On the week of our 20th anniversary my wife, Kat, and I officially became swingers. We met a couple we first spoke to online for dinner, and went back to their place for a foursome that went late into the night. On the drive home, we sat in stunned silence interrupted by laugher; as what we did that night felt unreal. We were liberated by the sexual freedom and adventure we shared; yet what we did went against everything society had taught us about what marriage is. When I asked Kat how she felt about what we had done, she looked me in the eye and said that she felt no shame and had no regrets.
That night was preceded by months of conversations that began when I finally opened up to my wife and shared the fantasies I had kept hidden for many years. We both had little sexual experience prior to being together and over the years the fantasies I worked to repress did not go away, instead these fantasies grew stronger. With no honest outlet for my interests, I felt trapped by my marriage. With a breakdown of communication and many years of functioning as parents and not lovers, a mutual resentment grew and our marriage was in a bad place.
From the moment I opened up and shared my deepest secrets with my wife, I felt a reemergence of our connection. While she was surprised by what I had shard and had concerns about what exploring sex with others would mean (and whether sex and love could truly be separated), she kept an open mind and was supportive of my being fulfilled. Through lots of communication, an amazing thing happened; Kat became in touch with her own long repressed fantasies and desires and began to open up more to me. With a basis for radically honest communication, resentments fell away and our fantasies made their way into a renewed sexual energy. The change in our marriage was immediate and obvious to those around us.
As I educated myself in the lifestyle and we experienced our first foursome, I began to look at the world around me a little differently. I saw couples around town and wondered if they could be one of the profiles I saw on the swinger website last. I would speak to friends and family, listening to the problems in their marriage and think how they would benefit from the openness that we now enjoyed, but it was too taboo to bring up. This was when I began to look my back at childhood memories and suspected that my parents were swingers.
My parents always had a large group of friends that they were very close with. Close enough to vacation together with 1 or 2 other couples, or as a larger group of 20-30. They regularly had parties where I was told to stay in my room at night. I recalled comments they made on how they hung out on their boat naked with close friends. Then there was this couple that have ben their best friends nearly all my life who fit every characteristic of the 70’s swinging couple; if my parents weren’t swingers there was no way this couple wasn’t.
Several weeks later I spoke with my parents asked discreet questions about their relationship with this group of friends; too curious not to look into this, but sensible enough not to ask directly. On New Years day, excited about our first swingers party that we left early that morning, I found myself at home alone with no one I could share the stories of what we did the night before. I ended up calling my parents to wish them a happy new year and in vague terms talked about the fun we had (dancing, drinking, socializing with interesting people). I also made another inquiry into their background trying to uncover whether my suspicions were correct or completely misguided. Getting nowhere in my questions and feeling in a great mood, we began discussing my marriage which I had previously shared as not being in a great place.
My mother spoke about the changes she saw on our last visit; how we seemed so much happier and in love than she had seen in years. Not just as a couple, she spoke about how much happier we seemed as people and more and in touch with ourselves. I wanted to share what our secret was, but couldn’t. I spoke abstractly about this journey of self-discovery I was on, a desire to be more open, and accepting of myself. As part of that journey I shared that Kat and I would be attending Burning Man for the first time this year, something I had long wanted to do but was previously of no interest to her. In explaining Burning Man, I spoke about the stories of self-growth associated with the festival, the idea of radical self-expression and how much of the festival was organized around themed camps of every interest; from art, to music, to sex, to… Interrupting me, my mother asked “Sex, like swingers? Because I know more about swingers than you could possibly realize”.
I chuckled at her revelation, coming right out and telling her that I had suspected this and was trying to get it out of her during our last few conversations. I also told her that Kat and I had recently entered the lifestyle. We both laughed, as she instantly understood that it was the gift that we gave each other, the trust to explore ourselves that was behind the changes she saw. She was excited for us and genuinely happy that we found this. My mom explained that her and my father were swingers for 1 ½ years back in the 1970’s, saying that it was the best thing they ever did for their marriage. She went on to credit their years as swingers as helping to bring closer together and more skilled as lovers, bringing each other pleasure, helping to keep them together all these years later.
The couple I had pegged as swingers were indeed the people who introduced my parents to the lifestyle. She told me that when she first met ‘Mrs. 70’sSwingers’, she asked my mother if she would be interested in swapping partners. My mother explained that she was shocked and offended. She went home to tell my father who listened to her and suggested that they try it. She explained that they attended parties together, but swapped in separate rooms. I didn’t go into too much detail on what we did sexually but shared that we preferred to play together as a foursome in the same room. I told her about the party in a mansion in the Hollywood hills that we had attended the night before and she expressed how much she wished she was attending parties like that.
My parents quickly grew close with the couple that introduced them to swinging, and my mother experimented with Mrs. 70’sSwingers who was bisexual and grew very attached to my mom. When my mother decided that she didn’t enjoy women sexually, but that they all enjoyed each other’s company they discussed where to go from there. Mr. 70’sSwingers explained that in order to be friends; they needed to stop having sex with each other. The four of them ended the sexual relationship and became the best of friends, remaining so to this day; having attended their children’s weddings, grandchildren’s events, and visit each other in retirement.
My mother explained that when they entered the lifestyle, my father and her drafted and signed a formal agreement of their rules and boundaries and the stipulation that either of them could stop this at any time for any reason. My mother reinforced the importance of establishing clear rules upfront, the need for consistent and clear communication, and the requirement that you respect your partner if they want to slow down or stop for any reason. I explained that I was familiar with this advise from listening to many hours of Life on the Swingset and other swinger themed podcasts (which she was fascinated to learn existed).
My parents continued going clubs (which were off-premise) that had live bands and great food and attended house parties. She spoke of what a rockstar she was, young and hot and how the men would line up to get her attention until one day my father told her that he wanted to stop. That was the day that they ceased being swingers as she respected his decision to end it. While she does not regret the time they spent as swingers or her agreeing to stop, she clearly looks back on those days with a fondness for the sexual freedom she enjoyed and the excitement of the clubs and parties. Most of all she misses her youth.
The couple that introduced my parents to swinging stopped several years later in the early 1980’s. While my suspicion that my parents were swingers proved to be true, the memories I had from my childhood of this large circle of friends that vacationed and partied together were just that, friends. Once swinging ended for my parents (and several of the couples in this group), they remained very close and the circle expanded to include others. As a group, these 20 or so couples partied together, went away together and shared in each other’s lives through good times and bad. This group shared an intimacy that was not based on sex, but perhaps made possible by the openness and growth that came from a time when they opened up to sharing sex with others and learned to communicate openly and honestly.
The conversation with my mother brought me closer to her. I have never been one to share a lot of myself with others, keeping my guard up to shield my emotions. Once I fully accepted myself and opened up to my wife, I found myself more willing to open up to others. I have not yet spoken to my father about this conversation and do not know what caused him to close the door that they had opened. Of all the people to reveal the secret my wife and I share, it turned out to be my mother; who with my father went down their own path to non-monogamy nearly forty years earlier.