HIM: Sometimes I feel like we’re very experienced in the lifestyle, but at other times the truth becomes obvious: we’re really just getting started, and a million miles from having it all figured out. Or anything figured out. And that’s actually a good thing.
HER: I think it’s because there are just so many options out there. There’s a whole world of sexual variety available once you know where to look, and we will probably only ever scratch the surface. But as we venture into the world of non-monogamy, exploring our boundaries and looking past them into other possibilities, it always makes for interesting conversation.
HIM: Yes, like yesterday when we got a message from a couple we had contacted on the dating website where we have our profile. They wrote, in part:
“We are experienced in the lifestyle, and therefore by now know what we like. In this respect, we are only into full swap. And because the sex is better this way, we tend to prefer separate bedrooms.”
HER: My initial reaction was, ‘Yikes! These guys are too hardcore for us.’ I appreciated that they were open about what they wanted right from the start, because I didn’t know if it was worth going any further. For me, the journey we’re on isn’t about wanting to have sex with another man: it’s about wanting to experience you sexually in new ways. I want to watch another woman enjoy your body, and you enjoy hers. I also love the four-way interactions that are possible when two couples get naked together. I like going down on a woman while she sucks your cock and her man fucks me from behind. That kind of variety would be impossible if we separated. We might as well stay home and have sex with each other. At least we know that it’s guaranteed to be good every time!
HIM: I agree. And that’s why we wrote back and said that, while we might someday be open to playing in separate rooms with a couple we had become very familiar with, we definitely wouldn’t want to start there. They replied and basically backed off, saying it was more of a preference than a precondition. With that clarified, we decided we would see them after all. But that was not the end of the conversation, at least between the two of us.
HER: With the pressure off, I did start to think that, in theory, separate rooms might eliminate some of the complexity that make first times tricky. Think of all the things that are going through your mind in a four way: Are you connecting with this new person? Is your partner happy with their new playmate? Is the new couple into the both of you equally? Then, if they both happen to be bisexual, you can multiply all of the above by two (or eight, I forget how logarithms work). Anyway, maybe if you just had one new situation to deal with, you would have a better chance of focusing in on your mutual pleasure.
HIM: I think the question of whether to play together or separately is interesting because it brings you face to face with the question of what you want from non-monogamy: are you looking for sexual variety as an individual, or sexual adventure as a couple? Although they have some overlap, they are very different goals.
Some couples crave different partners because they see waning desire as inevitable in a long-term relationship. They believe that the fidelity that provides emotional safety can also lead to sexual boredom. You can have security or excitement, they think, but not both. I heard someone sum it up recently when they said ‘imagine opening the new edition of Playboy each month to find the same centrefold every time’.
HER: That’s so not us. We’re five years in and still can’t keep our hands off each other (just ask our traumatized kids!). We got into the lifestyle because we wanted to enjoy sex without old-fashioned limits, but always together. Strange as it sounds, we’re almost like the husband and wife who take up bowling together: the activity simply provides a different way for us to enjoy each other’s company. We get to belong to a nerdy little subculture, meet other like-minded people, and have hours of interesting things to talk about. That’s closer to what swinging is for us.
HIM: I agree. In all the most meaningful ways, we’ve become that couple you see at the mall, wearing matching nylon club jackets with their names embroidered on the front and badges sewn on their sleeves. It’s just that our hobby involves our genitals. So?
But now that I’m thinking about it, there are two interesting hybrid preferences out there that blur the lines between between playing as a couple and playing separately: Hotwifing and Cuckolding. Now, I’m going to define these practices acknowledging that everyone handles things differently, and that there is some overlap between the two. Hotwifing involves a woman going on dates and having sex with other men with the enthusiastic consent of her husband. Yet, it is understood that the man will not have similar involvements with other women; it is a thoroughly one-directional arrangement. Cuckolding, on the other hand, involves a woman having sex with another man in the presence of her husband. Importantly, there is often a level of humiliation involved. Both the wife and the man who services her may berate the husband over the size of his penis or his overall virility.
HER: That sounds horrible.
HIM: I know, it does for me too. Yet, while both practices seem to be lopsided in favour of the woman’s pleasure, the man is almost always the instigator. It is usually his fantasy that is being fulfilled in the hotwife or cuckold scenario. Not that there aren’t instances of women proposing the idea, or becoming very enthusiastic participants, but you would be missing the point if you didn’t account for what the men involved get out of it. Although only one person is having the actual sex, the men are definitely getting off in a big way. Both are heavily couple-based pursuits.
HER: Neither of those scenarios interest me in the slightest. The humiliation aspect of cuckolding is a line I couldn’t cross. I know you can’t help what turns you on, and I’m game for pretty much anything, but I would be concerned if you got off on being insulted. That just wouldn’t seem like you. I guess if you were really hot for it I could try to understand it from a psychological perspective, but I’m glad you’re not.
As for hotwifing (a term I only recently learned), I don’t really like the idea of you watching or hearing about me with another man without being actively involved. I have definitely enjoyed threesomes with our single male friend, and you have sometimes taken a break to watch us together, but in those moments, my greatest thrill is the anticipation of you joining us again. I guess the ‘bad girl’ side of me likes that feeling of being caught in the act with another man. Now, if I was bored with you, I might feel like having permission to go on a date with another man was exciting, but I’m far from bored.
The hotwifing thing makes me think of two other categories of separate play: Open and Polyamorous relationships. They combine the sexual element of consensual non-monogamy with the permission to spend time with, and emotionally connect with, others. Couples in open relationships have a single, central relationship but are allowed to date other people. I’ve heard open couples say their partners can date and sleep with whomever they like, as long as they always come home to each other. Polyamory seems to take it a step farther by freeing people from the emotional constraints of a single relationship; instead acknowledging that you can love, have sex with, and be committed to more than one person at a time.
HIM: I have no problem with these types of arrangements at all, but neither do I feel drawn to them. I’m in the very lucky situation of feeling more sexually excited by you now than ever, and it never gets old. Let me give you an example. We just recently bought a flogger (your idea – super hot!) and using it on you makes me hard as a rock. It’s the fact that you like me doing this bad thing to you that drives me crazy. I just didn’t see that coming, yet it seems to happen to us regularly: we peek around a corner and discover some new thing that becomes a big turn on. At the same time, I’m loving everything about having a partnership with you that goes beyond sex. I can’t imagine that I used to face the world without you by my side. Including others at that level would just feel like diluting what I like best about my life.
HER: We have something that works for us now, but that doesn’t mean it would work for everyone or that our preferences might not change in the future. Whether it’s swinging together or in separate rooms, cuckolding, hotwifing, open relationships or polyamory, everyone has to find what works best for them and their partners. We’re lucky on so many levels: we’re having all our emotional and practical needs met in our marriage, we’re having the best sex of lives with each other, and we completely agree on what we want out of our sexual adventures beyond our own bedroom.