The troubling thing about swinging is that people who participate in “the lifestyle” believe that it is “just sex”. The trouble is that it’s not just sex. It’s so much more.
There is much much more that goes on in human physiology, the human mind, the human heart and the human soul than just the physical act of sex. Sexual climax is a powerful tool and serves a purpose. It is a tool that is meant to accomplish many things and that is why it feels so awesome. We know this, but we often want to reject it in order to pursue a sexual impulse or fantastical desire. So whether you are considering entering the Lifestyle or have already jumped in, feet first, there’s some things you need to know.
How Sex Happens
An examination of human physiology reveals some interesting facts. In modern western culture we are sophisticated enough to understand that some things happen to our bodies when we participate in the sex act, particularly when we climax. One of the things that happens is the release of hormones. There are primarily two (though these aren’t the only two, there are others that come into play as well) hormones released during climax that scientists have found of interest.
Both males and females release the hormone oxytocin. You might recognize this as the “mother” hormone as it is the same hormone released during childbirth which aids in the bonding of mother and baby. Now that might not sound very sexy, but understand that oxytocin is a bonding hormone. When two people join together sexually and experience climax, this hormone is released and is meant to bond the two together. Further, after sex males experience a hormone called vasopressin. This hormone is sometimes known as the “monogamy molecule” and serves to create feelings of protectiveness over and a desire to stay with his mate. Oxytocin and vasopressin are part of what make us want to stay bonded with a mate in order to rear a family together.
Advocates for multiple sex partners and the Lifestyle may want to remove these physiological realities from the sex act, but it is impossible. Climax serves the purpose of bonding the two partners together for the long haul. Scientists studying these chemicals theorize that the more sex a couple has, the more bonded they become. When you participate in the sex act with multiple partners you diminish the effects and decrease your chances of bonding with your partner. You increase your chances of bonding with partners outside your marriage, despite all the rules the Lifestyle advocates set in place to govern sexual activity without outsiders. And because the effects of sexual climax involve many other brain chemicals which involve pleasure such as dopamine and opioids, you create within yourself the possibility of an addictive draw towards sex and sex with multiple partners. I mean, did you catch that? Opioids. As in opiates, as in, strong chemical reactions akin to the euphoria of recreational drugs. It is, at least in part, a matter of science.
More Than Sex
Yet there is something within most people that understands we transcend mere science. The neuroscience behind sexual acts is one thing and the reality of the soul-ties involved in sex is another. Despite all our troubles throughout human history with sexual monogamy and sexual fidelity, the vast majority of us long for this and hope to find it. That is why, when asked, many people will say that if other couples choose that life that’s fine, but as for me, I prefer exclusivity. Even many who refuse to call the Lifestyle what it is—sinful—still do not want to live it out in their own lives. What they really want is an exclusive relationship.
We all want to know we are worthy of somebody’s love, worthy of being picked. We all want to know that just as we are, faults, quirks, extra pounds and all, that we are enough. It’s true, no one can be anyone else’s fully comprehensive “enough.” Only God can truly be that, and truthfully both males and females need friendships outside the marriage. But my spouse should be my best friend—the one person who gets to share with me our very most intimate selves. When that occurs, we both find safety and security and can participate in other healthy friendships and larger communities.
But Humans Aren’t Meant to be Monogamous!
Lifestyle advocates and some (and not all, believe me, I’ve been doing the research) secular psychologists will tell you that couples that partner swap and participate in various other swinging activities are healthier emotionally and that they actually involve less cheating. This is only because the partners have essentially “legalized” adultery. I can decrease crime statistics by making a lot of things legal, but that doesn’t mean I should. They site a lack of jealousy as the case in point for emotional health.
In reality, these partners have found an easy way to ignite a sexual thrill without putting in the emotional work it requires to maintain a healthy, vibrant and monogamous sexual relationship with a married partner. They will cite many things, such as greater emotional maturity, in order to be able handle your partner having sex with other people. This, however, discounts the greater emotional maturity it requires to stay faithful to a single married partner with whom you’ve built a life.
We could argue emotional maturity all day, but the fact remains: the human heart tends towards hoping for an exclusive, exciting and loving relationship. The world will tell you can’t have that. It will tell you that you need something outside of your marriage partner, like bringing others into your bed or pornography. It will tell you that it’s normal. It will tell that it’s the only way to “spice up” your sexual relationship. I’m telling you it’s laziness and what’s more, it’s a lie.
The Truth about Swinging
The ugly truth is the Lifestyle has brutalized many marriages. Every site you read that advocates the Lifestyle will tell you “just make rules and always, always follow them.” Here’s the trouble—even the advocates realize that there have to be some kind of boundaries. They instinctually know that there are certain rules of intimacy that shouldn’t be broken, even if they are having sex with multiple partners outside of the marriage. These boundaries include things like: no kissing someone besides your spouse (kissing is considered too intimate) or no meeting with another partner outside of agreed upon arrangements, or no sex without condoms. The trouble is, we get a little deeper into those intimate sexual relationships and very often find ourselves craving more. Remember those opioids and all those hormones? Here they are wrestling all your well-intended rules to the ground until they cry “uncle” and there you are having unprotected sex or setting up secret meetings. You never meant to. But you did. There is a secret to avoiding unprotected or secret sex with your swinging partners. Don’t have any in the first place.
Stop Searching for Love in All the Wrong Places
Here’s the bottom line. We all long for deeply connected relationships and having that requires something of us. Real love is not nearly so much about how much pleasure you get from a relationship but is rather defined by what you are willing to do for your partner’s well-being, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Marital fidelity, both emotionally and physically creates the safest place for your partner to flourish. Knowing that you are never comparing your partner to another lover, that your very best is saved only for that one person, that you are physically safe from disease that you are bonded together in order to give one another love and comfort as well as security for the children of your union—that is the safest place for you and your partner to find rest, love and companionship. When that is compromised either consensually or secretly by one or both partners, the safety and intimacy of your relationship and the future of your family unit is placed in danger.
There is no moment of physical release worth the risk of losing your marriage and your family.
Pure Sex is Holy Sex
If your sexual relationship feels dry and passionless, you need not look outside one another to restore it. Seek help. Perhaps counseling is the answer. Or you may want to consider our Marriage Helper 911 Workshop to set your marriage back on the right track. Check your past for incidents which might have set you up for unmet expectations or have undermined your ability to enjoy an open and free sexual relationship with your married partner. Childhood sex abuse, over-exposure to pornography or romantic literature, multiple sexual encounters, dysmorphic body image, low self-esteem (yes, in men also) can lead to a dysfunctional understanding of the right place sexuality has in our lives and what exactly we should expect to get from an active and healthy sexual relationship.
Sadly, even the church has inadvertently given us a distorted view of sex. For those raised in church the message can often sound like “sex is impure, dirty, and you will catch diseases so save it for the one you love.” Do the work it requires to understand yourself and your partner and your sexuality. Once any dysfunctional understanding has been cleared up, or any emotional wounds healed you may be surprised to learn that you can turn to the Bible as a source for erotic literature that will give you a much healthier and vibrant understanding of the place sexuality has in our lives.
God himself advocates an exciting and erotically fulfilling sex life inside the bedroom of a married couple. In fact, let us examine for a moment what the Bible has to say about sex. The Old Testament uses two different phrases to indicate sex. One translates as “he knew her” and the other translates as “he went in to her.” By using these two terms we understand that there are two levels of sexuality. The first carries an idea of intimacy, it is more than the physical act. To know someone takes time. It takes conversation and shared experience. The other just describes an act. A man can basically “go in to” anyone—a prostitute, a woman from the bar, a sex partner at a party for swingers. But that was not God’s intention for sexuality. It has the second level because we were never meant to linger in the first. If you linger there, you will find the vibrancy wears off each new sexual encounter more and more quickly. You will find yourself swimming in a shallow ocean of meaningless relationships, a hot and hopeless sun beating down on you. You will long for the cool refreshment of diving deep in its waters, but you find it has no depth and that you are stuck on the surface of the water, your ability to swim diminished because you have never been in deep water.
Hope for the Future: It’s Not Too Late
Suppose you have already exposed yourself to too many shallow sexual relationships. You have delved into the Lifestyle and you now find that you crave the excitement of those sexual experiences, but you know that it’s a lifestyle you don’t want anymore. Can you ever escape it and have that exciting and fulfilling relationship exclusively with your spouse?
Yes, there is hope. Here’s where you start: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water by the Word and to present her to Himself as a radiant bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28 NIV).
Here are the elements of this scripture that you may begin working on immediately as you seek God’s will and strength for your life and marriage. First, love your spouse. This particular scripture is addressing husbands but can be applied in this situation in the sense that you must choose to stop fulfilling the desire of the flesh that craves that sexual charge and exchange it for a time with pure, disinterested love for your spouse. In other words, for that person’s sake you deny the flesh. Both Husband and wife should do this. Secondly, you begin to employ the Word of God in your life. Read it. Begin to know it and apply it. In this way, it will begin to wash you clean.
Further we read in God’s word, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Not only will God’s word cleanse you, it will renew your mind. The old patterns and inclinations you created by indulging your flesh can be replaced with Godly patterns and inclinations. People do it every day. But they need help and a community to do that. I sincerely hope you find a solid Christian counselor (find one here) or an awesome weekend workshop (like ours) and a group of believers with whom you can openly share your struggles. If you have been a swinger, your sexual sin is no worse than anyone’s in your church family. If you desire to walk with God and to repent of any sin of any kind, including this one, you belong with your brothers and sisters in the Lord who can encourage you toward the sexual purity God desires for you. That doesn’t mean boring! But it does mean exclusive.
Let me leave you with this encouragement from God’s word in the Song of Solomon: “Awake, O north wind, And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, that its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its pleasant fruits.”
God thought of sex before we ever did. He created our bodies to have and crave it. He gave it as a gift. He made it pleasurable that His children may enjoy it. He made it to bond us one to another that families would be not only created but cemented together. It is not that God does not want us to open this beautiful gift and enjoy it fully, it is that humanity wants to receive the gift on its own terms rather than God’s. When we abuse the gift, we do a lot of damage. But God already knew we would and he made provision for that. He can restore you and your sexual relationship with your spouse. Won’t you let Him?