Recently, I had a doubt. It was a subtle thing that played nearly silently in my mind but over time the doubt became troubling. It had to do with the fear of inequality in swinging.
Part of opening up a relationship means lots of discussions that for us are sometimes overly analytical and other times purely emotional. I was surprised to find out we weren’t exactly equal in what we wanted. The initial plan was to stick together during the entire swinging experience but over time we realized that would be impractical. Kids and work schedule were getting in the way. I suggested we try dating separately so we weren’t at the mercy of our hectic schedules. I liked the idea of enjoying new experiences on my own but he was not interested in dating at all. It didn’t matter how much I wanted him to enjoy being with someone else on his own, the desire just wasn’t there. His lack of enthusiasm for poly dating didn’t mean he wanted to hold me back from experimenting myself. He was happy to play with me but he also understood that I needed a little bit more.
Still I started to worry, a sort of compersion death spiral. Was he really getting everything he needed? I still felt unsure even after all the research kept telling me it was fine. But research alone doesn’t make you an expert. Real life experience is also needed and I had little of that. Feeling like I sounded embarrassingly naïve, I called the show’s voicemail. Was it really OK that our open relationship was not equal? Thankfully, I got the encouragement I needed to confidently proceed with our “Swingopoly” relationship.
It was then that I realized there have always been instances in our relationship where we had to do things at a different pace. There has never been a problem with socializing separately. A dance class specifically comes to mind when I think of us trying too hard to do something together. Early in our relationship I decided to take a ballroom class. My husband’s first instinct upon learning this was to join too. Dance classes were never something he was interested so I hadn’t planned on taking the class with him. I thought we’d have fun together anyway. It was not the pleasant experience we had hoped. Having a background in dance meant I would learn quickly and was ready to move on. He had no dance experience other than night clubs so he picked up the steps slower. It was hard to wait for my partner. This kind of dance was all about moving together and it just wasn’t happening. Then the arguing started.
He was frustrated because he couldn’t get his feet to move the way he wanted to. I was frustrated because I wanted to move on. Everyone in the class came as a couple so no one ever switched partners. For eight weeks we bickered and stepped on each other’s toes trying to make two different learning styles work. A year later I decided to take a class again. This time I suggested taking the class by myself and he wholeheartedly agreed. I found a class where no partner was required. Being only one of three non-partnered women, I got to dance with one of the teaching assistants. We tore up the floor. I learned at a much faster rate and became a sought after partner. This was followed by swing dancing then, I started going to clubs on my own. My husband would use that time to do things on his own. We never felt jealous or envious of the other’s time. We were pursuing individual interests that the other didn’t necessarily want to participate in and still doing fun stuff together.
This same idea was what we were applying to our open relationship. We are not only a partnership but also individual people with individual needs. We also have to make this work with outside forces controlling our schedule. Trying to make that work in tandem can result in both partners being frustrated with the process. Sometimes you need to find another dance partner, or partners, that fit different needs. Or at least learn that it’s fine to dance separately when you need to. Communicating openly and honestly with each other meant we found the right balance. This may change over time but we know now not to force ourselves to dance together.
As the song says, “Darling, save the last dance for me.”