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We Asked Couples How They Make Threesomes Work

Do couples who threesome together stay together? I decided to find out.

by Laura Bell
Jun 15 2018, 4:45pm

Screencap via Gaspar Noé's 'Love'

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Judging by the spread of new apps designed to hook couples up with an extra pair of hands or feet or whatever it is they so desire, the “third” has been enjoying a bit of a cultural moment. Chances are if you’ve been swiping away on Tinder, you’ve already come across a happy couple or two “looking for fun” in their bio.

I would be lying if I said my own personal interest hadn't picked up over the last few years, having briefly flirted with the idea of a threesome with my girlfriend and a mutual friend of ours whilst drunk in an Uber. It makes one wonder: If you need three legs to make a table stand up, does this mean you need three mouths to make a relationship go smoothly?

It turns out having a third is like any other aspect of a couple’s life and mainly involves talking, checking, and briefing, and just like any relationship, there are a bunch of different ways to do it. In the interests of science (is it science?) I thought I’d do a little digging to find out if there is a golden strategy to becoming a sexy Trinity. So I approached four couples who all have thirds in various capacities to gain insights from their adventures.

My first entry into this world for my attempted thirducation was speaking with two gents who sometimes bang my friend. They found him on Grindr. Joe and Samir have been together four years and started welcoming thirds into their relationship as soon as they became secure in their own thing. “I've always liked cooperative, multiplayer games,” Joe told me (I’m going to guess he was winking at me over the phone). “It’s like getting to eat two different things at the buffet because they’re being served at the same time,” added Samir.

Joe and Samir say an extra partner is usually someone decent enough that, in another less naked situation, they would maybe be friends with them. “It also helped that it was someone I had already had sex with,” Samir said of their first foray. “It made it easier as I could vouch for this person.” I asked Joe if that was true. “Well, I appreciate someone that comes with references,” he said. Makes sense. If I could have someone vouch for me that I was going to have a lovely, non-awkward threesome then I’d probably dive in head first.

Joe and Samir are adamant that they only want sex in their arrangement, not to date the third as if part of their relationship. “I feel quite full of love and companionship in our relationship, so seeking that elsewhere isn't on my list,” Joe said.

When asked about any hiccups along the way, both stressed communication was the key to avoiding bad vibes. “I had a third in a previous relationship and it didn't end well, mainly because people weren't talking,” Samir recalled. “There should always be an exit strategy, something that won’t make your third feel awkward.”

Joe and Samir tell me this applies to all situations—not just while you’re fucking. “I guess that's why its a ride or die situation, if one of us is uncomfortable and says so, then it has to stop right away,” Joe said. “Yes, you can’t anticipate how your feelings will change so I guess be ready for some ugly feelings too,” added Samir. The lasting words of advice from the boys is: chat, chat, chat.

Yeah, don't do this. Photo via Flickr user Christine Rondeau

But, if you’re not meeting your third on the apps, where else is there? Next, I found Rob and Roxy, a married couple who have been involving friends as thirds into their relationship from the very beginning. Roxy is bisexual and tells me for her it’s been a very important conversation to have early on in each relationship she’s been in. “I just love the human form,” she said.

Along with chatting about kids, marriage, and how many vacation homes they’d want, they also had to make time to discuss how many extra women they are allowed to fuck together. Nice. I think my initial reaction was similar to Rob’s, which he admits at first was quite a smug one. “My initial reaction was the whole bro-ey ‘I’m the best alpha male I get two women blah blah blah bullshit,’ but honestly, I think that reaction came from a place of insecurity that I wasn’t enough or that I wasn’t fulfilling Rox sexually so I put on this big front.”

Roxy says the first time they brought in another woman, Rob was “performing this weird macho routine” in the bedroom. “It was unsettling,” she told me. So for Roxy and Rob having a third wasn’t all about the great sex—because admittedly those initial macho humpings weren’t too sexy at all. For them, it was about a practical element of their relationship—almost like respecting your wife is vegan by sharing vegan meals—it seemed like they reached this point through compromise rather than a mutual desire for it.

I asked Roxy how she broke the news to Rob, that the sex wasn’t initially working for her. Roxy started laughing, and then there was silence. Oh God, this was awkward. “Look, I’d only seen threesomes in porn, I thought that’s what I had to do!” Rob interrupted. Fair play to Rob. At least he admitted his mistakes. “I love what we have now,” Roxy finally answered. Smart answer, Rox.

Next, I asked about their current third. “She's lovely. She's very warm and like, extremely self-assured, which I think is a big reason this works,” Roxy said. “We’re all very comfortable and no one is jealous,” she said, sounding quite smitten. “Our friends know her as our girlfriend,” she added. “We have quite a polyamorous group of friends.”

Of course, Roxy and Rob are careful about who they reveal the arrangement to outside their own circle of pals. “A few years ago, we had to introduce our third as my ‘cousin’ to one of my colleagues when the three of us were out for dinner,” Rob recalled. “That was kind of weird.” “Kind of hot,” Roxy chipped in. “Yeah… I think that’s what made it weird,” Rob continued. I felt like I was being winked at down the phone again. Gross.

What’s the biggest quality you need in your third? I asked. “It’s a maturity I think. That’s very important,” answered Rob. Well, I guess if you're going to be the spicy filling in a married couple sandwich, you probably would have to ooze a certain level of maturity. If they’re going to be all talky with feelings and the weird things that married couples do, you’d need to have the capacity to follow their lead. Even just to witness these chats would take a patience that is probably beyond me.

Next, I spoke to Ben and Anna, another married couple who each have their reasons for why they wanted a third. “I think I'm just a very sexual person,” Anna said. “And I'm like 75 percent gay,” added Ben. “Do you think you’re 75 percent gay?” Anna asked, sounding surprised. “Depends on the morning. Depends on the weather. I think it’s a hormonal thing,” Ben told her. After the initial shock, Anna breezes past this.

Their current third is described by Ben as being “heteronormative but with a homoerotic backstory,” which is how I would love to be able to describe all my friends. Anna has slept with their third alone, and Ben has planned to as well. For both of them, this is OK as long as each one is firmly in the loop. And there it is again—honesty. I can’t help feeling these couples are showing off.

For Ben and Anna, their foray into threesomes isn't just for sex though, unlike the other couples I'd spoken to. They look for more of a relationship with their thirds. “We don't just want to have sex with someone random, I want an ongoing emotional relationship and friendship. Think friendship and chemistry… with sex in it,” Anna explains. So Ben and Anna don't just fuck their third, they also take them out for dinner and isn't that nice.

Both Ben and Anna say they experience sexual tension outside of their relationship, so having a third helps them have “an authentic experience together.” According to Anna, having a third has even meant Ben has got better at kissing. I asked if this was true. “Yes you get feedback and then you change your technique,” he said. So not only can having a third mean great sex but clearly, it can also mean there’s potential to work on and improve both key parts of your relationship and your self. I don’t think I need to get a third to get better at kissing, but who knows—maybe after all the mandatory talking, briefing, and sharing that goes on, having one might refine my emotional intelligence; so bring on the home improvements I say!

The final couple I spoke to was Chelsea and Meg. They have been together for four years and only recently started welcoming a third back into the mix after a long hiatus. They both verbally cringe as they tell me their story. “We were under the impression that we had everything else, like love and support, and a great relationship but maybe we were missing something,” she continued. “Missing something… like dick?” I asked, grimacing. “I guess we thought so. Ugh, I hate it,” Meg answered. They invited a male third into their relationship because they thought they should miss that D. This is quite a common experience for bisexual women, and I remember even my ex and I had a similar conversation when we were both coming to terms with our own sexuality.

Meg and Chelsea don't speak fondly of this period in their relationship and, conversely to the other couples I spoke to on this strange journey of discovery, they told me how having a male third negatively impacted their relationship—brewing up insecurities and severe jealousy. After nearly a year with Jack, their third, they called it off, choosing to work on their relationship without him. But they’ve since found a very successful trio with a friend. So why not try again?

Meg said her insecurities came out of a fear that Chelsea might be straight, but the idea of opening their relationship to another woman has stayed pretty enticing. “We’ve always found the idea of threesomes hot,” said Chelsea. “It was like ‘oh another vagina—that’s calm.’” To be honest, this is the first sentiment so far that has actually resonated with me—because what’s another vagina between friends?

Their current third is a friend who’s a big advocate and fan of their relationship, and is extremely respectful of their space. Meg even tells me Chelsea and her rarely have to initiate any of the intense debrief chats after they all have sex because their third does it for them. So essentially, they have a sexy hot couples therapist who they also get to fuck and maybe I'm extremely jealous.

“So what’s the secret?!” I ask them. “The main one is get a third to be an addition to your already fulfilled relationship not to fill some weird hole,” Meg said. “I think that’s what we learned with Jack—we were both pretending he was filling some gap for us. Whereas now, we are more than happy being a couple without anyone else, and the addition of that third person is just a nice little cherry on top of a… delicious and happy cake.” I’m liking this metaphor already. “If it’s not a delicious cake the cherry isn't going to save it, you know?” Chelsea adds.

Maybe it’s all the talk about vaginas and cake that has clouded my judgement, but it’s all making perfect sense to me. I’m even nodding, feeling like the stars might be aligning in my mind. “So… essentially, you’re having your cake and eating it too?” I ask. “For the sake of the cake analogy, let’s say yes.”

So what have I learned? I doubt I’m any closer to actually sitting down with my girlfriend and deciding whether this is something we want to do, but it’s refreshing to know there are so many ways to do it and that it’s OK if it doesn't work out right away. My biggest takeaway might be that you shouldn’t fuck with thirds until you are fully happy and comfortable in your own relationship. But if it works out, a third can potentially make space for all sorts of improvements in a relationship, whether it’s building trust or encouraging communication. It’s cheaper and sexier than a couples therapist to be fair, so it’s no wonder more people are doing it.

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