The Alphabetical Glossary on Alternative Relationships

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triad enjoying their alternative relationship

Have you spent much time in the alternative relationship community? You may have noticed that there is an entire subset of language and terms. And, if you’re involved, you might find yourself hearing them. Therefore, to fit in and understand the happenings of your environment, it’s important to know what these terms mean. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to help you interpret these words and stay in the know. 

Alternative Relationships: Terms to Know


Alternative Sexuality: This is a broad term. It describes sexual behaviors, identities, and practices that differ from the social norm. For instance, alternative sexuality can describe personal feelings, behaviors, and relationships.

Anchor Partner: A figure in someone’s life that represents a long-standing relationship. They are an “anchor”, or central figure, in another person’s life. They are often the go-to for support and advice. Anchor partners are also referred to as “nesting partners.” 


BDSM: Shorthand for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadochism and Masochism. BDSM refers to sexual behaviors that are outside the “norm.” For reference, these include physical/psychological restraints, power/control play, pain, humiliation, and more. 


Cellular Family: A term to describe a family of three or more adults who live together. This can be with or without children. In addition, they often also share household duties and finances. 

Compersion: This is the opposite of jealousy. This happens when a person feels sincere joy from their partner’s alternative relationships. 

Condom Commitment/Contract: An agreement within a relationship. It limits intercourse without a condom only to the people who are in it. 

Consensual Non-Monogamy (Ethical Non-Monogamy): Another broad term. It encompasses any relationship that does not fall under monogamy. This can include swingers, open relationships, and more. These relationships always include the express consent of everyone involved. 

Cross-Couple: An arrangement between two couples. This is where one member of one couple engages in intimacy or a relationship with a member of another one. 


Deliberate Exclusivity: A period of time where a non-monogamous couple closes their relationship. During this period, they maintain sexual exclusivity. 


Fluid Bonding: The exchange of bodily fluids between two sexual partners. Above all, those who practice fluid are very serious about STI prevention and safe sex.


Hinge: A unique relationship between three people. One person is the “center” of that relationship. However, the remaining two are not intimate with each other. 


Intentional Family: This is a relationship made up of three or more people. They have decided to consider themselves a family. Sexual contact between all family members is not necessary.

Intimate Network: A network of people who are friendly with each other. This is primarily because of their interest in a common partner. This is a unique community that includes a person’s sexual partners, their partners, and so on. 


Metamour: This refers to a partner’s partner and a person that you’re not intimate with.

Monogamish: “Something like monogamy.” This term describes a relationship that mostly looks like monogamy. However, monogamish couples don’t follow the strict rules of monogamy. They also haven’t joined any type of alternative relationship. They do play with others occasionally, though. 


New Relationship Energy (NRE): The intense good feelings begin any new relationship. In other words, NRE can be described as the “honeymoon stage.” It is is intoxicating, exciting, and feels good


One Penis/Vagina Policy: An agreement where a person’s lovers are only able to have sex with those of the same gender. For instance, “One penis” relationships involve a man who has female partners. But those females don’t have sexual relations with any other men. “One vagina” agreements are the opposite. In them, male partners refrain from having sex with any other woman. 

Open Marriage/Relationship: An open relationship involves a single couple, married or not. They have made the decision to open their relationship to other people. Any relationship that permits outside relations is, in fact, considered “open”. 


Poly: The short term for polyamory. This is the practice of maintaining multiple sexual/romantic relationships at once. 

Polycule: A group of people connected through a relationship. This can be with a common partner or someone else in the group. In addition, polycules can include any number of people.

Polysaturated: A period where a polyamorous person closes themselves to a new relationship. In other words, polysaturated people don’t have the energy to maintain any new relationships.


Quad: A relationship that includes four different people. For instance, most quads include two poly couples. 


Swinging: An agreement couples can have sexual contact with others. For the most part, swinging arrangements often involve partner swapping, group sex, and threesomes/foursomes.


Triad: A romantic relationship that involves three consenting adults. In addition, a delta triad is a special relationship where each person is sexually/romantically involved with the other two. 


Unicorn: An attractive bisexual female who is interested in dating both members of an existing couple. 


Veto Power: An agreement within a relationship where one partner can terminate any existing relationships that the other partner has. For example, if a primary partner disagrees with a certain dynamic of the relationship, then it should not be allowed. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming familiar with these terms can help give you a better idea of the different types of alternative relationships that exist, and the many ways they work. Did you learn any new terms today? Join a SwingTowns group in your area to talk to others about it! After that, you can consider yourself a pro!

Members of the SwingTowns Community can discuss this article and its implications on the lifestyle community forum. If you’re not a member, you can sign up today and see what you’re missing.

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