The sexy lifestyle is a big umbrella and it covers many related concepts that aren’t always swinging. Polyamory describes a committed, closed relationship between more than two people. An ongoing threesome, foursome, or however-much-some arrangement where everyone agrees to never play outside of this arrangement would be considered polyamory.
One oversimplified way to explain the difference between swinging and polyamory is to say that poly people love everyone in their group while swingers lust after their play partners. Honestly, there are entire books dedicated to polyamory so our brief explanation will not be able to best explain this type of relationship. To all polyamory people we apologize in advance for this grossly oversimplified crash course.
Polyamory and swinging are very different concepts even though they might seem to be similar. Yes, both swingers and poly people can have multiple sex partners. Swingers tend to play with many partners without making a long-term relationship commitment to those partners. Strong friendships may form between play partners, but swingers don’t usually form an intense, emotional, loving bond. People become swingers to focus more on physical pleasure and sexy fun, not love.
Poly people, on the other hand, have love at the core of their relationships, so that a closed group of people will openly say “I love you” to each other. For polyamorous folks, emotional connection trumps physical connection. They can be in closed poly groups or open groups or their own variation of it. Poly people can also be swingers and swingers can find friends that evolve into a poly situation.
It’s not unheard of for swingers to become polyamorous while exploring the lifestyle. For instance, you might meet a great swinging couple that you really click with. You enjoy their company, and you certainly enjoy playing with them. You want to engage in play without condoms, to enhance the pleasure for everyone. In this scenario, you might choose to enter a polyamorous-style relationship, wherein you commit to each other that you will not engage in play with anyone else.
Of course, once you agree to that, you’re less swinging and more entering a poly situation (not that you should worry about labels and just enjoy yourself). But for many people, sacrificing the opportunity to have many new, exciting play partners is worth the benefits of committing to a polyamorous relationship. You won’t have to spend time looking for new partners you like and who like you, which can be tedious and frustrating. You don’t have to wonder if your night at the swingers’ club will be a success or a total bust. You can plan a schedule that works for everyone in the group. You can engage in play without condoms, which most agree feels better. Your exposure risk for STIs while swinging will go way down, since you are only playing with trusted people who have been tested. You can enjoy the fruits of an emotional commitment that comes with a polyamorous relationship.
Swingers and polyamory people enjoy and respect each other even if our specific goals are slightly different. It is fine for swingers to enjoy casual sex and it is fine for polyamory couples, throuples and whoever else enjoys their emotional relationships. We are all part of this enjoyable lifestyle that respects others and gives us the freedom to enjoy however we prefer.