Swinging one’s vows to the limit

For some couples, monogamy and partner swapping are compatible.
December 06, 2009

Marriage to me has always meant loving one person for the rest of one’s life and being faithful to him or her in every way possible. I have always presumed the fix to a bad marriage was counseling, and in half the cases when that does not avail, divorce. However, when talking to a married woman, let’s call her Joanne, I was informed that mate swapping, or “swinging,” was the new hip thing for married couples. For those of us who are innocent enough not to know the meaning of swinging, it can loosely be defined as a couple exchanging mates with another couple in order to gain excitement by engaging in sex with someone other than their partner.
When I questioned Joanne about her faithfulness to her husband of more than 15 years, she explained to me that swinging was never an option for her in her marriage. She has been propositioned to participate by parents of her offspring’s friends, originally thinking it was a joke. Once she learned it wasn’t, she politely declined. Having known Joanne for quite some time, I know she can easily become excited telling a story and can occasionally fabricate. Therefore, I decided to do some investigating.
What I found informed me that I shouldn’t have been so skeptical of Joanne’s supposed rumor. A simple Google search led me to Club H, a local swingers’ organization in Minneapolis. When I called, I was politely asked by the associate on the other line to hold while she made a reservation. Instead of holding, I gave my number and was promptly called back by the club’s owner. Club H was founded by a University of Minnesota alumnus in 1987, and business has been booming ever since.
Apparently, the swinging couples of the ’80s now see some of their children at the swinging parties. They only have one rule: “Take a bath and play nice.” Although Club H is only one of the many lifestyle organizations in Minneapolis, the club has thousands of members, coupled and married, ranging in age from 21 to 70, even though most of their members consist of married couples in their 30s.
The club sets up meetings for their clients through hotels, camping trips, dances and other various activities. Supposedly, not everyone who attends a “meeting” is looking for sex, and sometimes they just ache to be around like-minded people. When I asked the owner about how faithfulness in a marriage could so easily be dismissed, he responded with, “People say things at weddings because it’s tradition, but it’s not always what they mean. If you have a good relationship, swinging will improve it, but if you don’t, it will make it worse.”
I was also informed that many members were the so-called “party animals” of their college days, the girls kissing girls or members of the occasional threesome, and these people are more likely to carry their college lifestyle into their adult years. I then asked him the political affiliation of most of Club H’s members and found that most were conservatives or independents, and that 90 percent of the clientele would find him through the Web site www.friendshipexpress.com.
Of course, Minneapolis isn’t the only swinging city. A Nov. 30 story by Cincinnati’s Channel 5 News explored a local swingers club in a suburban neighborhood. The elite swingers club is extremely intricate and detailed, having 12 different bedrooms. A whole house in an everyday neighborhood has been dedicated purely to couple swapping. The house cleverly uses color-coded party cups to help tell the other participants exactly what one may be looking for, which helps eliminate mystery between guests. The club has been wrongly accused by surrounding citizens as being a whorehouse, since the club charges a member’s fee as well as an entry fee upon each visit for the men, but women get in free. However, it keeps within the constraints of the law because members are paying to simply participate in the club but not for the sex. Yet to me, paying for the club is in fact paying for the sex.
The question in my mind is, why get married if a monogamous relationship isn’t what you’re looking for? Supposedly, swingers see the swapping as an activity they do together, like cooking or dancing. The eroticism of watching your mate “do the dirty” with a stranger is allegedly like foreplay to the big act you’ll have with them when you get home. It is an alternative, modern and honest way to cheat. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith agree. Will has been quoted saying that the secret to their 10-year Hollywood marriage is that they are brutally honest with one another. If one of them feels the urge to sleep with another, they confess the plan to their partner. Will says his marriage would have been destroyed if Jada found out he had slept with someone after he did it, instead of before.
Obviously, swinging is not for the jealous type of person. Every person has a jealous bone in his or her body, and some take it too far by getting upset when their spouse even speaks to another person of the opposite sex. It is unlikely that these people could weather the emotional swinging storm.
Finally, marriages are supposed to be built upon a foundation of faith, and with that faith should come faithfulness. If cheating is a common cause of relationships coming to an abrupt end, then the fact that both parties are honestly participating should be no exception. The exclusiveness that comes with a relationship and the “I do’s” of a couple’s walk down the aisle need to be taken more seriously. Cheating is cheating, even if swingers want to mask the truth by calling it something different. If the swinger in question wants to live a promiscuous lifestyle, maybe he or she should reconsider singlehood.

Paige Vigil welcomes comments at pvigil@mndaily.com.

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