This is a common question and an easy one to be confused by because they are quite similar and realistically, a swinging relationship is a type of open relationship, but by the end of this article (if I’ve done my job right), you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what kind of relationship you have right now and what criteria means you have jumped the fence into the other.
First of all, let’s get clear about swinging and what that looks like… Well, you know what I mean, we’ve seen what it looks like to see couples enjoying threesomes, foursomes and moresomes but that’s not what I’m referring to exactly, although all of those are included.
Swinging is generally what you call it when you and your partner are enjoying the lifestyle and each experience together. It’s just a sex and adventure thing for you, usually in full view or at least ear-shot of each other, just the way you like it!
It’s generally accepted that if you’re a swinger then you don’t have any emotional connections with your playmates, and that’s really all they are, playmates. I’d like to add something, which might challenge the generally accepted lines between swinging and an open-relationship…
While most experts will say that there are no emotional connections if it’s just swinging, my experience has been that many people are looking for at least some level of emotional connection over and above just simple attraction (even intense attraction) such as friendship and social interaction outside of the swinging scene, but not a deep emotional connection such as love.
An open relationship (also known as open marriage is if the couple are married) includes all the fun and frivolity that a swinging relationship has but it also has agreements in place for each person to have the freedom to date and/or have sex with other people without their partner present. The agreements can vary depending on how comfortable and secure the individuals are within the relationship plus what desires they have to explore with others.
In an open relationship, each additional friendship or relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be all about sex, they can enjoy going bowling or for walks on the beach, or going to the theatre with people other than their primary partner. They could easily be a platonic relationship to enjoy shared interests that are not shared by their primary partner.
Some couples opt for an open relationship because one partner has a fetish, sexual desire or some other aspect of their relationship that their current partner can’t, or isn’t willing, to fulfil. As an example, I’m keen to explore impact play (dip my toes in the BDSM world so to speak) but I’d like to try the giving aspect, understandably my husband isn’t keen to be on the receiving end! Our relationship is an open one so I’m able to find someone else who is keen to explore this dynamic with me while letting my husband’s backside off the proverbial hook.
Some couples just enjoy having their primary relationship while having the freedom to enjoy being single in their agreed ways, the best of both worlds!
Think about it for a moment, there’s something addictive about the beginning phases of a new connection/relationship; the spark, the attraction and the increasing grr factor as you learn more about each other and what gets you both going. There are just some things you can’t recreate with a partner you’ve had for over a decade but the depth of the bond and connection with a life partner is something you can’t just create with someone new overnight or even within a few weeks or months.
So in summary; you’re in a swinging relationship if you are in the swinging lifestyle purely for the sex and adventure, and if you are doing it all with your partner by your side, or at least in the next room. It’s something you only do together and you aren’t interested in sharing your partner (or being shared) with someone outside your relationship for something over and above a sexual encounter (or a few of them).
You’re in an open relationship or open marriage if you are willing to, and do, allow each other to spend time with others alone, and/or to form sexual and/or emotional relationships with other people outside of your primary relationship. Open relationships where the external relationship forms a deeper bond and loving connection is considered “polyamory” – a form of relationship where one or both partners have multiple loving relationships at the same time. Did you get that? There will be a test at the end… kidding.
Many couples start in the swinging arena and build such a deep bond and a high level of trust through the process of sharing each other sexually, that they feel comfortable in taking it to the next level to an open relationship, but not everyone does and nor does everyone have to. Ultimately just enjoy where you’re at and all the amazing adventures the swinging scene has to offer, and if it evolves or changes into something else, enjoy that too!