Adventures in Solo Play: Learning to Trust & Adjust
Article and Photos by Molly Frances for ASN Lifestyle Magazine
Hubby and I have been ethically non-monogamous for a year and a half. Our adventures in solo play are the piece of our sex life that many other swingers don’t understand or engage in, but the arrangement works for us.
From the beginning, solo play was something Hubby wanted for me. We started with a bit of hotwifing. Hubby was encouraging and full of compersion. He liked seeing me excited about meeting a new friend and loved the explosion of sexual energy it caused in our marital bed. It wasn't until our first visit to a swinger's club that I decided I wanted Hubby to explore solo play as well.
So, why couldn't I get it together when I got what I wanted?
On the night of his first date, we put the kids to bed, and I helped Hubby dress and even picked my favorite shirt for him to wear. I kissed him goodbye, told him to have a good time, and I meant it. But, as the hours ticked by, anxiety set in.
“Where were they? What if he had more fun with her than he does with me? What if she’s better in bed? What if he doesn’t come home?”
The anxiety didn’t stop once he was home, “God, now he’s coming home to this mess, he probably wants to run away again. Who would want to come home to this?”
Hubby held me. He laid next to me in our queen-size bed, wrapped me tight against his chest, and said sweet soothing things in my ear. He even said he was happy to shut the open relationship down, that nothing at all was worth this amount of distress.
See, I wanted the sexual exploration that consensual non-monogamy allows but failed to address my internal anxiety and negative self-talk adequately. I’ve dealt my entire life with feelings of inadequacy. These aren’t limited to my feelings about relationships. I needed to deal with that nonsense.
I rested my head on Hubby’s shoulder in that spot that was made especially for my head. His arms wound around me, and his fingertips caressed my arm and hip.
“I don’t need to see other women, you know. This is supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun if it causes you distress, I don’t want it,” Hubby said.
I listened to his heartbeat and closed my eyes to look inside myself. I want this lifestyle. I want to be the type of person who gets real joy out of her partner, experiencing pleasure. And I wanted the freedom to explore as well. I propped myself up on my elbow and looked at my husband, his scruffy face, full lips, and his too-big ears.
“I need more practice,” I said.
I spent some time thinking about the type of relationship I wanted. I worked through my anxiety and insecurities with the help of a sex-positive therapist. The truth was I wanted to open our marriage in this way — so why was my subconscious so resistant? Am I just a big fat hypocrite?
No, I’m just human. My anger and jealousy stemmed from insecurities about myself — and that's something I needed to work on anyway. There was a nagging voice in the back of my head that told me that having extramarital sex, even with the consent of all involved was wrong and sinful. I thank my catholic upbringing for that particular dose of guilt.
To make the experience better for us all, we moved forward more slowly, with him going out on a date when sex was off the table. We eased into it a bit more so I could work through all the societal conditioning that was telling my ex-Catholic self that this was wrong somehow.
Getting back on the solo play train took a lot of soul searching and plenty of positive self-talk. Hubby was patient and never said, "if you get to play solo, I should as well." He was willing to take things at my pace and made it clear that if I wasn't into swinging, he'd be happy to reenter monogamy.
The second time I sent Hubby out for a solo date with another woman, I was smarter. Instead of staying home where my thoughts could run wild, I got a babysitter and went out with friends for a night of dancing. We had a passionate reunion when we returned home from our respective evenings.
If you’re considering solo play, go slow. Move forward at the pace of the most hesitant person. Dip your toes in the water and remember that it’s okay to backpedal if things get too tricky. No decision is forever, and the path to the relationship you desire is more of a free-style dance than a sprint. Our rules for both solo and partnered play have evolved during our winding journey with solo play. Rule updates are standard in swinging relationships, and they’re even more critical when you decide to play solo.
Rules About Age
Initially, when Hubby signed up for Tinder, I wasn't willing to let him lower the age bracket below 28. At 36, I was in good shape and confident in my body, but any woman who has a few kids will tell you that it's easy to feel insecure next to young, childless bodies.
I had already played with men ten years my junior, but for some reason, I struggled to get over my body image issues enough to let Hubby play with younger women.
Here's the thing about restricting Hubby's play partners in that way: potential sex partners are more accessible to bisexual women than heterosexual men. For a man, trying to find a friend with benefits when you're married and not offering any commitment is dating on hard mode. I wasn’t restricting him because I was worried about him falling in love with some young person — it was all my own hang-ups again.
Non-monogamy forces you to identify and address all of your insecurities. That’s one of the things I love about it — the way it forces me to grow into the person I want to be.
Eventually, I told him to lower the age bracket to 21, I wanted to send him out to play, and I was willing to get uncomfortable again. I enjoy getting involved when Hubby is chatting with someone new. I'll swipe on his Tinder account, and even chat with his matches occasionally. It turns me on, and I'm often a better judge of whether a woman from Tinder truly understands our situation. When I know someone is on board with our non-monogamy guidelines, I don’t care what her age is.
That's how Hubby met Ally, a 22-year-old bisexual woman who is very into our relationship dynamic. She's told Hubby that she’d like a relationship like ours eventually, with someone else. For now, she enjoys spending time with older men, and occasionally, that includes Hubby. Ally’s willingness to talk with me and develop a friendship made me feel comfortable that I wasn't sending my husband into the arms of someone who'd become clingy.
Rules for Spit-Roasting
One Sunday afternoon, I was in a particularly randy mood. Hubby and I had a threesome with my side partner the week before, and thinking about it all week gave me an insatiable appetite. I wanted more.
With Hubby's blessing, I reached out to my regular friend and arranged a threesome with him and another friend in the lifestyle. The afternoon was hot, I had a good time, but something was missing. Being spit-roasted is enjoyable regardless, but without Hubby, it lacked the emotional connection that made the first time an earthshattering experience. There’s something about gazing into my husband’s eyes and kissing him as another man makes me come that enriches a threesome. Because of that experience, I decided I'm not interested in MFM threesomes without Hubby there. It's not a rule, per se, but a personal preference.
Our Rules are Different at a Club
Hubby and I enjoy the environment of swinger's clubs and parties. We have a local club that we frequent as often as we are able, and we enjoy visiting friends' house parties. Hotel takeovers are also in our wheelhouse, but lack of overnight babysitting makes doing too many of those unreasonable.
When we are in an environment like that of a club or party, we stay together at all times. It might seem odd that we're willing to play solo on a random Wednesday night, but not at a swinger's club, but we have a good reason.
When we attend a swinger's event, it is a date night for us. It is the opportunity that we have to be a couple without our children hanging off our legs. We are uninterested in splitting up during the five hours a week we have to deepen our bond and enjoy shared experiences. The intimacy involved in deciding together which couples we might like to pursue and watching Hubby flirt is not something I want to miss. When we attend a party together, we play together.
Rules for Safety When Going Solo
When we first started playing solo, we were not as careful as we could have been. Sure, I knew that some men are creeps, but we thought our precautions were enough. When I met a man for a date, Hubby knew about it and knew where I was, and I'd update him regularly. One night, though, that wasn't enough.
I met a man through Tinder and went on a couple of dates with him. We got to know each other and had some heavy make-out sessions. When I scheduled to meet him at his place, we'd already had lengthy discussions about protection and boundaries. Clearly, I was going there to have sex. Within a few hours, the two glasses of wine I had felt like six, and I felt dizzy and disoriented. Then, Tinder man kept trying to unsheathe himself without my knowledge.
Tinder man slipped something into my drink that day. I got out of there, got to a nearby gas station, and called Hubby to pick me up. Just because someone seems fine doesn't mean we should let our guard down. Unfortunately, some men are like this — if everyone was more reasonable, we could all be having more sex.
The experience was terrifying, and I paused solo play for about six months afterward. Now, when I’m on a solo date, I stay away from anything except the water I brought myself. Since that night, I don't meet anyone for sex unless they've met Hubby. I've limited my solo play partners to people we know in the lifestyle. That allows me to get my variety kink fulfilled while staying safe.
Rules for When Emotions Creep In
Since we've begun playing solo, there have been a few times that someone catches feelings. I had a powerful connection with the second man with whom I played solo.
He and I had incredible sexual chemistry and seemed to never run out of discussion topics. I was certainly fond of him. When he declared that he was in love with me, his wife felt threatened and asked us to stop seeing each other. We shut the relationship down, but I was annoyed. New relationship energy is real, but when we’re adults, it’s our responsibility to keep it from clouding our judgment.
Behavior like he tells me that he was operating under a much different definition of love that I do. Hubby and I view love as the actions you take each day to build and maintain a committed relationship. I may develop friendship, fondness, and affection for a play partner — male or female — but that doesn't mean I'm in love.
We all have emotions that we don't let control our actions. I don't throw a frying pan across the room when I overcook my eggs, and I don't give up my writing career every time a publication rejects me. Rational people use their emotions as a guide, but they don't throw out a stable, happy marriage because they like the twinkle in someone's eye. If you’re playing solo, keep your rational brain well-tuned and know that just because you have feelings of lust and fondness for a person doesn’t mean you need to throw away a stable connection with your spouse.
Rules for Taking Care of Your Partner
When Hubby or I go out on a solo date, we spend some extra energy before and after doting on our spouse. Hubby craves touch, so I’m always sure to be extra affectionate. I need to spend one-on-one time connecting with him before and after dates. We understand each other’s needs, and see them as valid and necessary components of our relationship, swinging aside.
Hubby calls this “stepping up his game on the homefront.” It involves lots of cuddling, foot rubs, letting me sleep in, and bringing me flowers on a random Wednesday. I don’t much care what he calls it, as long as he keeps it coming.
Being an attentive, loving partner at home is an essential part of playing solo. If you and your partner are considering it, a discussion about your needs for connection with each other is vital. It may even be wise to spend some time practicing this type of responsive love before beginning solo explorations. The more we practice doting on each other, the more it becomes second nature.
Stick to the Rules, Reap the Benefits
The result of this work we've done to improve communication and security in our marriage has enormous payoffs beyond just the variety of sexual partners. When we disagree, we are smarter about our conversations and more in-tune with each other’s needs. Our work on communication has a positive impact on all of our interactions, not just the ones about non-monogamy. If we keep our goal of building a secure marriage — with a healthy dose of fun in mind — we can solve any dilemma.
Our sex life, which was always satisfying, has become electric. When one of us goes out on a solo date, we spend time helping each other dress. The idea that another woman will be unwrapping my husband that night usually has me so excited that I jump him before he leaves the house, and when he gets back home. We’ve also developed the ability to talk about all sorts of sexual kinks we’d like to try and have ramped up our adventurous spirit at home.
The best part, though, is that we always look for ways to show appreciation for one another. Even when it’s been a while since we’ve played solo, seeing Hubby through the eyes of other women reminds me of why I fell in love with him. Focusing on the good and living in gratitude paves the pathway to a deep, meaningful, lasting connection.
Most people who grow up with monogamy as a default setting in marriage aren't able to work around the societal construct of sex outside marriage being infidelity. Solo play works for us. I am Hubby’s number one, and he is mine. Always. None of this playing around is going to change that. I forgot that for a moment when we first started. Thank goodness, he reminded me.
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This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of ASN Lifestyle Magazine.