Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 17, July 7, 2014



Richard J. Jenks, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Sociology
Indiana University Southeast

This research was funded by a grant from the Indiana University Southeast Grants-in-Aid Committee, New Albany

Contact and Additional Information to be addressed to:
Richard Jenks, Ph.D. 701 Brittany Lane, New Albany, IN 47150


The purpose of this paper is to present a more current portrait of swingers and to compare them with polyamorists.  I will also compare these two groups with those who are neither swingers nor polyamorists.  The study was conducted on-line with approximately 1400 individuals responding.  Of these, 174 identified as swingers and 34 were polyamorists.  As in previous studies, swingers were found to be in their thirties and forties, white, and middle and upper-middle in social class.  However, they were more Democratic and liberal than in earlier studies.  They also had low levels of religious identification and attendance.  Polys, compared to the swingers, were significantly more Democratic and liberal, significantly less religious, and more “spiritual.”  Polys were significantly more likely to find abortion, and gay marriage acceptable and less likely to find the death penalty acceptable.  Polyamorists also were more likely to seek out therapy.  They were also the most likely to agree that they would like to change some aspect of their lives but also said their lives were close to their ideal and ranked the highest on a 1-10 scale of happiness, although the difference was not significant.  Both the swingers and the polys were significantly less likely to be a church member or to believe in a traditional God as compared to a general sample.  The two groups also were significantly more likely to say that abortion, divorce and gay marriage were acceptable and significantly less likely to say that the death penalty was acceptable.  Swingers and polys were more likely to say that they needed some counseling and more likely than the general sample to say they were satisfied with their emotional and mental states.


Swinging is defined as the exchange of partners solely for sexual purposes.  Involvement at the emotional level (although this no doubt does occur) is contrary to their normative structure.   Throughout history, the practice of spouse exchange has existed.  There is evidence that this form of behavior, as late as the 1940s, was acceptable in 39 percent of world’s cultures.  In the United States, so-called “key clubs” came into existence.  These “clubs” consisted of WWII fighter pilots and their wives.  Starting in the 1950's the media labeled this form of behavior as “wife-swapping.”  Later, tags such as co-marital sex, and then, swinging were introduced.  Currently, the term the Lifestyle is used and is probably the preferred term among those who practice this behavior (Gould, 1999).  However,  the more popular term is swinger and, therefore, that is what will be used in this paper. Estimates vary as to the prevalence of this lifestyle.  Most estimates place the incidence at 2 % or less (Bartell, 1971; Cole & Spanaird, 1974; Hunt, 1974; Jenks, 1998).  However, a study by the North American Swing Club Alliance (NASCA) states that 15 % of couples in the U.S. have engaged, at least at some point in their married lives, in swinging (McGinley, 1995)

Polyamory is less well-known than swinging.  Polyamory literally means many loves. According to Loving More (2013), which is a website and magazine devoted to polyamory, it involves “emotionally connected relationships openly involving three or more people.  It is about honesty, integrity and respect".  One of the arguments used by both swingers and polys (as polyamorists are known) is that the prevalence of cheating among married couples is high and that this element of cheating is absent with swinging and polyamory.  Although there are similarities between swingers and polys - the term, “swollies,” has been recently coined by Ken Haslam  for those traits shared between polys and swingers - there are important differences.  Scheff (2014) states that a “desire for multiple partners as innate or as a choice and a desire or lack thereof to change traditional familial and gender roles” (p. 75) are the two most important.  While the swingers focus on the lifestyle, the polys emphasize the innate.  And, swingers, in contrast to polys, do not seek to change the traditional roles.

Swinging Literature

The literature pertaining to swinging is more prevalent than that for polyamory.  With regards to the former, there have been studies which have looked at their social and demographic characteristics.  Studies are consistent in terms of age.  Jenks (1985), in his study of attendees at a national swingers convention reported the mean age to be 39.  Bergstrand and Sinski (2010) reported a mean age of 39.1.  Finally, Fernandes (2009), in his study of 1376 swingers, found that 29% of the males were between 36 and 45 while another 33% were between the ages of 46 and 55.  The figures for the females were 42% and 22%, respectively.

Social class variables have also been studied.  A number of studies (Gilmartin, 1975; Jenks, 1985; Levitt, 1988) found that swingers were above average in education.  Fernandes (2009 ) found his respondents were, on the average, college educated and had incomes ranging between $70,000 and $200,000.  These studies definitely point to a lifestyle engaged in by those who are middle and upper-middle class.             

Politically, Jenks (1985) found that 50% of swingers voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election while a little less than 24% voted for Jimmy Carter.  Ideologically, the plurality (41%) labeled themselves as “moderate” while 32% said “conservative” and 27% identified themselves as “liberal.”  Bartell (1971) also reported a high incidence of Republicans in his sample of Midwestern and Southwestern swingers. However, when asked specific questions relating to family and sexual issues, swingers in the Jenks’ sample were, in contrast to their more general attitudes, liberal.  Questions here included topics like: divorce, premarital sex, pornography and homosexuality and abortion.

There is evidence that there has been a change in political identification and ideology in recent years. In the Bergstrand and Sinski (2010) study, there were slightly more who identified as Democrat (31.7%) than Republican (27.7%).  Almost as many (27%) identified themselves as Independents.  Using a 1-5 scale on political ideology they found that approximately 44% were right in the middle (a 3 on their scale) while 30% were in the liberal direction and approximately 26% were in the conservative direction.

As to religion, Bartell (1971) found that a majority did not attend church of any kind on a regular basis.  Two-thirds of the swingers in the Jenks’ (1998) study reported no present religious identification.  Gilmartin’s (1971) figure was 63%.  Fernandes (2009) found that only five percent of his sample said they were “very interested” in religion; 50% had no interest.  In contrast, Bergstrand and Sinski (2010) found that slightly over 72% said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque.  However, given the choice of Catholic, Protestant or Jew, 38.5% said “Other.” This figure was a close second to Protestant (38.8%). 

Polyamory Literature

As indicated, there is less academic literature on polyamory than swinging.  However, that is changing.  One of the early studies looking at the characteristics of polyamorists  was conducted in by Walston (2001).  She constructed a questionnaire consisting of 20 major items and the questionnaire was posted on a number of polyamory Internet sites.  She received 430 completed questionnaires, of which two were excluded, for a total sample of 428.

Walston found  that 37% were between the ages of thirty and thirty-nine.  The next highest category consisted of those between eighteen and twenty-nine: 28%.  One quarter of her sample fit into the forty to forty-nine category.
Walston also asked about religion.  She found that 22% indicated no current religious affiliation while almost two-thirds gave a response which fit into a non-traditional category despite the fact that three-fourths were raised in a Judeo-Christian religion.   She found that Unitarian-Universalism (UU) was one of the major responses in the non-traditional category (12 %) and that many of these also said things like pagan, agnostic or atheist.  UU is a humanistic religion and so these more specified categories are not unusual.    Also, there are UU churches which allow polys to form and meet in their church.                       

In a recent survey of over 4,000 respondents of Loving More the average age was approximately 40.   In terms of level of education, 27.4% had a graduate degree while another 35% had a Bachelor’s degree.  Therefore, a slight majority (52.4%) had at least 16 years of education.  The authors also asked about how happy they were.  Respondents could answer along a 1 to 4 scale with 1 being “Not too happy,” 2 being “Not sure,”, 3 being “Pretty happy,” and 4 being “Very happy.”  Their average score was slightly over 3.0. This score was higher than the score for the comparison sample which consisted of respondents to the General Social Sciences Survey; however the score was not significantly higher (Fleckenstein, Bergstrand & Cox, 2012).

Elisabeth Sheff (2014) conducted a 15 year longitudinal study of poly.  One of her findings was that her respondents ranged in age from their early thirties to their mid-sixties.   Most were either non-religious or identified with a non-mainstream religion.  Pagans, along with Unitarian-Universalists, predominated with a small number of Buddhists, Jews, and Christians.  She also found them to be concentrated in the cities and suburbs.  Her sample was almost all white and were well-educated and liberal.  She indicated that there are no reliable statistics as to the exact number of polys in the United States but there are estimates which run all the way from 1.2 million to 9.8 million involved in either polyamory or some kind of non-monogamous relationship.


The available evidence indicates that both swingers and polys tend to concentrate in their thirties and forties, are part of the middle or upper-middle social class as measured by education and income, and only a small percentage  (with the Bergstrand and Sinski exception)  have a religious identification.  Ideologically, swingers lean toward moderation (at least in their non-sexual attitudes) while Scheff reports that polys are liberal.

The present study will also analyze the demographics of swingers and polys.  However, in contrast to most other studies on these populations, I will ask questions relating to politics and religion in more detail.  I will also examine issues not previously studied.  Specifically, I will include questions relevant to the areas of happiness, well-being and life satisfaction.


The present study was conducted over the period from 2008 to 2009 and was approved by the university Institutional Board of Review.  A questionnaire was placed on a popular information gathering website: SurveyMonkey. 

The questionnaire consisted of 72 questions.  Some of these contained sub-parts making a total of 111 questions.  The questionnaire was broken down into major areas: social and demographic, health and life satisfaction, along with their attitudes and values on various issues.

Respondents were recruited from a number of different sources.  One source was from students who were in both introductory and advanced sociology and social psychology classes during the fall and spring semesters of 2008 - 2009.  Students also had the option of recruiting up to five respondents from outside the university.  Two extra credit points for each completed questionnaire was awarded to the student.  Secondly, various local churches were asked if they would place the questionnaire on their websites.  A Presbyterian, Unity and a United Church of Christ did so.  A third source was from BeliefNet.com.  BeliefNet.com is a website that focuses primarily upon religious and spiritual issues.  All religious faiths are covered and individuals have the opportunity to go to sites and discuss anything from traditional Judeo-Christianity to paganism.    

A fourth source consisted of gaining the assistance of a person who is very active both locally and nationally in the polyamory movement. She placed the survey link on various polyamory sites.  Finally, Dr. Robert McGinley, founder and president of the North American Swing Club Association International (NASCA), gave his permission to include the link to the survey on the NASCA site, a site which swingers and swing clubs have access. 

A total of 174 swingers and 34 polyamorists completed the questionnaire.  A total of 1191 who were neither a swinger nor a poly also completed the survey for a total of 1399 total respondents.


Demographic Variables
Table 1 presents the findings relevant to those demographic variables which have been studied for swingers.

Table 1                                   
Various Social and Demographic Characteristics for the Swingers and Polys

Group Characteristic Swingers Polys
Age: Mean 43.4 46.9
Percent < 36 19.5 29.4
Percent 36-45 30.2 11.8
Percent 46-55 27.8 35.3
Education Level: Mean 16.3 15.9
Percentages with Incomes:    
Under $20,000 13.5 12.1
Over $70,000 38.0 42.5
Male 59.4 41.2
Female 41.6 58.8
Percent Caucasian 87.0 94.1

Mean age for both groups was in the forties with the polys having a slightly higher average age.  The social class indicators of education and income put both groups solidly in the middle and upper-middle class. 

Political and Social Variables

Table 2 presents the findings relevant to political identification and ideology.

Group Swingers Polys
Party identification    
Democratic 40.2 45.5
Independent 22.5 40.2
Republican 14.8 12.1
Other 13.6 15.2
No opinion 8.9 6.1
Political Ideology *    
Very conservative 1.2 0.0
Conservative 15.6 8.8
Moderate 37.1 23.5
Liberal 26.9 23.5
Very liberal 19.2 44.1

* X2 (4) = 10.8, p < .05.

Democrats now predominate among both swingers and polys with the polyamory group having a slightly higher percentage of Democrats.  The differences between the two groups are not statistically significant.  However, we see larger differences when we look at the ideology responses.  Here, the swingers had two times the rate of conservatives and very conservatives than the polys.  Fully two-thirds of polys placed themselves into the liberal or very liberal categories in contrast to approximately forty-six percent of swingers.  And, the plurality (44.1%) of polys labeled themselves as “Very Liberal” in contrast to less than twenty percent of swingers giving this response.

I also asked questions relating to some issues of current interest.  Respondents were asked to indicate if they found four different behaviors: “Morally Acceptable,” “Morally Unacceptable,” or had “No Opinion” on the issue.  Table 3 presents the percentage of respondents giving the “Morally Acceptable” response.  And, for comparison purposes, the sample of non-swingers and non-polys were included.

Table 3
Response (Morally Acceptable) on Various Social Issues: General Sample, Swingers & Polys

Group: General Sample Swingers Polys
Death Penalty* 50.0 60.9 41.2
Divorce  65.9 97.1 90.5
Abortion** 36.2 63.3 85.3
Gay Marriage** 51.5 75.6 100

   * p < .05.  ** p < .01  *** p < .001

The percentage agreeing with the death penalty ranged from a low of 41% with the polys to approximately 61% with the swingers.  Half the general sample gave this response.  A significant chi square was found on this variable: X2 (4)  = 9.3, p < .05.  A marginal significance existed between the polys and the swingers: X2 (2) = 5.5 (2), p = .06.  A second question asked their opinion on divorce.    The general sample was much less likely to see divorce as acceptable.  A significant difference appeared here: X 2 (4) = 54.4, p < .001.  There was no significant difference between the swingers and the polys.

A large gap was found on both the abortion and gay marriage issues.  A vast majority of polys thought abortion was acceptable while only about a third of the general sample gave this response.  Approximately forty-six percent of the general sample said it was unacceptable whereas 23.7% of swingers and only 5.9% of the polys said this. A significant difference on this issue was also found: X2 (4) = 74.5, p < .001.  A significant difference also existed between the polys and the swingers: X2 (2) = 7.0, p <. .05.

The final issue explored was that of gay marriage.  As can be seen, there was a wide spread among all three groups.  Significant differences existed here: X2 (4) = 66.1, p < .001.   The polys and swingers were significantly different: X2 (2) = 10.6, p < .01.

Religious Variables

Respondents were asked (a) if they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, (b) how many times they attend any kind of religious/spiritual service in a typical month, and ( c)  their belief in a God or some kind of higher being.  These results are presented in Table 4.

Table 4
Responses on Religious Variables for the Three Groups: General Sample, Swingers, Polys

  Group:  General Sample Swingers Polys
Church Member (% saying Yes)*** 54.7 34.1 29.4
Percent saying they Don’t Attend Church in a Typical Month** 48.4 70.1 70.6
Belief: **      
In a God 61.1 36.5 8.8
A Universal Spirit/Higher Power 21.9 35.9 44.1
Neither  9.2 14.1 32.4
Don’t Know/No Opinion 7.8 13.5 14.1

** p < .01     *** p < .001

Results show that both polys and the swingers are far less likely to be a church member than those who are neither a poly nor a swinger.  A significant chi square was found: X2 (2) = 31.8, p < .001.  No significant difference was found between the polys and the swingers.  When asked how many times they attended services in a typical month, swingers and polys were almost identical and were significantly less likely to attend church services than the general sample: X2 (2) = 33.5, p < .001.    I also looked at those respondents who did say that they attended some kind of service.  The general sample averaged 4.4 times per month.  For those swingers who did attend, they averaged 3.2 times and the polys who attended some kind of service had the lowest attendance rate - 2.2 times in a typical month.  An ANOVA revealed a significant difference among the three groups: F (2) = 4.1, p < .05.  There was no significant difference between the polys and swingers.

The final question asked respondents’ belief concerning a God.  As can be seen, those who were neither swingers nor polys were far more likely to say they believe in a God and least likely to say that they believed in neither a God nor some kind of “higher power.”  Polys were least likely to believe in a traditional God and most likely to endorse some kind of “higher power.”  A significant difference was found among the three groups: X2 (6) = 74.4, p < .001.  There was also a significant difference between the swingers and the polys: X2 (3) = 12.8, p < .01.

Life Satisfaction

The final major category I looked at dealt with issues surrounding happiness and life satisfaction.  A standard question here is to have the respondent place themselves on a 1 to 10 scale with the higher number indicating a higher level of happiness.  The general sample mean was 7.3 while the swingers averaged 7.5 and the polys were a little higher - 7.6. 

I also asked some questions relating to their emotional and psychological well-being.  One question asked: “Have you had severe enough personal, emotional, behavioral, or mental problems (for example, depression or anxiety) during the past year that you felt you needed help?”   Responses appear in Table 5.

Table 5

Percent Saying they Needed Therapy: General Sample, Polys and Swingers

Group: General Sample Polys Swingers
Yes, Sought Help:* 21.1 39.4 23.3
Yes, Did Not Seek Help 39.4 9.1 7.0
No 23.3 51.5 69.8

* p < .05.

If we look at those who gave either of the Yes responses we see that the general sample was much more likely to say “Yes” (60.5%) while the figure for the swingers was 30.3% and the polys was 48.5%.  However, the polys were much more likely to seek help.  In fact, over 81% of those who gave either of the “Yes” responses actually sought help while approximately 77% of the swingers did so.  Strikingly, of the 60% of the general sample who gave either of the “Yes” responses, only 35% sought help. When all three categories are considered a significant difference was found: X2 (4) = 9.6, p < .05.

A related question asked if they were satisfied with their emotional/mental health.  A higher percentage of both polys (77.4%) and swingers (81.7%) fell into either the “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” categories.  The general sample had the lowest number - 71.9%. The poly sample had the smallest percentage (6.5%) saying either “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree”.  Significant differences were found when comparing all three groups: X2 (4) = 10.3, p <. 05.  No significant difference was found between our two relevant groups: the polys and the swingers.          

Two questions relevant to how they see their lives were asked.  The first was: “I wish I could change some part of my life,” and the second was: “In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.”  Table 6 presents these results.

Table 6

Percent Responses on: Seeking Change and Life is Ideal by Group  

Group: General Sample Polys  Swingers
Question: Change Life      
Agree/Strongly Agree 70.5% 84.8%  70.5%
Don’t Know/ No Opinion 12.0% 6.1% 12.7%
Disagree/Strongly Disagree  17.5% 9.1%  16.9%
Question: Life is Close to Ideal*      
Agree/Strongly Agree 56.7% 67.6% 67.5%
Don’t Know/No Opinion 16.9% 14.7% 15.1%
Disagree/Strongly Disagree 26.3% 17.6% 17.5% 

* p < .05

The majority of each of the three groups responded that they would like to change some aspect of their lives.  The polys (84.8%) had the highest percentage giving this response while both the other groups had the same response rate (70.5%).  There was no significant difference among the three groups.  Also, the polys, although having a higher percentage than the swingers, did not significantly differ from the swingers.  On the “ideal” question, the general sample had the smallest percentage in the agree categories and also the highest percentage in the disagree categories.  A significant chi square was found: X2 (4) = 9.1, p < .05.  However, no significant difference occurred between the swingers and the polys.  In fact, their numbers were virtually identical.


One of the purposes of the present paper was to update the literature relevant to swinging.  Although some things have remained since the early research, it seems that other things have changed.  Age appears to be one of those traits remaining constant.  In this study the mean age for the swingers was 43.4 and the plurality (30.2%) of swingers fit into the 36-45 age group while almost 28% were ages 46-55.  While the mean age was slightly higher than previous studies it is similar and, like the Fernandes sample, the majority was between 36 and 55. 


Swinging still is a middle to upper-middle class phenomena.  In 2007, 27% of the population had a B.A. or higher (Crissy, 2009).  The mean educational level for the swingers was 16.3 with a median of 16, which is greater than the general population.  Income also places swingers squarely in the upper-middle class.  In 2007, median household income in the United States was $50,740.  The figure for whites only (which made up the vast majority of the present study) was $53,714 ( Bishaw & Semega, 2008).  And, an income of $70,000, which 38% of the swingers had in this study, placed a person in the top 20% of the population (Congressional Budget Office, 2011).

On the other hand, political identification and ideology have changed over the years.  In the early studies, swingers tended to be fairly conservative to moderate and Republican.  Berstrand and Sinski found a change towards more moderation in ideology and a slightly higher percentage identifying as Democrat than Republican.  The current study verifies that trend.  A plurality of swingers saw themselves as Democrats while only less than fifteen percent labeled themselves as Republican.  The Pew Foundation (2014) reports that, in 2007, 36% of the population said they were Democrats while 25% said they were Republican.  Thirty-two percent labeled themselves as Independent.

When asked to label their ideology, the plurality (37.1%) gave the moderate response.  The liberal response was given by approximately thirty percent and the smallest percentage (16.8%) labeled themselves as either conservative or very conservative.  The Pew Foundation (2014) reports that in 2007, 38% said they were conservative while 42% said “moderate,” and 21% gave the liberal response.  The largest gap between the population, at large, and the swingers occurs with the “conservative” response.  Clearly, fewer swingers are now identifying as conservative and Republican.  It could be argued that the growth of liberals among swingers is a result of the Republican party focusing in the last few years on those issues (abortion and gay marriage) which are more family and sexually oriented, issues which swingers have been traditionally liberal.

Swingers were asked about religion.   About a third said they are a church member.  This is similar to the Jenks (1998) and Gilmartin (1971) studies which found that around two-thirds said they had no present religious identification.  However, the current finding does seem to contradict Bergstrand and Sinski.  They found that 72% said they belonged to a church, mosque, or synagogue.  Approximately 61% identified as either Protestant, Catholic or Jew.  In the current study approximately 51% gave this response, a 10 point difference.

Maybe a better way of measuring this variable is to ask their belief in a traditional God.  While 61% of my general sample said they believed in a traditional God, only 36.5% of swingers gave this response.  Almost the same percent (35.9%) said they believed not in a traditional God, but in some kind of higher power or universal spirit.  On another question, approximately 5% of swingers gave the “Religious” response while almost half gave the “Spiritual” response.  About a quarter gave either the “Neither Religious nor Spiritual” or the “Don’t know/No opinion” responses.  In contrast, approximately thirteen percent of the general sample said they were religious while almost 28% said “Spiritual” and almost 39% said they were “Both religious and Spiritual.”  Approximately one-fifth fell into the neither or don’t know/no opinion group. About 24% of swingers fell into one of these two categories.           

Finally, when I asked how often they attended some kind of religious service in a typical month the majority of swingers said they did not attend any and, of those who did, the average was only slightly over three times per month in contrast to the general sample who averaged over four times per month.,

Various questions and studies yield what may seem to be inconsistent findings.  However, I would argue, given previous studies and the current one, which used a number of indicators, that swingers are less religious than the general population, that they are more likely to be “spiritual” rather than religious, and that they attend church services less frequently than those who are not swingers (or polys).

Swingers vs. Polyamorists

A second purpose of the present paper was to look at polyamorists and to compare them with swingers.   Age-wise, polys were in their mid-forties and had a slightly lower mean level of education than the swingers.  Polys, like the swingers, fit into the middle to upper-middle social class. And, both their levels of education and household income are higher than the general population.  These findings support the recent research on polys.

Polys do differ from swingers in their political party identification and ideology.  A slightly higher percentage labeled themselves as Democrat.  And, a major difference occurred when asked about ideology.  Less than 10% labeled themselves as conservative or very conservative.  In fact, no one fell into the “very conservative” group.  On the other hand, over 44% said they were “Very Liberal” and another 23.5% gave the “Liberal” response.  If we combine these groups we find that two-thirds of polys fit into one of the liberal categories.  A significant difference between the swingers and polys occurred on this variable: X2 (4) = 10.8, p < .05.        

Polys also were more liberal on the social issue questions that were asked.  When the polys were compared with both the general sample and the swingers the polyamorists were least likely to find the death penalty acceptable and most likely to find abortion and gay marriage “morally acceptable.”  These findings reinforce their labeling themselves in the liberal/very liberal groups.

Large differences were also found on the religious variables.  Polys were significantly less likely to say they believed in some kind of traditional God, with less than 10 percent giving this response.  Polys were also more likely to classify themselves as “spiritual, rather than religious.”  There was a significant difference both among the three groups and between the polys and the swingers.

The greater liberality and less religiosity reinforces the recent research and certainly these findings would make sense for the polys.  Polyamory is an alternative structure to the traditional family.  Polys are engaging in a practice which has been seen as a deviant lifestyle.  These are people who can be seen as taking issue with one of the basic, if not the basic, social institutions in existence.  Both the political and, especially, the religious institutions teach this.  In fact, laws exist reinforcing the family structure.  And, this is a matter of great concern for religions.  It is not a matter to be taken lightly: these people are breaking political and “moral” laws.  It would follow that polys see the world and its institutions very differently and challenge the status quo, certainly a liberal perspective.

Questions were also asked about their levels of happiness and life satisfaction.  When asked to place themselves on a scale from 1 to 10 with the higher the score representing a higher level of happiness.  When the population at-large is asked to rate themselves on happiness,  the United States usually has an average score somewhere in the 7's (Forbes, 2008).  The overall average in this study was 7.3, almost the same as that of the general population.  Polys had the highest score and the general sample had the lowest.  However, no significant differences existed.  And, lest we hypothesize that they (the polys and swingers) are attempting to justify their “deviance” and, therefore, are lying about their levels of happiness, I looked at an indirect variable which has been found to be highly related to happiness - trust in others.  I asked the question: “Most people cannot be trusted.”  Individuals could: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,”  have “No Opinion,” “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree.”  The highest percentage in the “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree” categories were the polys: 73.5% said this while only 2.9% were in either of the agree categories.  The next highest trusting group were the swingers with two-thirds fitting into the disagree categories.  The least trusting was the general sample with 61.5% disagreeing and almost twenty percent agreeing.  Therefore, it would seem that both the polys and swingers are indeed telling the truth and do have high levels of happiness.

When asked if they believed they had significant enough mental or emotional problems to warrant seeking help the polys were more likely to respond affirmatively and also that they sought help.  The swingers were more likely to give a “No” response to this question.  However, when asked if they were satisfied with their mental and emotional health, over three-fourths of the polys responded affirmatively.  This group also had the lowest percentage in the “Disagree” and “Strongly Disagree.”  The lowest level of agreement came from the general sample.  Finally, the polys were most likely to agree that, if they could, they would change some aspect of their lives.  However, they were most likely to agree that their life is close to their ideal: two-thirds of the polys fit into either the “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” categories.

These findings on life satisfaction for the polys would, at first glance, seem to be at odds with one another.  On the one hand, they say they have sought counseling and that they would change some aspect(s) of their lives; on the other hand, they say that their life is close to their ideal.  How can this be?  Patterns of social interaction, especially among partners, can be very complicated.  In polyamory, we are not only dealing with the interactions and emotions between two individuals, but many.  In fact, the combinations can become overwhelming if we consider, for example, a polyamorous household of four or six people.  Divisions of labor, sexual relations, jealousy, work schedules, etc. can wreak havoc with the relationships among the members of the household.  My conjecture is that those involved in polyamory either recognize this from the beginning or come to recognize how complicated things are and also recognize the need to sort these things out with some kind of  professional.   Furthermore, seeking help does not mean they are having significant personal or psychological issues.  In a conversation with an individual involved in the polyamory movement, she indicated that polys often face new situations for which no norm currently exists and that sometimes one or all those involved in the relationship just need advice or suggestions as how to proceed.  As a result, they not only have a greater likelihood of saying that they not only need help but proceed to see someone.  If they have sought, and received, competent counseling, they are better able to handle the relationships.  And, if they have achieved this, they (along with others in the group) can be happier, better adjusted individuals who recognize they may need to change some aspects of their lives (and possibly their interactions of whatever form with their partners) but, all in all, say they are leading a life that is richly satisfying.

One of the flaws of the present study is the low number of polyamorists.  Therefore, one of the recommendations is to include a larger sample in future research.  Also, finding a representative sample of polyamorists (or swingers)  is very difficult.  In my conversation with someone active in the polyamory movement, she indicated that there was an attempt to include questions relating to polyamory on the General Social Sciences Survey but the proposal was turned down.  Also, the study was conducted over the internet which excludes those individuals who may not have a computer or access to one.  However, given the educational and income level of polys this is probably much less a problem than the small sample.

Finally, given this research, along with the previous work, there seems to be no reason to conclude that either polys or swingers are deeply disturbed or unhappy people and that they are simply lying about their happiness and life satisfaction in order to deceive themselves and/or others.  Maybe some do fit into this category but probably the vast majority do not.  Furthermore, no doubt there are therapists who, when counseling those who do not fit into the standard societal mode as relating to marriage and the family, proceed with the former perspective.  As a result, many polys and swingers may avoid seeking advice and counsel which may make their particular relationships even more fruitful and rewarding.  It is therefore recommended, and hoped, that therapists become better educated in such non-monogamous relationships like swinging and polyamory and do not allow any personal emotions or feelings which they may personally have to intrude upon any therapy conducted with poly and/or swinging clients.


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