Poly vs Swinging: A Different Kind of Freedom?


Poly vs Swinging: A Different Kind of Freedom?My name is Zoe Hanis and I think I have discovered a huge difference between polyamory and swinging (besides the fact that swingers seem to be much better at fucking).

This week has been a rough one.  It is always very hard for me to see someone that I care about in pain.  I have that “mommy instinct” to fix whatever the problem is, or at the very least, kiss it and make it better.  Unfortunately, when the relationship is only one that is in my poly web and does not directly include me, the only thing I can really do is listen – well, listen and give feedback.  At least when the problem is poly related, I do have a lot of experience to draw on.

Without getting into details, since those are not mine to tell, nor the focus of this blog post, I will say that I have discovered what may be a major difference in the poly and swinging mindset.

One of the things that amazed me at the play party was when I asked a gentleman that I had been playing with if I could ride him, he had to stop and ask his wife.  I thought it a bit odd at the time, thinking that it was his body not hers.  But in asking Guy afterwards, I was informed that it was quite normal to ask a spouse for permission.  I think this is a significantly different mindset.

While swinging seems to have an aspect of freedom, it seems to be more a freedom of a couple from societal norms. So while the original relationship remains consistent, the interactions between the couple and others change. The fact that one spouse will ask the other for permission, shows that there is still a degree of “ownership” for lack of a better word. That he/she is “mine” but I will share them with others in a limited capacity.

Polyamory is more about personal freedom.  It is the freedom to pursue relationships regardless of where it may take you.  If that means multiple romantic ones, so be it.  But in order to do that, we have to realize that our partner(s) are also free to make choices.  We hope that they are the choices that we would have them make, but that is not always guaranteed.

There is a song by Billy Joel (And So It Goes) whose lyrics sum this poly attitude up nicely [paraphrasing for legality]:  If the choice were mine to make then I would choose to be with you.  But you can make decisions too and you can have my heart to break.

I have always been poly. I tend to love very deeply. But relationships are not always easy for me. As hard as I try to protect myself from a broken heart, I am rarely surprised when it happens.

One of my major insecurities is “not being worthy” or not measuring up. Implanted by my parents and continually reminded through failed relationships, this scar has never fully healed.  So I assume that people will leave me.

This insecurity lasted for about 16 years with Hubby.  But now I am completely secure in our relationship. I have found that I have had to explain why to numerous people this week.  So I might as well again. There came a time in our relationship, where I thought our marriage was over.  I had gotten myself to a point where it was too late to turn back and the only way forward was through the fire.  So I sat down and very rationally told Hubby that if he wanted me to leave (with or without the kids), I would.  That if he wanted a divorce that it would not be seen as abandonment, but rather as a way to pursue the happiness that he deserves.  He surprised me by telling me that he wanted me to stay, and more importantly, he wanted to stay. There is no need for the kids not to grow up in a stable loving environment with two (or more) parents that care for their well being. He didn’t stay simply because it would be harder and more expensive to go, he feels that his life is better with me in it.

We revisit this conversation every year or so.  I ask if he would like a divorce so that he would be free to marry (or civil union) his girlfriend.  I don’t ask because I want him to go, nor out of a need for reassurance, but because I want him to be happy. Someday, he may choose to go, but for now, he is where he wants to be.

As for my thoughts on why it may be that swingers are better at fucking, that is a post for another time.


Zoe first described herself as "bad at monogamy" until about five years ago when she and her husband discovered the term that actually described her: polyamorous. Since then they have opened their family to other partners. Zoe is currently juggling relationships with her husband, their two kids, her husband's girlfriend, and a slew of friends/loves that she calls her tribal poly family. She can be reached on facebook or on twitter @ZoeHanis


  1. I am not sure I agree with your definition of poly. If it is that open…then in fact it is nothing other than free love….which on a systems basis means it will always diffuse out.

    I do agree about how you perceive swinging by couples…indeed there maintains a structure of ownership between the mates….and I would think while maybe not an exact ownership structure would exist within a poly structure….a fully disclosure would…out of respect for those whom you love.

    my 2 cents…

  2. Anu:
    Thank you for your 2 cents. I am always interested in other povs. I have found that there is no one agreed upon definition of poly.

    In our household, it is the choice of being with each other (or not). It has been working for the last 5 years. While I can’t say that we haven’t had difficulties, they have not been due to possessiveness. We are free to see whomever we please in whatever capacity we wish. Though because we care deeply for each other (and have little ones), we do make sure that the other knows what is going on – that is a big part of open and honest communicaiton.

  3. I myself (a poly person that likes swinging), and many of the poly people that I know ask the open ended question, “how do you feel about that”, after stating what adventure would like to be had. I suppose what is different is that the 3rd party doesn’t ask. It isn’t always phrased as an open ended question, but it is very wise to do so in my opinion.

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