Yes, “unicorn” is a problematic term for a person who joins a couple for a threesome (they’re a person, not a sex toy or prop). But the title gets one thing right: Like unicorns, enthusiastic guest stars in couples’ sexual adventures are hard to find. (I refuse to accept that unicorns do not exist at all. They’re probably somewhere in Alaska or Iceland, and the narwhals just won’t tell us where.) The person who is eager to show up and fulfill both your and your partner’s sexual fantasies and then disappear without a trace is likely, well, a fantasy. Hot threesomes happen, but they take preparation and communication, and not everyone is ready to successfully venture into the mystical land of group sex. For all those in relationships considering having a threesome, here are six things to know before you dive in.
1. A threesome will not “fix” your relationship.
If your partnered sex life is suffering, you could have an adult conversation about how your needs aren’t being met. You could see a couples therapist. You could carve out a night for absolutely nothing except an oral-sex marathon. (Actually, maybe do that no matter how good your sex life is.) What you shouldn’t do is expect a new sexual experience to magically solve your problems. David Ortmann, a San-Francisco- and Manhattan-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, says couples who turn to threesomes often do so in an effort to put a Band-Aid on unresolved intimacy issues. “If you’re having a threesome because sex is boring, you need to address why the sex is boring before you bring in the third,” Ortmann says. When the third leaves, your intimacy issues will still be there.
2. Your pre-threesome communication with your partners should be exhaustive.
Before you and your partner have a threesome, you should have talked about it so much that you’re tired of talking about it. “The couple needs to be on solid ground sexually and communication-wise. They need to know what they want to happen and why,” Ortmann says.
Do you feel more comfortable sleeping with a mutual acquaintance or creating a couple’s Tinder account to find a third? If you’re an opposite-sex couple looking for a female-bodied third, can the male partner have all kinds of sex with them or, for example, only manual and oral? Does the third get to spend the night? Does the third want to spend the night? Have you discussed what you want out of the group sex, both sexually and emotionally? What’s your exit plan if someone gets uncomfortable and says the safe word? Do you have a safe word? (You should.) Are you tired of reading these questions? Conversations around sex and intimacy can feel tedious, but they’re the foundation of a positive experience.
Unless you, your partner, and your third are on the same page about everyone’s boundaries, expectations, and desires — and you understand things might not go to plan — you’re likely not ready for a threesome. Talk with your partner about what you don’t want to happen, what you’d like to happen, and what you’re expecting to get out of the threesome experience. Then, when you’ve identified a potential third, discuss all of the same with them, too. A threesome should be like a carefully planned trip to a foreign country you’ve never visited: Prepare with an itinerary, but also expect the unexpected.
3. Someone may feel left out at some point — and if you can’t bear the thought of it being you, you may not be ready for a threesome.
Ortmann puts it bluntly when he tells me, “Three people is actually the most problematic of all of the configurations.” Considering the emotional and physical needs of one person during sex (while also expressing your own) is hard enough. Adding an extra person compounds the complications, whereas in “moresomes,” or groups or partners larger than three, it’s often less likely an individual will feel left out at any given time.
Here’s a heads-up for those in \relationships: Be ready to awkwardly sit on the bed questioning what to do while your partner goes down on the third with a hunger you haven’t seen from them for months. Maybe you’ll end up realizing, “Oh! I get to touch some boobs,” but you might also find yourself wondering, “Wait, why is no one’s face in my delicious genitals?”
These moments happen, but one way to make it less likely anyone will feel extraneous is to meet a potential third in a non-sexual setting before inviting them into your bed. Once I convinced my ex-boyfriend to go on a date with me and another woman with the goal of facilitating a threesome. We matched with a woman on Tinder who accepted our invitation for drinks. My ex and this woman vibed, and while I liked her as a person, there was no chemistry between us. I felt like the third wheel on a date with my own partner — a great sign the dynamic in bed wouldn’t have been rewarding for me either.
4. Safer sex precautions are non-negotiable.
Safer sex devices, such as condoms and dental dams, are crucial in a threesome. Your souvenirs of the experience should be hot memories, not STIs or unintended pregnancy. And condoms aren’t just for penises: Any threesome that features sex toys should incorporate them too. Perhaps you and your partner are in a monogamous and fluid-bonded relationship, meaning you’ve decided to exchange bodily fluids and start having unprotected sex, but you’re bringing in a third who is likely sleeping with other people. It’s important to discuss everyone’s safer sex rules before any action takes place.
Your souvenirs of the experience should be hot memories, not STIs or unintended pregnancy
In terms of etiquette, when it comes to threesomes, I feel about condoms the way I feel about appetizers: If you’re hosting the party, you should be the one providing them. Talk as a group about what other items you’d like to have at the ready: Will lube enhance the experience? How about toys? And P.S.: Even if you’re not having penetrative sex, or even oral sex, keep in mind that STIs such as HPV and herpes can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.
5. You could catch feelings.
Once my traveling ex-boyfriend said it was cool if I dated other people while he was out of town with the sneaky hope I would find a third for when he got home. He and I broke up, and the woman I met on Tinder while he was away had hot sex on our own and eventually became best friends. (Hey, he said I could date and I took him at his word.) Going back to communication, it’s important to be crystal clear with your partner about what you’re looking for. If you are both in pursuit of hot sex via a threesome, great. But if one of you is secretly looking for an extra-relationship emotional connection and the other isn’t, things could get messy.
And even if you and your partner are both just looking for hot sex, it’s important to understand all three people in a threesome have emotions that can’t be completely predicted. The third could leave with a desire to see one or both of you again, or your partner could want more and end up hitting up the third on the DL — when you open a sexual door, emotions may creep in too. It might feel awkward to bring this possibility up with your partner in advance, but you’ll be that much more equipped to deal with the eventuality if you do.
6. A threesome will likely change your dynamic with your partner.
Now, this isn’t always a bad thing. If you’ve communicated well and put due diligence into finding a third you’re both comfortable with, you could have a satisfying threesome that inspires more wild sex between the two of you long after you’ve kissed your third goodbye. In my experience, locking eyes with your partner as they penetrate your new friend from behind while said friend goes down on you is about as sexy as Earthling existence gets.
Threesomes can be enticing and exciting, and you and your partner could both really like the experience: You may want to integrate it into your regular sex life or consider even dating a third person. Then again, the sex could suck, you could feel left out, or your partner could develop feelings for the guest star — it’s all possible. If you’re in a healthy relationship based on strong communication and shared desires, you should be able to weather these risks. And if not, you probably have a few things to work on before you’re ready to welcome a guest star to your bed.
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