The thirst for novelty in the lifestyle can often seem unquenchable.
There is always a new party to attend. A sexy new couple to meet. A full swap to enjoy. An orgy. Girl on girl action. A new toy to experience. An opportunity to experiment with kink. So many fantasies to make into reality!
The excitement of the lifestyle keeps many couples craving more. The list of new erotic things to try differs for every couple. As the scope of the choices expands, so can our anxiety that whatever choice we make will deprive us of many others at the same time. Our minds shift from the fleeting moment of pleasure to craving the next great thing to come.
The fear of missing out, also called FOMO, often comes attached to the experience of the lifestyle.
As faithful companion to the FOMO, the feeling of envy bitterly reminds us that others have something that we don’t.
So not only do we feel that we are missing out; we are aware that some other people are experiencing or possessing that very thing we want.
The Hedonic Treadmill
The anticipation of pleasure in a certain activity drives us to pursue it. We want that thing that feels good.
We want to attend this great party we heard so much about. We want to look as sexy as that couple that just walked in. We want the same kind of fantasy to come to life.
The unattained pleasure always seems more tempting than the one we can afford to have now. However, the moment it becomes attainable, the pleasure fades and we focus on the next “great” thing to attain, reach, experience, possess.
Too often, we get stuck in the treadmill driven by the opportunity to experience more pleasure. The idea of an unattained pleasure consumes us to the extent that we cannot focus on the present moment.
In doing so, we experience too little pleasure to mark an event as significant or sometimes, no pleasure at all.
FOMO and envy often seem to suck the pleasure out of the moment. We are focused on the pursuit, but not the experience. The very moment of experiencing satisfaction becomes fleeting in the face of a new longing.
A new fantasy to explore, a new couple to spend time with, a new party to attend, a new scenario to role-play.
The scope of things we have not tried or that we do not possess will always seem larger than the scope of things we have tried and have.
The Curse of Impatience
It’s not only about craving something others have. It’s about wanting it as soon as possible (or right now, if possible).
The one thing that we don’t have is likely to command all of our present attention in the face of FOMO or overwhelming envy.
Couples who are new to the lifestyle are especially “at risk” of feeling FOMO and envy.
Once they become aware of the opportunities in the lifestyle, they are likely to fall into the trap of thinking:
- “We missed out on so much already.”
- “Look how experienced these people are!”
- “Elena and Chris tried a full-swap on their second date. Are we waiting too long?”
Instead of finding their own pace, these couples are trying to catch up with others.
Couples that paused swinging may also have similar feelings as they make a comeback to the lifestyle. An overwhelming focus on how much there is to make up for can take the pleasure out of experiences and shift focus to rushing through them to get to the next big thing.
However, even experienced swingers are not immune to FOMO and envy. Sometimes it is the need to pause that induces these feelings.
- “We’ll miss out on so much.”
- “It will be terrible to hear everyone talk about the party we didn’t go to.”
- “If we stay home tonight, we won’t get to meet that new couple.”
- “Clara and Jane will be there. They make it to every party.”
The Pain of Social Comparison
More people means more opportunities for social comparison.
In the lifestyle, a couple is likely to meet a lot of great, inspiring, smart, fulfilled, loving and sexy people.
Each of those people may have an experience or a personal attribute that a couple does not. You may notice how your focus shifts to your own insecurities or how the promise of future novelty shrinks the importance of the pleasure you are currently experiencing.
The social comparison that leads to FOMO and envy is not promoting self-growth. It is reinforcing a negative self-image of inadequacy or lacking something valuable.
Instead of finding our own ways to be unique, we copy other people’s behaviors. But in that we feel unsatisfied too.
“Well, Mary and John did this 2 years ago. I guess it’s not too big of a deal.”
How to Cope with FOMO and Envy?
First off, recognize their grip.
Notice that you experience either or both.
Being honest with yourself is where you can begin.
Reflect on your own experience to observe:
- When do you usually feel FOMO or envy?
For example, you may feel FOMO and/or envy in situations where you consider yourselves less experienced than other swingers, right after taking a long(er) break from swinging, while trying to cope with personal insecurities or working through relationship challenges.
- What are the behaviors these feelings provoke?
You may feel impatient and wanting to get to as many activities as possible. You may be cramming your schedule with parties or spending too much time chatting online with other swingers trying to set up dates. You may be pushing your partner to do more than they are comfortable.
- How do you feel after these feelings fade?
For example, you may notice exhaustion, restlessness or boredom.
- What effects does this have on my relationship?
For example, you may be pressuring each other to get out of the comfort zone. You may be spending more time talking about other couples than discussing ways to enhance your own relationship.
Notice how you get stuck in the hedonic treadmill. This awareness of the loop you get caught in can help you get out of it. Increasing self- and relational-awareness can help you identify and address the traps of FOMO and envy.
Here are a few ideas on how to support the process of removing yourselves from the grip of FOMO and envy:
- Be mindfully present.
Focus on experiencing the moments as they are happening. Bring awareness to your current choices and allow yourself to put other plans on hold. While you are at one party, don’t talk or plan the next one. While you are having sex, notice the beauty of the partner, savor the experience, bring more excitement and energy into it.
- Spend more time focusing on each other.
We waste too much time on social comparison. Instead, (re)focus on each other, on the experiences you share or the things you like about each other. Spend more time pleasing each other and looking into ways to enhance your relationship. Compliment and acknowledge each other more often.
- Celebrate experiences.
Each experience needs celebration. How you celebrate it is up to you–give each other a chance to process it, reflect on it, understand what really felt good. Savor the joy the experience and the newly found excitement or pleasure that you brought into your sex life.
- Allow yourselves not to have a plan.
Savor the brainstorming. Don’t rush to make new plans. Embrace the beauty of the opportunities that are in front of you by allowing yourselves to choose consciously. Invest time in understanding what would be a next wonderful thing to try, rather than pursuing it for the sake of pursuit.
- Shift focus to gratitude.
FOMO and envy direct focus into inadequacy and unattainability of things. Gratitude is about reminding yourselves about all the good things you have in each other and the relationship.
- Show kindness to others.
We can often be bitter out of envy and unable to celebrate the experiences of others. The kindness we show to other people, acknowledging those attributes and experiences that we find particularly interesting and tempting can be a perfect antidote.
- Get to know the people you are envious of.
When we are envious, we are likely to think that everything about a person or couple is as perfect as that experience or attribute we covet. The purpose of getting to know them isn’t about destroying the image of perfection (though that can be helpful) but understanding that we all have stories that are far more complex than the singularity of the things our envy leads us to focus on.
Remember that it is the journey that counts.
The lifestyle is not about the milestones you reach. Sexual exploration is not a to-do list.
The lifestyle is about discovering pleasure, getting to know yourself and enjoying others. It’s about experiencing – not winning, reaching, or having.
If pleasure is fleeting, we cannot afford to waste it. Focus on the moments as they happen and treasure them as the part of the process of growing and learning.