HER: The question our readers ask us most frequently is how to help their partners become more sexually open. More often than not, it’s men who pose the question, although I know there are lots of women who are wondering the same thing. So, as the representative of the gentler sex (ha!), I’m going to take over this post. But I’ve set myself a difficult task, because the question is almost impossible to answer. This is really the question for all time: how do you get people to do what you want them to do? Forget about sex – how do you get the boss to give you a raise? How do you get your kids to try harder in school? How do you get Donald Trump to give up on that ridiculous comb-over? Honestly – you’re not fooling anyone!
In the end, no one is really going to do anything they don’t want to do, and you can’t control what someone wants. But that doesn’t mean change is impossible. In fact, I know it’s possible because it happened to me. When we embarked on our sexual adventure back in 2011, I had some pretty strict boundaries around what I was game for. I told my husband many times that I didn’t really want to have sex with another man, and that I definitely had no interest in seeing him with another woman. We could be exhibitionistic, I could play with girls, and maybe we could even soft swap, but the actual sex act? That was a line too far. And I was no prude. I had had threesomes with another woman before we got together, but I was worried that our amazing relationship dynamic would change if we started having sex with other people. But now, I’m totally down for whatever happens. So what changed?
I don’t think it was about creating a new desire within me, but about clearing the way for an existing desire to flourish. And that desire wasn’t for swinging, per se, but for more basic, universal things. Everybody wants wonderful sensations. Everybody wants to make their partner feel happy. What woman wouldn’t want to experience four hands and two mouths on her body, adored by two sexy men? What woman wouldn’t want her husband to feel extravagantly grateful to her for making his dreams come true? The problem when it comes to sexual matters, however, is that we so often put limits on our pursuit of those good things because we’re afraid. We’re worried about our security, worried that the pursuit of pleasure for ourselves or our partner will cost us the stability that means so much to us. Maybe, if we open Pandora’s box, terrible forces will be unleashed that cannot be controlled. The slippery slope is real! Looking back on our journey, it’s obvious to me that, without any kind of plan, we did a lot of things to eliminate those worries so I could pursue pleasure without distraction or fear.
1. We Created a Safe Place
Before we ever got to the bedroom, my husband created a safe, emotionally supportive environment for me. He never tired of listing the many non-sexual things he loved about me. He told me frequently how beautiful I was and how much I turned him on. He made me believe I was enough for him, and that he didn’t want more than I could give. He emphasized that he wanted to grow sexually with me, not apart from me, and that he only wanted to move forward on these sexual adventures if I was fully on board. He also never showed any sign of jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, or meanness. We never fought, and he never over-reacted, we just calmly talked through any disagreements. I felt like we could weather any storm together because of this strong foundation.
2. We Nurtured a Strong Sexual Connection
We made creating a satisfying sex life a priority. My husband made sex a treat for me and never let me forget why I loved it with him, in particular. We’d have a couple glasses of wine (ok, the wine was for me – he’s not much of a drinker), light some candles, put on some music, and invest in good foreplay: massage, feathers, toys, blindfolds, spanking, touching and licking everywhere. No need to rush to intercourse. He would build anticipation until I was begging him to put it in. I know there isn’t always time for this kind of luxury, but it’s important, on a regular basis, to reinforce your sexual and emotional connection so you both know that anything you do with others isn’t making up for something you lack together. The ideal is that swinging would augment an already satisfying sex life.
3. We Shared Fantasies
After being thoroughly indulged and having some great orgasms, we’d have lots of pillow talk. Lying together in the afterglow was when I was most receptive to talking about sex, and least likely to feel defensive or threatened. He would ask me to describe my fantasies; then he would talk about his. Nothing was off-limits. We would generally keep it imaginary, though. He didn’t make requests of me. Instead of saying, ‘I wish you’d do this,’ he’d say, ‘I imagine someone doing this.’ That way it never felt like a reproach.
4. We Lived Out the ‘Safe’ Fantasies
Later, during sex, he would try to incorporate my fantasies. If I told him about wanting to be tied up or have my hair pulled, he’d do it — gently at first to gauge what level I wanted. If I told him about something I wouldn’t actually want to fulfill, like a gang bang, for example, he would try to get me to talk about it during sex. This was, surprisingly, where I struggled the most. I’ve always found talking during sex a little awkward. Initially, he did most of the talking and asked me questions. So, instead of just saying, ‘Talk dirty to me,’ he’d give me cues. He knew I had daddy fantasies, so he’d say things like, ‘Have you been a bad girl?’ or ‘Do you need a spanking?’ That way, all I had to do was say yes or no. After several months of that kind of talk, I began to feel more comfortable and engaged more in the conversation. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sex can be very individualistic. We close our eyes and get into our own heads, but this kind of fantasy sharing is all about getting comfortable with being connected and open with each other during sex. And sharing fantasies with your partner (rather than imagining they’re your dirty little secret) helps gauge how you each deal with jealousy in the abstract before it becomes real.
5. We Considered the Possibilites
Once the emotional and sexual connection was open and very secure, then we started talking — just talking — about expanding our sex lives beyond our own bedroom. We read articles, studied research, and watched lectures on non-monogamy. We spent hours discussing what we had read or seen. He would ask if there was anyone I could imagine bringing home – like a celebrity who could never be an actual possibility so it was all theoretical. He got me to talk about what I’d want to do to that person, and what I’d want to see him do. He would bring up the idea during sex. He would point out people at the mall who he would like to see me with (not who HE would like to be with, because that could be threatening). These conversations were all a long way off from full-swap, but I was thinking about the idea of sharing in the abstract, which gradually brought me closer to thinking about it more concretely.
6. We Tried a Club
After nearly a year, he suggested that we go dancing … at a swingers’ club. We read about local clubs and found that they were, in many respects, just like any other club where you could have a drink at the bar and get sweaty dancing to top 40 hits. That didn’t sound too scary. We went and quickly discovered that swingers were just regular people. Sure, a couple women took their tops off and got on the pole, but I felt no pressure to join. I, of course, was curious about what went on in the back, and we had already decided that we were not going to touch anyone else, so I felt safe enough to check it out. We had to take our clothes off to visit the playroom, but I could wrap myself in a towel. We walked through and even stopped to watch other people having sex, but we didn’t have to participate. We talked about it on the way home and again that night during sex. He reminded me of the scenes we saw and of the way it turned us both on. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back after the first visit, but after two days of being on fire thinking about it, I definitely began to see the appeal. Rather than trying to influence me in his own words, he put us in a setting where other, regular people could influence me through their actions.
7. We Went on Vacation
Finally, he suggested he treat me to a beach vacation in Jamaica. There aren’t many women who would turn that down. We looked at pictures of Hedonism II and read reviews online. He promised that I’d never have to do anything I was uncomfortable with, and stuck to that promise religiously. All lifestyle resorts allow you the option of leaving your bathing suit on (in certain areas), so I didn’t even have to go naked if I didn’t want to (although, once I got there, I quickly changed my mind). And on that first trip, we never left each others’ side. He made sure I felt safe when that single guy started getting a little too close in the hot tub, and he knew how to wrap up a conversation with an a pushy couple that was getting a little weird. By the end of the third day, I was the one suggesting we get it on with that couple from the foam party. The transformation was complete: my inner swinger was released.
As I read back through this, I realize it sounds like had a master plan to get me to do what he wanted. But I know that’s not the case. Not only is he simply not that manipulative, but I think it wouldn’t have worked if he had been. Like most people, I can tell when I’m being sold, and I push back instinctively. The key to this gradual paradigm shift was that I never felt coerced or manipulated. Basic desires that already existed within me were allowed to blossom because he found ways to ease my fears about negative consequences.
I now honestly believe there’s a swinger within every man and woman. So, if you want to expand your partner’s sexual horizons (and, by extension, your own), my experience says the best way is to clear away the worries and distractions. The pleasure will sell itself.