When Love Multiplies: Two Couples, One Relationship
by our very own mmkeekah
I had the lovely pleasure of sitting down with four of my very close friends, whom I met in the swinging world. These two couples also met while exploring the swinging lifestyle. They opened up about their experiences to me over the course of 4 hours one Sunday and let me get a peek into their hearts.
Sometimes it really is all about sex.
The promise of new and exciting sex is what would send a committed couple into exploring the swinging lifestyle. “The lifestyle,” as it is affectionately referred to within its own sacred and hallowed halls. For John and Jean, married 18 years, this was how they viewed their initial foray into swinging two years ago. They both always had a traditional outlook on marriage itself and didn’t feel the need for emotional commitments with other people. However, they did think being sexually involved with others could add to their marriage. They joke that it probably started with the movie, Summer Lovers, which Jean watched with fascination as a young girl. Or maybe it was when John read Stranger in a Strange Land, which contains a theme of spiritual importance of sexuality. Or perhaps it was during college, when Jean and John experimented in threesomes with two of John’s good friends, one of which became his best man. In fact, their best man joined them for some fun sexual play after their wedding.
Whatever was truly the beginning, it was a vacation to Florida on their 15th anniversary that opened up the discussions once again. During this trip, they went to a strip club for fun and ended up getting private dances from a stripper they both found attractive. They enjoyed the dances and went back the following evening. After dropping several hundred dollars on the same dancer, they discussed inviting her back to their room for sex but chickened out. About four months later, they hired a painter for their new house. Jean found him very attractive and enjoyed a mild flirtation with him. It wasn’t until she made plans to have drinks with him without telling John that she started to feel guilty and confessed it all to John. John realized he didn’t have an issue with Jean pursuing the painter, though nothing came of the mild flirtation. After much discussion and an initial online search by John, Jean took over the research into swinging.
However, from the beginning, John made it clear to Jean that he took his commitment to their marriage seriously. “Divorce was never an option,” he states clearly from the couch where his girlfriend, Byllie, is twirling her fingers through his hair. From across the room, his wife nods her head in agreement, sitting comfortably next to her boyfriend, Jerry. “We always said we would do whatever it took,” Jean says. “We made a commitment that, no matter what, we would make [our marriage] work,” John adds, “We didn’t anticipate having emotional connections. It was just a fun play thing for us to go to do together...”
For Jerry and Byllie, their own explorations into swinging were different. “It was always about making friends first.” Byllie remarks. An emotional connection was a must before sex as far as she was concerned. She wasn’t interested in meaningless sex, not even in the name of fun. Jerry and Byllie have been married for 10 years. They met in Las Vegas, where Byllie was a stripper. Jerry was a married man of 16 years at the time, but his marriage was faltering. “We had sex once in 7 years, and we both rolled over afterward and went, ‘why did we do that?” Jerry comments wryly. When he met Byllie, he knew there was something about Byllie he had to pursue. Over the course of the next year, Jerry followed his intuition and visited Byllie at work. Byllie finally agreed to go out with Jerry. Jerry eventually left his wife and married Byllie.
The two were married for seven years when their life hit a rut. It was a great life but sex was infrequent. They had single female friends, strictly platonic, and no married couple friends. When they hung out with their friends, Jerry and Byllie didn’t want to be affectionate with each other for fear of making anyone feel like a third wheel. This lack of affection between the two of them in front of their single friends “kind of drew us apart sexually,” Byllie added.
They both agree a turning point in their marriage at that time was a visit to Amsterdam. They smoked hash for the first time, which was followed by amazing sex. “We had sex like rabbits for three days.” Jerry gets out, laughingly. “We pretty much had sex the entire time we were there. Then we got back home and we were like, ‘wow, that’s what was missing.’” Byllie chimes in. This sexual revival prompted further discussion, which led to the realization they needed couple friends and people who weren’t all “caught up in being paranoid about expressing their sexuality.” So began the research to find people who were open and that led Jerry to swinging.
Jerry created several profiles on some of the popular swinging websites and groups available. Jerry created these profiles to facilitate the learning process because only a member can have full access. It took Jerry a week to tell Byllie. “I went, ‘Um Byllie, by the way’…” he laughs. “And I was like ‘Whaaat?’” Byllie adds, “Because I had previous swinging experience with my ex.” “This was actually one of the reasons why we did it,” they say almost simultaneously.
“I have to digress a bit,” Byllie calmly states, her emotions showing on her face. “So my ex and I… he says to me (about five years into their marriage), ‘Let’s go to this house party. It’s a swinger’s party… because I don’t want us to get bored in our relationship.’ And I say, ‘Okay.’ Byllie recalls the nervousness they felt about not knowing what to do and how to act. Eventually, the two of them encountered a single male and invited him to a room for some play. Byllie’s ex-husband suggested Byllie allow the man to “just lick your pussy.” At this point, Byllie was quite inebriated. “I was three sheets to the wind,” she reminisces. One thing lead to another and the two of them had sex. Her ex then left the room on the pretext of having a cigarette but left the party without Byllie, effectively stranding her at a house party with people she barely knew. Understandably, this first swinging experience caused feelings of trepidation in Byllie once Jerry brought up the possibility of swinging. “But we also knew [because] we talked about it at length… that that was a demon she needed to face, “Jerry comments. Byllie counters, “Well if I’d never swung again, I wouldn’t have been haunted by it.” Jerry reiterates, “There was still part of that anger you held over.” Byllie concedes his point, “Well, looking back I get angry. At this point in my life I’m not angry anymore… because I guess it was a necessary step in my life.”
Byllie and Jerry were in the lifestyle for several years and had a regular swinger group of friends that played together. The first few months sparked a desire to meet another couple they could date. Byllie remembers asking one of the couples if they all would still be friends if they weren’t having sex. “I was looking for some kind of connection,” Byllie remembers. The response was not a good one. At this point, polyamory had never been discussed within the couples. Although Byllie and Jerry met another couple and Jerry ended up developing a connection with the wife, polyamory itself was not discussed. Byllie and the husband did not share the same connection their spouses were experiencing, which caused contention in the other marriage. Byllie explains, “I was still not thinking that [polyamory] was what I was looking for… [I was] not going hey, that’s what I want.” Jerry chimes in. “We wanted friends with benefits but with more than sport fucking. Sex is fine and good but without the emotional connection, what’s the point?”
Jean heard the term polyamory at a swinger meet up for women and went home to discuss it with John. “That couldn’t work. That doesn’t make any sense. I just don’t get it,” Jean reminisces saying to John. John agreed with her. They weren’t looking for other loves; just some fun, no-strings-attached sex. Then Jean and John met Byllie and Jerry in February 2009. And several months later, they fell in love. “I think for me, upon the first time I locked eyes with John, before we even had a first date, I felt something deep and different. I don’t think at that time I thought it was love, but soon after that I knew I was falling in love with him.” Byllie fondly remembers. Jean shares, “The words I love you slipped out in a moment of passion in the first few months, but I knew they were very special over a series of incidents. The final clincher was when Jerry pushed me into trying to spend time with his other girlfriend, and when I completely lost it, he stayed with me and made sure I knew they weren't going anywhere no matter what!”
“Falling in love is easy; staying in love is hard," Jerry says, “I think I knew I was really in love with Jean after our first major fight. I don't even remember what it was about, but I knew then that I wanted in my life what she brought to me.” John states, “I guess I'm still falling. There was a particular moment for me, after we got rings back in the summer, where I was really trying to grok what those rings symbolized. And I realized at that time, that for me, they symbolized my commitment to Byllie and the quad, and my willingness and desire to do whatever I could to make it work. That's when I knew I'd fallen beyond the point of no return.” Soon the foursome was inseparable, something that was noticed within the swinging community almost immediately. Suddenly couples who had been their friends for years were showing their displeasure at this new relationship by either protesting loudly or cutting them off. Support from the swinging community was not something they encountered as they tried to figure out what this new relationship meant.
Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. In polyamory, a quad is a relationship between a couple and another couple. Together, Byllie, John, Jean and Jerry are learning the pros and cons of entering a polyamorous relationship. Some of the favorite parts are the sex – because who doesn’t like fun sex? In addition, though, the support each individual has from the other three as troubles arise becomes a close second. Communication continues to increase as each realizes total honesty, including with oneself, is necessary. Trust also becomes a major plus as they each open themselves up to the possibility of this relationship working.
Of course, there are downsides as well. Communication break downs occur at times, which result in fighting between a dyad. Jerry and Jean have a whole different communication dynamic than Byllie and John. At first, Jerry and Jean’s passionate fights caused anxiety for Byllie and John, since their communication style is much more laid back. Jerry adds, “Each of us had to learn how to communicate differently” with each other.
Then there are the societal values, which play a part in their lives. Not just in having to deal with losing some cherished friendships but also dealing with a world that defines a successful relationship as being between one man and one woman. Byllie notes, “There is a lot of social stigma and discrimination when you put [polyamory] out there. You get looked on as kind of disgusting [and] I would rather not have anybody tell me that’s me.” John points out, “In an ideal world, there would be no boundaries.” But in their world, they have kids and family to consider.
Byllie is in agreement. “In order to proceed, I need to know I’m primary… if a choice had to be made, that I would win.”Jerry’s perspective is a bit different. Jerry dislikes the notion of boundaries. “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it all the way.” Turning away from a relationship that has developed and evolved to the point it becomes a part of you seems unfathomable to him.
Time away also became an issue. Whether it is time away from the primary partners or from the quad itself, the quad quickly had to adjust their expectations. Currently the four spend Friday night, Saturday and Sunday together as a quad with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday belonging to the primary couples. Jerry also rekindled his romantic relationship with the wife of the couple Jerry and Byllie played with in the past. Jerry’s new/old relationship adds a different dimension and complexity. Jerry spends Thursday and Friday day with his other girlfriend. Dyad dating is a work in progress as the couples try to figure out a dynamic that allows everyone to feel comfortable. But as one clarifies, “it can’t be tit for tat.”
Jealousy also crops up on the con list. John dealt with jealousy early on in their swinging times when he saw Jean being fulfilled with others. Then, too, there is the issue of Jerry’s other girlfriend. Both Byllie and Jean have had to deal with jealousy with regards to Jerry’s other relationship. They deal with jealousy by facing it head on. Ultimately, Jerry notes that issues such as jealousy, scheduling pains and even his new/old love come down to one thing, which turns out to be “the worst part and the best part [of polyamory] - dealing with your own shit.”
One last point of contention with the quad is the definition of polyamory itself. Jerry believes that polyamory is defined by unconditional love, “loving people without expectations or without the need for it being reciprocal.” He wants to focus on the quality and not necessarily the quantity of interactions, which is an actual polyamorous mantra often noted. For the others, this is still a concept they are learning to embrace. . Jean states, “[None of us] has the skill set yet” to consider completely opening up. “We would have to sit down and talk about it and discuss the impacts,” notes John. When asked what about deal breakers that would end this relationship, they are all for once in agreement. “If we all give up or if somebody digs their heels in on a given issue.” Just as quickly they all agree this is unlikely to happen. “The others wouldn’t let it happen,” Byllie says. John notes that this idea is very similar to his own personal view on his marriage to Jean. “I would do anything I could to not get it to that point,” he says simply.
Posted on Polyamorous Percolations 11 April 2011 at 11:00 USEDT