What Is The 'Swing Lifestyle' & How Do Couples In Healthy Relationships Make It Work?

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couple holding each other

When you think of swinging or adopting the "swing lifestyle," it can feel both enticing and a little scary.

After all, is it really possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner or spouse, while also meeting up and engaging with other swingers?

The answer, of course, is yes, it is possible to maintain a healthy relationship, even if both of you are first-time swingers, completely new to the swingers lifestyle scene.

Whether you're wondering how to find love as a single person interested in a swingers lifestyle, or you're happily married or in a secure relationship but want to try something new, there is very likely something for you in the world of swinging.

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Swingers date, key party, group sex, sex party, sex club, swingers club, hotel party — these are all terms used to refer to the same thing: The swing lifestyle, or just "the lifestyle" for those in the know.

Many people are curious about it. Some have tried it. Many actually live it and it's applied to different and same-sex couples.

There are a number of questions related to this lifestyle that hold many people back from exploring swinging. Usually, the reluctance stems from fear or misinformation.

Let's take this time to answer some of those questions and possibly embolden you to give it a try.

What is swinging?

There is actually no simple answer to this question. There are so many different ways to approach the swinger lifestyle that it can look different for every individual and couple.

In a nutshell, though, it is ongoing sexual behavior that includes five different scenarios outside monogamy:

1. Swapping: The most common and familiar aspect of the lifestyle, where two couples try partner swapping

2. Threesomes: A group of three people, most commonly two women and a man, usually comprised of a couple and "guest"

3. Groups: Any number over three with a variety of sexes, couples, and singles interacting together

4. Cuckolding: A man gives his partner permission to have sex with another person, and he will either watch or hear the story after the fact

5. Monogamish arrangements: Any other situation outside those listed where sexual partnerships are permitted outside a monogamous relationship

What does lifestyle mean sexually, though? Lifestyle in the sexual sense is another term swingers use to convey the adventurous practices of recreational sex with other consenting adults. Swingers refer to their sex life with multiple partners as being “in the lifestyle."

To many, swinging appears to be sanctioned cheating. In a way, it is. The keyword is sanctioned. In order for the swing lifestyle to work, both partners need to be in agreement.

Which begs the question...

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Is swinging good for a relationship?

It's all about communication. Like most things in life, without communication, the endeavor is doomed before it even begins.

Communication starts before the first swing encounter and needs to be renegotiated constantly as you progress into swinging. A couple may go into the swing lifestyle thinking they want one thing and realize as they get into it that they want something completely different.

Usually, when a couple checks out the lifestyle, it's the man's idea. The most common fantasy for men is a threesome with two women. Ironically, it usually turns out to be the woman who loves the variety and ends up being the driving force. Right at the beginning, new negotiations will need to be made.

Often, these scenarios begin in the following ways:

Two amateur swingers may go into the lifestyle thinking they want to do standard swaps. They may have a hard time finding another couple, or one partner may be more into it than the other. They will need to talk to discover what's best for them both.

Another thing discussed is the age limit. Swingers in the 30-to-40-year-old age group don't want to engage with the 18-to-21-year-old age group, as there's a big gap in age. Most swingers stay in their own age group or nothing more than ten years older or younger. 

Perhaps one partner is interested and the other is not. Or, one may have a higher sex drive than the other. The possibility of cuckolding or a monogamish arrangement could then be explored.

Maybe the rules you both set at the beginning simply aren't practical or you find with experience just don't work.

Whatever the specifics, there must be continual, open, and honest communication — not only for the couple but also with those with whom they are swinging. Without it, like any relationship, failure is imminent.

How common is swinging?

What percentage of married couples swing? Research says that somewhere between two and ten percent of married couples in the United States partake in swinging.

Four percent of adults in the United States, or 2.8 million couples, grant permission in their relationship to go to sex clubs, engage in threesomes, swinging, or group sex, and some even have polyamorous relationships.

Studies have also found that couples who swing have reported having happier marriages, express more non-sexual affection, have more satisfying sex, enjoy more marital communication, praise their married partners more, and express less jealousy.

How can you know what you want from the swinger's lifestyle from the beginning?

The fact is, you don't. Most people investigate the lifestyle because they've read or heard about something that piqued their interest. Until you start, though, you can't be sure what you want or if the lifestyle is right for you and your partner.

When you approach your spouse about exploring, start where you're at and be honest.

You will need to tell your partner that you would like to try something with them, and then explain that you would like to explore. You can suggest a sex club, swapping, a threesome, and so on — anything that you'd like to try.

Ask what their thoughts are, and after discussion, come up with a plan and boundaries that work for both of you. Most important: Stick to it.

Once you have had your first experience, evaluate. What worked? What didn't? What did you enjoy? Was there anything you could do without?

Make new plans and set new boundaries. Revisit this step as many times as you need over the months — or even years — in order to keep things clear and safe for everyone involved. Be sure to go through these same steps with anyone you invite into the bedroom as well.

Once you've talked about your needs and come up with rules and a plan, then what?

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Here are 3 ways to meet local swingers and start exploring the swing lifestyle:

1. Visit a sex club.

Every major city has at least one swingers' club. It's so easy to find these places now — just go online!

The club website will have details on upcoming events, rules, and other pertinent information. Most have memberships, but make the first visit free.

The hosts will give you a tour, answer your questions, and help you meet other local swingers. Keep in mind the one cardinal rule of any sexual activity situation: Although anything goes, no always means no.

2. Try dating sites.

Most dating sites have options for alternative lifestyles if you check them out. There are also more specific hook-up, sex, or swing sites such as Adult Friend Finder that are geared toward those looking for something less traditional.

Once you know, or think you know, what you're looking for, set up a profile and start meeting like-minded people. Be prepared for a lot of unfruitful meetings, but keep at it.

Dating sites are a microcosm of the world; lots of people won't be a fit, so be patient until you find someone (or someones) who matches your criteria and who you can connect with.

3. Explore lifestyle traveling.

This is a little more advanced, but if you are brave, there are many places you can go to participate in the lifestyle while traveling. There are resorts and cruises all over the world that cater to swinging. They are usually listed as “clothing optional.”

From there, you can ask any questions you need that will make you feel safe about your choice, and take care of your sexual health

Once you find some people you enjoy socially and sexually, you will likely be invited to hotel parties, house swinger parties, on trips, camping weekends, and many other events that will increase your experience and your social circle.

There are thousands of people participating in the swing lifestyle. You probably don't even realize that you already know some who have been to a lifestyle event or regularly engage in the lifestyle. It's a great alternative for those who are sexually adventurous.

It's also a wonderful way to explore with your partner or, if you both agree, without them.

All healthy relationships require good communication. Most couples who swing are even better than average communicators because they need to do so much of it. That's a big bonus in addition to fabulous sex. Have fun exploring!

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Author Christie Mawer is an actor, stand-up comedian, and popular speaker for women's events. Her latest project, a romance thriller trilogy, calls on her experience with the lifestyle as a single and part of a couple to tell the story of a woman discovering swinging.