Dan Savage is a journalist for The Stranger; he writes an advice column called Savage Love. I recently had the pleasure of watching a video clip of him, and I now think I’m in love. He was talking about swinging and non-monogamy, and I know I found a kindred spirit. Here are a few of the points he made, along with my own thoughts about the subject.
People think of non-monogamy as an all-or-nothing prospect. Either you’re monogamous or you’re out having sex with everyone you meet. Not so, I assure you. There are lots of possibilities between being monogamous and being a total slut (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those choices, either!). You can vary the quantity of encounters, the level of physical intimacy, the level of emotional intimacy, whether and how much you tell each other, and whether or not your partner has to be present, just to name a few.
People are afraid that becoming non-monogamous is about being replaced by their current partner. Essentially, this is a fear of abandonment from the partner who’s not as excited about the idea. Ceding control to the resistant partner is a way to assist this. For example, you can let the resistant partner determine how much contact with a third person they can handle, or you can assure them that they’ll always be present. You can start slowly, perhaps by going to a strip club together or to a swinger’s party without participating.
People think that where there’s love, monogamy should be easy. Not true! Monogamy is not natural anywhere in the animal kingdom, including humans… even if we come home to the same nest every night. If you can successfully incorporate an occasional third person into your sex lives, it can add fuel to the fire of your own love and intimacy. Swinging or being in an open relationship should be about strengthening the bonds of the primary couple. It helps keep your sex lives from becoming boring (and yes, there are other ways that don’t involve a third person).
Think of monogamy as sobriety, not virginity. If you’re with your partner for 40-50 years and they only cheat a couple of times, s/he was really good at monogamy! If you cheat once, it’s not like you can never be monogamous again. You fall off the wagon, but you can get back on. The expectation of decades worth of monogamy is ridiculous, and you shouldn’t make or extract promises that are that hard to keep.
As funny as I found Savage’s comment, I don’t ever recommend cheating. This is why I recommend creating new contracts or new agreements as your relationship grows and changes. If you don’t have open, honest communication, you really don’t have a relationship. If you can’t talk to your partner candidly about your needs and desires, it’s time to look for a new partner.