Hi, I need advice. I’ve watched all you videos but I still can’t get into swinging although my partner does (by that he says he needs it and is a big part of who he is) I am by most standards very attractive but I can’t get turned on during swinging. I feel a deep self hate during or even on the “hunt” at swing clubs. I end up spending the next few days not eating and determined to gain what I apparently am lacking. I’ve tried taking the me out of it and tried focusing on making him happy but I become more convinced that I am not enough. I want him to be happy and I tried viewing it that way..but I can’t stop feeling less than. Sorry for the long note, but I’m desperate to be okay with this but everything I’ve tried has just broken me down And extremely lonely and depressed. I am hoping you can articulate a way to get past this and enjoy this life.
Desperate to be Okay
Dear Desperate to be Okay,
I appreciate your courage to write me and I empathize with your plight. Before I jump into any response, I want to point out a recurring theme in your email. I want you to take a moment to look over this list of self descriptions:
deep self hate
feeling less than
extremely lonely & depressed
I am struck by the deficit in each sentence. I don’t think I would be too far off the mark in stating that the concept of swinging for you is viewed as a loss. Not a loss in general, but a shortfall about you. With this negative narrative swirling around in your head, it’s no wonder the thought of swinging has you frozen. I wouldn’t be interested in an open relationship either if it meant the above.
But how to get to the root of the issue? How to peel back the layers in order to expose our fears? How to look at ourselves from the standpoint of enough? I learned a thing or two in my own journey from monogamy to consensual non monogamy that might help.
HONESTY. Sure, being honest sounds simple enough, but what about speaking our honesty in the midst of fear? Most of us aren’t eager to reveal our deep seeded fears to our partner. The last thing we want is to have those fears confirmed. “I’m afraid you are going to like so and so better than me and leave me?”
Most of us aren’t beating down the door to say this to our partner, because what if our partner looks us straight in the eye and says, “yes, you’re right, I am leaving you for so and so.” Our fear of confirmation is so great we never give ourself or our partner the opportunity to confirm or deny the fear. This lack of confirmation means we keep the fear alive. We are in effect telling ourselves and our partner that neither of us are worth the truth. If I wanted a relationship steeped in truth and trust, I had to be willing to embrace all honesty, even the times I was in fear.
FEAR. I struggled (and still do to a degree) with this one. There is a side of me that lives outside the lines and another part of me who is a rule follower. I will take the time to walk all the way to the corner to cross the street for instance, yet I live my day to day life on the outskirts. My consensual non monogamous relationship probably the most glaring societal pushback. My relationship with John pushed my fears to the surface for sure.
Since I had no previous experience in the world of swinging, meeting and falling in love with a swing club owner, meant I was going to put my teachings to the test. I had this neat and tidy life planned for myself and John came into my life like a bull in a china shop. He upended everything I thought I knew about relationships. I hadn’t realized until John and I were together that I brought with me a pretty impressive stack of fears. Fears about myself and my adequacy. Fears about boundaries and who I was.
John taught me not to fear my fear. He taught me to ask it to lunch. To get into a conversation with what lived deep within me. I learned that often times my fear was really a mask. A covering I wore to hide a deep seeded excitement and curiosity about something I had been taught not to do. Was my fear really just an excuse to stay nestled in what could go wrong? Had I ever considered what might happen if I ended up loving the experience?
I realized my fears were also challenges. Challenges against the norm. All the teachings I carried around with me, I simply assumed were true. I figured all the times I struggled with a concept or a “truth” that the problem must lie with me and some fault in my ability to follow the rule.
But, what if the problem was with the rule itself? How much did I really know about what I had been taught? Was monogamy really the only relationship format? Could an open relationship hold answers to a stronger more self assured woman? Was I brave enough to take a look?
Acknowledging my fear and vocalizing those fears gave John and I the chance to work together. I’ve always said that knowledge is power, and power is what feeds our resolve and our self assurance. These were “powerful” lessons I learned in my journey through fear. While I practiced courage, John practiced empathy.
RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF. Oh boy, this one was a tough one for me. I had spent the better part of my life concerned about everybody but me. If you asked me what I wanted, it was usually followed up with something like, “I don’t care, what do you want?” My husband was the first person who ever asked me what I wanted. What I really wanted. What I desired, what I fantasized about, what I wanted to try. He was the first person who said, “I want you to be the best version of yourself no matter what that means.”
Did you know taking responsibility for your own life is incredibly freeing? I got tough with self defeating talk. I told myself it was okay if I was turned on by something that maybe in my past I would have struggled to accept. I realized that I was perfect just the way I was. I wasn’t in competition with anyone, nor was I saddled with the responsibility of being someones everything. I began to see my value and to view life from a much more half full narrative.
What if I started focusing on everything I DID have instead of all the things I thought I was lacking? Didn’t this obsession in fear and less then, really mean I was living in a past and future space? Did I really want to sacrifice my now for some kind of false assurance?
But I get it. Like you, I too came up against comparison. I too, wondered if John might leave me for some curvier, sexier, taller, shorter, thinner, heavier woman. To add insult to injury, I took all the qualities I thought all these other women exhibited and sandblasted myself. All I ended up doing was making myself miserable.
You see, in the beginning I couldn’t grasp the concept that swinging wasn’t about some list of deficits I encompassed. John wasn’t having sex with other women because there was something missing in me. I had been looking at swinging as some personal reflection, and in doing so not only was I ignoring my amazing qualities but I was also discounting all the wonderful qualities of all these other women. These women weren’t my competition, they were different from me sure, but that didn’t automatically mean they were better.
Being loving towards myself, my husband, and these other women opened up a whole new view. I resolved to pack away my self judgement, my inward view, and instead look at life through the lens of self assurance and love. The first few times I did this, it felt odd, I realized how often I had nestled myself in the negative of a situation instead of the positive.
“Okay, Jackie, you are going to be consciously loving,” I would tell myself. The more I did this, the more amazed I was by the results. Instead of thinking I needed to protect my position in the relationship, I began to interact with these women as friends. They weren’t in my life to take, they were in my life to give. I began to see that each time I lived in fear or competition or control, I became the culprit in the story.
There’s a quote I love:
“It is not what you are that holds you back, it is what you think you are not.”
I would encourage you to have a heart to heart conversation with yourself and then your partner. Look, swinging may not be something you ever want to do and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to reach the same conclusions about what works for them relationship wise. Not everyone is a swinger, or in an open relationship, or in a traditional monogamous one. We all bring our beliefs and thought patterns to the table.
Sometimes we can compromise and other times we decide the compromise isn’t worth it. Either way, what we choose should be established from a secure self base. One steeped in knowledge, a healthy dose of curiosity, a beautiful self image, and a clear understanding of our boundaries. Knowing we bring with us strength, courage and fortitude into the arena of life will help us in those times we face challenges. Having this secure base also opens us up to doing things for others as well. We learn to practice compersion. The ability to be happy in our partners happiness.
John and Jackie Melfi are married swingers and in an open relationship. They were featured in an ABC News Nightline special report “Getting ‘Naughty in N’Awlins’: Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention” and are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, and Austin and the award-winning blog Openlove101.com with over 20 years of combined experience in open relationships and coaching thousands of couples.