Ask Amy: Friends thrown for a loop by ‘swingers’

June 30, 2011

DEAR AMY:

My husband and I became friends with a couple a little over a year ago. We had some nice times together, including dinners, movies, etc. They are very nice, own a lovely home and have two beautiful children, who seem well cared for.

Well, recently this very nice couple informed us that they are swingers! To say that my husband and I were shocked is an understatement. My husband and I have decided that we will no longer socialize with them, because we feel so strongly about their lifestyle.

My question is why? Why would a married couple who claim they love each other have sex with other people?

— Still Shocked

DEAR SHOCKED: I shared your letter with Peter Sagal, author of “The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them).”In his book, the mild-mannered author describes a night he and his wife visited a swingers club. Sagal responded to you:

“I had the same question when I started researching my book, and instead of expressing shock and outrage, I found some swingers and asked them about it.

“They believe that what you do with your spouse’s knowledge and consent isn’t an infidelity. Millions of people in the ‘lifestyle’ and in other forms of open marriage have found that they can have sexual relationships with other people while still maintaining a strong emotional and intimate relationship with their spouse. In fact, they say that ‘playing’ with others can help strengthen that relationship.

“This arrangement doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s obviously working for them.

“And maybe you’re not clear on this point, ‘Shocked,’ but just because they have these sexual encounters with other people doesn’t mean they want to do it with you. You could probably continue to attend their barbecues without risking a proposition. In fact, based on your letter, I think you can rest easy.”

While I appreciate Sagal’s explanation, I can’t imagine that “swinging” is good for a marriage. But then, how your friends conduct their marriage isn’t really my (or your) business. They are doing this because they want to, and it falls into the “consenting adults” category of human behavior.

If you continue to feel so strongly about this, I agree that it’s best for you to keep your distance. Standing in judgment is not good for a friendship.

DEAR AMY:

We have new neighbors who moved in a couple of weeks ago. They have a dog that barks, a lot, at all hours. We live in the country where neighbors aren’t “on top” of each other, but we’re close enough.

We also have a dog, and we’ve trained our dog that barking is only acceptable when someone arrives at the house. In fact, our dog sits and looks in the direction of this other dog as if to say, “What’s your problem?”

How do we politely mention to them that their dog’s barking is disruptive? I know that this situation can be a sensitive one, as people often look at their pets as part of the family. We also don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with these folks.

-- Nice Neighbors

DEAR NICE: Your approach should involve a home-baked pie delivered to their porch, along with an introduction and a simple query: “How are you settling in? And how’s your pooch doing? We hear him barking a lot, and we wonder how he’s adjusting.”

If the dog doesn’t manage to settle down after a couple of weeks (wild animals roaming in the fields can rile a dog and set off his barking), ask your neighbors if they can do anything about it. They might welcome suggestions from you -- and maybe even a “play date” with your dog.

DEAR AMY:

“Survivor” didn’t want to attend a family wedding because her abusive ex had been invited.

I spent 11 years married to an abusive husband. I make the choice not to attend my granddaughter’s birthday party every year because my daughter invites her father.

This is her father, so I don’t begrudge her, but if my parents invited my ex to attend a family party, I can assure you that I’d find a different family.

-- Another Survivor

DEAR ANOTHER: Like you, this “Survivor” didn’t wish to infringe on the invitation, but made the choice not to attend. And I didn’t blame her.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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