Swinging & Changing Relationship Dynamics


changing-relationship-dynamicOne of the most difficult things to manage in non-monogamous relationships is the changing dynamic you can develop with your external relationships. How is this different from serial monogamy? Dynamics change there too after all. Well, the primary difference (my impatient friends) is that you’re often dealing with a number of different dynamic changes at the same time, and unlike monogamy, these don’t always lead to the termination of relationships.

This is really the most fundamental difference, that the relationships don’t end to make way for others. That these relationship dynamic changes can change the nuance of a relationship without ending it entirely. This can be wonderful, and allow for a dramatic range of different relationships and energy as well as connection in your life at a single time. The difficulty arrises, however, when you feel a change in the dynamics (from sexual to non-sexual, from non-romantic to romance) and your partner does not, or the others sharing that relationship with you do not.

We’ve most encountered issue when in a four-way swinging relationship with another couple. I’ve found that the four-way (couple on couple) relationship is the hardest dynamic to sustain, and the one that can easiest go array. Both Marilyn and myself have experienced a change in interest at times. Where we begin a relationship with a couple all on the same page, but over time things begin to change, and one of us is no longer interested in a sexual relationship with the corresponding member of the other couple. This is hard as the person whose feelings have changed, as we know how it has felt when someone who was interested in us is no longer.

I know this feeling has caused me a lot of anxiety, because so many factors go into that connection, that sexual dynamic, that emotional dynamic. I analyze like crazy, wondering if it’s just a slight change in my mood, or a mediocre evening, or something independent of the relationship that causes feelings to temporarily change.

When this happens I try very hard not to be rash. Not to make decisions that will affect others quickly, without much thought. Since on multiple occasions, a temporary shift in interest has changed back over time, so all that was needed was a break. This isn’t always the case, of course, sometimes relationships just change.

The important thing is not to panic. Not to overanalyze.

Because the beauty of non-monogamy is the ability to have all levels of these relationships at the same time. You can have romantic relationships and sexual relationships and intimate friend relationships and regular friends. And this is why you shouldn’t panic and make rash decisions. Why you shouldn’t rush to end a relationship simply because your feelings have changed.

It may be hard to discuss that change, to tell the people your feelings are different about that things are in fact different. Especially in swinging, to take a sexual relationship down to a friend relationship. This is a conversation that very easily can feel like a breakup. It even sounds so much like the “It’s not you, it’s me, we can still be friends” end of a monogamous relationship in a diplomatic way.

If your feelings do begin to change for a couple, or a single, from whatever variation on a relationship you have to, something altogether different, then you need to give it that time, recognize if it truly is a permanent change in your feelings, or one of those fleeting things that come up from time to time.

When the feelings are permanent, and you know you’re not going to be sliding back into that old dynamic, then you must have the conversation. Don’t just avoid the other person, especially if this dynamic shift is part of a four-way connection, because this can cause damage to your partner’s relationship with them as well. However, if you are a couple who only plays together, this is something to take into consideration, if you ending your physical relationship will in effect end your partner’s physical relationship as well.

When I say consider, though, I’m not saying that you should continue in a sexual relationship or romantic relationship that you aren’t feeling simply to allow for your partner. One of the biggest rules over here at Life on the Swingset is NEVER take one for the team. I would recommend using their relationship as an added bit of information for you to consider and weigh when deciding how you are going to react, how you are going to adjust your relationship.

A friend of mine has felt at times that he needs to make broad sweeping moves when relationship dynamics change, or aren’t fully realized. I’ve cautioned him against expecting too much from his relationships, against looking at them as needing to be something that they simply are not.

The facet of non-monogamy that is most intriguing is that it provides for relationships not needing to be everything at all times, like a monogamous relationship is “supposed” to be. Without the requirement that your partners of any kind need to fulfill all your relationship needs, be they sexual or romantic or supporting, you can have relationships with smaller quantities of these qualities. Sometimes all a relationship needs to offer is a shoulder to lean on and a quick occasional fuck.

So when a relationship changes, we don’t need to over-think them. We can move from weekly to monthly visits/fucks. We can add a little romance here and there. Revel in the variety that is offered to us, here on The Swingset.

And again, don’t panic.


About Author

About Cooper
Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset: The Podcast since 2010, author of swinging & polyamory novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching The Swingularity, and memoir My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is a graphic & web designer, photographer, and voice over artist, has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, & is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He is currently working on two instructional non-fiction books, one about beginning non-monogamy, and another about pegging.

1 Comment

  1. It is complicated sometimes. While Miguel and I “work” hard at pleasing each other, we do sometimes trip over relationships in the lifestyle. That couple that we always flirt with at the club will admit jealousy when we are meeting new couples. We try not to play exclusively with and one couple or single because it feels too restrictive.

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