Defining threesome, swinging, and open relationship


The Purple Mobius symbol for Polyamory, non-mo...

Does having a threesome mean the relationship is an open relationship?

Introduction

Threesomes, swinging, and open relationships are terms that are used interchangeably but each term has a specific meaning. Without understanding the meaning of each term it leads to confusion and misunderstanding.

Threesome

We all know threesome is a broad term meaning three people having sex together and it is used to cover a variety of situations. What many people do not realize is the term implies an encounter whereby the couple remains emotionally monogamous to each other but brings in a third person in order to enhance their sexual enjoyment of each other.  This means the term is used ind describing a couple that occasionally participates in the activity and for the most part, has a close relationship.

Swinging

Swinging is a term, this author feels, is over-used and it has almost become meaningless. The term dates back WWII and it described the practice of fighter pilots who shared their wives due to the high mortality rate but the practice itself dates back to biblical times.

Today, swinging implies a lifestyle choice. This means a couple that participates in having threesomes does so on a regular basis and the practice has become a part of their life. This means the difference between the term swinging and threesome implies the degree to which the practice is a part of the couple’s life.

Open Relationship

An open relationship can take on many forms, such as cuckolding / cuckqueaning, menage da trios, friends with benefits, or polyamory. The defining feature of an open relationship versus a threesome or swinging is the couple, in an open relationship, forms a secondary sexual relationship with someone outside of their primary relationship. This means each individual in the relationship, can choose, to have a relationship with someone else.  It also means the difference between an open relationship, swinging and a threesome is in an open relationship emotional monogamy is lost.

Defining the difference

This brings up the question, is all swinging and threesomes an open relationship? In this author’s opinion the answer is no. First in a swinging or threesome situation the activity is done together in an effort to maintain emotional monogamy. Second, an open relationship tends to involve relationship formation whereas the others focus on sexual enjoyment instead of forming a relationship. Such a difference means there is a different relationship dynamic at play.

Next, it brings up the question what about a couple that swings or has a threesome but one of the plays alone on occasion. The answer comes down to the reason for playing alone and the frequency. If it is something that is done on a rare occasion and it done for heightening sexual enjoyment then the answer would be it is not an open relationship.

Finally is it possible to have an open relationship while maintaining some form of monogamy? This author believes cuckolding / cuckqueaning is an example where the submissive member remains monogamous and receives sexual enjoyment from their partner’s sexual encounter. The other example is a friend with benefits. A friend with benefits relationship implies there is no monogamy and it is a choice.  This means the friends can, if they are not already in a relationship with someone else, choose to remain monogamous to each other.

Conclusion

The terms threesome, swinging, and open relationship describe a relationship based on the frequency of group sex and the extent to which the couple remains emotionally monogamous to each other. Even though each term describes these characteristics, it still means there is some interpretation that must occur. Hopefully by discussing these terms in more detail it will help the reader understand the differences between them.

18 thoughts on “Defining threesome, swinging, and open relationship

  1. I like this. Having a threesome is one thing; swinging is something else – but not limited to threesomes – and an open relationship is an entirely different animal and I don’t necessarily agree with your assessment that an open relationship is solely about forming other relationships; the initial thrust in this direction is usually more about openly having sex outside of any ‘group’ setting first, and if a relationship emerges as a result, that’s a secondary consideration that may or may not be pursued.

    One can argue, however, that emotional monogamy goes right out the window in any of the three ‘situations’ since one of the basic premises of emotional monogamy is keeping the desire for sex between the couple (keeping only unto yourselves); once any sex takes place outside of the monogamous relationship, emotional monogamy, even in part, is broken.

    So I kinda disagree that in any of this, emotional monogamy is trying to be maintained; what is being maintained is the integrity of the base relationship: No matter what we do, how we do it, or who we do it with, it will always be you and I.

    • Regarding forming a secondary relationship in an open relationship, this author sees it as an element that defines having an open relationship. This means, it may not happen in every situation but the opportunity is there. This means sex might occur as a one-off and the individual from the couple might seek someone else. However, the dynamic preventing the forming of an emotional attachment is not present. The openness of the relationship allows the opportunity for a secondary relationship to form and the opportunity for it to be maintained. For the couple, the challenge is allowing the secondary relationship without destroying their relationship. If a couple swings, for example, and has a group of close friends that they swing with, does it mean they have an open relationship? Depending on the dynamics, most likely not since they still remain emotionally monogamous to each other.

      For this author, emotional monogamy means limited sex can occur outside of the relationship as long as the emotional bond the couple shares remains exclusive to them. This brings this author to a central theme the difference between sex for pleasure and sex being equated with a relationship. In situation where emotional monogamy is to be maintained, then sex needs to be about pleasure not an ongoing situation whereby emotional bond may form. Once an ongoing emotional bond is form with someone outside of the primary relationship then emotional monogamy is broken. By my definition, an open relationship in most cases will break emotional monogamy. However a couple that has an occasional threesome will, in almost always remain emotionally monogamous, and a couple that swings together, will most likely remain emotionally monogamous.

      • When you get into the nuts and bolts of the dynamic, it becomes quite interesting, does it not? I know that with swingers (in particular) there’s a lot of emphasis on remaining emotionally monogamous: Love the sex but not the person providing the pleasure. Most swingers I know do not have an open relationship; they’re in the “we play together or not at all” mode of swinging which is intended to not only maintain emotional monogamy but the integrity of the relationship as well.

        I do suppose, however, it depends on how a couple goes about building this, ah, extracurricular activity. I think a mistake people make with open relationships is they approach it with a “every man for himself” mindset and, in this, I would agree that emotional monogamy is broken. But if they approach this from a position that their openness is about them sharing the experiences, I would say that emotional monogamy is maintained as well as the integrity of the relationship.

        I find this all horribly fascinating because the reason why this is being undertaking will shape the dynamic for them.

        • It is very interesting once you start examining the dynamics involve. Another interest for this author is terminology. Understanding terminology helps to ensure people are ‘on the same page’ and misunderstandings are reduced due to different understanding of the same word.

          This author feels the more the couple knows when they try having a threesome the more control they will be of the situation instead of the situation controlling them. If they can understand the dynamics involved and the different types of practices that exist then they are better able to define where their comfort limits exist.

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