Thursday, May 12, 2016

Lifestyle Survey

We want to know more about you and the LS community. Audrey and I have put together a survey of 24 questions from the basic: "How long have you been in the lifestyle" to more intriguing such as "How the LS has affected your relationship with your partner."

The greater the number of people who take this survey, the more interesting and complete the profile we can build of our community. Results are anonymous and we look forward to sharing our findings back with you, once enough of you have taken the survey. Create your own user feedback survey

Claire and Audrey

Monday, May 9, 2016

Advice for Swinger Couples: Reconciling Differing Expectations

One misconception about swinging is that both partners always go into it being on the same page. Couples who have a hard time reconciling different expectations or desires for their Lifestyle experience may beat themselves up or, worse yet, come to resent each other because they incorrectly believe they are the only ones with this challenge. In reality, this is a situation most couples have gone through at one time or another.

One reason couples may hesitate to openly discuss these hurdles is that, in the LS, like any subculture, people get defensive. They already feel that the mainstream misunderstands and negatively labels their subculture, prompting them to want to focus on the positive and not add fuel to the fire. In addition, people may be afraid of being labeled as “drama”, if they are too open about the challenges they face as a couple. Our experience with our local LS community is that it is a pretty friendly group where people are supportive of one another, even going as far as to help each other move and find new jobs. With that in mind, the LS is also a group where people come together to have fun and nobody wants to be a “Debbie Downer.” However, since the purpose of this blog is to be genuine and answer questions people might be uncomfortable asking in person, Claire and I have labeled some of the biggest bones of contention couples may have to resolve as they enter or evolve in the Lifestyle, along with some suggestions for how to deal with them.

Frequency of Play
There is a scene from the movie “Annie Hall” that nicely illustrates the differing perceptions two people can have of the same reality. In the movie Woody Allen and Diane Keaton each visit their respective psychiatrists. In each case, the psychiatrist asks them the same question: “How often do you have sex?” Diane Keaton’s character responds: “All the time” and Woody Allen’s character responds: “Never.” It turns out that they are both in agreement on the statistical frequency of intercourse: three times a week.

One of the biggest differences couples face is the desired frequency of play. Sometimes this is purely a difference in libido (an issue that also impacts monogamous couples). The gender stereotype of the woman always having the lower libido does not hold in the LS. Sometimes it is the man, sometimes it is the woman. Sometimes the balance in libido shifts and the person who was previously less motivated decides they want to play at a higher frequency and vice versa. Many factors, including personal and professional life challenges, fitness, energy levels, lack of sleep, or simply age and hormonal changes can impact libido. When each partner in the couple desires a different frequency of play, the big question is which partner gets to set the speed. Will the one with lower libido “play up” to the higher libido partner’s level, or vice versa?

There is no tried and true formula that works for everybody. This is something you will have to negotiate with your partner. Ideally, there is some give and take here and neither partner comes to resent the other for preventing them from playing as much as they want or, conversely, pushing them to play more than they want. One way to resolve this challenge is for the couple to consider giving each other “hall passes” or playing “full open,” as opposed to tit for tat exchange with one other couple. With this issue, as with any issue that causes conflict in the couple, if resentment develops and the disagreement cannot be amicably resolved, we recommend taking a break from the LS, or at least sexual activity in the LS, so the couple can focus on their primary relationship. Revisiting this issue at a later date gives emotions a chance to die down and gives both partners an opportunity to look at the situation from a fresh perspective.

Reasons for being in the LS
Couples may also have differing views on what they want to get out of the LS. One partner may view it as their primary friend group and focus primarily on the social aspect, while the other partner may hold a more DTF (down to fuck) view of the LS. The latter person may be less interested in socializing with other swingers and may hold the view that a night is only a success if they play with another couple. Outsiders may be surprised to learn that many veteran swingers don’t play at every party or outing, and some rarely play at all, despite the fact that their social life actively revolves around going to swinger parties and clubs, and even vanilla outings with their swinger friends. This phenomenon is called the “social LS.”

Given the distance you may have to drive to a LS club or party, the average cost of $80+ for swinger clubs and hotel parties (where you also have to pay for the hotel room), not to mention the cost of a babysitter for couples with children, if one member of the couple is DTF, tensions may develop toward the end of the night if they have not hooked up. The partner who is more eager to play may begin to feel like the options in the night’s “musical chairs” are rapidly diminishing, leading to a phenomenon one friend of ours calls the “end of night half price off, everything must go” sale. In this situation, some couples may adjust their standards if they feel the need to play, to justify the time and money they spent on the evening.

Higher/Lower Standards
Finding two people that are attracted to one another can be a challenge, let alone finding two couples where there is four-way attraction. One gender stereotype that Audrey and Claire have noticed to be more or less true is what we call the “80-20 Rule.” This simply means that, on average, most men will be attracted to 80% of the women at a swinger event and most women will be attracted to 20% of the men. On any given night, the men in that desirable 20% may have already decided (along with their partner) to hook up with another couple, have whiskey dick, or not be able to play because they only play as a couple -- and it is that time of month for their spouse, or she is in a bad mood or a rush to get home to the babysitter. In light of these variables, this may rule out all of the acceptable options for the woman. Meanwhile, that still leaves 60% of the women in the room who are completely acceptable to the male half of the couple, or female half (if the woman happens to be the less picky partner). At this point, the person who still sees lots of “viable options” may come to resent their partner for not being more enthusiastic about the night’s choices.

It is also worth noting that each half of the couple may have different qualities they are looking for in their prospective play partners. Factors such as looks, personality, and/or similar interests often influence people’s attraction to each other on any given night.

Feelings vs. No Feelings
Swingers typically enter the LS with the expectation that they will separate sex and feelings. The idea is that they will compartmentalize the two things, with the intimate interactions in the LS being “just sex.” Occasionally, one half of the couple would actually be a polyamorist given the choice. This issue is not discussed often among swingers, as some people fear emotional connections with sexual partners outside of their primary couple. Meanwhile, the swingers who lean more towards polyamory may feel that the sex and interpersonal interaction are significantly enhanced when there is an emotional connection between the two couples, that goes beyond pure sex. If feelings develop, despite agreed upon rules that seek to avoid this, a couple may have to examine their stance toward polyamory. Or, if the partner who fears feelings or polyamory takes the lead, that person may try to control the situation by limiting the frequency of interaction (in person and online) with the other couple.

Hook Up Style
In retrospect, personality differences that influence our “style” of hooking up can be very funny, but in the moment “not so much.” Audrey and Claire have witnessed this firsthand. Knowing where a person lands on the Myers-Briggs matrix, which identifies whether one tends to be more dominant in “thinking” or “feeling”, can provide insight into their LS hook up style. With this personality trait, as in the other factors that affect a couple’s approach to the LS, being on the same page helps tremendously. A couple who are both on the thinking end of the spectrum may take a more strategic approach to an evening in the LS -- possibly looking at the list of attendees  ahead of time to identify favorites on whom they want to focus, coordinating their joint approach for interacting with other couples, and in making (and following!) the rules for how they want the night to play out. On the other hand, a person or couple on the “feeling” end of the spectrum will rely on their feelings in a given moment. That person or couple will not be able to predict their feelings ahead of time, as relates to sexual appetite on a given night, not to mention their attraction to the new people they will encounter at an LS event.  

If both people are on the same end of the spectrum this is generally not a problem. Challenges occur when one half of the couple is on the “thinking” end of the spectrum and the other half is on the “feeling” end. The “thinker” will generally want to go with a game plan and rules they expect to follow; whereas, the “feeler” will prefer to take a more organic approach to the night, seeing how they feel as things unfold. While the “feeler” may in principle agree to the “thinker’s” plans ahead of time, they will often frustrate their partner by modifying the plans on the spot. The “thinker” may misinterpret this as calculated disrespect, when in reality, the “feeler” was just going with his or her instincts in the moment and may have forgotten the pre-agreed upon game plan.

With each of these areas of difference, the most important thing is to realize where the other person is coming from, and become very good at communication and compromise. Couples who do this can make allowances for the different expectations and approaches the partners may have. The more you are aware of potential roadblocks ahead of time, the less severe they will feel when they actually happen, since you can plan for them. Also know that you are not alone. Other couples have also faced these challenges and many have successfully overcome them. Sometimes the best approach is to have as few expectations as possible when it comes to factors you cannot control like the other couples with whom you will interact, and your own partner’s reactions on any given night. Ultimately, the most important person to focus on is your partner and, even if you do not play with other people, the two of you can still have a good time being turned on and playing with each other or socializing with other people.