Is three a crowd? Threesome considerations

Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have the privilege of seeing a diverse range of clients with a wide array of partnership values. One common task in couple therapy is defining what a healthy sexual relationship looks like. For some, this may mean introducing sex toys, different ways to provide pleasure, and experimenting with foreplay. For others, it’s looking at how to introduce another person into the bedroom to engage in relational dynamic play. 

Some of you might have read this title and had an initial reaction of discomfort, surprise or disbelief. If you reacted this way, it means that this article is not relevant to you and your partnership and that is completely fine. Others may have felt intrigued when you read the title — if that describes you, read on! It may or may not be relevant to your sexual development with your partner and the great thing about that is, you decide that with your partner and have some engaging conversations. 

I want to highlight that although I do cover some helpful topics of conversation, only you are in control of the outcome. Insecurities will pop up and consequences will ensue if you do not take time to emotionally and mentally prepare in a way that is supportive and honest.  I encourage you and your partner to use your best judgement on this and to discuss the following more in depth.

  1. Make sure your foundation is solid. Take time to review different aspects of your relationship such as: communication, roles/responsibilities, emotional connection, physical intimacy, quality time, trust, stress management, etc. If you can identify areas that are works in progress, great! Just be sure that you are still being proactive in these areas before and after this endeavor. However, if there are other aspects of the relationship that have yet to be addressed, I recommend putting this type of sexual exploration on hold and addressing these issues first. If you invite a third party into your sexual relationship without addressing these foundational concepts, it’s more likely that underlying issues will amplify and even become more complicated.
  2. Threesomes are meant to enhance, not “fix” intimacy issues. Ask yourself why you want to engage in a threesome. If your answer just stops at wanting to “spice” things up, then ask yourself if you are trying to compensate for other areas of your intimate relationship (e.g. “boring” sex life). Is this something you genuinely have an interest in? Or are you doing this as a way to just keep your partner satisfied? If it’s the latter, that frame of thinking has the potential to breed resentment later on.
  3. Communication is a must! Be transparent with your partner about your fears, what you want out of it (emotionally/ physically) and why. Being open and honest will help you and your partner attune to one another’s needs and begin the conversation for what each of you need to feel safe, secure and heard. Be sure to create time to talk about this encounter afterwards as well.
  4. Define your red, yellow, and green lights. There may be some intimate acts that are not acceptable (red lights), some that are uncomfortable but still manageable with the understanding it can turn to red or green (yellow lights) and others that are fully accepted (green lights). Take time to make your list of lights and share this with your partner. Respect one another’s lights, and be open to compromising so that everyone can go into this adventure feeling comfortable and secure.
  5. Self awareness and consent is key. There might be emotional surprises that come up during a sexual encounter that didn’t come up in prior conversation. Agree on a shared code word or phrase to use when things become physically or emotionally uncomfortable for any participant. Create an exit strategy plan with the understanding that any participant can use this exit strategy card. All parties have a responsibility to express their needs to feel safe and heard.
  6. Outline expectations you have for the third person. When I say expectations, I am not simply referring to physical appearance–character, personality, and emotional traits are critical here as well.  It will be helpful to come up with a checklist of what traits you want in this third participant. It’s a great pre-requisite to make sure that the potential third participant is an open communicator and is mindful and respectful of the primary relationship.
  7. Discuss logistics to acquiring a third. Some couples may choose to invite a third participant from their existing social circle, while others prefer someone who is just an acquaintance that the couple met on a dating app. Other questions to ask would be where do you want this encounter to take place and under what circumstances? I would recommend that you have some type of non-sexual encounter with the third participant to make sure each party feels a good connection.
  8. Be prepared to be flexible. Three can be a crowd if everyone is not comfortable in the role that they are participating in. Keep in mind these roles can include being an active participant or being an active observer. Everyone should partake in different roles during this encounter. If negative emotions come up with not feeling comfortable in a role, shift gears as needed.

A threesome can have the potential to feel exciting, adventurous, and challenging as you and your partner work together to create a memorable experience.  If you feel after discussing, that this is something you both want to pursue, then you can discuss next steps. For more additional  information, I have included an additional article here. If you would like to seek professional guidance on this topic, I recommend making an appointment with a certified sex-therapist. Happy conversing and exploring!

Diana Nesko, MS, LGMFT, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda, MD office and virtually to those located in the State of Maryland. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Diana.