When two people do something together for a long enough period, there will be some differences of opinion that will lead to conflicts. These conflicts can even grow into some pretty hurtful fights. Thankfully, not every conflict needs to become a fight. One positive aspect of recognizing and resolving conflicts is they enable a couple to learn about each other and grow together when handled in a healthy way.
Navigating through the challenges of a relationship requires effort and devotion. Since swinging adds to the complexity of a relationship, it is necessary that a couple develops their own toolbox for overcoming their differences and defusing these situations. Whatever the conflict, both partners need to show up for each other with the intention not to win a fight, but to communicate, listen, and understand each other.
What do couples in swinging relationships fight about?
The trigger for a fight is not the same as the cause. Triggers usually appear in the form of behaviors (or the absence of them). For example, we saw something our partner did, or we didn’t hear our partner say something that we thought they should. The cause hides in the meaning we attribute to the behaviors, and they usually stem from our core values and our ideas about what a relationship should look like.
In most cases, fights happen around behaviors that make us question the trust we put in our partners or the balance of love, support and commitment in the relationship. Often, we lash out after being triggered by something that shakes our understanding of who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple. The earlier we “catch” the insecurities that cloud the way we see ourselves or the relationship, the higher the chances of resolving the issues are. Let’s go through some of the usual circumstances and situations in which conflicts happen in swinging relationships.
- Partners Have Different Expectations From Swinging
One may feel this is a one-time experiment, while the other partner hopes swinging will become a lifestyle. Partners can also have different expectations for the pace of swinging. Realizing that we have different preferences can trigger insecurities, feelings of inadequacy and fear of not being enough, especially in the partners that are more feeling nervous about the whole experience. The goal of negotiating the rules of swinging is not to compromise, but to get to a win-win solution that leaves both partners feeling comfortable with what they have agreed upon.
- Rules Are Not Clear Enough
Though we may think that both partners know exactly what we’re talking about, rules can be interpreted differently. If we do not double check our understanding and ensure that we are on the same page, mistakes and misunderstandings can – and do – happen. Suddenly, we feel betrayed by the partner who broke a rule we thought we agreed on, or we find ourselves blamed for behavior we thought was allowed.
- Trust is Compromised
The excitement of swinging or the lack of a clear understanding about the boundaries can cause someone to step over the line. Seeing a partner go against what we thought was agreed on can trigger feelings of betrayal. Trust is necessary in any relationship, and especially in a swinging relationship. How can you let go of control and enjoy swinging if you feel your relationship is not safe? Without trust, the experience can seem to devolve into an unhealthy cheating situation.
- Our Personal Insecurities Surface
Seeing a partner being intimate with someone else can be overwhelming. We may feel as if we are about to be replaced or left behind. There are cases in which both partners claim to be ready, but one ends up being more ready. To see how much your partner enjoys the experience, while you’re battling your nervousness and jealousy, can be hurtful and amplify insecurities. We are often unaware of how much support we need throughout the experience, only to find ourselves wanting the attention and blaming our partner for not knowing what we didn’t realize ourselves until the experience is over.
- Fear of Emotional Infidelity
If a partner starts to feel or behave affectionately towards other swingers and seems to push the boundaries to foster a deeper connection with some of them, another partner may feel emotionally cheated on. Nothing has the power to shake the foundation of the relationship in swinging as much as discovering that your partner is giving to others what you felt was reserved for you.
How to approach and resolve conflicts?
Our abilities to work through conflicts largely depend on what we see as the foundation of the relationship and our abilities to get back to that foundation at the times when we experience instability.
- At the times when you are experiencing a problem, what are the ties that keep you together?
- What do you value about your relationship?
Whatever the content of the fight is, try to always keep these two questions in sight.
- Start with Self-Reflection
On whichever side of the conflict you are, the goal is to find a middle ground. Without self-reflection, we may find ourselves stuck in the concreteness of the details and losing the big picture of what the conflict is really about. Separate the trigger from the cause. In doing so, reflect on the meaning that you are attributing to the conflict. What are you really fighting about? Our most difficult fights happen around things we treasure the most: trust, understanding, love, support. It may be useful to start with how you feel instead of what happened.
- Show Care and Compassion
Some of the most powerful strategies for working through conflicts are as simple as giving another person a verbal or non-verbal reminder that you are ready to listen and that you care.
“I am sorry my behavior hurt you. That was not my intention. I care about you and I am ready to work through this.”
- Take the Ownership of Your Mistakes or Challenges
If you’ve stepped over the boundaries, intentionally or not, own the mistake. If you feel insecure about your body and feel that your partner should have been more supportive, start with owning the feeling. Why is this important? We must not toss the responsibility for our mistakes, feelings, thoughts, reactions to our partner but form the alliance to bridge our differences, correct our mistakes, or overcome our insecurities.
“I made a mistake for not checking this with you.”
“I understand that my insecurities can slow us down, as I am not as ready as you are.”
“When I see you with someone else, I immediately think that you are not that into me anymore.”
- Open Your Mind to Hearing Different Perspectives
Even at times when you are hurt and cannot imagine that it is possible that your partner wasn’t aware that their behavior was hurtful, try to find the patience to listen to what they have to say. Conflicts often arise from the duality of perspectives. Our willingness to listen to each other and understand where the differences lie can help us find the way to overcome them.
- Make No Room for Assumptions
Make sure you always check your understanding. Revisit the expectations you have from each other and try to deepen your understanding of them. Dig into what trust, commitment, fidelity, love or communication means for you and your partner. Clarifying the meaning of these important words can not only resolve a conflict but prevent future ones as well.
- Be Empathetic
When emotions are strong and overwhelming, stepping into another person’s shoes can seem too demanding. Yet, it’s necessary. Try to understand what something looked like from another person’s perspective. Show the willingness to understand how something feels for them. You may say: “I cannot imagine how you feel right now and I’d like to be able to understand. Can you help me understand?” Or, “I understand that it must be awful for you to have this conversation with me. What can I do to make it easier for you to share?”
- Sleep on it – Avoid Lashing Out on Your Partner
Venting raw emotions in the relationship can sometimes do irreparable damage. If you are so angry that you cannot listen to your partner at all, it’s better to leave the conversation for tomorrow and find an outlet for yourself to process what you feel and why you feel this way. Out of anger or hurt (which is sometimes the same thing!) we may say something we don’t mean, only to hurt our partner (thinking this would make it easier for us to handle the pain). Instead, call a friend, go for a walk, get out of the house, or if you find the capacity to communicate: “I feel really angry with you but I understand that if we talk about it, I may say something mean that I cannot take back. I will take some time to process this and if it’s okay with you, let’s talk about it tomorrow.”
- Consult with other swingers
The chances are that other couples have also had challenges in working through their issues. For example, you may find that jealousy issues is common with your swinger friends. To be able to fully enjoy the lifestyle, a lot of couples work on improving their self-confidence, strengthening their relationship and renegotiating the rules to feel safe and comfortable to overcome the obstacles, such as jealousy. Their experiences can direct you to resources, inspire you, or sometimes just comfort you.
What we learn from the fight is as important as the situation that brought to it.
After the storm has passed, use the calm seas to reflect on the way you are sailing in the relationship and in the swinging lifestyle.
- What have you learned from the fight?
- How can you prevent the fights from happening again?
- And should they happen again, how do you want to handle them?
Swinging sets a couple off to an exciting journey. As you are figuring out what feels good for both, conflicts will happen. Greet them with acceptance, as an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding.
Maybe that is the first step after all – abandoning the expectation that everything will go seamless as you start to swing, accepting that there are going to be bumps in the road and trusting your relationship and each other to be able to learn and grow from them.