When you’re taking your first steps outside a monogamous relationship, things can seem overwhelming especially the different terminology. As a new couple getting into swinging you might not be sure about the differences between it and an open relationship. After all, you wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing in your first conversation with new non-monogamous friends. Relax, we are here to demystify the confusing terms and explain the difference.
Simply put, swinging is one of the many forms of open relationships. The term ‘open relationship,’ in fact, refers to all relationships seen as ‘out of the standard’ by our society. To understand the differences between swinging and other open relationships, let’s start by understanding the different relationship types.
Forms of Open Relationships
Open relationships are all consensual non-monogamous relationships. This ranges from casual sexual encounters with others to full blown emotional relationships and everything in between.
- A type of open relationship in which the partners are primarily monogamous but accept a small degree of sexual involvement with other people. In some cases, this term also defines those relationships in which one partner is monogamous, and the other partner engages in sporadic sexual activities with others. These people normally follow a monogamous relationship but have the occasional hall pass to dabble outside the relationship.
- Defines sexual relationships that people have outside their primary relationship without developing an emotional connection to the other swingers. Although swingers can be friends, they are only in love with their primary partner. Partners most often engage in sexual activity as a couple but can be allowed to play separately.
- As opposed to swinging, people involved in polyamorous relationships seek to develop an emotional bond to people for a multi-faceted relationship. Polyamorous relationships can be closed as in Polyfidelity or open. In open, polyamorous relationships, each partner can seek polyamorous relationships outside of their primary non-monogamous relationship.
- Refers to an open relationship between more than two people. This is a form of polyamory that is “closed” to casual outsiders. Sex is limited to those who have built a strong emotional bond and commitment.
- Relationship Anarchy
- Is a type of open relationship with no boundaries or limits. Each partner is free to engage in as many sexual, amorous, or platonic relationships as they want. Relationship anarchists are usually nonconformists who don’t want to obey to the society’s rules, by claiming that human nature is not monogamous.
- Perhaps the only type of socially accepted non-monogamous relationship, polygamy means marrying multiple women. Polygamy is common in many cultures, especially in the Middle East and Africa.
- The counter part to polygamy. This term refers to a woman marrying multiple men. This is not as common as polygamy.
From all forms of consensual non-monogamy, swinging is perhaps the most commonly practiced in the Western world. It mostly involves committed couples, although there are also many single swingers who engage in relationships either with committed couples or with other singles.
As opposed to monogamish relationships which are usually restrictive and don’t allow the development of a friendship with the occasional sexual partners, swinging is much more flexible. Swingers can decide if they want to have brief interactions with strangers or long-term swinging relationships with friends they’ve known for years.
Although swinging involves a lot of social interaction, it doesn’t involves feelings. This makes it different from polyamory and polyfidelity. The relationship between two swinging couples can be roughly defined as the relationship between friends with benefits.
Swinging is typically heterosexual-focused, but many groups accept bisexual interaction as well, especially in private arrangements. However, sexual contact between men is often rejected at swinging clubs or parties.
In a way, swingers are similar to the relationship anarchists. Neither believes that human nature is monogamous. Thus they engage in open-minded sexual interactions with others. Still, swingers usually have a monogamous-style primary relationship with someone they love, whereas relationship anarchists often have complicated relationships.
Many swingers marry and even have kids with their primary partner, and they may or may not be open about their lifestyle with family and friends who are not swingers.
In other words, swingers may look just like a regular heterosexual couple in the eyes of their monogamous acquaintances, a trait that makes them very different from relationship anarchists who are very open about their nonconformist views.
Depending on what makes both partners feel comfortable, swinging can have many forms.
Some couples only engage in cyber swinging, which involves having cybersex with other couples. Those who are really open about their sexuality often attend swinging parties or organize gangbangs. The most common are the threesome and foursome relationships, though.
Swinging is one of the many forms of open relationships. The swinging lifestyle promotes friendships, but it doesn’t involve emotional relationships, which means that couples adopting this lifestyle have fewer reasons to become jealous than those who engage in any other types of open relationships.
Don’t worry about remembering all of these different terms and their differences. Think of this more as a starting point to understanding the many different relationship options available to you. Focus less on the specific terms and definitions and more what feels right for you and your relationship. You will probably find what works best for you is a variation of these types that you customize to your own personal preferences.