Overcoming the Fear of Love
Like many other of the other wonderful bloggers I know — take a moment to check my blogroll to the right for some fine examples — I get a sense of amusement from some of the various search terms that result in somebody new stumbling across my little corner of the internet. One that stands out as particularly amusing was “husband says absinthe makes his dick hard”. What’s not to love about that? This morning, however, I saw a search term appear that got me thinking about just how much people can manage to hold themselves back — or not — on the spectrum that encompasses the swinger and polyamorous couples. This search term was “fall in love swinger become exclusive poly with one couple”.
There are many ways to read this term, in large part due to the lack of punctuation. Was the person searching attempting to find a swinger with whom to fall in love and then, with that person, become polyfidelitous with another swinging couple? Was this person perhaps already a swinger and was looking to find information on the ways to or likelihood of entering into a poly relationship with another couple? Could this person perhaps be a single swinger and is looking to join a poly couple in a triad?
Thinking on these possibilities made me realize something that’s hovered around the edges of my consciousness for sometime; something with which I have, at times, struggled. This something is a prevalent trend among those who write from within the swinger community, and one that I suspect has arisen from some improper assumptions. I suspect this because I have been guilty of it, and because of it I inadvertently derailed what could have become a very good thing. This something, this “it”, is the fear of oneself or one’s partner falling in love with somebody else.
The common mantra I’ve seen among many swinger blogs and advice forums is that to be a successful swinger one must compartmentalize emotions from the act of sex. In doing so, goes the theory, one avoids the messy complications that may be introduced by an undue level of emotional attachment to a new partner or the jealousy that may spring from one’s spouse forming an attachment to another. Under this advice the goal becomes to make the sex purely recreational. Yes, it’s great fun with the right person, and getting the rush of discovery with a new partner is undoubtedly thrilling (most times), but I think to advise pure detachment and compartmentalization is to deny an intrinsic quality of being human.
As humans we are imbued with emotions to better help us adapt to changes around us and navigate through the world. Studies have recently shown that without access to our emotions one becomes checkmated by one’s own mind, unable at times to make even the rudimentary choice between breakfast cereals at the grocery store. A complete reliance upon intellect and cognitive ability to make decisions is a hindrance to the human construct and renders victims of specific types of brain damage incapable of maintaining a high quality of life. Why, then, would so many members of the swinger community advocate this approach — minus the gut-reaction physical attraction to a new prospective partner — when living The Lifestyle? What is so inherently dangerous about developing and exploring an attraction beyond the sexual with somebody new while maintaining the existing loving and supportive relationship with one’s spouse?
The best reasoning I have seen for this argument — and perhaps the most honest — comes from my good friend Mr. No Name, who recently commented here that he doesn’t believe he could ever be truly polyamorous because he spends as much of his free time possible with his wife SM, and that anything or anybody who detracts from that time with her is damaging to his happiness. I accept and understand this approach completely, as I feel the same way about Mrs. AP. Our time together is special, and we were terribly (happily) spoiled during our first 16 months together by the fact that we were able to support ourselves — with help by her husband and our roommate — from home, which allowed us to spend 24 hours a day together. We have both suffered from being unable to continue this lifestyle over the past 14 months, as I work 48 hours a week plus commute time, but the time apart has made our time together that much more important. We feel unaccomplished if we let a day together be “wasted” by dealing with trivial matters and not focusing on each other. In this manner, if somebody wanted to do something with one of us but not the other during my days off, we would both be hesitant to agree. We are a pair, and operate as one unit on those days, seldom away from each other for longer than it takes to run to the store for a few small household items.
Nevertheless, Mrs. AP and I know that we cannot separate ourselves from our emotions when we embark on any journey discovering a new potential partner. Mrs. AP requires that connection, that spark with somebody that allows her to care, to sympathize and empathize. If that connection is not in place she has no particular care about the other person beyond the most base civil courtesy, but once she comes to know somebody and connect and grasp the sense of the being of that person, her interest level in and reactions to that person become more relaxed and reciprocal. She requires that friendship first, and not one that typically forms in a matter of minutes but takes days, weeks, or even months to foster and mature. I also know from my experiences during my slut period that casual sex with people I barely know tends to leave me feeling empty and unfulfilled. I imagine that engaging in this behavior with Mrs. AP as my partner and accomplice would minimize the effect, but the fact remains that I become more focused and engaged when I have an existing emotional connection with my partner. I care more for his or her pleasure, more closely notice reactions to my actions, and I feel a sense of immediate compersion with my new partner’s pleasure. Instead of the encounter being solely about the physical pleasure (selfishly often only my own) during an encounter with somebody new the experience becomes about building and maintaining mutual pleasure for everybody involved. The sex becomes a stronger, deeper, more meaningful encounter.
This is not to say that every swinger out there should start becoming friends or romantic interests with every new partner before playing. Clearly not everybody is wired to engage in such fashions, just as not everybody is wired to enjoy seeing a spouse brought to a roaring orgasm by another person. Swinging is nor Polyamory light, nor does Polyamory require some level of Swinging. There is, however, much room for overlap between the two, and I think room for a deeper connection between individuals and couples alike if the people involved remain open to that possibility. Developing and exploring that connection can, I believe, lead to a wider realm of potential play within the group, and may even be one of the unifying factors among the “closed swing” groups of friends who only play within the group.
Love, attraction, infatuation, and all other forms of interpersonal emotional affiliation aren’t necessarily things to be feared. Nor should they be embraced headlong without any consideration for consequences. When exploring non-monogamy as a couple, the best advice I’ve ever read is to keep the lines of possibility and communication open.
When that happens, anything is possible.
Stay SINful, friends.