How to Do It

I Love Our New Swinging Lifestyle. But I Want My Wife to Take It a Step Further.

Should I just leave well enough alone?

Man biting his lip with eye emojis floating next to him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ranta Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every Thursday, Rich and Stoya answer a special question they could only tackle together, just for Slate Plus members. Join today to never miss a column.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I, both in our late-40s, have been in a monogamous swinging arrangement with another couple for the last several months. Let’s just call them Dick and Jane. I’ll skip how we got here, but I’ll say that we are now to the point where it’s feeling a lot more comfortable. Our friends are older than us. The husband is in his mid-50s, but the wife is only a couple of years older. They’re a very active, fit, and good-looking couple. They’re empty nesters while our kids are still in high school, so we play at their home. There is some foursome activity, but much of the activity is done paired off, meaning we go to separate bedrooms. Jane is very attractive and I’ve got nothing to complain about getting intimate with her. But I’ve noticed my focus going elsewhere.

What I’ve noticed is that I am very focused on my wife with Dick. I am getting very aroused watching them together and hearing their play through the walls. I am pretty average in size, but Dick is a little longer, but a lot girthier than I am. I think my wife is being careful about not making direct comparisons. She tries to deflect by saying Jane also sounds like she’s having a good time, and by saying we are all just having fun. But I am getting very aroused by the idea that she prefers being pleasured by him than by me and I’ve been privately watching more cuckold porn, too. As I mentioned, we’re exclusive with them, which allows us to just use female contraceptives but I think I want to explore this kink of seeing my wife with other men more.

One of our ground rules with Dick and Jane is no solo playing, meaning we all need to be there for any of us to play. So watching Dick and my wife without Jane is off limits, and I don’t really know anyone else I would approach about this without it feeling completely awkward. Honestly, I’m not sure my wife even wants to add more complexity to her sex life. She seems to have settled into this arrangement. Should I just leave well enough alone, or how can I try and get her to be interested in adding more sex partners?

Stoya: I love an unnecessary binary choice.

Rich: Such as?

Stoya: So the guy asks, do I say nothing? Do I attempt no modifications to the way things are or do I try to get my wife to be more interested in adding more sex partners despite the emotional, logistical, and health and safety complexities that adds?

Rich: Yes.

Stoya: But there’s almost always this whole middle swath of possibilities.

Rich: Yes. And a very obvious one that jumped out to me was that why not suggest more foursome playing? Why retire to separate bedrooms? That way he could experience this vicariously and get more of it. Why not that?

Stoya: And the place to start is communication with his wife.

Have an open conversation with your wife. Tell her the interests you’re feeling, and then have a conversation from there. But the scenario my brain is immediately going to is Dick and our writer’s wife putting on a show while our writer and Jane sit on the couch. Jane can whisper in his ear about how fantastic Dick’s dick is and how much fun his wife is having, and deny him sexual contact or engage with him physically only in the ways that give her pleasure while kind of fleshing out this cuckold direction that he’s into.

Rich: What they have is this kind of freewheeling setup, and yet he feels restricted by it. I understand there are ground rules, etc., but there’s a lot of room to play with what you’ve got going on. I understand that the way men are socialized can make admitting this stuff out loud difficult but here’s an example of necessity crying out. Are you going to sit on your hands or are you going to actually say it and get what you want? At a certain point, you’ve got to let go of the preciousness and just go for it.

So I think that given the context of this dynamic, this is a completely reasonable thing for him to get turned on by, and it’s a completely reasonable thing for him to ask to see more of. You let someone out in the world and then they discover what they’re interested in. This interest or just finding these specific complexities of sexuality is exactly what you’re signing up for when you start experimenting with non-normative ways of having sex. The idea is exploration. So I don’t think that he should feel bad about that.

Stoya: I know that using food metaphors for sex is not the tightest rhetoric, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Rich: Go for it.

Stoya: So, imagine it’s 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday. You say to your wife, “I would love to have goulash tonight. What do you think of that?” Or even, “I’m really feeling like some hot meat soup. What do you think?” She responds, “Oh, great, goulash. Yeah, that’s cool.” So then you suggest that there there are a few ways we can get this done. “We can order it, we can go to the grocery store and get some frozen thing, we can go to the grocery store and get the stuff to make it, or we can go to the farmer’s market and get the stuff to make it. This can be something I go do on my own or something you can participate in some part of. How does my goulash desire fit into what is and is not OK with you today?” Then she might mention specific ingredients she does or doesn’t want. “Oh, you don’t want onions in it. Great, no problem. I was thinking maybe mushrooms though.” Don’t come at it from a position of I’m having these cuckold desires and want you to have sex with several more people, who are all strangers to us at this time.

Rich: Right.

Stoya: Don’t do the equivalent of, “Good afternoon, my love. Will you please go to the store and chop everything to make goulash and stand over the pot for the next six hours, stirring it?” Lead with, “Hey, here’s the thing I want to explore.”

Rich: That makes sense to me and I think that giving the wife, who is in the best-case scenario of this fantasy, getting fucked by strange guys, the agency to decide what she wants to do or explore is really the way to go. It’s going to allow her to feel a lot more secure and like she has the choice, which she absolutely should have instead of feeling imposed upon, let’s say, or fetishized/objectified.

Stoya: Yes, and along with the fetishization and objectification, another phenomenon that feminized people in our culture often experience is other people making decisions on our behalf. I’m not sure my wife wants to add more complexity, so I’m not going to ask. I’m going to make a decision without that knowledge based on the assumption that she doesn’t want it, and it could be that she’s having a great time with Dick and Jane, but also would very much like to be having sex with other men in addition. So it’s really not only for the sake of this guy possibly having his desires enacted, but also just to be fair to her.

Rich: Totally.

Stoya: Don’t decide for her what her boundaries are.

Rich: And again, practically speaking, he sorts out what’s going on with the wife’s desires and what their plan for it is, and then they’re a team on this. It’s that much easier to then bring it up to Dick and Jane because they’ve decided, they’ve talked about it, and are a unified front there. It’s just about being methodical here.

More Advice From Slate

Recently, I stumbled onto a secret profile of someone that I have a close, but not very personal relationship with. It’s on a popular site covering every topic imaginable, where, by clicking on a username, you can see all the person’s posts and comments/interactions with others. This user caught my eye because they were extremely conservative and anti-LGBTQ rights, while also openly being a member of the community.