The Swingers' Story: How Two Married People Found True Love While Swapping Partners 

Thursday, Feb 9 2012

See more from L.A. Weekly's Sex Issue: "Condoms Suck," "10 Condom Reviews for the Well-Endowed Man," "9 Best High-Tech Vibrators to Buy for Your Valentine, Reviewed by our Experts," and "Twelve Tales of Sexual Mortification."

Emily and Paul hate when people ask how they met. "Through friends," they usually say, and it's not entirely untrue. What they're leaving out, however, is that those friends are their ex-husband and ex-wife, respectively, and that sometime during orgasm-filled weekends of swinging among the four of them, Emily and Paul fell head over heels for each other, divorced their spouses and lived happily ever after. It's not your typical love story.

Emily was 23 when she married her high school sweetheart, Mark, in 2001. By 2003, the couple was engaging in threesomes with an old college friend, Amanda, unbeknownst to her husband. That husband was Paul. (All names used in this story are pseudonyms.) Eventually, Amanda and Emily roped Paul into the fun by giving him a threesome of his own. And, sometime after that, the couples started switching.

click to flip through (2) 7624718.t.jpg

Related Stories

  • Fancified Kids' Meals

    First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking, loving, even obsessing over childhood favorites – hello, Kraft macaroni and cheese. Sometimes, nothing tastes better than a Rice Krispie treat, even laden with margarine and jet-puffed miniature marshmallows (although salted, browned butter is nice). A trip down culinary memory...
  • Teen Sexting

    Sexting does appear to lead to more sexual activity, at least for kids. Which is worrisome. USC this week unveiled a study that found middle school students who had reported receiving a sext were six times more likely to be sexually active. Not only that, but tweens who sent more...
  • Porn Company Kink.com Says Oral Sex Doesn't Require Condoms

    Last week the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told the world that it has filed a complaint with Nevada's Division of Occupational Safety and Health over a Kink.com adult video shoot in Las Vegas where condoms were not used. The group argues that federal law, which seeks to protect workers from on-the-job...
  • A Sex Play That's Not Really About Sex

    Oh, sex: Can we ever get over it? And if we do, what will there be to write about? What would the state of the world be if it weren't largely defined by overt and subliminal sexual impulses? Ian MacAllister-McDonald's new play, The Sexual Lives of Savages, presented by Skylight...
  • These Students Spend Summers Making Animated Movies About the Holocaust

    Tucked into a makeshift studio at Harvard-Westlake High School on a Monday afternoon last month, a group of teenagers fiddled with cameras, adjusted key and filler lights and balanced out boom microphones. They were preparing to interview 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Curt Lowens for an animated short film. Lowens, who has...

This was a new experience for Paul but old hat for Emily, who'd been living in an open relationship with Mark. It had begun while he was deployed.

"At first, I'd make out with guys, and I'd tell him about it," she says, "and he was, like, 'Eh, whatever.' He'd be upset a little bit, but it was kind of OK. But then I gave him permission to do the same. That's when he started messing around with Amanda," she continues, "which evolved into them having sex."

In other words, no concrete boundaries were set to dictate what would fly in their arrangement and what wouldn't. Instead, it was almost as if each party took turns upping the ante.

To a degree, threesomes with other women had been Emily's way of buying more sexual freedom. "A little bit of it was putting money in the bank," she says. "As in, 'OK, I'll do this for you, but in the future, I want to do things with other guys.' "

Eventually Paul became the guy Emily did those things with, unaware that his wife had already been a sexual guest in Emily's marriage.

Upon looking back, neither Emily nor Paul can quite remember how he learned the backstory. "I think you told me," Paul tells Emily, causing her to chuckle.

"That doesn't sound like me," she says.

"Well, I think you slipped," Paul replies.

When she did, Paul was angry: at Amanda for cheating, and at Mark — a man he called a friend — for nailing his wife behind his back. But here's the rub: By the time the secret came out, Paul had already developed feelings for Emily. He didn't want to stop seeing her.

Which is, of course, where the waters got extremely murky. Each pair stayed married, but the four continued to swing regularly. It began to run their lives.

"It was all-consuming," Emily says. "It was like drugs."

Why such an addiction? "Because it feels like the first time you fall in love," she says.

Of course, she was falling in love. With Paul.

The mixed-and-matched couples would spend entire weekends holed up in hotel rooms, separated from their spouses for long hours. Emily and Paul let down their emotional guard. It didn't seem normal. The couples knew they probably should set some rules, but fun got in the way.

"There was one time the four of us talked about drafting a contract but ... we were so lazy," Emily says, laughing. "We never really got to it."

Eventually the turmoil became too much, and in 2005, both Emily and Paul divorced their spouses and began dating each other. Emily describes the divorces as devastating for everyone, including their families. Still, married since 2009, both Emily and Paul feel rock-solid in their commitment today.

"Emily opened me up to the idea that you could expect more from marriage," says Paul, lighting up, "and be really good friends with your spouse."

Emily, now 34, concurs that this marriage is sturdier than her first. She says to Paul, with a similar glow, "I'm confident in how you feel about me, and I think you're confident in how I feel about you, and nothing has shaken that feeling so far."

Of course, that may be due, in part, to the fact that they've put swinging aside. But while Emily and Paul have been monogamous since they've been together, they know sexual exploration will re-enter the picture at some point. It's simply part of who they are. For Paul, now 33, never having a sexual experience with anyone besides his spouse "just doesn't seem realistic," he says.

Emily agrees. "I don't know if it's biological, but I wouldn't want to close myself off to pleasurable experiences."

Still, because of the bizarre circumstances under which they came together, Emily and Paul now understand the importance of staying emotionally connected, no matter what's happening physically. Both agree boundaries must be set.

"I wouldn't want to do it where we're spending entire weekends apart," says Paul. "If we're going to do it — hotel room for a few hours. That's it. I have no desire to separate [from Emily]."

Emily agrees: "I'd want to rein it in a little more now that I'm older. My 20s were kind of a free-for-all. But now I'd want to set limits on how much time we'd spend with another couple, and put our relationship first. I'm definitely committed to this relationship more so than I was the last one, so I would set more rules."

For the couple, communication is key. "We talk about people we have crushes on," Emily says. "As long as it's all out in the open, I think it bonds us together."

Paul agrees. "Just because someone wants to hook up with someone else doesn't mean that foundation is in danger of being torn down," he says.

"But we haven't tested it," Emily says, laughing. "We've been building it."

See more from L.A. Weekly's Sex Issue: "Condoms Suck," "10 Condom Reviews for the Well-Endowed Man," "9 Best High-Tech Vibrators to Buy for Your Valentine, Reviewed by our Experts," and "Twelve Tales of Sexual Mortification."

Reach the writer at atrachta@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • Lina in L.A. -- Tiki Oasis
    Pin-up girls, beatnik boys and tiki lovers from L.A. and beyond made a splash at San Diego's Crowne Plaza Hotel, which hosted the annual Tiki Oasis event, this year themed "Beat Tiki" with a groovy "60s beat" thrust. The wild weekender took over the grounds with colorful cocktails, non-stop pool and room parties, fashion shows, seminars, shopping and live entertainment including burlesque, bands and more.

    See also: Tiki Oasis, a Convention for Fans of Retro Tropical Kitsch
  • Lina in L.A. -- Swinghouse Studios' Farewell to Hollywood Soiree
    A rocking, raging night was had by all when Swinghouse Studios marked a big move Saturday night. The legendary Hollywood recording and rehearsal space, which has been home to big bands and wild bashes for two decades (first on Cahuenga Blvd. and then on Willoughby Ave. near Santa Monica Blvd.) will soon move to Atwater Village. Food trucks, drinks, and great live sets by Prima Donna, Dorothy, The Beta Machine and Alexa Melo highlighted the bittersweet revelry.
  • Beatlemania at the Flying Morgans' Mansion
    In honor of the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania the Flying Morgans had a Beatle prom this last Friday to celebrate Molly, Bonnie and Gary's Birthday with 400 of their closest friends. All photos by Star Foreman.