The Poly Girl and the Swinger Boy: A Communication Communion

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The Poly Girl and the Swinger Boy: A Communication CommunionMy name is Zoe Hanis and I am a polyamorous swinger. I am aware that the phrase “polyamorous swinger” sounds like an oxymoron and sometimes I feel as if it may be.

I told Cooper that I needed a word to describe my situation. I thought polyswingamory might work, while he favored swingamory. Though neither really sums up what it means to be involved in both polyamorous and swing relationships, sometimes even simultaneously. It appears that we need better labels; better ways to communicate.

Communication seems to be a big issue with Guy and I lately. While we are both well versed in living in ethical non monogamous relationships, I feel that coming from opposite ends of the spectrum has caused more than its fair share of problems. A friend described it as if we are both playing a board game together, yet as I think am about to pass Go in Monopoly and he sends my piece home in Sorry. In other words, just because we are both speaking English doesn’t mean that we have the same definitions for our terms.

A good example is the word “date.” Recently, Guy seemed puzzled (almost annoyed) by the fact that I was surprised that he and his wife have swung separately. He stated that he had told me that his wife went on dates with the male half of a couple that they swing with. He did indeed tell me that; however, I had assumed (incorrectly) that in saying “date”, he was implying a deeper relationship rather than a simple friends with benefits arrangement. To me, a date had always had romantic connotations. Usually, by the time I actually go out on a first date, I already feel as it I know the person; so dates are times to get together to let the relationship deepen.

Interestingly enough, when I asked Guy if I was to be his date to the next swing party, it was he that thought the term had deeper connotations. To me being his date meant that I would have someone to make sure I was ok (a lifeline) and someone to debrief with afterwards; someone like on NYE who would be there to share in the experience. While he said he was fine with fulfilling that role and had planned to regardless, he further associated being my date (to a swing party) as an expectation on my part that he would play with me; an obligation that might take away from the spontaneity of the event.

Sometimes it isn’t just a different definition, but the weight (or value) we place on a term that can cause stress. Recently, Guy was planning a weekend with someone from out of town. The night before she arrived, he told me his plans for the weekend. I had no issue with them having sex, I expected that, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of him sleeping with her. I think he had trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that I see sleeping together as a higher level of intimacy, whereas he saw sleeping together as a practical matter (i.e. more time together, less driving back and forth, etc.). It took a bit for us to recognize the issue and be able to see the situation from the others' point of view.

Though I think the biggest frustration for me with communication has been when the concept is foreign but the term is not. Take the “check in.” While this seems to be an extremely important concept for swinging, it has not been one that I am familiar with. I have never had to check in as such with Hubby. We check with each other before we make plans to be away from the family since one of us needs to be home with the kids. When I go on first dates, he wants the gentleman’s contact information and our basic itinerary. But beyond that I don’t ask if I can do x, y or z. In fact, he assumes that I will fuck them and simply says be safe. We have never spoken about his comfort level with my dating or fucking others. Nor has he ever asked me about what I am comfortable with him doing. We do what we want and trust that the other will support our decisions. I think we feel that if it is something that the other wants or needs, we should simply accept it.

With Guy, this check in is a whole new concept that I haven’t been able to grasp. At first I thought it was an asking for permission sort of thing; then I thought it was to see what one’s partner was comfortable with; now… well Guy explained that it is a nicety. That since we care about what our partner thinks and feels, we ask for their opinion. If he asks for my opinion, he is giving me a chance to influence his decision. Granted there will be times that even if I give my opinion, it will not change his decision so I must simply deal. This whole idea of having influence seems a bit foreign to me. I am used to people doing what they want regardless of what I have to say about the situation. I either cope with this situation or leave.

In theory, the “check in” idea and its lending influence over the relationship sounds wonderful. I wonder if I would have the gumption to not only say “this really bothers me” but to state a case good enough to stop another from doing something they clearly want to do. Though in looking back over the months we have spent together, I think I may have wielded this power with Guy and didn’t even realize it.

However, I am realizing that regardless of the differences in our language, we both have good communication skills and the desire to make the relationship flow as smoothly as possible. Perhaps one day we can lose the labels: poly and swinger, in favor of just being ethically non monogamous.

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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 Comment

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    Labels are an aid to communication, not an impediment. They are like keyboard shortcuts, standing in for a longer expression. (And I really hate “non-monogamous” because it is a negative definition. Saying what something isn’t is a very bad way to describe it. Slavery, rape, and patriarchal polygamy, are all non-monogamy, and considered ethical in many parts of the world.)

    Swinging and polyamory are concepts, not religions or human genetic variants. They are concepts of behaviors that are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of people have long term poly relationships and go to swing clubs and have sex with people they have just met.

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