The lifestyle can be exciting, erotic, and fun. The safety of each couple’s relationship within the lifestyle is protected by the boundaries the couple agrees on.
This freedom to draw the boundaries also creates a responsibility to stay within them. Yet crossing or expanding boundaries can be tempting. This exciting possibility can be very dangerous for a relationship.
The freedom you experience makes it feel like everything is possible in the lifestyle. And it is – as long as you and your partner agree on it. Agreement and consensus are built into the foundation of a healthy swinging relationship. What holds the agreement is the trust partners have in each other.
One of the greatest threats for the trust is when one person plays solo without explicit permission. They go against their agreement or without checking in with their partner in order to have a solo play date with another person.
What Is Playing Solo Without Permission?
Playing solo in swinging means that you are making or acting upon decisions that your partner was not fully consulted about or did not previously agree on. Its effects are a lot like the rule breaking – they can make the other partner feel betrayed and cheated on.
In a way, playing solo without permission looks a lot like careless decision made to test the existing boundaries, but not necessarily to cross them.
While one partner can see playing solo as experimenting with the freedom they’ve been granted in a swinging relationship, the other partner may see it as an attempt to break the rule or the act of rule-breaking.
The reasons behind a partner’s decision to play solo can be many. The reasons are personal and we cannot really know what they are until we ask.
Common Explanations to Playing Solo
Some people may say that there is no excuse for playing solo without discussion and an explicit agreement. They may feel that any explanation of why it happens simply sounds like an excuse. Though our list is not comprehensive and exhaustive, here are a few common explanation partners bring up in explaining why they acted solo.
“I got carried away and didn’t think about how much it would hurt you”
The temptations in the lifestyle are many. Sometimes, individuals get carried away with excitement and forget to double-check whether their partner is onboard with their decision.
“I thought we agreed that this was okay“
Misinterpretation of the rules is another reason a partner may bring up. If the rule has been ambiguous or was lacking details, the chances are they may have thought that there was a permission where it wasn’t.
“I didn’t think you’d care about it“
The value partners attribute to certain behaviors differ. Especially in cases where similar behaviors have not been addressed before, a partner may have thought it was okay to repeat them. The assumption is: “If there was something wrong with it, you would have told me before.”
“I need more than what I have right now“
Playing solo can be a way to communicate that the needs have changed. By pushing or questioning the boundaries through behavior a partner can signal that they want something more or different than what they have right now.
“We haven’t been okay for a while“
Playing solo can happen when a partner does not feel connected, supported, safe enough in your relationship. Behaviors in playing solo can be symptomatic of the problems within a relationship.
“I don’t mind if you do the same thing“
A partner may mistake consensus with reciprocity. They may believe that what they do is okay, as long as they allow you to do the same.
“I thought the lifestyle was about freedom“
A partner may have a poor understanding of the need to have the clear rules and boundaries. They may feel that everything goes with the lifestyle.
“You are seeing this in a wrong way because you are…“
Insecure, jealous, not in a good mood or whatever other reason. They may feel that your perception has nothing to do with their actions. In other words, it’s you, not them.
It’s up to you whether you are willing to hear, acknowledge or accept their reasons. Maybe, above all, you should aim to understand what they are and where they stem from.
Difference Between Understanding and Approval
In listening to your partner’s reasons, try to understand what they are all about. Some behaviors, though not presented in that form, are inviting connection. Listen to understand. Understanding does not mean that you justify or approve their behavior. It means that you simply want to learn more about what brought them to certain decisions.
You can later decide whether and/or in which way you want to move on.
Check in With Yourself
Coming into a conversation unprepared, agitated or offensive will only be counter-productive.
Once you approach your partner, you need to have an idea of a direction in which you’d like a conversation to head.
Pause and give yourself some time and space to think.
First of all, what did they do and how do you understand their behavior?
There is a difference between a behavior (easy to point at, observable) and our interpretation of that behavior (known to us, depends the value we attribute to behavior). Those two are not always the same. Reflect on how their behavior makes you feel and what questions does their behavior raise for you.
What are the reasons you are willing to accept as legitimate?
You probably have ideas about the reasons your partner may bring up when confronted by you. Reflect on which of those reasons would you’d actually accept hearing. Reflect on those that you already feel like dismissing.
Is there a part of you that questions if approaching them is a good idea?
A lot of times people wait for second or third time until they confront partner for playing solo without permission. It is common that we are afraid of what we may hear as the reason behind their behaviors. If you are noticing that a part of you would like to be able to put this situation behind and not talk about it, it’s important to acknowledge what fear it’s coming from.
We often avoid addressing these behaviors out of our own insecurities. We may be wondering:
- “Is this a legitimate reason to talk to them about, or am I just jealous?”
- “Am I overreacting?”
- “Am I interpreting the rules in a wrong way?”
- “Am I just too anxious to lose them to let them explore on their own?”
Reasons To Approach Them For Playing Solo
If you are on a brink of dismissing their behavior and pretending that they never went solo, under the excuse of “they’ll change” or “we just got into swinging and are figuring things out” or you feel burdened with your own insecurities that question your reasoning and decision-making , here are a few reasons to still consider approaching them about it.
If you let this one slip by, they are likely to repeat the same behavior thinking that you are okay with it. Swinging relationships are based on consensual agreement and trust. Partners need to be checking in with one another to ensure that both are on the same page with the swinging rules and boundaries they set.
If you don’t talk about it and pretend it never happened, you are still very likely to feel insecure going forward. How can you trust your partner when you’ve seen them play solo without your permission or consultation? How can you trust them not to repeat the same behavior?
A swinging relationship is based on transparency and honesty. You need to be able to share with your partner and feel like is willing to listen and acknowledge your stance. If they are not, swinging is likely to affect it negatively as it will cause more cracks in the already fragile communication.
If you are feeling jealous, insecure, anxious – the more reasons you have to talk to your partner about it. If your own emotions are “polluting” your judgement and it turns out that you’ve seen a transgression where there was none, the effects of your thinking and feeling are still there and are very much real. They should not be ignored. You got into swinging to enhance your relationship, not to shrink your being to its insecurities. Sharing your observations with a partner can help you get to know each other better and reach agreements that make both of you comfortable.
How To Talk About It?
Pick the time and place to have a conversation about it. It’s important that this conversation doesn’t play out in the passing, but is regarded to as an important one to dedicate time and energy to.
Though you can’t really affect how your partner will approach this conversation, you can focus on getting yourself ready for it. Schedule it at the time when you feel well rested, energized and calm enough to have a discussion on the topic.
Here are a few tips to help have a productive discussion:
Approach With Facts, Not Interpretation
The example of the fact is–your partner has a secret chat. The interpretation is– he/she was going to cheat. Instead of presenting your interpretation, confront them with facts and ask what that was all about. The idea behind it is to allow them to present their case.
Ask Questions Before Assigning Blame
Try to get to the core of why and how they decided to play solo. Ask your questions instead of assuming you know the answers. For example, you may ask:
- Why did you decide to do ….?
- How did you decide to start this?
- Why didn’t you tell me… ?
- How did you think this would end?
Ask these questions with the intention to hear your partner’s response.
Allow Yourself to Really Hear Your Partner
When we are hurt, we ask rhetorical questions instead of questions that give the other person an opportunity to make their case. Also, we may feel unprepared for the answers we can get from our partners. Still, if we deny them the opportunity to be heard, we won’t be able to understand their part of the story and make peace with them and ourselves.
Communicate Your Feelings
Your partner may not be aware of the way you feel about what they’ve done. In communicating your feelings, it’s useful to use this form of communication:
“When I saw/heard/found out that you did______ (their behavior, not your interpretation of it.) I felt ___________. When I feel like this I (tend to) do _________ (your behavior) and that makes me feel more (or less) _____________.”
Identify the Areas of Disagreement
You may have different points of view. What you see as an act of transgression, they may see as the act of freedom that you granted them by joining the lifestyle. You may notice that your understanding of the rules or boundaries you set are different. Reaching an understanding of what the disagreement is, is the start of a conflict-resolution. You can first of all agree that you have a disagreement around a certain matter.
Together Against the Problem
The only way to find the resolution is to look at your disagreement together, standing shoulder to shoulder as opposed to standing one against the other. For this you both need to agree to put in the effort to understand each other and work through your differences. When there is a lot of hurt and guilt approaching conflict this way can be quite challenging, which is why many couples go into therapy to have the important and constructive conversations.
Discuss The Needs from The Lifestyle
Partner going solo can communicate that their needs from the lifestyle have changed. Revisit your ideas of what the lifestyle is supposed to bring. As mentioned before, playing solo can be a way to indirectly challenge boundaries and check if your partner will mind. It is a risky way of doing so, yet it can be perceived as easier than having a conversation about it.
Pause the Lifestyle.
Agree to pause swinging until you figure this out. Swinging when the trust is shaky is never a good idea.
Approaching a partner for playing solo is difficult but worthwhile. Ignoring problems usually leads to bigger problems that are much harder to resolve. Think of these conversations as the ones that can prevent future problems and enable growth.