What’s Up With Poly? Open, Swingers, and Polyamory

Romantic partners are becoming more and more like potato chips these days: a lot of people find it difficult to have just one.

…I’ll just see myself out…

But seriously, though, monogamy really isn’t the only norm anymore, especially in the queer world. In a world where YOLO became a way of life, people have stopped limiting themselves to just one romantic partner. Variety IS the spice of life after all, and that’s especially true in the bedroom. Maybe the idea is intriguing you a bit but you’re a bit unsure which concept to pursue. Sure, there’s open relationships, swingers and polyamory but what’s the difference? Wait… is there a difference or those all just various names for the same thing? Well, hopefully I can clear things up for you a bit.

Let’s start with open relationships. That is basically an umbrella term. There are many types of open relationships. Swingers and polyamory are just two of those types. What makes a relationship open is the freedom that allows one or more involved parties to pursue relationships and/or encounters with others outside of the relationship. Pretty simple, right? Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s delve a bit deeper.

Next, there’s swinging. Swinging is mainly a sexual activity where partners in a committed relationship swap partners with others also in committed relationships. It’s mainly done for fun and doesn’t go beyond the bedroom, in a manner of speaking. Many couples find that swinging not only increases their sexual frequency but also improves the quality of their sex. Better sex more often? Yes, please! Swinging gained popularity in the late sixties and seventies during the sexual revolution. Increased access to contraceptives, lowered inhibitions and parties thrown solely for the purpose of swinging helped fuel its fire and people still swear by it today!

More recently, the concept of polyamory has been catching on. Polyamory is more than just sexual encounters outside of a committed relationship. It’s an actual whole other relationship. Dates. Quality time. Deep talks. Possible cohabitation. All parties involved know of and respect each other. It is even possible that a couple could date another person together. Polyamory is all about taking intimacy to a whole new level beyond just the physical.

You may be wondering how any of this can work. The key is communication. Think about it. Relationships are already hard when they involve just two people. They get even harder when you add others to the mix in any capacity. Feelings need to be discussed. Any jealousy that may pop up should be managed. Plus, communication feeds trust. If you’re thinking about pursuing any kind of open relationship you have to know that it will take work, but many believe that the benefits are definitely worth the effort.

This is just an opinion of mine (and I’m no expert), but I also believe that you truly know inside if you are the type that can handle an open relationship of any kind. No one knows you like you do. You know how well you communicate, how trusting you are and if jealousy is an issue you can handle. If you have any doubts that you can manage an open relationship, my advice is to trust your instincts and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

Another thing to remember when pursuing an open relationship is the importance of STI testing. If you are having sex with multiple partners, you should definitely get tested on a regular basis to prevent the spread of any possible STIs. Trust is very important in open relationships, but unfortunately you cannot trust everyone in the world. Visit Central Outreach for all your testing needs so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

If you’ve been considering opening your relationship and letting others tickle your fancy, I hope this beginner’s guide to open relationships, swinging and polyamory has helped you figure out what to pursue. Now open your mind, get tested, discuss with your partner and get out there and have some fun! And as always, stay safe and stay sexy!

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)