Many Loves Not Just Lovers


Many Loves Not Just LoversAs Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, I have decided to wax philosophically on the topic of love. As I enter the sixth month of non-monogamy it is clear that things can be quite messy. Perhaps, I will eventually write an update on the details of my messy relationships but for the nickel tour suffice to say I have had some good NSA one off swings, a few crappy ones, found some swinger friends with benefits who we seem likely to play with again, have one ambiguous and undefined recurring relationship (I will call them the Foxes), and one relationship more clearly defined as a poly quad (the previously mentioned Bears). Plus, I am open to more and other interesting adventures in the future.

I have decided that I am both a bad swinger and a bad polyamorist as traditionally defined. I am fine with emotions being involved and actually find it preferred as I think it makes the sex much better for me that way. I also have rejected the idea of emotional monogamy to my spouse which a lot of swingers seem to prefer. But, partly because I think it is more fun and partly because I want to make sure Mr. Scarlet is also happy, I almost always do whatever it is that we are doing in cahoots with Mr. Scarlet.

Thus, I am somewhere in the middle of the Venn Diagram of where swinging and polyamory overlap. I find it intriguing the hostility that sometimes comes from these two groups toward the other. One would think there is enough BS from the monogamy purists that one would want to embrace anyone on the non-monogamy path even if what they preferred was a different style. But as it is, I have observed a lot of online arguing about who is having fun or having relationships the “right way.”

On the topic of love, I find it interesting that the word that has come to exist to mean multiple romantic relationships is polyamory, which comes from the Greek “polys” for many/much and the Latin word for love, “amor.” This is a portmanteau, a linguistic blend, of two pieces. The curious thing is why was the combination is taken from two different languages. Why not the Latin word for many/much? Why is it not Multisamory or Tantumamory? Perhaps just because these don’t roll off of the tongue as easily.

But, why use the Latin word for love rather than the Greek? Here is what I think. From what I can tell the Romans used their word for love to mean affectionate, romantic, as well as sexual love. So “amor” seems to be a general catchall term similar to what English also means by “love.”

But the Greeks on the other hand had many distinct words and concepts for love. If in creating the word polyamory, a consistency of using the same parent language had been used then which of the love types would have been used?

Agape was used to refer to the spiritual sense of love and is often used in a religious context to mean God’s love or other unconditional love. Philia was a more general term for a mental love, friendship, or affection as found with friends or family. Storge was used also for affection typically between parents and their offspring. Other writings also mentioned Ludus which is a playful love found in the initial stages when one is flirting and teasing; Pragma which is the old love of longstanding relationships based on compromise and communication; Xenia which is related to hospitality; and Philautia which is healthy self love that is necessary to relationships. None of these really work with the prefix “poly.”

And then there is eros. This is the same word as the Greek god of Love, Eros, aka Cupid in Roman mythology. Eros is the love of desire, of longing, of sexual passion. It implies romantic and physical love as well as pure emotion without logic such as “love at first sight” and “falling madly in love.” I think this is the same love that occurs during NRE, new relationship energy, for those in poly circles. I also think this is the same love, though a more mild form of it, in the lust and attraction that most swingers require at least a little bit of in order to play. If swinging was purely just sex, then no attraction would be necessary.

I wonder if the word was polyeros instead of polyamory that there would be more people like me who think that the difference between swinging and polyamory is one of degree.


Ms. Scarlet is a newbie non-monogamist. She lives in a really Red part of fly over country, hence the name Ms. Scarlet. She likes contact sports, massages, rum, fast cars, ice cream, and good oral sex - not necessarily in that order. You can find her discussing the latest sex news and other things on Twitter as @MsScarletBlogs

1 Comment

  1. Longandshortofit on

    This is potentially very insightful, though I wish I new what was truly in mind when “polyamory” was coined. There had to be a specific person and time, right? Anyways, the two of us have swung along for a couple of years with comparatively feelings-free associations but have in the last month fallen into what the author would most certainly consider a non-exclusive polyamory quad. It is tricky because it is unbalanced (one cross-pairing is very intense with almost constant contact, and the other cross-pairing has worked wonderfully in person but is otherwise a bit more casual). So far all is out in the open and we are all in full agreement about the primacy of our principal partnerships, but we are still working out what it all means.

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