging thing a closer look. Little did I know this would be a move that would set me free from a life that had imprisoned my true self for so long.
But in order to free myself, I had to realize I was trapped. Not so much trapped in the sense of what I was doing, but trapped by an ideal; a belief that there was only one blueprint for life. When I look back I see a woman who struggled to fit into a life she had been taught, a life of monogamy.
I thought monogamy was the only option in a relationship, so I never thought about it in terms of right or wrong. The term consensual non-monogamy wasn’t even in my vocabulary. If I were to have sex with someone other than my partner I would’ve either been cheating or divorced. Anything else…well, there wasn’t anything else as far as I knew. Because I didn’t know about the swinging/poly/open relationships option, this world of consensual non-monogamy, I instead spent a large portion of my adult life believing there was simply something wrong with ME.
Instead of seeing options I just saw failure. I viewed my life as a splattering of scarcity. I wasn’t good enough. I must not love my partner enough. I didn’t know how to let go during sex. I was afraid of being judged. My life was a balance sheet that never balanced. My monogamous marriage was like watching someone trying to climb up a descending escalator. No matter how much energy I expelled I kept moving further and further away from my goal. Life and love weren’t supposed to be exhausting, yet in order for me to follow the guidelines I had been taught, in order for my marriage to work, I was going to forever be pushing against the tide of monogamy. What made it even worse was that I didn’t even know this was the reason it wasn’t working.
That is, until I was introduced to swinging!
I had gone through all the steps you’re supposed to take—marriage, kids, career—but I feel as though my life finally came into alignment when I met my husband John. He was the one who introduced me to the swinging lifestyle. He was the one who encouraged me to explore who I was without the constraining blinders. He was the one who motivated me to get honest about my desires and fantasies and reassured me that I was beautiful in these vulnerabilities. Each time we talked another layer of suppression was stripped away. I had never had this kind of gritty, down in the dirt honest communication, especially communication that involved the inclusion of others. I was fascinated by this. Was it really possible to have a relationship with someone AND be sexually involved with others. This concept was so foreign to me that I could barely comprehend any kind of positive outcome. But my curiosity was also piqued, and I found myself saying yes to things that I had been taught were supposed to be “no” areas. I was going to test the validity of what I had been taught my entire life. Was I willing to risk what I might find out as a result? Was I willing to concede?
What did I learn? I learned that I still have a lot to learn, but so much of the beauty in swinging comes from the constant learning and growing with your partner and yourself. For instance, I realized that each interaction I had with John and each interaction I had with others made me feel more and more at home in this swinging arena. I found the intimacy shared between others to be highly energizing. Now don’t get me wrong, when I say intimate, I’m not just talking from a sexual standpoint. I found the ability to hug or kiss or lightly caress someone else to be incredibly bonding. I came away from each interaction even more grateful for the love and connection with John.
Here I had gone my whole life being taught that if I showed even the slightest affection towards someone of the opposite sex it would be a deficit to my relationship, but I was living proof that this was not true! My relationship with John was growing stronger each and every day through swinging and I had never felt such a contentment in my life. My relationship was breaking every cardinal rule of what I had been told would create a successful relationship from a monogamous standpoint, yet here it was—a thriving, honest, trust laden, loving, communication filled union. Either our relationship was an anomaly or what society/religion/government was teaching us about the swinging/poly/open relationship model was wrong.
I knew there had to be other men and women out there who were also struggling to make themselves fit into a mold they were never designed to fill. I knew how life changing my introduction into the lifestyle had been and I wanted to share the truths I had discovered. I wanted women to know it was okay that they had sexual urges and fantasies. I wanted them to know it was okay if they wanted to have sex with someone other than their partner, that it didn’t mean that they didn’t love their partner but was a perfectly natural desire. I wanted everyone to know that you can breach that hidden line in the sand in your communication with your partner, that you CAN have those conversations about sex and fantasies and fetishes. There’s nothing wrong with you if you want to have a threesome, watch your wife have sex with another man or participate in play with another couple. Swinging is about just that. It’s about swinging wide open the doors of possibilities; a no holds barred mentality about how to design a relationship that works for both partners in the union. It’s a tailor- made marriage in the truest sense of the word.
This desire to share led to the inception of Openlove101.com. This was a massive undertaking, but I felt compelled to bring attention to the consensual non-monogamous lifestyle as a viable relationship option and educating those who, like me, spent their entire life believing what they had been fed by society/religion/government. I wanted those curious about swinging to know they weren’t alone. I wanted to share through my own experiences how I battled jealousy and fears and how I learned to stretch myself in order to try new things. I talked and wrote about going into a swingers club for the first time, learning to embrace my sexuality and talking to our adult kids about the relationship option we chose.
It wasn’t long before John and I began to see an undercurrent of interest. Slowly but surely the questions began to flow into our email from couples and singles grappling with their own issues of wanting a more open way of living. This was a growing community of people determined to own their relationships and not be swayed by stigma or myth. They were ready to hear the truth and they were ready to test the waters. We realized for every email we did receive, there could be countless others still teetering on the fence, still too shy to ask their questions. So we decided to share some of the questions and our answers.
We hope you’ll find, “Swingers’ Lifestyle: The Questions You are Afraid to Ask” to be a compilation of varied subjects that you yourself may be encountering on your own journey. This book is for you.