I am a swinger. I am also a wife, mother, sibling, beginner tennis player, writer, seasoned hiker and business owner. Actually, there is an entire list of labels to describe who I am and what I do, all of which reflect my life and chronicle each and every step of my journey. Some of the steps on my path have been easy and others have been trying, but with each one I have grown closer to who I truly am. I have learned to love each and every moment of this beaten path and to be proud of the route I followed and continue to follow today.
When I was first introduced to the swinging lifestyle by my husband John, I was instantly curious about what it meant to be a swinger. In the past I had some preconceived notions about what a swinger was all about. My uninformed and sheltered mind was under the impression that those involved in the lifestyle must not have a secure relationship. I was naive in the sense that I did not realize anyone would have an issue with this new lifestyle I was learning about. And now I was dating a swinger! I had first-hand knowledge of what a swinger entailed, and I was impressed. Swinging lost those negative connotations and seemed like a viable relationship option, one I was excited about.
As a result, I talked about it, quite a bit. I told my mom and my sister and even my co-workers.
When I informed John that I had told my mom, he was nervous. He had experienced the discrimination that can happen when friends and family members find out about the lifestyle. I had not. Because I had taken the time to explore what the true meaning of being a swinger encapsulated and understood the beauty of this relationship model, I overlooked the fact that others might not share the same enthusiasm I had for what I believed to be a sex-positive approach with a partner. Fortunately, for me (and John), my mother encouraged my relationship. She knew how much I cared about him and she also knew how wonderful he was. The fact that he owned swinger clubs was not her primary concern—all she cared about was that we loved each other. I lost my mom in 2013, and to this day I am so grateful she and John were able to have an honest and loving relationship. She could relax because she knew her daughter was gloriously happy and John was loved for simply being who he was. I was happy and satisfied in my life and still am, but I have learned a thing or two about what can happen when others do not understand my relationship. My point is, whether or not my mom agreed with the lifestyle I had chosen or the business we were involved in, it did not affect the way she treated us or the love she expressed to us. I have learned through experience just how blessed I was and am to have family and friends who love and support who I am.
I have witnessed first-hand the intolerance when others do not agree with my lifestyle, and I have even had some people ask me to not reveal what line of business I am involved in, so as not to make them or others uncomfortable in public. I recently encountered one such scenario.
John and I had uploaded some exclusive tee-shirts to our Openlove101 site for purchase, and I was excited about finally being able to wear them. The design is custom artwork that does not scream “swing”; the message expresses the beauty of a loving relationship, it is subtle and can be worn by anyone regardless of their sexuality. I had some special shirts made for John and I which also incorporated our Openlove101 logo on the sleeve.
We were invited to spend a few days with some friends of ours and I was excited to take the new t-shirts on the trip and show them off. The trip was great, except for one small hiccup. We had been up late one night talking. Our friends are not swingers, but are curious about the lifestyle so we tend to end up talking about relationship dynamics and how the swinging lifestyle has had such a positive effect on our relationship.
This evening was no different—we spent what seemed like hours discussing the pros and cons of the swinging lifestyle, and even though John and I identify with the lifestyle, we believe each and every relationship works based on what the couple is comfortable with, whether an open relationship or a monogamous one.
Through the course of the conversation, the topic of our new line of t-shirts was brought up and John and I discussed how excited we were to finally be launching the line. The following morning I decided it was a perfect time to show our friends the designs. I walked into the living room wearing my new shirt with its funky design and small Openlove101 logo on the sleeve. I sat talking with my friend, so proud to finally show him the shirt I had been bragging about the night before.
To my surprise he asked me to please change out of the shirt because he did not want his staff to see the logo. I was shocked and a little embarrassed, but I respected his request and changed my shirt. This was my first real experience in this type of situation and it really knocked the wind out of my sails.
I tried to understand his point of view. I mean, before I entered into the lifestyle, I was completely misinformed and so it was easy for me to understand how others could have this same misconception. I also understand that some people just do not agree, and that is okay, not everyone is going to agree with the relationship my husband and I have chose, but these were my friends.
Initially I was upset, but as I calmed myself, I realized the sadness of the situation. This friend of ours, though curious, did not feel as though he had the freedom to reveal his curiosity or want others to know he associated with swingers out of fear that people would assume he must be a swinger as well. This fear not only keeps him confined, but made him feel the need to confine who I am.
This experience made me realize that although we have made some real steps forward in dispelling the myths and misconceptions about the swinging lifestyle, we have many more miles ahead of us.
Yes, I am a swinger, and I am proud of my relationship with my husband, but being a swinger is not the whole of who I am. To some, what I do seems very different, but part of the beauty in life is our differences, those that challenge our way of thinking and either confirm our beliefs or test them.
Instead of being upset with my friend and wallowing around in my anger and embarrassment, this whole incident is a lesson for me to learn about my own life. Sometimes we get so caught up in what others think and want to please everyone and be liked by all, but you know what, I am actually humbled to be part of a business that I am so proud of.
I love seeing couples who challenge their own belief systems in order to create a tailor made relationship they take great pride in. I love sharing what I have learned through my relationship with John and providing a safe and fun environment for couples and singles to gather and commune with others of like minds.
Owning and operating the best swinger clubs in the United States (colette) is a great honor and I see on a weekly basis the benefits this lifestyle brings to hundreds of couples and singles. This is important to me. John and I love helping people and we believe in what we do. This is why we decided to change the story we tell about ourselves.
Now I am not saying I will be shouting from the rooftops what I do or the lifestyle I am involved in, but I will not cower in a corner either. Of course there will be instances in which I will be asked what I do for a living and I will simply say I am a writer or a club owner, because after all this is true, but if someone presses me for further details, I will not be fearful to tell them what I write about or what type of club we operate. The only way I know how to break the cycle of misinformation about swinging is to make myself available to answer questions. No longer will I shy away from the uncomfortableness it creates in others.
As a matter of fact, I believe John and I can be of help to those who are uncomfortable or have preconceived notions about swinging. It has been our experience that once people find out what we do, not only are they incredibly curious, but they also usually have a plethora of questions.
If we can dispel some of the erroneous views about the swinging lifestyle and show those around us that being a swinger is no different than any other kind of relationship model, then swinging can cross over into an accepted lifestyle option!
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.