There is often some common confusion between the swinging lifestyle and polyamory, some people can even go as far as thinking the terms are synonymous and interchangeable.
Personally I see major differences and mixing them is really not a great idea in my view.
I’ve actually heard a rather good saying which sums this up very nicely:
“Swinging kills polyamory and polyamory kills swinging.”
It is however true that both groups do share a similar if not common view upon acceptance of a consensual non-monogamous lifestyle that involves intimate relationships with more than one person, but that’s pretty much where the similarities start and end between the two.
Within swinging the usual starting dynamic is a primary relationship couple. The couple are open and honest with each other about their sexual relationships with others. More often than not they seeking and participation in sex with other parties outside the couple is engaged in together. This can involve using online swinger dating sites, going to organised swinger parties or attending dedicated swingers clubs. All of these provides the necessary chance of meeting new potential partners together.
Swinging tends to be about only attracting other like-minded people. Couples will tend to define there interests in advance, including the level of sexual intimacy with which they are comfortable.
Male swinger are normally heterosexual, while bisexuality among female swingers is extremely popular, in fact I’d go as far as suggesting that a large number of couples get into swinging because the female party wants girl-on-girl experience or they are looking for the mythical swingers “unicorn.”
Within swinging the term unicorn, is used to describe a single female who will play with couples.
I should add that swingers very often use the word “play” to describe any form of sexual interaction.
The swingers tend to be very focused and protective of their primary relationships and are very wary of anything that can be perceived as a threat to it. This approach tends to focus on deliberately compartmentalizing sex and feelings; even to the extent of believing that it is not possible or desirable to have feelings of attachment to more than one person at the same time.
The easiest way to do this is to limit sex to a one-time or few-times basis i.e. “hit it and quit it” or “one and done”. Swinging couples of this type are also known as bed-notches.
There are also fairly simple ways to classify swinging types including;
- Soft swap
- Full swap
- Reciprocal swap
- Fully open.
I won’t attempt to fully describe each of these types.
Polyamory is a very different animal, it is based on the concept and acceptance that love is infinite and that loving multiple people is like a parent loving their various children. Therefore the love for one child does not diminish the love for another. This same concept also holds true for romantic relationships.
Additional relationships should compliment each other and actually add additional benefits in the form of support and the meeting of emotional needs, wants and desires.
Swingers tend to hold their primary relationships above all others, polyamory is far more flexible. Even a primary poly relationship shouldn’t hold other relationships to ransom, instead good open and honest communication should hold centre stage when ever any form of conflict arises.
Polyamory is based upon first seeking agency to pursue an action and gaining consent to move forward with it.
Relationships within polyamory are forever changing and there structure is always fluid in nature as they mature and continue to evolve.
Sometimes swingers find themselves developing feelings and inadvertently begin to transition into polyamory. This can either make or break the previous sacred primary relationship depending upon its original strength and stability. In these cases, only time will tell but I wish them well.
I see merits and pit falls in both approaches but also recognise that by necessity they both share virtues of being open, honest and truthful with those we profess to love.