Alternative Approaches to Sex + Love

A look at two open relationship styles

Western society is built on the principles of monogamy. For as long as we can remember, our lives have mirrored this very concept, as we, as well as those before us, lead romantic lives according to the notion that one person, “the one”, can satisfy our sexual and emotional needs during our lifetime. But the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to different forms of romantic lifestyles where “free love” reigns supreme. Not necessarily the kinkier unconventional sexual proclivities that more eccentric lovers partake in, but rather non-standard, alternative forms of love and companionship. Below, we look at two such lifestyles, which you’ll find are as divergent as they are similar to one another. 
Swinging, or many partners
Celebrities like Sting and wife Trudi Styler have famously proclaimed to routinely engage in sex with other couples. Known as swinging, the practice of swapping partners is one many modern-day couples enjoy. While this lifestyle may seem far removed from monogamy, swingers only open up the doors to the sexual dimension of their relationship to others. Swinging is a sexual practice both partners engage in together at all times. Couples are committed to their relationship, but allow themselves to explore sexual bonds outside of the relationship. Thus, sexual fidelity isn’t upheld. Swingers indulge in recreational sex with other couples, but apart from that, remain monogamous. One partner having an extramarital affair would be just as damaging to the relationship between two swingers as it would for any conventional monogamous couple.
While only slightly different from conventional monogamous relationships, swinging is a recreational practice couples engage in discreetly as the swapping of partners tends not to be looked kindly upon by social conventions. However, next to the far more off-kilter sexual practices of nantaimori, agalmatophilia and the like, swinging is rather bland in comparison!
Polyamory, or multiple lovers
Often mistaken for swingers, polyamorous people believe that one can be in love with more than one person at a time. Polyamory derives from the Greek word “poly” meaning “many”, and the Latin word “amor”, meaning “love”.  Naturally, sex is an integral part of polyamorous relationships, as with any relationship, but unlike swinging, polyamory is not only about being intimate with, but also and more importantly, loving multiple people at once. Seeking an emotional connection with one or multiple people outside of the relationship isn’t damaging to the committal bond between both primary lovers. A polyamorous couple may and do date multiple people, and sometimes even date the same person (known as a poly triad).
While swinging is a discreet pastime of sorts for couples, polyamory is a way of life for its adherents. While social conventions surrounding relationships prevent them from ”coming out”, poly people would otherwise be like any couple, attending weddings, work functions and the like, out in the open. Earlier this year, polyamory was the subject of a new Showtime reality series, Polyamory: Married and Dating. The show offers a voyeuristic glimpse into the lifestyles of two poly families: the first, a young and attractive MFF (male-female-female) triad, and the second, two thirty-something couples in the midst of moving in together. As the show demonstrates, despite popular belief, poly people struggle with jealousy and inclusion just like strictly monogamous couples. And much like monogamous relationships, keeping lines of communication open at all times is paramount in getting past these very human, albeit destructive, emotions.
We’d like to know: have you ever dabbled in the swinging lifestyle? Do you believe we as human beings are meant to be monogamous or is it possible to love and commit to more than one person? Sound off in the Comments section below!

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