Understanding The Lifestyle or Swinging Community:
Over the years of working with many members of The Lifestyle, I've come to realize that there really are two different classes of couple that becomes part of swingers groups, open marriages or become full members of polyamory.
A small portion of the members are what I would describe as truly fully capable of establishing deep and secure attachments to one or a number of people while also engaging in sexual engagements with others in a manner that is separate from attachment. They are the true swingers who may maintain deep marital relationships through decades of involvement in The Lifestyle.
The remaining 80-90% of the members of the lifestyle are generally dissatisfied with the state of their marriages and/or sexual relationships but do not wish to end their primary relationship. They enter The Lifestyle seeking for something that is missing in their lives.
In my experience, it is generally the second group that gets used by the first one - often resulting in serious threat to their marriages. So, if you've tried The Lifestyle and you never found what your relationship was missing, then, perhaps the Calgary Marriage Counselling Henze & Associates offers can help:
My partner and I decided several years ago that we would have an "open" relationship and see other people, no strings attached. But now I'm not so sure this was a good idea. Was this a mistake?
I love my partner very much, and we have a great sex life. However, I fantasize about other people in my life, such as our friends and neighbours, and worry that I may have an affair with one of them. Because I don't want to be deceitful with my drive for sexual variety, I'm considering asking my wife if we could join a swingers club and both explore other people sexually. Is this a bad idea?
When sexual attraction begins to move away from commitment and intimacy, the question is never about where it is going but why it is moving away in first place. Usually, the, "Moving away," tends to simply be the final expression of a much more pervasive life pattern of fear of commitment, fear of truly trusting one's heart to love, fear of permanence or some other set of avoidances the person is unwilling to admit to. The fantasy about affairs or open relationships is simply yet another means of avoiding that which is feared the most: Real relationships.
People avoid real relationships for many reasons, but there are three primary reasons: The flight from intimacy, deep personal shame and simple addiction.
Relational avoiders. People flee from intimacy because they fear it. They fear entering that deep and innermost place, they fear a knowledge of their own hearts and they usually can't even trust their own hearts -- their childhoods have taught them not to do so. Usually they have grown up with messages that tell them they will fail, are worthless, they will never be enough and will never be loved. So, they avoid for it is too risky to be known enough for another to discover that those messages are true. And, they avoid the opportunities where they would actually learn those messages are false...
Deep personal shame. Shame is simply the internalized result of pain wherein a person decides that they must be no good inside for only such a person would hurt this bad. Their deepest fear: That someone else would discover who they really are. A truly intimate relationship presents a threat that an unlovable self, vulnerabilities, quirks, ineptitudes, inadequacies and and failures will be seen in 3D and triggers the fear that, once the partner truly sees them, they will leave. Worse yet, they may stick around to constantly remind them of that, "Badness..."
Both of the above reasons can trigger the desire to, "Open up a relationship," for opening up a relationship allows the person to immerse themselves in, "The Lifestyle," -- well known as a superficial place of image and hiding where no one's heart is ever exposed, no truth ever gets told and no one ever gets closer then the sexy level of skin deep. There they can stay hidden, there they can immerse themselves in the illusion that no one really sees them, sell themselves the lie that all of their pain is non-existent and always maintain their plan B.
Addiction: Addicts always search for stronger and stronger fixes to hide the pain of a broken heart. Love, attention, sexual thrills; all of these were enough yesterday -- but not today. Today, only something more dangerous and exotic will do to provide the right sensation. Perhaps today, this thrill will finally meet the need (Read, provide the drug) that will numb the heart once and for all. In the end, two half people in love usually make up a quarter -- not a whole -- and twenty of them, well, you do the math... No matter how many partners are added, the person still stays empty.
And what does recovery look like? The focus simply has to cease being what is being moved towards and become about what is being moved away from. Contrary to the messages so often repeated by fundamentalism, the fantasies need to be fully attended to and understood for they, and the feelings under them, reveal what the heart truly longs for. The deepest emotions and passions of the heart need to be brought to the table.
When a person truly begins to feel, the feared thoughts, self perceptions and pain DO begin to rise to the surface -- but so also does the real reason you were in flight to begin with: Yourself. It's an opportunity to finally process the pain, to hear a new voice about your identity and to finally see yourself as who you truly are: Loveable and infinitely capable of loving.
People like that can easily become comfortable with and satisfied by an intimate relationship of just two.