Monogamy, Swinging, & Abstinence: I've Tried Them All — Here's What Works

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human sexuality spectrum
Sex

Sex is but one part of a greater human experience.

The human sexuality spectrum is a wild, technicolor beast. I liken it to encountering the fabled Chupacabra or Bigfoot. That is to say, we hold the belief we'll not only discover purpose and fulfillment through sex but conquer and tame it as well. 

Not so, I'm afraid.

I've tried monogamy, swinging, bisexuality and sexual abstinence, and what I've discovered is that it's all the same in the end. 

The mystery of human sexuality is a humanity-wide wild goose chase for meaning and hope derived solely from another person's body. Why else would we dedicate so much of our time and brain space to the act of connecting physically with someone else?

One could argue it's simply our basic animal instincts, rearing their carnal and insatiable needs. But then why do we perpetually use it as a means to find purpose in our emotional lives? Is sex really even about sex? 

As I said, sex is a wild, technicolor beast, so I've spent time contemplating all the modes of sexuality I've experienced in my life to see if sex truly is a way to acquire one's purpose. Or, is it simply a hobby we all spend way too much time and energy on?

The conclusion I've come to for better or worse is that no matter what kind of sex we're having (or not having), it's all the same. Allow me to break it down from my own experiences: 

1. Monogamy

My 8 years of marriage allowed for deep connection to just one person but after a few years, my then-wife and I fell into something called a comfort trap. In short, I knew her moves and she knew mine. And if there's one thing human beings like more than sex it's laziness.

In the end, for us, sex with one person for such a long period of time resulted in a loss of effort on both sides. Therefore, our time sans clothing became a habit, and no longer fulfilled its original purpose of escaping our daily stresses through physical connection and pleasure. 

In the beginning, our rapturous carnal embraces that could spontaneously occur anywhere at anytime — like sneaking out of a beach house party and onto a sailboat to do the deed with the ever-present heightening fear of the boat owner finding us — became me giving sluggish hip thrusts from behind my then-wife laying sideways on the couch. Her hand swatting at me without even the consideration to turn around, coupled with a lackluster "I'm not in the mood..." and me frustratingly storming out of the living room.

Shudder. Ladies if you're in the mental space to do this to your man, just end it. Please. And gentlemen, if you've completely let the comfort trap rid you of your sense of romance, end it. Just put yourselves out of your misery. There's nothing worse than making each other feel ordinary. 

2. Swinging

I've never been one to fear voicing my needs, and as the passion died in my marriage I couldn't allow myself to live in an emotional vacuum for the rest of my days. I say this in earnest: I didn't wish the same emotional prison for her.

So, one thing led to another and after a difficult conversation amid personal marital frustrations, we tried swinging as an unconventional attempt to fix our troubled marriage. Was it a fix? No.  Was it fun? It had its moments, but instead of reigniting the emotional flame it served to numb the connection between us and create even less passion.

We were reminded of the intensely satisfying feeling that physically connecting with a new person can give. Ce le vie, marriage vows. #Divorced

3. Bisexuality

Let's scoot back in time a bit. I realize the cliché of my next sentence but it's the truth, nonetheless. Back in my college days, I developed a relationship with a male friend and dorm neighbor, Warren. Up until that point, my relationships had been exclusively male-female but I always maintained the perspective that love is love in whatever form it takes.

Warren and I shared a close bond, sharing deeply personal moments from our upbringings and common creative passions. This bond also translated to how we showed affection through physical gestures. What I mean is, we had the same love language: A hug, an arm around the shoulder and then a kiss.

I recall it feeling no different than kissing a woman and after a short period of exploration, I realized sexuality with a man was no more or less fulfilling than any of my previous (or future) relationships with woman. It went the way of most college flings, from hot and heavy, to a place of comfort.

But then passion and connection took a backseat as we began desiring sexuality outside of the two of us. Our unspoken but shared need to believe things could be even better than what we had, inevitably outweighed our bond. Point being: switching sexes did not allow for greater clarity of my own sexuality.

4. Sexual abstinence

Now, this one was a challenge. But it was the only thing I hadn't tried and I figured if I wasn't finding the sense of fulfillment we all looking for by being sexual, then maybe abstinence could provide a more powerful sense of well-being. After another attempt at love with a woman I had moved across the country for came to an abrupt and rather unceremonious ending, I made the decision to abstain from sex and abstain from relationships as a whole for awhile.

About a month in I did feel an incredible amount of brain space freed up. For the first time not constantly seeking out sex, my brain seized upon the opportunity to work through all — and I mean ALL — my past hurts. My failed marriage, being cheated on, the reality that I've made the same mistakes over and over in my life — it all came rising to the surface and I was forced to spend a great deal of time thinking about what I had experienced.

Without the distraction of dating, I finally, and for the first time in my life, analyzed who I really was and who I had been to those who I'd gotten involved with, one-night stands and committed relationships alike. (However, not to discredit the good alone time can do for someone, I still had the same feelings of hopelessness I had when I wasn't alone.)

All in, I managed to abstain from sex for just under two months. That might not seem all that long to some, but up until then, I hadn't gone more than ten days without since I handed over my V-card at the tender age of sixteen. Everyone is different, of course, but sex has always been a means of satisfying and validating my sense of self-worth, so two months was an eternity for me. 

This is not an article about whether a person can maintain passion or connectedness in a long-term relationship; rather, that we all feel the need to connect, and sex is a reliable way to both forget your troubles for a short while and bolster the belief that this time, this person, could be the thing that changes it all.

The realization I've come to is that a sense of purpose and fulfillment doesn't come from another person. No matter who you get involved with or how invigorating a new sexual experience might be, if you don't have that oh-so-elusive sense of self-worth, that temporary fix is going to end up being just that: Temporary.

So, fill yourself to the brim with self-love and purpose. Only then will you have enough to spill over onto someone else. Your relationships will be more meaningful and fulfilling if you go into them needing nothing from the other person. Whether you stay together or not doesn't matter; it's how they leave you and how you leave them.

Are you — are they — better for having known you? Sex is a gift but it's not the answer to the question of purpose; that comes only from within. So have any kind of sexual life you want, but remember it's not the other person's job to set you on your path.

We all walk our own path, sometimes hand-in-hand and sometimes alone. Don't make sex the destination; it's but part of a greater human experience. We're all meant to be far more than skin rubbing against skin.

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