Relationship Ramblings

Cooper Beckett’s Life on the Swingset

The swinging lifestyle is normally very private and guarded. You usually have to know someone to get into a club or a private party. It’s not that swingers are a cliquish bunch. They’re just protecting their anonymity, even sometimes among others in the group, and from some that try to get in with swingers for the wrong reasons or intentions.

Cooper Beckett’s book, My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory, is a very personal and frank view of his life in the swinging lifestyle, polyamory and other non-monogamous relationships. It’s so well written that reading the book almost like having a conversation with him. He covers every aspect of the swinging lifestyle, even things you wouldn’t think to ask.

I caught up with Cooper to talk with him about his book and to get some pointers and advice for those who are curious about non-monogamy.

1. I love your personal first-person approach about your experiences and the how-to’s about swinging. What made you decide to start a blog, then the podcast, and then the book?

An over bundance of self importance. I’d been swinging for a year and had felt really let down my the resources available to me. A lot of them felt exclusionary, and like they didn’t take a warts-and-all approach. My hubris luckily slid into a good understanding of first swinging, then polyamory, and I liked coming at it from a “I made these mistakes so you don’t have to.” The podcast was the reason for the website, but we wanted to get blog content on there to anchor the site. The book sprung up mid last year when I realized the sheer volume I’d written for the website.

This is also an interesting approach for a chronicle of a non-monogamy journey, since it’s not all being written with the ravages of time in place. I wrote about things as they happened, without irony or foresight, and I think that gives it a bit more oomph.

2. What are some of the common misconceptions people have about swinging and why are they wrong?

The misconception that’s constantly leveled at swingers is that they don’t respect relationships (ie, if I’m a swinger I’m probably coming after your wife) and that they’re incredibly risky. Swingers are, believe it or not, real people. They respect boundaries, they don’t just lunge at every attractive person they see. The funny thing about swinging is, since it spans almost all social groups and subcultures, it comes across as an effective cross-section of humanity. That’s a long and fancy pants way of saying we’re just like you. The risky argument is something that comes up inevitably when people are having sex for any reason other than procreation. There have been a number of studies that show that swingers are actually incredibly risk-aware due to more communication, more frequent testing, and a greater knowledge of preventative methods than the general population.

3. How do you suggest bringing up swinging with your long-term partner or to someone you’ve started dating?

This is the keystone question, isn’t it? I first applaud you for not asking it the way most people do: “How can I convince my partner?” Non-monogamy, and to a lesser extent swinging, are getting a ton of press recently, to the point where many major magazines are asking if marriage is dead. The easiest way to bring anything up that you’re not sure you can broach, is to say “Did you read that article in…” or “My friend was telling me about this book…”

If you move sideways in the conversation, it’s very low pressure and low stakes. Though the caveat to that, your partner may be trying to anticipate your negative reaction and be negative so you don’t think THEY are interested. It’s a funny line to walk. It’s easy for me to say you should just be honest and up front and say “this is a thing I’ve been considering,” when that can easily lead to the end of an incompatible relationship.

I believe that swinging and non-monogamy in general are a lifestyle in themselves, to the point of almost a sexual orientation. I don’t believe I could live monogamously anymore. So if you are like that, finding out your partner needs monogamy, well that means some serious decisions need to be made.

4. Are there any wrong reasons for a couple to explore the lifestyle?

The number one wrong reason for a couple to explore the lifestyle is to fix something in their relationship. Except for when the lifestyle fixes something in their relationship, right? Like if their problem is wanting to have sex with other people, swinging is an excellent solution to that. Don’t explore beyond your comfort zone to please your partner, it’ll just build resentment. This only works if both sides are on board, and only if everything is on the table.

5. What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned as an individual or as a couple from swinging when it comes to love, friendship and relationships?

Communication is so incredibly valuable. We all instinctively know that, right? But for whatever reason, mainstream vanilla monogamy is full of a distinct lack of communication. Non-monogamy forces communication by rewarding good and punishing bad communication. It makes you better at it, because you have to be. Being a better communicator improves all of life, your friendships, your work life, it makes you a better person in general.

The other major thing is jealousy. This emotion is so deeply etched into our collective conscious that it’s hard to recognize a version of life without it. But removing the specter of jealousy as much as possible can reap major rewards.

My favorite lesson from swinging, though, is to remember to have fun. We, as adults, are expected to be so serious, to have such serious lives that we’re working for the weekend when we can drink ourselves into mellow before Monday comes. Swingers call their sexcapades playing, and it’s such a lovely example of how adults can still have so much fun playing with each other. It has reminded me in so many facets of my life not to take myself or life too seriously.