Friends and Lovers


Today I was having a conversation with Holly about what people expect to get out of the lifestyle, and how different those expectations can often be.  We came to the conclusion that the expectations people have are just as varied as their reasons for getting into the lifestyle in the first place.  But one of the most varied expectations I've seen is the variety of interpretations of those looking for “friends first” in the lifestyle.  (As opposed to the NSA [No Strings Attached] folk.)  Marilyn and I fall into the so called friends first category, as do most of the lifestyle people we associate with.  Though lately I've been thinking that this idea of friends first is really a misnomer.  We've gotten to know people a bit, either by going on a date with them, talking to them online, or meeting them through one of our other friends.  But have we really become FRIENDS at that point, before we hop into bed?

I suppose it's really no different than fucking on the first date (you know, in the vanilla world, not one of our dates) because we have, though don't always, fuck after the first date.  We do know within one date usually whether or not we're interested in taking things further with a couple, so that if we don't fuck on the first date, I'd say 9 times out of 10 we do if there's a second.  But I will tell you that I feel like I learn a lot more about a couple on our playdates than on our others.  Sure you learn the tertiary things, likes, interests, things you're willing to share, but while playing with a couple, you REALLY can see what makes them go.

So maybe we're not so much friends first.  But we are friends interested.  Which is why the Beatles Quote up as a title.  We are looking for friends and lovers, or friends with benefits, or whatever you want to call it.  Those who we don't think we would enjoy just hanging out with, watching a movie with, drinking wine with, having dinner with, etc, well they don't stay in our lives long; whereas those people who do stay in our lives, for multiple playdates, over weeks, months, and now years, those are ones that are quite important to us, and those are the ones that we want to keep in our lives for the long haul.

Then the strange lifestyle term comes up: relationship.  Isn't that just what poly* folk have?  I don't believe it is.  To me, these relationships are very similar to those we have with vanilla friends.  We love our vanilla friends, we'd drop everything to help our vanilla friends, we'd support them through tough times, we'd rejoice with them through good.  And we love our lifestyle friends.

So maybe it's the “I love them but I'm not ‘In Love' with them” part that throws people for a loop.  Since what we do involves sex, and sex often leads to loving feelings (and cheating, divorces, etc in both the vanilla and swinging worlds) we're so hesitant to use the word love because of the included expectations and the understood implications of it.  “Oh god, she loves me, does that mean she wants to leave her husband now?”  “Oh god, he loves me, does that mean he's going to want to see me on the side?”    And maybe that happens to some.   But that's certainly no more of a risk than in a vanilla relationship of one person meeting another and falling in love.

It's a decision we make, not to repress loving feelings, but to channel them in appropriate directions.  Love isn't this ridiculous force that cannot be controlled.   It just needs to be molded a bit.

Or maybe we should go back to jr high.  I like them, but I don't like them like them.

*Polyamorists – people who believe you can have many loves at once, and will often date and marry multiple partners.


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. Wow. We are so much alike sometimes.I almost can’t even comment here because word for word that is how we approach our relationships in the lifestyle.

    I do believe that our FWBs have a tendency to smudge the poly line a little bit and those are my favorite playmates. The one nighters are fun stories to tell but like you, the ones who we spend time doing things with other than fulfilling carnal needs tend to find a special place in our hearts and even when they are no longer a part of our lives the place is always theirs. 

  2. Maybe a good reason for why the lines between swinging and poly seems to blur is that those lines are not hard and fast. I think that it has more to do with how we as individuals like to categorize our connections to other people as opposed to any objective standard that can be applied to a particular connection to identify what it is. Be it friend, lover, partner or some other term, it all comes down to not always being easy to pin down and limit.

    While some introspection is a good thing, I think maybe we have all fallen into the trap of trying to figure out what exactly a person means to us. The downside to this is that we might tend to place your limitations based on that classification that have no basis in reality and that makes it harder to enjoy what we do have with those others. I would say I identify as poly but, honestly, I’m comfortable with having a casual fwb kind of relationship or even a fun party hookup every now and then. While my focus may be on having a relationship its not necessary for a lover or friend to fall into a neat category for me to enjoy what and who they are.

    • I agree, Aaron. As I’ve slid in the direction of Poly myself, I found myself heading into real poly territory (and neglecting swing friends) but now I’m sitting astride the line, and I’m hesitant to categorize new relationships because, unless the partner has preconceived ideas, they often could go either way.

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