Michele O'Mara

To Swing or Not to Swing

Filed By Michele O'Mara | June 02, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: advice column, lesbian, love, multiple partners, swingers, swinging

My partner and I have been together 10 years. About 6 years ago, we met a lesbian couple that we were attracted to so we decided to have an "open relationship" and try to "swing" with them (which never happened - they weren't into it).

We didn't discuss it again until 3 years ago when I met a "straight" woman who wanted to try being with another woman. My partner was ok with me flirting with this woman. She was even going to let me have sex with her. It never happened but I did kiss her. I'm glad we didn't have sex for several reasons.

Now 3 years later, my partner has met a lesbian and they have been flirting pretty heavy. My partner says I should be ok with it and let her kiss this girl, even have sex if it leads to it, because I should be fair and let her have her turn. I just can't seem to be "OK" with it. I was selfish when I tried it and I know that I hurt my partner, but she was "OK" with it because we had an "agreement".

I don't want to be "open" anymore. It's tearing me up, but do I let her do it to be fair? We have been having huge arguments about it, even discussed breaking up.

~ Torn

Many couples struggle with the temptation to pursue outside interests, either together or individually, and while it is a successful option for some, it can result in devastating effects for others.

When you and your partner committed to each other six years ago, what was the goal? If you are like most couples, there isn't a conscious goal and there is no stated understanding about why you are even together, where you're headed, or how you plan to get there.

I often ask couples with whom I work, "What is a good reason for you two to be together?" Probably the most common answer is "companionship," or "Because we love each other." The problem with these goals is that through the course of our relationships most of us go through spells where we are not particularly excited about the companionship of our partner - and can, at times, find others more interesting, more enjoyable, more fun, more whatever.

Therefore, if the goal is companionship, or the ever vague "Because we love each other," when the tides change and we temporarily lose interest in his or her companionship, or we temporarily stop feeling the love - we're likely to begin looking for a trade-in. Pleasure feeds off of novelty.

Research shows, for example, that when you get an ice cream cone, the first bite is the best, the second is still pleasurable, and beyond the third bite it's just calories. We like new and different. This part of our body chemistry is not particularly relationship-friendly in that we are frequently tempted by the novelty of another (and usually it is because we don't know them that they are so appealing!!).

Long-term-anything loses novelty - unless you work at keeping the pleasure there. Adding another into the mix is a "quick fix" - and one that may prove to be very damaging to the integrity of your bond, as you already seem to be experiencing.

Relationships take a lot of work to develop. They must be maintained. And there needs to be a common goal or purpose for your being together to pull you into the future together. Some have shared hobbies, shared political beliefs/passions, shared pets, shared children. It's important to have something about which you both care that is outside of your relationship - pulling you into the future, together.

In my opinion, the best reason for two people to partner is to support and encourage one another in being their best self, and live the life that is truest to who he or she is. This, by the way, can be very boring. Healthy relationships, as it turns out, are a bit boring.

In relationships we love to feel "known" and "understood." The benefit of this sometimes boring-healthy relationship path is that growing old with someone gives us the best shot at this - allowing someone to really begin to know us over the span of our lives. We want to feel like our partner "gets" us. We want to feel safe and secure and believe that no matter what happens, my partner is in my corner and wants what's best for me, for her/him, and for us. This is the benefit of enduring relationships, be they family relationships, friendships, or life-partnerships.

When you consider what is going on with you now, is it possible that allowing your partner to pursue this outside interest is going to help her become a better person, or somehow add to you and your relationship in a way that is meaningful and good? If you can't come up with a "yes" to this, then I suggest you stand true to what you believe and hold the line. If you believe this can be good for you, your partner, and your relationship, then by all means tell her to "go for it."

Just know that you may not be able to prevent your partner from making a decision she might regret, but you absolutely can prevent yourself from agreeing to something you will regret. Be true to your truth.

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All three of you could get tested together before having sex, for a variety of STDs. Sexual health checkups reduce ambiguity and can be like anything else potential sex partners do together that make a good relationship.

What happens when POTENTIAL sex partners get tested TOGETHER BEFORE having sex, for A VARIETY of STDs?... One asks "Let's get tested 2GETHER B4 we have sex, for A VARIETY of STDs?" They agree and the next day meet at a medical center or doctor's office and get tested together for a variety of STDs and ....? then what happens?...


What happened to the rate of puerperal fever deaths of birth mothers when surgeons washed their hands before operating?... as recommended by Joseph Lister, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ignaz Semmelweis


Yeah, 6-year-old notions of "fairness" shouldn't apply to adult relationships. If she doesn't want to open up the relationship, then that should be discussed.