Humans (and not just humans) care a lot about equality and fairness. And for good reason: when not everyone is satisfied, and some get more at the expense of others, it can lead to discontent and “drama” that ruin things for everyone. When I was a kid, my mom used to try and keep the number of presents we each had under the tree roughly equal. Sometimes that led to absurd results: one person getting one book or DVD as “one” present while another got a half dozen in a box as “one” present. It was all in an effort to convince us (whether correctly or incorrectly, I still don’t know) that we were all getting about the same amount of loot.
No, this isn’t going to be a post about Elizabeth Warren or the Occupy movement: it’s about swinging when members of a couple are up for different things (for example, where one is soft-swap but the other is full-swap). You can call this “unequal” or “imbalanced,” I call it “asymmetrical.” My wife and I are in an asymmetrical-swinging relationship, and have been since we started (though it’s become more symmetrical the longer we’ve done it).
This raises red flags in the minds of a lot of swingers, especially those who are symmetrically full-swap. Some of these concerns are based on fairness within their own relationship: “I don’t want to do anything my partner can’t also do.” Completely understandable. But sometimes there’s a hint of judgment attached to it, an implication that there is something wrong with an asymmetrical relationship. Sometimes this takes the form of an implication that there is trickery afoot, where the partner playing less is being used almost as bait. Other times there’s condescension emblematic of a belief that this is the sign of a dysfunctional relationship.
There are lots of reasons why asymmetrical swinging happens: sometimes it’s a result of different preferences, with one partner simply not being interested in something the other is. Other times it’s a health or “time of the month” issue. Maybe there is an emotional reason why one member of the couple doesn’t want to go as far as the other (or why they may have decided it’s not allowed).
This has been discussed on the podcast; Cooper has referenced the old maxim that “equality and fairness are not the same thing.” If you find that there are no barriers to one person doing something that will make them happy, should you impose a barrier just because their partner, for some reason, can’t also do that thing? In some cases, yes, you should, for the reasons mentioned above: inequality can lead to resentment and tension. But sometimes, equality for the sake of equality results in everyone getting less happiness, since it prevents something that’s a net-positive from happening, without really achieving anything (and please don’t come Occupy my yard for saying so!)
For us, our asymmetry was initially, at least somewhat, the result of me limiting my wife’s play. I am full-swap, and have been almost since we started swinging two years ago, but she started off at “kissing/touching” and is now soft-swap. That’s because the original reason we got into it is that she and I really wanted to see each other with other women, but I wasn’t comfortable with her going very far with other men. I’d never had any kind of open relationship before, didn’t feel the kind of innate compersion she felt, and didn’t know how I’d feel, so I wanted to go slowly.
At the time, it seemed silly to limit my activities, which made both of us very happy, simply because her activities were going to be limited (in part) by my discomfort. She had no problem with that, since she didn’t have much interest in other men in the first place. I don’t think this limit ever actually caused her to not do something she wanted, but it was there nonetheless, and it was something we discussed with other couples, sometimes with negative reactions.
The more we’ve done, and especially the more she has done, the more comfortable I’ve become; she still hasn’t gone full-swap with another guy, but she has now done a lot of soft-swap, and we’ve both really enjoyed it. Hell, I might even be beginning to feel that compersion thing everyone talks about! I feel confident that, with the right guy, I’d be on-board with her going “all the way.”
But she doesn’t want to. She has maintained, throughout the process, that she has no interest in sex with any other men. Her interests remain largely in women, both for herself and for me (she’s a voyeur at heart). So for the time being, we will remain firmly and definitively asymmetrical in our swinging. There are plenty of couples who are like us, some even more so (we’ve met couples where one partner is full swap and the other isn’t even soft-swap, like we were at the beginning), and some couples who will look down on us and/or refuse to play with us.
And honestly, that’s totally ok. The thing I like most about this community is that it is emphatically a choose your kink. Whatever you want, there’s someone out there who wants to do it with you.