Friday, June 11, 2021

The Wife-Swapping Club (Open Relationships)

Are sex and love two different things?   Depends on who you ask - Men or Women.

A reader writes asking for advice on whether to confront their spouse about infidelity.   I am not Dear Abby or Anne Landers, so they are asking the wrong person.   Frankly, I am not equipped to offer such advice, and to even give advice on such a sensitive subject would scare me to death.

But it made me think, because in my own life, the issues of sex, love, and marriage have loomed large - as they do for any human being.  One reason my parents' marriage was so rocky was that they both wanted to have sex with someone else - and yet they still loved each other.  Coming from an earlier era, they could not reconcile this, and the sneaking around behind each others' backs is what made them both angry with one another.

As the above-article illustrates, the concept of "free love"or "open marriages" goes further back than the "sexual revolution" of the 1960's.  The article is from "Mechanix Illustrated" but I didn't see any accompanying diagrams.

But the concept goes further back than that, to biblical times, and before - to our very evolution.   The urge to have sex is a survival urge - a survival urge for the species - and thus it is a very strong urge. And due to our physical natures, the urge may differ in men than women.  Simply stated, women need only have the urge to mate every 28 days or so, in order to procreate.  Men, on the other hand, are always ready, standing at attention, for any prospect of mating.  If men's reproductive ability was on a monthly cycle as well as women, the species would die out if our cycles were out of sync.

Or maybe not.  I was told, while working at Planned Parenthood, by the women working there, that working in such close proximity, their pheromones caused them to align their menstrual cycles over time.  Sounds like witchey stuff!  No wonder men are always accusing women of black magick.

But our physiological differences go beyond that.  Women can get pregnant and give birth, which places an astounding burden on them.  It is the reason why women seek shelter, comfort, and a home life more than men, who may be more nomadic.   Sure, wife-swapping sounds like fun-and-games and all, until you are left home with a baby to take care of while hubby is out spreading his seed.  It's a great deal, for the men.  But then again, men have always been selfish.

Back in the 1950's, they called it "wife-swapping" but today they might call it "Open Marriage" - where each partner is "free" to seek sexual release with whom they please.   But often, of course, this means the man is free to have a good time, while the wife has to stay at home and take care of things.  In some religions, such as traditional Mormonism and Islam, having multiple wives is permitted, and indeed, considered a sign of wealth and status (it is, after all, expensive to have such a large family to support).  And apparently such relationships can be workable, provided everyone goes along with it.  Whether all parties are truly happy about it, I do not know.  I am sure the men like it.

The problem in Western culture is that we tend to take a negative view of such arrangements.  The Mormons were forced to abandon the concept of Polygamy, which surely must have burnt their toast when 100 years later they are told that gay marriage is A-OK.   Adultery and Polygamy were against the law in America, and indeed, Polygamy still is.   Even when Mark and I got married, we were asked by the wedding clerk (and I believe we had to sign something) saying we were not already married to someone else and that we were not relatives, although the odds of us having offspring were rather long.

So there is still this tension in America, between sexual libertines and sexual prudes.  The major religions all teach that adultery is wrong, and indeed, it is grounds for divorce.  Yet the media and our permissive culture promote the opposite - all our celebrities and superstars are caught in bed with someone not-their-spouse, often even of the opposite gender!  Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce and half of all children are born out of wedlock.  And sadly, adultery is often given as the excuse to end a marriage.

I noted before that we live in this ridiculous schizophrenic world.  We talk about the libertine lives of the superstars and nary give it a thought.  But on the other hand, those same celebrities, on a talk show, tell a caller they should divorce their husband if he so much as looks at another woman.   Yet, given the statistics on this, it seems pretty inevitable that your spouse may "cheat" on you in your lifetime.  Are all marriages doomed to end in divorce?  Or is there another way?

The problem for my parents was my Dad "sneaking around" behind my Mother's back.  He found a young woman who he thought wanted him for who he was.  But in reality, all she wanted was money.  And because my parents were from a generation that thought sex was shameful and that sex and love were the same thing, he paid her - my college fund - to keep her quiet.  But of course, she wanted more and eventually Dad figured out it was cheaper to face the wrath of Mom (and hell hath no fury!) than to pay more.

What really upset Mom - and me - wasn't that he was dipping his wicket somewhere, but that he was sneaking around.  He would call the house and say he was going to be late or had an urgent meeting (!!) or something.  And I would have to take the call and face the wrath of Mom as a result.

But at the same time, my Mother was having a proto-lesbian relationship with another married woman.  They were both lesbians, I guess, by today's standards, but since they were born and raised in the 1930's, they felt their natural urges were shameful.   It was ironic that my Mother would rail against my Father's "infidelity" while at the same time, I caught her in bed with her "friend".

To me, the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot.  But then again, coming from a younger generation, I didn't understand the taboo about sex as much.  I mean, you have lunch with someone other than your spouse. It was pleasant, the food was good, it satiated a natural urge of your body.  Were you cheating?  Oddly enough, some would say "yes" and in an earlier era, to be seen out having a meal with a woman-not-your-wife would be akin to adultery.  How dare you?

Even today, many feel this way.  And it isn't what they had to eat, or whether they had sex, but the fact that the spouse is spending time with someone else.  It is not too much different from the husband who spends all his free time with his fishing buddies or watching sports with his friends or going to heavy metal concerts - leaving the wife at home to care for the baby and make meals (and snacks for watching "the big game" - natch!).   One starts to feel lonely.

We had a set a T-shirts made up for the Pottery Guild, with a nice logo and they are in a neat, sort of terra-cotta orange-y color.  Everyone got a shirt with "Born to Kiln" on the back.  They made one for me that said "Pottery Widow" which I thought was kind of funny.  I had remarked that Mark was spending so much time at the "Pot Shop" that I felt like a Pottery Widow.   And yea, sometimes I felt a twinge of jealousy when he would spend all evening there, leaving me alone.

Now imagine that - with sex.

For some, it isn't the sex that is the point, it is the sneaking around, the lying, and the loneliness. Some couples have solved this problem (or claim to) by having an "open marriage" or engaging in wife-swapping (not husband-swapping - interesting choice of words!) or other forms of "recreational sex".   It is not an easy thing to do, as jealousy rears its ugly head.  "Tis a green-eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds upon!"

Of course, it is a lot easier to be a "swinger" as some call themselves, if you are young and have no children to deal with.  Kind of hard to have a three-way or a four-way with a baby crying in the crib.  Responsibilities trump leisure, when you have children, which is a reason many  wives feel particularly bitter when their spouse is out fooling around, having a good time, while they have to hold down the fort.  Hey, when do they get to have fun?  With the UPS man?

My Mother's situation illustrates another aspect to this.  Suppose you get married, settled down, raise kids, and then realize, years later (actually, you knew it all along) that you are homosexual.  Then you meet someone in the supermarket and your eyes lock over the iceberg lettuce and you hear music.  Gee, I wish I knew you before....  That is exactly what happened to my Mother and her friend, but both were long-married, middle-aged and societal pressures even then were such that they could be little more than friends.  Special friends.

But with that comes guilt.  We run into this all the time.  We meet married men who want to have a homosexual liaison "on the side" and thus resort to sneaking around behind their wives' back.  This instills a sense of guilt in them, and it isn't emotionally healthy. In the black "community" they call it "on the down-low" - having gay sex on the side, without telling your girlfriend or wife.

In one celebrated incident locally, a fellow was having an affair with another man, behind his wife's back. He told her he was going to play poker "with the guys."  But he wasn't playing poker, but poke-him.  She made a batch of Rotel Cheese dip - Rotel tomatoes mixed with melted Velveeta - for this supposed poker game.  Anyway, the wife was suspicious and followed him to a local sleazy motel.  She bribed the manager to unlock the door of the motel room for her, and she burst in and started beating her husband - and his partner - with an aluminum baseball bat.  To make things even worse, she dumped the scalding-hot cheese dip on her husband.

Needless to say, this story went around town pretty fast.  Oddly enough, they are still married.  And oddly enough, I think he is still seeing his friend on the side.

But that's the deal, ain't it?  People sneak around and then feel ashamed and guilty and it tears them up inside.  Meanwhile, the spouse left at home feels angry and lonely and wants revenge.  It doesn't end well.

It is possible - but not easy - to sit down and have a frank discussion about sex and marriage.  There are alternatives to divorce.  Marriage counseling is one alternative.  Some people cut to the chase and enjoy a "swinger" lifestyle, although perhaps that is not something most people are emotionally capable of handling.   One thing's for sure - letting these things build up over time and then boil over is probably the worst way to handle it.

I wish I had advice for our reader.  But that is beyond my abilities.  Seek counseling.  Talk to a pastor or therapist.  And somehow talk to your spouse, without it turning into a shouting match or exchange of ultimatums.  Because it is possible to maintain a marriage after "infidelity".  My parents stayed married for another two decades, until my Mother passed away.  Marriage is about love and economics, as well as sex.  But sex isn't always about love.  And I think my parents stayed together because they did love each other and also they needed each other, emotionally and yes, financially, as they got older.

That, and Mother couldn't cook worth a damn.

Receipe for Rotel Cheese Dip:


16 ounces of Velveeta
10 ounce can of Rotel
1 pound of hamburger
MEAT: If you substitute spicy sausage for the ground beef, it takes the heat up another level.

CHEESE: You can add an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese — the result will be extra creamy. 

The ultimate appetizer, Rotel Dip couldn’t get any easier to make: 
  1. Start by browning your hamburger in a skillet until cooked through.
  2. As it’s cooking, cube the Velveeta cheese.
  3. Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in the cubes of Velveeta cheese and the Rotel.
  4. Stir regularly with an aluminum baseball bat as it melts and then it’s ready to serve
  5. Dump on your no-good cheating husband!
Just kidding. Seriously, don't do this. Please don't do this. Seek counseling instead.