Man in the Kitchen: Sex and Swinging in a Modern Marriage

Man in the Kitchen: Sex and Swinging in a Modern Marriage

sex and swinging
© ximagination/123RF

My wife and I were chatting with a friend of hers not so long ago when another couple we vaguely knew passed us on the street. We all made polite chitchat. The couple meandered on. My wife’s friend waited until they were out of earshot and then casually said, “You know they swing.”

My wife and I nodded as if she’d just mentioned that they bought a new dog. We said our goodbyes.

The sound of the car door slamming hadn’t subsided before I said, “Those guys have an open marriage???”

“I guess so. Whatever.” We drove home. I poured a drink. My wife hit the couch to play some Words with Friends. I spent the next hour imagining every couple we have ever known having sex with one another. Naked. Without clothes on! Why? Because that is what men do. We fantasize. We are visual. We are endowed with enormous imaginations. It is why Al Gore invented the Internet. So there would be an unlimited stream of pornography for men. (Because those 4.3 billion clicks a day are guys only, right?) But I digress.

Polyamory (the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time,” so says Webster’s Dictionary rather placidly) is all the rage these days. An off-Broadway play on the topic has opened. A hot new novel by Sarah Dunn called “The Arrangement” just hit the shelves. It’s even replaced farm-to-table as the topic du jour at dinner parties. Apparently, coveting thine neighbor’s wife is the new sport in town.

It has been suggested by some that I am a bit old-fashioned. I never race out for the latest iPhone upgrade. I don’t get Snapchat. I’ve been known to type a letter to a friend for fun. So am I a boring, sexual luddite just because I’m happy and content with the woman I married?

I let the notion of our bed-hopping neighbors simmer a bit longer and then finally, when I couldn’t stand it another second, asked my wife: “Do you, uhhh, want to fool around with someone else?”

She stared at me. “You know, like that divorced hedge fund guy you were talking to at the party last week?” The look on her face suggested that if I kept up this line of questioning I might be sleeping on the couch. I like my bed. I like the occupant I share it with. I put the matter to rest.

Author Ken Carlton in his kitchen. © BLK Chai Photography for INSPIRELLE

Sex, even in today’s morally sandpapered climes, can be such a volatile brew. What drew us to it as insatiable teens, when mishandled as grownups can lead to ruinous affairs. In a world where divorce is rampant and polyamory is an acceptable protocol, I consider myself a lucky guy. You see, even with all of life’s daily exigencies, just the sight of my wife can inspire, ummm, greatness? Or at the very least, a little phone-free recreation! No third parties required. Remember that, if you find those occasional headaches outnumbering your recreation time. What your partner once expressed as pure desire might today be laced with a little bit of love. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss. Sometimes it says a lot more.

For dinner tête-à-tête….

Tuna Carpaccio

Tuna Carpaccio

There is much to be said about a glistening plate of perfectly adorned fish. Thin, not filling, popping with flavor, delicate mouthfuls to be shared by two, accompanied with a crystal flute of sparkling wine.


  • 1/3 lb. of sashimi-grade tuna (salmon works well, too)
  • A spoonful of capers
  • A few sprigs of chopped green onion or fresh herb
  • Oil: Extra virgin, sesame, chili or all three
  • A sprinkling of rock sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  • Cut fish into small dollop-sized chunks
  • Take each chunk and place it under wax paper
  • Beat it gently with a nearby can of soup until the fish flattens out
  • Gently lift from wax paper and lay thinly on a pretty plate, until plate is covered
  • Drizzle any combination of the oils on top of the fish
  • Add a few pinches of crunchy rock salt and pepper
  • Add capers, herbs or shallot to taste
Ken Carlton is founder and editor-in-chief of Beyondish, a food review and storytelling website. He is the author or ghostwriter of eight books, including the award-winning memoir, THE HUNGER, the story behind Greenwich Village’s celebrity hotspot, The Waverly Inn. Ken wrote the "His Point of View" column for Cosmopolitan and appeared as a dating expert on OPRAH. He still muses about food, relationships and parenting at his website, Food for Marriage. A New Yorker and Parisian at heart, he has scripted conferences in Paris for CNN and Fortune magazine. Ken and his wife, a professor, split their time between Brooklyn, NY and Chicago. You can follow him on Instagram @foodformarriage



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