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Open Relationships, Polyamory, and Swinging: What’s The Difference?

The world of open relationships offers up a variety of terms and descriptions. This can often confuse people who are new to the open relationship concept. And that’s fair. As an open relationship dating site, our job is to untangle the many facets of open relationships, including the terminology used.

So let’s unravel what open relationships, polyamory, and swinging are. What’s their differences, uniquenesses, and in some cases, their similarities.

Why Understanding The Distinctions in Relationships Matters

Understanding the differences in open relationships, polyamory, and swinging isn’t only for the purpose of dating and mingling.

Recognizing the distinctions between open relationships, polyamory, and swinging is critical for several reasons.

These understandings can affect boundaries and dynamics. Also, it can help you foster a more informed and inclusive dialogue. Moreover, its helpful to educate yourself on these relationship structures when advocating fro polyamorous rights and social acceptance.

By understanding these distinctions, we can better advocate for the rights and acceptance of all non-monogamous relationships.

In conclusion, recognizing the distinctions between open relationships, polyamory, and swinging is not just an academic exercise. It has real, practical implications.

What Is An Open Relationship?

3 pair of feet popping out from white bedsheets

An open relationship is a form of non-monogamous relationship where all partners consensually agree to including more romantic and sexual partners. The term “open relationship” is a bit high-level in the sense that it includes a wide range of relationship structures and arrangements. These arrangements may be a simple as a threesome, or as complex as a full-on swinger agreement that’s bound by rigorous boundaries.

The term “open relationship” encompasses a great many types of relationship structures, including the one’s we’re discussing today. And thus, we begin with it.

One thing that’s always consistent in an authentic open relationship is transparency and communication. Having an affair that your partner is unaware of and unapproving of is not an open relationship. Coercing a partner into including more partners or allowing you sexual freedom isn’t an open relationship, either. An open relationship means both partners are engaged in the relationship structure and willingly agree to the boundaries and actions.

An open relationship can mean that each partner doesn’t know or have knowledge of additional partners, but that must be mutually agreed upon first.

What Is A Swinger?

man with two girls napping together

Swinging is a form of non-monogamy where partners in a committed relationship mutually agree to engage in physical and romantic relations, often with other committed couples. That said, sometimes committed couples swing with single individuals.

Swinging is considered a subset of an open relationship. Although the dating community tends to use the terms in independent fashion.

Because swinging falls under the open relationship umbrella, consensual agreements, mutual respect, and transparency are at the heart of it.

It’s important to note that, while swinging focuses primarily on sexual experiences, it doesn’t mean that swingers don’t form friendships or have emotional connections with the people they swing with. The community aspect can be quite strong in swinging circles, with individuals often forming close bonds with others in the lifestyle.

What Is Polyamory?

Some might argue that polyamory is the all-encompassing term which all open relationships fall beneath. It depends on who you ask.

Polyamory typically involves multiple sexual relationships outside the main relationship. Often, these relationships are equally important. This concept runs counter to traditional swinging.

Because open relationships can include relationships that are primarily sexual in nature, we draw a distinction between polyamory and open relationships; and hence, the case is made that “open relationship” is the highest level term.

In a polyamorous relationship, transparency and communication are key, much like in open relationships and swinging. All parties involved have knowledge of and consent to the other relationships. Boundaries and agreements are established to ensure that everyone’s needs and feelings are considered.


Understanding each term’s distinctions can impact your relationships in the open relationship dating community. Possessing the basic understanding outlined above will help you discover partners and communities that are right for your needs and desires. Moreover, it can impact your contributions to open relationship advocacy during a time that your help is much needed.

In the end, all relationship types come down to three primary components: mutual consent, respect, and understanding.