Inner Trek

Therapy Questions: Episode 4

Polyamory vs. Open Relationships vs. Swinging?


Hey everybody, my name is Dana Mooney, licensed mental health counselor with Inner Trek, LLC and welcome to Therapy Questions. This is episode number 4 where I answer questions that I get as a therapist.

And the question that I'm going to be talking about today came off of last week's video about polyamory. The question was, "Are there different kinds of polyamory? Like I've heard of swinging and partner swapping and just an "open relationship." Are those the same things as being poly?" Ok great questions. So this is going to be kind of a definition sort of webisode. The things I'll talk about are open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and types of those, and then swinging relationships, types of those. And this doesn't necessarily cover all the types of consensual non-monogamy. What I'm gonna do is link- there's a really nice infographic that Franklin Veaux made. He's the author of "More Than Two." It's just like an iconic book for people that are consensually nonmonogamous. But the infographic kind of gives you a way broader view of non-monogamy I'm just gonna cover these three.

So we'll talk about open relationships. So "open relationship" is a term that is kind of like a general term for any couple or any partnership that is open to having more than more than just two of them and that could be in a romantic sense, it could be in a sexual sense, it could be both. It just depends on how they're defining it.

Underneath open relationship- so types of open relationships: Two categories that are really commonly heard about are polyamory and swinging. And the way I kind of like to think of it is that they're both on the same continuum of open relationships. Polyamorous relationships are more focused on love and the romantic aspect, and then swinging relationships are more focused on the sexual aspect. And certainly there are people that fall all different types of in-between. I think I've even heard of people identifying as 'swolly' like swinger-poly. So there can be blends.

Let's see so we'll talk about, let's talk about polyamory first. So the question was "Are there different types of polyamory?" Yes. First type I want to talk about is hierarchical polyamory. So hierarchical is kind of obvious it just means that there's like one more important than the other. So generally this happens if, this happens a lot of marriages open up where there's one primary partnership and that's what they call it the primary partnership and then the other partnerships might be secondary or tertiary. So what happens is a lot of times the the primary partnership will commit to doing everything they can to preserve that partnership above all others.

Then there's a non-hierarchical polyamory which is the opposite. People that practice this are, they believe that all of the relationships should be equal and no relationship is is more important than the other, that are all just relationships. And they wouldn't do anything to preserve one over the other.

Let's see. Then there's polyfidelity so polyfidelity is when there are a group of people that are poly who are only interested in engaging with each other. So let's say for example we've got this person, this person, and this person. This is called a 'Vee'. Another poly term where maybe this person is engaging with thes two people, but these two people are not connected. So in this Vee, these people don't want to date anybody else and they don't want to be involved with anybody else. So they close the group. They're in a polyfidelitous relationship.

Let's see. There are people that identify as solo-poly. So these are people who are open to engaging with more than one partner but they tend to not get into relationships that are very couple centric, where the relationship is like a primary thing in their life. Generally people that are solo-poly won't move in with partners or nest with them. And this kind of varies, the definition varies from person to person.

Let's see. There's also people that identify as relationship anarchists. Relationship Anarchy just means that they they tend to reject a lot of the mainstream ideas about relationships. Like that there's a relationship escalator. A person they get together, and they spend a lot of time together, maybe they live together, maybe they get engaged, maybe they get a dog, and then they get married and then they have a kid, and they get buy a house. They kind of reject that that should be a thing. Relationship anarchists also tend to reject that romantic or sexual relationships should have higher precedence than any other type of relationship, like platonic or otherwise, that a regular platonic friendship could be just as meaningful to them as a marriage partnership. So and generally relationship anarchists tend to reject putting rules or expectations on certain relationships and like to have relationships be as they are without trying to change or control them. Okay so that's polyamory.

Let's move to swinging. So swinging on the other, on the other end of the spectrum, the focus is more on sexual intimacy. So let's see. We've got- So a lot of people when they think of swinging they think of like people having sex with random partners or going to sex clubs and this definitely is a thing. Also there's a thing called friends first swinging. So some couples will agree that they only want to be able to swing with people that they already know well, already have close friendship with. But again this is different from polyamory because the focus is more on the sexual aspect than creating a loving relationship.

Let's see, there's also soft swinging. So some couples really like being in a swinging community and going to maybe they go to a sex club or they go to a party, like a swinging party and they only but they'll agree to only engage with each other sexually rather than engaging with everybody else as well. So this is called soft swinging as opposed to hard swinging where a person would go to these events and be open to having sexual engagement with with other partners.

There's also a closed-group swinging. So this is kind of the analog to polyfidelity in the swinging community. So basically the same thing, there's maybe a group of people that swing and they only like to swing with each other and they don't want to be open to swinging with other people so, closed-group swinging.

There are many more terms and many more definitions to cover but those are the basic ones, and I hope that that was really helpful. And if you have any more questions about this or anything else- I work with non monogamous couples and people that are generally not monogamous in many different forms. I also work with LGBTQ community and folks with depression and anxiety and addiction- so if you have questions about any of those topics feel free to ask. You can put your questions in the comments. You can put your questions in an email to me at or put them on my website in the submission form at Thank you so much and thanks for watching. I'll see you next time! Be well!