Same room no swap, same room soft swap, same room full swap, separate rooms, … playing separately. For many couples in the lifestyle, this is a natural progression as you get comfortable with your sexual exploration. The terms are pretty self-explanatory, except for that very last one. Playing separately. What does “playing separately” mean? Does it mean a noontime roll in the hay with a mutually agreed upon partner? Does it mean I can fuck that hot guy I’ve been eyeing at the gym in the unisex restroom? Does it mean I can go out on a date? Can I spend the night with someone I’m attracted to? How about the weekend? In answer to all of these questions …. yes. Playing separately is a very broad category, and the associated rules (or lack thereof) can range from very strict rules to very loose rules or to no rules at all. No matter which rules you have set, however, one fact remains – you are the only one there to enforce those rules. Your partner has put all of their trust in you. Are you a natural rule follower? Perhaps you are, but probably not, or you wouldn’t be in the lifestyle. So, as exciting and fulfilling as playing separately can be, it is a decision that should not be made lightly, because it is a dangerous sport, a slippery slope, and it should be treated accordingly.
Case Study: Myself
My husband and I had been together for over twenty years, had been in the lifestyle for about two years, and things were going great! We were fairly active and had quite a few couples that we would play with regularly. We even played in separate rooms and found it to be very liberating. For me, it gave me the ability to focus without distraction … on the person I was with, what they were saying, what they were doing, and what I was feeling. It provided a level of intimacy which took my experience to an all new high. So when my husband proposed playing separately, I didn’t even hesitate. Mainly, we decided to do it out of practicality. My husband travelled a lot, and we thought it would be nice if we could have some playtime when we were apart. We weren’t very big on rules in general, so when we talked about the specifics there were only a few. In fact, I can’t really even remember what they were … except for one. Don’t fall in love. What a stupid rule!! Of course I’m not going to fall in love! I thought it was a stupid rule because it didn’t need to be said. And it WAS a stupid rule. As it turns out, however, it was a stupid rule because it’s an impossible rule to follow.
Yes, I fell in love. It was only the second time I had played separately. He was a single male I had been chatting with for months online … at least I thought he was single. He was a beautiful man with a gorgeous body and awesome smile. He was super smart and funny, and conversation flowed between us effortlessly. So when my husband suggested I meet up with him [ironically], I thought that was a swell idea. So we met. It was exactly as I thought it would be. We clicked … and wow! The sex was phenomenal, the conversation was great, the shower we took afterward and the cuddling that ensued … everything was perfect. Too perfect! A couple of harmless texts turned into hours of online chatting, getting to know each other on a personal level that was neither appropriate nor safe. It wasn’t long before we both knew we had gone too far. We were teetering on the edge, the “L” word was said, and then we fell.
The next eighteen months were so chock full of drama we probably could [almost] have been featured on the Maury Povich show. I don’t want to go into all of the details, because that would take a novel. Suffice it to say, it was horrible. I still have the hole my husband punched in the bedroom wall to prove it and to remind me. I almost lost him, my best friend, and my life as I knew it. All because of that one night. Luckily I didn’t, in no small part due to my husband’s infinite patience, his faith in us, and our love for each other. I’m crying like a ninny as I write this. I’ve told him, but I don’t know if he really has any idea how thankful I am to him for sticking by me through that ordeal. He saved my life … he’s my hero … and I love him more now than I even thought was possible.
Now, ironically, he and I are in an open relationship and are exploring the boundaries of polyamory. Our experience forced us to take an honest look at ourselves. We ultimately realized that the conflict which arose between us was due not to my feelings for another man, but rather to the dishonesty and deception that occurred. We reevaluated our desires and our needs. As horrendous as the experience was, it awakened a spark in me, a burning need that I didn’t know existed. I love to love, and I want to have the opportunity to share my love with other people. My husband loves me, and he wants me to be fulfilled, and he has gradually gotten to the point where he is okay with the idea of sharing my love with another man … so long as he is my number one love priority, which he has ensured by giving me this greatest of all gifts. So we are going into this new journey with only one rule. Be honest. Be honest in all facets of our relationship and our relationships with others, and if we can do that we are confident that this will be an enriching experience for us both.
So what is my point in telling you this story? You’re probably thinking to yourself “this would never happen to me.” And perhaps you’re right … perhaps I just happened across the perfect storm. However, I think it has given me a unique perspective on the lifestyle and playing separately in particular. So, my advice to anyone considering venturing into the unknown vastness that is “playing separately”:
- Don’t be cavalier. Treat playing separately with the respect it deserves. It’s like a wild animal or an extreme sport. Proceed with caution.
- Do create rules. I would have poo poo’d this before, but now I know better. No overnights, no cuddling, no outside communication … whatever you need to ensure that the situation remains under control and that you stay within the emotional boundaries that you, as a couple, have set.
- Do follow your own rules. You created the rules for a reason … when you were of sound mine. When you are with a new partner, YOU are the only one who knows what you are doing. Honor your partner and the trust that they have bestowed upon you by doing the right thing.
- Do communicate. If you don’t like a rule, talk about it. If you want to break a rule just this once, talk about it [don’t just do it]. How comfortable are you with emotional attachment? Talk about it. Talk, talk, talk, talk …..
- Do be honest. Be honest about your feelings. Be honest about your actions. If you slipped up and broke a rule, be honest about it. An uncomfortable conversation is much better than the potential alternative.
In the end, it ended up being a win for us. I feel very secure in my relationship with my husband, and I believe he feels the same. At least he says so. I feel understood, happy and fulfilled. But, believe me, it was not fun getting here. So take my advice and avoid the slippery slope. Playing separately can be amazing, but take the stairs okay? One step at a time …