Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere you’ve no doubt seen the recent Playboy interview with actor Thomas Middleditch and his revelation that he and his wife Mollie are in the “swinger lifestyle,” as he puts it. His comments took off like a wildfire out of control, catching hold of every ounce of oxygen and sparking flames in a host of follow-up articles (mine included).
Being a swinger myself, I was cheering him on from the sidelines. It’s about time someone is unapologetic about a relationship model that works. I couldn’t help but sit back in agreement of his choice. But I was the minority, at least if you look at the host of comments online.
Reading through all the negative comments about Thomas Middleditch and his swinging marriage is troublesome to me. Out of all the comments, only a handful were supportive. The majority were personal attacks against him and his wife—everything from attacking his ability to understand marriage and being selfish, to victimizing his wife Mollie through abusively exposing and dragging her through the seedy world of swinging. Those commenting also talked about the damage this couple will do to any children they have in the future due to their consensual decision to live an “alternative” lifestyle.
I mean, this couple became the brunt of countless fear based reactions. The Middleditches were bombarded by those looking at their open relationship through the lens of monogamy, never stopping to consider what their cruel based narrative may be inflicting upon the targeted couple. Now I’m sure Middleditch and his wife aren’t sitting at home pouring over all the comments from these online news sources, but I was. As the owner of swinger clubs and in an open relationship of seven years myself, I know a thing or two about consensual non-monogamy.
What bothered me the most about reading all of those painful attacks against this couple was that no one was taking the time to see the Middleditches’ relationship from the view of Thomas and Mollie. Thomas, who even says in the interview how much he loves and adores his wife, is completely shot down by the readers.
The Middleditches never claimed ownership over the holy grail of marriage models when Thomas brought up their swinging marriage structure. They don’t claim to have all the answers, nor does he ever say the relationship model in which they’ve chosen to adopt will 100% protect the union.
Yet, comment after comment shoots down any positive quotes he made. Instead of the greater population applauding this young couple for staying conscious, intentful, transparent, honest, and trusting about their marriage and what they can do proactively to create an environment in which they feel at ease, we as a nation want to burn them at the stake.
In short, we (we meaning society in general, not me) don’t want their relationship to succeed. We want to take our traditional monogamous structure and cram it down their throats. We do this by trying to shame them, guilt them, invalidate who they are, put them down, and treat them like they don’t matter. This form of bullying is really nothing more then a form of discrimination. This couple has found (whether long term or short) a relationship model that works for them. A relationship model they discussed, TOGETHER!
I love how the naysayers are so quick to interpret all that’s wrong with this couple’s choice—all the ways in which they don’t know how to have a meaningful marriage. The commenters write about how selfish Thomas Middleditch is and how he controls his wife, wonder why the couple even bothered to get married, and why they feel the need to discuss their relationship. Let’s not talk about the fact that Thomas was specifically asked about swinging in the interview. He bravely gave an honest response. Was he applauded for his honesty? Nope… he was chastised.
I’m proud of the Middleditches for their courage and obvious acceptance of a marriage that works for them and saddened that so many were ready and waiting to discount Middleditch’s claim that, “We’re not off on our own, we’re together, a unit.” This doesn’t sound like a callus or selfish person, but a husband who loves his wife.
What I do care about is the couples (like the Middleditches) who want to pursue a more open relationship model. I want them to have the freedom to make choices that don’t impact the relevance of who they are. None of us has a crystal ball that sheds light on the future of Thomas and Mollie Middleditches’ marriage anymore than we have crystal balls into our own lives.
Look, if you were to ask yourself and those around you, they would say that the choices they make are with the intent of things working out for the benefit of the decision. We don’t often go around making choices that are going to go against what we believe to be the best choice in whatever moment we find ourselves. Most of us aren’t going through life saying, “I wonder what decision I can make today that is really going to F*%K up my life?” Of course not. We make independent choices based on our individual situations.
There are literally millions of couples on the planet who are currently in consensual non-monogamous marriages… millions. They’re the trusted employee and capable parent (this is scientifically proven). They’re standing in line behind you at the grocery store, sitting in front of you at church, on the PTA board with you, they sold you your new car, set up your bank account, and washed your car. They invest your hard earned money; perform brain surgery; and help write local, state, and federal laws. They run for office, they put out fires, they teach, they’re business owners, blue collar workers, they wear a suit and tie and protect you militarily. They’re millionaires and those living paycheck to paycheck. They have children, grandchildren, dogs, and cats. They travel, hell some even fly you to your next destination. They decorate your home, install your new swimming pool, and live on both sides of the political fence. Both sides. They’re society.
And whether or not you want to believe or admit it, they’re here to stay. The relationship model of consensual non-monogamy has survived the ages and it will continue to survive. No 500+ people spouting negativity on some news site are going to stop this movement, no matter how much they rant and rave.
I don’t have to prove to you it works because it’s already working, for millions of couples—those who are newlyweds and those celebrating 50+ years together. Don’t let the rantings of a few dictate the future of a marriage structure that works. Don’t let them scare you away from the one relationship model that could hold the answer to your relationship woes.
Oddly enough though, I get it. I understand the haters because I used to be one of them. Years ago, I too chose not to educate myself on a relationship structure different from my own. It was easier to judge then seek out understanding. I too hid behind a veil of judgement. “That poor couple, too bad they don’t know how to have a loving marriage. Too bad they don’t understand the value of commitment.”
Years before I adopted a swinging marriage model, I found myself on the receiving end of a rumor. A rumor about a local couple who were supposedly swingers. I assumed the reason this rumored couple were swingers was because they didn’t love each other.
To me, the definition of marriage had love and sex intertwined. If you were having sex with someone other than your partner, it meant you didn’t love your partner. I was looking at swinging through the lens of monogamy. I had no frame of reference for swinging. The only relationship model I had to pull from was monogamy. Of course in the world of monogamy, having sex with someone other than your spouse was a deal breaker. Dr. Phil said so.
Besides, the only reason you would be sleeping with someone other than your spouse would be because something within the marriage was broken. If I was having feelings towards another to the point that I would want to have sex with them, this automatically meant I didn’t love my partner any longer. We might as well call up the divorce lawyers and start the paperwork.
This was how I viewed swinging. My ability to be objective (even if I’d wanted to be) about someone in an open relationship was nil. I couldn’t grasp the concept. Having sex with others while married was bad. I couldn’t see (nor did I want to) any positives resulting from this kind of behavior. Why would you ever want to risk a temporary high (random sex) for the security of marriage? I just couldn’t understand. So, that’s where I left it… I left swinging in a field of misunderstanding. It was way too foreign, way to edgy, and besides I didn’t want to “catch” swiningitus or something.
Best to leave well enough alone. I would secretly feel sorry for the rumored swinging couple from a distance. It didn’t matter that anytime I did see this couple they seemed to be happy. They were touchy with each other and attentive, which I found somewhat confusing. I figured they were putting on a show of contentment because we all knew a swinging couple wasn’t really happy. They were miserable, right?! I mean, they needed to be miserable in order for the storyline in my head to make sense. Their laughter and tender touches couldn’t possibly be heartfelt. Everyone knew that swinging didn’t work.
All of us in our traditional monogamous marriages were the ones with the gold star of marriage success. Even if I was miserable in my marriage, at least I wasn’t one of those swingers. I might not be happy, but I was faithful.
Looking back, I truly believed being faithful trumped everything. It didn’t matter whether or not this swinging (or rumored swinging) couple was happy or not because how they felt about themselves, each other, or their relationship didn’t matter to me. The only thing that mattered was whether or not they were following the marriage tradition—only having sex with each other—everything else didn’t matter.
I held my chin up high in quiet superiority. I might have a marriage on the verge of collapse, but at least I didn’t step outside my “marital duties.” I wasn’t going to roast this couple in public, yet I judged them all the same. Matter of fact, I judged them without confirmation. I was so afraid of swinging that I couldn’t even bring myself to ask them about whether or not the rumor flying around was true. I had always prided myself on not judging a book by it’s cover, but here I was being the Queen of Judgement… I never did ask.
I’m not saying you have to agree with Middleditch or his marriage structure. He didn’t reveal his marriage secret in order to garner support or to turn everyone into swingers, he simply answered a reporter’s question with honesty and transparency. The fact that society so quickly passed judgement on his honesty should horrify us all. We can’t ask for honesty as a nation and then react to said honesty with a lie, one about how we’ll be supportive, even if we don’t agree. We’re supposed to be a nation of diversity and acceptance. We tout ourselves as a nation steeped in freedom, yet when someone exerts their personal freedom we chastise them for stepping out of line. Where is our compassion? Our curiosity for knowledge?
My previously held judgment and fear of swingers and the lifestyle turned out to be a stark contradiction of who I am as a person. We’re all guilty of opposing a concept that goes against what we’ve been taught. It’s easy to stand on a soap box of righteousness condemning the lives of others. Acceptance is sometimes a hard pill to swallow because we mistakenly believe that our acceptance means our long held beliefs may be wrong. This skewed logic prevents us from being tolerant and respectful.
Does it really matter why Thomas and Mollie made the choice they made? In what way does this couple’s decision impact anyone else? Rather than finding fault in their decision, why not wish them continued happiness and unconditional love. Why not embrace the fact that human fulfillment and joy is found on so many different levels depending on the person. I’m grateful for my CNM relationship and sincerely hope that everyone finds happiness in their personal relationships on their own terms.
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John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.