Swinger, Monogamish, & 6 Other Words For Open Relationships

Illustration By Vero Romero.
When you're taking your first timid steps into the land of open relationships, everything can feel overwhelming. Not only are you faced with the difficult task of opening your relationship to outside sexual and/or romantic partners without getting bogged down by jealousy, but if you spend any time with the non-monogamous community, then you'll likely be inundated with a whole new lexicon of terms. Polyamorous, polyfidelitous, ethically non-monogamous, swinging, and the list goes on.
While all of these words fall under the umbrella of open relationships, they each have a different meaning and set of rules attached. So, which word is right for you and your boo's new situation? We combed the polyglossary at More Than Two for the terms people commonly use. Read on to learn the distinctions between a polyamorous relationship, an open relationship, a monogamish relationship, and more.
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ILLUSTRATION BY VERO ROMERO
Swinger: A swinger is someone who has multiple sexual relationships outside of their primary romantic relationship(s). Swingers usually don't have emotional connections to people outside of their romantic relationship(s). Some swingers have sex only with close friends (friends-first swinging), and some have sex with strangers or go to swing clubs for the purpose of finding sex with other swingers.

Swinging can be open or closed. Open swinging is when swingers switch partners and then have sex in the same room, sometimes having group sex. Closed swinging is when swingers switch partners and then have sex in separate rooms.
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Open relationship: "Open relationship" is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe any relationship that isn't sexually and/or romantically monogamous, including polyamory. Open relationship is also sometimes used to describe non-monogamous relationships that aren't polyamorous, meaning that people are allowed sexual experiences outside of their relationship but not love or romance.
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Monogamish: Sex columnist Dan Savage coined the term "monogamish" to mean "mostly monogamous with a little squish around the edges." That means that a monogamish couple sees each other as their main romantic and sexual partner but allow for outside sexual experiences every once in a while.
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Polyamorous: The roots of the word "polyamory" literally mean "many love," and that's an accurate description. Polyamorous relationships are different from most other open relationships because it's the intention of partners in a polyamorous relationship not only to have sex outside of their primary partnerships, but also to find love.

There are many variations of polyamorous relationships. Some are poly and closed, meaning that the group has decided not to have sex with or find relationships with anyone else. Some are poly and open, meaning partners in the group could still have outside sex and relationships. Some include just three people, some include many different people. Some can have all partners on equal footing and some consist of a primary relationship with secondary relationships branching out from there.
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Ethical Non-monogamy: Ethical or responsible non-monogamy can describe pretty much all open and polyamorous relationships. It is a term that sets these kinds of relationships apart from cheating by demanding that every partner in an ethically non-monogamous relationship know and agree to their partner's outside sexual ventures. Usually, ethically non-monogamous relationships involve the partners creating a set of rules or guidelines about what is or is not okay to do with someone who's not part of the primary relationship.
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Polyfidelity: Polyfidelity is one form of polyamory, and could also be called a closed polyamorous relationship. Polyfidelitous relationships involve more than two people, but don't allow for partners in the relationship to have sex or relationships with people outside of the already established group. For example, there could be a polyamorous throuple (three people in a relationship) who are faithful to each other and satisfied by their dynamic. So, they'll decide not to add other partners to their relationship.
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ILLUSTRATION BY VERO ROMERO
Polygamy: The roots of the word polygamy means "many marriage." So, people in a polygamous partnership will have multiple spouses or be one of multiple spouses. Marrying multiple people is illegal in the United States, so polygamous people cannot legally marry more than one of their partners.
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Relationship Anarchy: While polyamorous relationships thrive on guidelines and "rules" for the partners involved, relationship anarchists believe that there should be no rules or expectations in any kind of relationship, nor that any one type of relationship holds precedence over another. A relationship anarchist might see a platonic friend as having the same level of importance as a sexual partner, for example. And they wouldn't feel constrained to monogamy, because they believe that everyone should be able to seek relationships spontaneously.
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