What is the difference between swinging and an open relationship?

An open chat

I had an interesting conversation with one of my girlfriends at the bar the other evening. She told me that her boss had a very open marriage and that his wife didn’t have a problem with him seeing other people, but that he wasn’t a swinger. And that got me thinking, just what exactly is the difference between an open marriage and swinging?

To people who are not part of the lifestyle it may appear on the surface that they are the same thing. After all it involves people having sex with other people outside their marriage/partnership. But if you decide to dig a little bit deeper it becomes clear that there are very clear differences between the two. Differences which make a world of difference to the people involved.

So what are the differences between swinging and open relationships and why does this difference matter?

Open relationships

When people say they have an open marriage or an open relationship they usually mean that they have a mutual understanding that one or both people in the relationship can see other people outside their “regular” relationship for dates or sex.

This takes away the idea of people having an illicit affair or cheating on each other, because they are quite open about what they want and do and don’t try to hide it from each other.

Couples in an open relationship tend to believe that their relationship or their love for each other is strong enough that it won’t be damaged if their partner has sex with someone else. They more or less agree with each other that it is ok to have a sexual relationship outside of their marriage that doesn’t include the other partner.


Swinging tends to be different because it generally actively involves both partners in the relationship. Swingers enjoy swapping partners with another couple, another single or a group of people but while the other person is present or takes part. The being part of the whole experience and sharing it with their partner is what is part of the fun and excitement for many couples.

For many couples swinging is a lifestyle they adopt and can take many forms from sex at other people’s homes, hotel rooms, dogging, clubs or even going on swinging holidays with like minded people.

Usually when people go swinging there is no sense of building any kind of actual relationship other than it just being a way for them to have sex with others without there being any kind of emotions or feelings attached. On saying that, couples who meet up regularly or visit the same clubs will get to know each other very well and will no doubt strike up a friendly relationship outside of the swinging lifestyle.

So it is understandable that there is sometimes confusion for people who aren’t familiar with the lifestyle and that they see an open marriage as just another genre of swinging. It is just that the rules are slightly different when it comes to what is allowed or who takes part. In an open relationship the person can go on dates, romantic dinners and have sex just like they would in a normal relationship, whereas swinging tends to be purely sexually orientated and nothing else.

Is it cheating?

It is safe to say that neither swinging or open relationships can be classified as cheating. In most cases cheating would require a level of trust to be broken between the partners involved and it usually involves secrecy and lies. Whereas with swinging or open relationships everybody involves knows what is happening and in most cases also who with.

For swinging or an open relationship to work it is therefore, important that there is complete honesty and trust between the parties involved at all times.

People also need to be aware that there is always a chance that something can go wrong or that problems can occur when one of the partners in the relationship changes their mind or becomes uncomfortable with the arrangement. When that happens any issues need to be discussed straight away so that a solution can be found and people are back in agreement with whatever is going on.

So those are the key differences between swinging and having an open marriage. I think the main thing that would come across is that for these kind of relationships to work there has to be a great degree of trust and understanding between a couple.

If you are interested in either of these kids of relationships then it is important that you discuss it openly with your partner and are upfront about what you want to get out of it and the reasons for doing so.

Are you swingers or are you in an open relationship? I would love to hear what you all think about it. Why don’t you get involved and share your experiences in the comments below.