Ask Jay: Talking about boundaries in an opening relationship

Opening Up asks: My husband and I are exploring an open relationship and went to a small (thanks a lot, COVID) swinger party with just five or six other couples. One couple there we liked (and she is a super hottie). I went out to the garage with a few others, not including my hubby or the hottie. When I came back in, I was chatting with someone in the hallway for sometime and hubby comes up to me and says the hottie wanted to fool around but he told her he couldn't because I wasn't there and we only play together. This is our only rule: we play in the same room, always.

He turned around and went back to the kitchen, I stayed in the hallway and kept chatting for a little longer. When I went back to the kitchen, hubby was making-out with the hottie and fingering her while everyone else just stood around, casually talking. I got a rush of heat, my stomach started turning as I watched them for a few minutes until I just couldn't stand it anymore and interrupted them. After they pulled apart I went to the bathroom to cool off. Hubby came and checked on me.

My husband and I talked and were able to have a good rest of the night. Since the next day though my stomach has been upset over it. And I can't get the image of them making-out out of my head. I feel like he thought that because he had come in the hallway to tell me he had said no to her because I wasn't there, it was his "ticket" to go ahead with her advances. Wish she would have asked me permission before putting the moves on him. In that case, I think all three of us would have kissed and fooled around and that would have been super hot!
Very hot indeed! 

I know I need to talk to to my husband, but the problem is we haven't been together all week because of work. Could you make a suggestion on how I could start the conversation with my husband?

Jay answers: I'm sorry to hear your experience at the swinger party got off to a rocky start. Having your boundaries crossed is always difficult and it sounds like seeing your husband together with this other lady was quite a shock.

It sounds like both your and your husband handled the situation well, once you interrupted their encounter. You took some time to cool off and collect your thoughts, he disengaged from her and went to check on you. The fact that the two of you managed to smooth things over while still at the party and could enjoy the rest of the evening together is really positive. It sounds to me like you both handled the situation maturely and with compassion for each other.
Pausing to talk helps a lot of situations 

Being apart from your husband this week probably feels really difficult. You want to talk, but this is a tricky conversation to have long-distance and I think you're wise to wait until he gets back and you two can talk face-to-face. Something always gets lost over the phone or through text - it's harder to connect - and I think taking some time to consider how you're going to talk about what happened at the party is a good plan.

I suspect one of the keys to this conversation you're going to have is finding out why your husband ended up kissing and fingering Miss Hottie at the party. He came to you and told you that he'd already told the other lady he wasn't available to play since you were not in the room, but then something happened between that conversation and when you walked in on them which resulted in them kissing. Your husband sounds like he knew what the rule was and it sounds like the two of you care about and communicate well (based on how you both handled yourselves at the party after the scene got interrupted), so it seems unlikely he just threw the rulebook out the window. Which raises the question of, from his point of view, what did happen?

I see a few likely possibilities. One is that his definition of "play" might be different from yours. You both agreed to only play in the same room together, but he might be thinking "play" means specifically oral or vaginal sex while you might consider "play" to mean those things, plus any sexual touching or kissing.
We may need to stop and define terms 

Perhaps it was a case of your husband getting caught up in the moment. He might have thought a little flirting and kissing wouldn't do any harm, but then things got heated and they both got carried away in the moment. It's unfortunate, but I could see it happening.

I also think it's possible that when your husband came out to you in the garage and mentioned the other lady came onto him and he excused himself to come find you and tell you about the encounter that he was, in his way, telling you he wanted to play and was indirectly asking you to come into the room to watch and/or participate. It may not have been clearly communicated, but it seems to me like your husband might have been inviting you to come into the room and thought you were going to be following along behind him shortly.

All of this is speculation on my part. I can only share some possibilities. Your husband knows why events escalated at the party and hopefully will be able to explain events from his perpective.

You asked if I had any suggestions on how to start the conversation. My recommendation would be to make sure when you begin this conversation you're both calm and, preferably, clothed. Try to head into this conversation with an open mind. Try to focus on the idea that you're not looking to dwell on what happened in the past, rather you want to sort things out so you both understand each other and can avoid this happening in the future.

I'd suggest starting by telling your husband that you'd like to chat with him about last weekend's party. Mention walking in on him playing with another woman, when your agreement was to always play together, surprised you and made you uncomfortable. Then let him know you're not looking to assign blame, but you felt the rule was broken and you'd like to hear what happened from his point of view. Ask him to help you understand events from his perspective. You know what happened, but you don't know why and hopefully he can answer that to your satisfaction.
Can you tell the court what you saw? 

Once your husband has explained events at the party from his perpective, hopefully that will let you know why he ended up involved with the other lady. It should reveal the misunderstanding or miscommunication which took place. From there hopefully you two can discuss your boundaries and how to make sure they're maintained in the future. Perhaps you two need to negotiate exactly what "play" means, or how to ask the other partner to come into the room if play is about to happen. Ideally, the two of you won't dwell on what did happen or whose fault it was, but focus on making sure your future parties go smoothly and pleasantly for both of you.

While you didn't ask about this, something I'd suggest one of you (either you or your husband) doing after you sort out everything between you two is contacting the lady from the party. From her point of view it probably seemed like she was hitting it off with both of you, then your husband put her off for a while, then he made-out with her, then you stopped their scene. She may be feeling a little confused about what happened too. So if either of you got to know her well enough to get contact information from her, it might be worth reaching out to her. Even if what happened means you don't want to play with her in the future, having one of you apologize for the mixed signals and telling her there are no hard feelings couldn't hurt. You may cross paths again and being on civil terms would probably make everyone feel more comfortable.