If you speak to swingers and ask them if swinging can ruin relationships, the overwhelming message is that while the lifestyle will enhance stable relationships, it will also speed up the inevitable break up of unstable relationships.
There are few studies that investigate whether relationships are ruined by swinging, mostly because the subject is still a taboo in many areas. However, there is a lot to learn from the research that has been done.
We’ve put together some of the facts we do know about the relationship quality of swingers.
Swingers may have a higher life satisfaction than average (Wilt, Harrison & Michael, 2018)
A study of 34 swinging heterosexual couples suggests that they are happier than their monogamous counterparts. What we don’t know is if this happiness is what made them feel more confident about exploring new things or whether swinging has given them the freedom to explore things that make them happy. Regardless of whether happiness is the cause or effect of swinging, if swinging couples are happier, then it suggests that the activity doesn’t ruin relationships for the people who choose this way of life.
They are not scared of losing their partners if they didn’t swing (Wilt, Harrison & Michael, 2018)
The same study as the above also showed that people do not swing out of fear of losing their partner and that the couples didn’t feel that their relationship would fail if they were not swinging. The data widely suggests that non-monogamous couples are choosing to swing for fun rather than one partner being pressured into it in some way out of guilt or fear. It also suggests that they manage their boundaries and their jealousy, and are able to involve other people in their sex lives without fearing the loss of their relationship.
Jealousy becomes a problem when it is thought their partner may have an emotional connection with someone else (Visser & McDonald, 2007)
While the jealousy that comes from no strings attached sex with other people is something swingers can learn to manage, some studies suggest it can get complicated when romantic feelings start to develop. However, this seems to be able to be controlled by agreeing on rules, forming a strong identity as a couple, and communicating openly. It is also important for most swingers to save emotional intimacy exclusively for their romantic partner to help prevent their relationship from becoming ruined.
Non-monogamous couples may have less reason to divorce (Amato & Previti, 2003)
Studies of the general population suggest that divorce rates may be anywhere from 40 – 60%. Many of these divorces are as a result of meeting someone else or making a mistake and cheating on their partner. One study has found as many as 23% of divorces are due to men meeting someone else, 28% are as a result of cheating, and the figures for women are 42% and 7% respectively. While there is no way to tell how many of these relationships wouldn’t have ended if consensual non-monogamy had been explored, it can be speculated that in an open relationship there may be fewer reasons to divorce.
The principles behind swinging are known to revive struggling marriages (Conley & Moors, 2014)
As consensual non-monogamy promotes communication, supports extensive social networks, offers time out from everyday obligations, and involves exciting new experiences within the relationship, swinging may revive struggling marriages. While there doesn’t seem to be any data that directly addresses the role swinging can play in either helping or hindering relationships, science suggests these individual factors are all key to a happy relationship. Swinging can offer an opportunity to bring these vital attributes into relationships and revive marriages that have gone stagnant.
Swinging might alleviate one of the main tensions in monogamous couples (Conley & Moors, 2014)
As one of the major sources of unhappiness in monogamous relationships is one or both partners being attracted to someone else, swinging may offer a way to reduce this tension. Couples who swing are able to explore these attractions without cheating, and therefore reduce pressure on the relationship. This can potentially save relationships on the brink of ruin.
Swinging can take the pressure of meeting all of the needs of your partner (Conley & Moors, 2014)
There is some strong evidence that meeting the needs of your partner (financially, sexually, emotionally, physically, emotionally) and having them meet yours, can be a strain on monogamous relationships. However, non-monogamy offers a way for someone else to take some of the strain. This might be particularly helpful in relationships where one person has a much higher sex drive, or much higher emotional needs, that might benefit from having these needs met by more than one person.
Ultimately, the question ‘does swinging ruin relationships?’ can only be answered by the individuals. While many swingers report that swinging has bought their relationship closer, everybody is different. What might be a saving grace for some relationships, could be the final nail in the coffin for others. However, the research that has been done on the happiness of swinging couples suggests that, for many, the lifestyle can strengthen bonds and lead to a happier relationship with greater freedom.