DEAR DR. JENN,
My boyfriend suggested a threesome with a third woman. I’ve always been curious, so I’m game. But I’m also nervous about hurting the relationship if things go awry. How can we prepare for—and avoid—that? —XXX
Threesomes are an extremely common fantasy, especially for men, and more and more women are feeling the pull too. According to a recent study, 10 percent of women and 18 percent of men have engaged in a threesome. While triads can be fun, the fantasy and the reality are vastly different.
Before I give you tips, I need to state a disclaimer: I do not recommend threeways for couples in committed relationships. I am all for them for people in casual, non-committed situationships. But as a relationship therapist, I care most about the long-term impact on the couple dynamic, which leaves me with several concerns.
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First, if the threesome idea was sparked by boredom in the bedroom, bringing a new person into the mix disincentives you from putting energy and creativity into your sex life with your partner. Basically, it’s the lazy way out. You’re no longer working to up your game and figure out new fantasies to explore, techniques to try, and preferences your partner may have that you haven’t yet probed. While a threesome may be exciting initially, it does not solve the longer-term issue of how to keep things fresh and become a better lover.
I have also seen way too many jealousy issues arise and emotional bonds form as a result of what was supposed to be meaningless sex. Sometimes, people who have a hard time with emotional intimacy find it hard to maintain sexual interest in their long-term partner; for them, opening the relationship to other people is an ineffective Band-Air and can stunt personal growth.
All that said, if I haven’t scared you off from ménage-ing a trois, here’s what you need to know to protect your relationship and enjoy the ride:
1) When Choosing a Partner, Don’t Make the Fatal Mistake
When it comes to picking a third, many couples gravitate to someone they know. This is a huge mistake. Inviting someone into the bedroom who one or both of you already have an emotional bond with makes it more likely that someone will have feelings, it’ll become a regular activity, or someone will get their feelings hurt. Picking up strangers at bars can be tricky. Fortunately, there are many apps, like Thrinder and Feeld, designed specifically to help you out. Once you both agree of a potential partner, I recommend meeting her for an IRL “date” before inviting her straight to bed, so you can make sure she’s true to her photo, test the chemistry, and see how it feels to take the next step.
2) Make a Sex Act Check List
Some couples make a no penetration rule. Others embrace a watch-but-don’t-touch philosophy. It is important to go over every possible sexual scenario that you can think of together and talk about what is off limits and what is acceptable. Just because you are all getting naked together does not mean that it is a no holds barred sexual experience. Physical rules should be established upfront in order for this to be an emotionally safe experience.
3) Pick Safety Word
Speaking of which, the two of you should have a safety word. There should be something that either of you can say that indicates that you’re no longer feeling comfortable with the situation—and discuss in advance that this may be a real possibility that neither partner can roll their eyes at. This prevents the person who wants to put the kabash on sexcapade from feeling like a threesome Debbie downer.
4) State Your Fears
Communication is key when bringing a third party into your bedroom. You both must be skilled talking about delicate topics, and I thin it’s crucial that you share any concerns or fears in advance. Find out what your boyfriend’s expectations of the event are and share yours.
5) Follow the Leader
It can also be helpful to discuss who will lead in this sexual dance that you will be doing. Who’s going to be the person to initiate physical activity with your new partner? Who is going to politely end things if that’s what it comes to?
6) Be safe
Talk about birth control with your partner and your guest star before the big event. Make sure that if your boyfriend is wearing a condom he does not double dip. Check that everyone involved has a clean bill of health. You and your partner need to establish in advance whether there will be any exchanging of bodily fluids. Limiting drugs and alcohol prevent things from getting out of control and makes it easier for everyone to keep their agreements.
7) Scope out a Spot
When it comes to picking a location, I do not recommend your home. Should the other women develop feelings for one of turn out to be a stalker, you don’t want her knocking at your door in the middle off the night. Treat it like a first date—you want to be respectful and welcoming, but you wouldn’t invite someone to your home on a first date, would you?
8) Establish Relationship Boundaries
Ahead of time, set explicit boundaries about staying in contact before, during, and after the threesome. Is it OK for you or your boyfriend to have text the other woman without their partner knowing? How do you want to handle things after the event is over? Is she invited to spend the night? Are you having breakfast together in the morning? Are you hoping to escort her out ASAP? Most couples find it helpful to say a kind goodbye to the third party relatively quickly and find time to connect with one another. It is also important to be clear on whether or not this is a one-time thing or if either of you are hoping to have this be a regular activity and, if so, with the same person every time or new people. Stay true to these commitments. All too often people get slippery about the agreements they make, develop bonds with the non-primary partner, start telling lies, become jealous, or hurt each other’s feelings.
9) Talk to Her
While all of these tips are about protecting your relationship with your partner, be sure to discuss expectations, boundaries, and protocol with the newcomer too. You all need to be on the same page in order for everyone to feel respected and have a good time.
Have a quandary of your own? Email us anonymously at HumpDay@instyle.com.