I want to date a couple, but don't know how to approach it.

I have an interest in being a third; there has been more than one instance where I've had an interest in couples I am friends with. Like a specific interest in dating both and not wanting to break them up. But I really have no idea how to approach trying to become a third in a relationship, and it can also be quite stigmatized among monogamous bisexuals which is a bit daunting.

It's not entirely clear from your message whether you want this as a generalized relationship framework, or whether there are specific couples you know who you want to date.

If it's the former - if you're just interested in finding a couple to date - you are in some serious luck. That is something that a LOT of couples want, and you will not have a hard time finding a couple to date! A third person who dates a couple is called a "unicorn," and couples seeking one are called "unicorn hunters." You can read more about this on my FAQ page here!

However, that does mean you will need to do a lot of work to screen people and give yourself permission to say no. It's just like monogamous dating - don't date the first person who likes you. Meet lots of people, know your limits and boundaries, and make sure you end up dating someone who meets your needs and fits your personality. 

If there are specific couples in your life that you'd like to date, it works just like crushing on anyone else. Do what you can to suss out their interest - try bringing up triads/unicorns/non-monogamy and see if they have any general thoughts on it - but in the end, the only way to find out is to ask! It can be frightening to approach people about something that's so misunderstood, but if the couple seems open and safe, the worst they can do is say no!

I want to date my best friend and her boyfriend, but I worry that's "messed up"

I think I want a relationship with my best friend and her boyfriend. Am I messed up for wanting that? We all get along so well and I care about both of them so much and I feel fucked up for wanting to be with them that way. For wanting to intrude on their relationship. How do I stop feeling this way?

You are not messed up or fucked up. You are having pretty normal, natural feelings of intimacy for people you are intimate with! Caring about people so deeply that you want a new framework for your relationship is not, in general, a bad thing. Wanting more true, real ways to express and live out your feelings of love and care is not "fucked up."

We live in a world that prioritizes certain types of commitment over others. We feel like we can ask things and expect things of people we are "dating" but not people we are "friends" with. So there is a kind of insecurity that comes from not having a "dating" relationship, and I get it!

The only way that it would be "messed up" is if, in acting on these feelings and desires, you violated boundaries. If you have genuine reason to believe that your friends would be really threatened or put off by you broaching the topic of a shift in the relationship, it might be best to drop the issue. If you don't, it's worth bringing up! Let her know how you feel, what your ideal relationship framework would be, and why.

If she says she's uncomfortable with that, and you keep pushing or trying to convince her to see things your way or trying to underhandedly act as if the relationship has changed and thus manipulate her into it - that would be "fucked up." But all you've done now is have deep feelings for people you're close to, and want to live out those feelings in a more authentic way. There is nothing wrong with that!

I'm sort-of dating a couple and don't know where I stand

I recently became friends with benefits to a friend who has an ace partner that rarely experiences/wants that. Both of them agreed to it, but the ace partner has been more into that sort of thing lately and I’m no longer sure whether I fit in the dynamic. Recently I’ve now kissed both of them, and the ace one has made some comments about threesomes I’m unsure if are serious. As the third party I’m not sure if I should press a discussion about the dynamic shifts?

Yes, you as a third person absolutely have the right to “press a discussion.” 

Hey, quick aside to everyone but the letter-writer: We all, collectively, as a polyamorous community, need to do a much better job to squash this weird cultural notion that’s out there about “thirds” having less agency, less security, and less of a right to assert their needs. Let’s just end that. Okay? 

Back to you, letter-writer: of course you can bring this up. They already kissed you. You have every right to talk about that. To know where you stand. To get some clarity on the shifting-but-unspoken terms of the relationship. 

Say something like “Hey, can we talk about something? We’ve kissed a few times, and I just want to know where we stand on that and how you’re feeling about things.” or “Can I ask you about something? You’ve made some comments about threesomes, but I’m not sure if you’re serious. Here’s how I’d feel about a threesome - what page are you on?”

If they act like you are somehow out of line asking for clarity on this, to know what you can expect and what is expected of you - then they’re not healthy to be in this arrangement with. But give them the chance, first, to have this discussion in an open and intentional way!

Now again to everyone, though I’m mostly speaking to my past self here: if you feel, in a relationship situation, like you have to just sort of go along with your partner; if you feel like something fragile will get unbalanced if you set any boundary, ask for something, make the unspoken spoken - that’s such an insecure place to be, and it’s awful, and don’t let yourself linger there. There’s a big difference between someone who is mature and independent and someone who just never ever causes a fuss. Be more willing ask for things! Any relationship that’s threatened by you articulating your needs and asking for clarity from them is not worth preserving with all the emotional labor you’re doing on their behalf.

Also,never ever keep someone in this emotional zone. Especially couples who date thirds, and men who date women, but also, everyone: take heed.  

I recently started to date a couple. I made it clear I wasn’t going to be a sex toy. I have fun with them. They want a relationship with me. I only talk to them in group texts or see them together. Is this sustainable long term? When do I ask them if this is what they want the situation to always be? Can they know after four dates? Also I am not dating anyone else. But if I can’t have separate relationships with them I think I need to still date others. How do I tell them this? (New to poly)

You tell them this by telling them this! Give them a chance to clear this up and set expectations going forward. Only honest, open communication can resolve issues like this, which come from assumptions and ambiguity.

Next time you’re together, in a calm way, say something like “Hey, Bob and Linda, I realize that the dating pattern we’ve fallen into looks like me dating you two as a “unit,” and I only ever interact with you as a couple. Is that a purposeful choice?” Find out whether they’re interested in developing one-on-one relationships with you, either romantically or just as friends. If they are open to that, talk about next steps.

If they are not open to that, talk with them about your needs and expectations going forward. “I just want to make sure that you two are aware that I consider myself in an open relationship as well, and will be pursuing other dating relationships.” If they’re not okay with that - if they want you to date them as a couple, but exclusively, then your needs are incompatible. That’s okay! The point of dating is to figure out what you want and who can provide that for you. 

I have just discovered the poly world. I’m a girl seeing a guy and I think we’re both comfortable w the concept and might explore it. But I’m afraid I have the wrong idea, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. What I truly want is for me and my guy to be a couple while occasionally bringing other girls into the mix. Not even relationships, just sex partners. Is this truly polyamory then, if there’s no commitment or long-term partners, just occasional fun? I don’t want the girls to get hurt either.

While I constantly tell people on here that I’m not the arbiter of who gets to use the polyamorous identity label, I’m going to be a little bit of a hypocrite about this: I wouldn’t say that’s polyamory, necessarily. Swinging, perhaps; an open relationship; non-monogamy with a sexual focus; or just a couple who likes to have threesomes. You’ve got options!

That said, if identifying as polyamorous helps you and your partner understand what you’re doing, communicate openly, and identify and meet needs, then that’s totally fine! Resources about being “polyamorous” could be really helpful, and you may feel that identifying as polyamorous gives you two what you need to do this in a healthy and fulfilling way.

However, I would caution you to be really, really, really clear with all your potential partners about this. Saying that you are “polyamorous” without defining what that means to you can cause serious problems if the person has a different definition of “polyamorous” than what you mean. Assumptions and miscommunications like that are how people get hurt.

So be sure that you are very up front and clear about the fact that this is a sexual thing for you two, and that you’re looking for someone to have a threesome with, not commit to emotionally or involve in any other aspect of your relationship. 

FAQ: How does a couple find a third?

I get lots of questions from couples looking to “add” or “bring in” another person to their relationship. This is generally referred to as “unicorn hunting,” as the third person is a “unicorn.”

I cover most of this in my other posts, but here is a breakdown of what I’m likely to tell you if you send me a question about finding a third:

One: Be patient. There are approximately one berzillion books, songs, movies, comics, and whathaveyou about how hard it is for monogamous people to find partners. It takes time and effort. And it’s much harder to find someone who is attracted to two other people and is attractive to those two other people. The math is not on your side. Don’t assume that you’ll visit a few poly meetups and make a couple’s profile on OKC and suddenly be awash in options. That’s not how dating works, for anyone, of any relationship style.

Two: People are not sex toys. Most messages I get are phrased as people “looking for a third to add to their relationship.” That’s a pretty objectifying way to frame it. Would you be into someone if they said “hey, I’ve been looking for a boyfriend to add to my life, I am hereby inviting you to be included in what I want to do”? People are people - you gotta treat them like it.

Three: Why are you doing this? Ask yourself why it’s critical to you that you and your partner find someone to date together, as a unit. Is it to offset jealousy on one side? Because what you really want is a threesome? To try and explore non-monogamy without threatening your existing relationship? All of those require more self-work and honesty on your part. Try to work out those issues together - adding a third will not magically solve existing problems. Consider whether it’s possible to try V-shaped non-monogamy, even if that takes more time and emotional work on your part.

Four: What do you have to offer? Most requests for a third look just like that - requests. “We want a bisexual woman who wants to be exclusive with us.” That’s nice. But people don’t come special-order like American Girl dolls you can build online with the exact specs you want. Again, would you be interested in someone whose dating profile read “I’m looking for a woman, preferably blonde or redhead, into hiking or swimming, with left-leaning politics and a passion for oral sex”? You want to be a couple that other people are drawn to organically, not a couple on the prowl.

Here are some of my posts on the topic:

And here are resources elsewhere:

I’m currently looking for my first poly relationship, after two and a half years my gf and I decided we would like to add a third person to our relationship. It’s now been well over six months and we’re not having much luck. We’ve had a few dates here and there but no one wanting a committed and closed 3 party relationship. This is made harder by the fact that my gf and I are lesbians. Is this an uncommon relationship type? Am I expecting too much or am I just looking in the wrong place?

Think about this from a statistical point of view: You are looking for a “closed, three party relationship,” which means you need someone who is:

  • Physically attracted to you
  • Physically attracted to your partner
  • Physically attractive to you
  • Physically attractive to your partner
  • Intellectually interested in you
  • Intellectually interested in your partner
  • Intellectually interesting to you
  • Intellectually interesting to your partner
  • Sexually compatible with you
  • Sexually compatible with your partner
  • Emotionally engaged with you
  • Emotionally engaging to you
  • Emotionally engaged with your partner
  • Emotionally engaging to your partner
  • Lesbian 
  • Polyamorous
  • Interested in a closed triad

Consider how hard it is for straight monogamous people to find someone to date - it takes most people way longer than six months to find someone. And they have it easier, statistically - they only have to find someone:

  • Physically attracted to them
  • Physically attractive to them
  • Intellectually interested in them
  • Intellectually interesting to them
  • Sexually compatible with them
  • Emotionally engaged with them
  • Emotionally engaging with them
  • Straight
  • Monogamous

So you’re up against two numerical challenges:

  • One: There are just fewer poly lesbians interested in closed triads than there are straight mono people trying to date. No matter where you are, in this day and age, straight people looking for a mono relationship make up the numerical majority.
  • Two: you’ve significantly increased the number of requirements for compatibility. Now they need to be into two people and two people need to be into them.

So, from that perspective, six months is not a long time to be looking at all. 

From another perspective: think about the approach you’re taking. You don’t really “add another person to your relationship” - people aren’t sex toys you pick out with your partner together to spice things up. Imagine reading a dating profile by a person saying “I am looking to add a girlfriend to my life” - would you want to be a thing added to their life, or would that perspective and phrasing put you off?

Think independently, and talk together, about why you want to shift your relationship this way, why it’s important to be in a closed triad, what you have to offer people you date, whether you two as a couple form a “unit” to date another person and how that impacts your expectations, etc. 

What you are doing is generally referred to as “unicorn hunting” in the poly community, and you can read about some of the challenges and risks of unicorn hunting here. I get a lot of questions like this, so I am working on a resources and FAQ page - in the meantime, check out my unicorn tag.

I’m a young lesbian woman and I’ve started seeing a woman who is in a longterm 7 relationship with her boyfriend. They live together and opened up their relationship a few years ago when she realized she’s bisexual. They have a lot of problems in their relationship, which she has told me about from the beginning. She has said that I am fulfilling a lot of the epic fulfillment holes that she has with him. I’m concerned about starting something with someone who has a lot of problems in their relationship. I feel like she is looking towards polyamory as a solution to the problems in her relationship. I feel like this could be something significant with her, but am not sure if I should head into this. She also has really limited time, much more so than me, because of life and this other relationship. Only a few hours a week doesn’t feel enough to continue the intimacy we’ve been experiencing, much less deepen it. Just looking for some honest advice on things I should be thinking about and the things she and I should maybe be talking about.

If I were you, I would be thinking about:

-How entangled you want to get with a relationship that you know already has a lot of problems. It’s fine if you see yourself as relatively drama-proof and able to keep someone in your orbit without getting dragged into their drama. But if you’re nervous about how her issues with her boyfriend will affect you, think clearly about what your dealbreakers are and how you’ll communicate your limits to her. 

-How disappointed you’ll be if things don’t become “significant” with her. It sounds like she doesn’t have the kind of time you want a partner to invest, and it sounds like she may have some drama and existing issues holding her back from a deep connection with you. Would you be okay with seeing her as a low-key fling, or would you feel resentful and let down if you don’t get everything you want in a relationship from her? If you know that you would be unhappy dating her on less significant terms, you need to let her know up front and be prepared to walk away if she can’t give you want you need.

-How okay you are with being used to “fill epic fulfillment holes” in her relationship. What if her boyfriend wants her to stop seeing other people so they can re-try monogamy? What if she treats you more like a way to get her needs met and less like an equal partner? It is totally okay to get into an arrangement like that if you go in clear-eyed and realistically honest with yourself about what your expectations are, and if you trust future-you enough to walk out of a bad situation if you encounter a dealbreaker.

Basically: trust future-you to look after you, and commit to present-you to be firm and responsible. Know going forward what you will and won’t tolerate, and commit to leaving if you are faced with one. Know what you hope to get out of this relationship, and if you don’t get it, leave. As soon as things stop working for you, leave. Don’t let affection, great sex, drama, or anything else keep you stuck in a situation you are done being in. Be as clear with her about what your expectations and dealbreakers are, and give her space to be honest with you about hers as well.

Hey. My boyfriend and I were in an open relationship which turned into a triad and we’re still open. There has been a lot of upsetness and jealousy in the past but right now we’re pretty good. It’s just that I feel like it’s unfair to our 3rd person bc he and I have future plans that don’t involve her. Also even though I have this security and I know he loves me more I still get jealous and have upsetting thoughts. Am I allowed to? It just feels so pathetic sometimes.

There are two issues here, so I’ll address them separately.

The first issue is that you feel like you and your boyfriend aren’t being fair to the third person. That’s a really valid concern and it’s really good that you’re thinking through this. “Couples privilege” is a big problem in the poly world, and lots of “unicorns” (thirds dating a couple) have been badly burned in this type of situation.

The key issue here is consent. Does she know that you two have future plans that don’t involve her? Is she aware that you two never intend to make the commitment to her that you’ve made to each other? Have you been clear with her that her role in this is not as an equal partner and never will be? If not, then what you’re doing is not okay, and you need to be open with her immediately.

If so - if she really is okay being seen as a fling by you two, and that you find your security in the fact that she is not an equal in this “triad” - then that’s her choice to stay in the relationship. Maybe what she wants now really is just a fling with a couple, in which case, you’re not being unfair, she’s made the choice she feels is working for her. 

The second issue is whether you’re “allowed” to get jealous and be upset. And the answer to that is sure, you’re allowed to feel whatever feelings you have. Certain behaviors in reaction to your feelings might be inappropriate, but no feeling is ever forbidden. Anyone who makes you feel otherwise is toxic. 

But only you know whether these feelings are something you can live with in the longer term. If you need to know your boyfriend loves you more in order to have security, and it you consistently feel pathetic and jealous, a poly/triad arrangement might not be the healthiest thing for you.

If you feel like things are moving in a positive direction - if you’re learning more about yourself and developing new perspectives and strategies such that you have these jealous and upset feelings less and less, and they’re getting less and less disruptive to your well being and relationships, great. If not - if they just keep happening with no sign of growth - you need to reconsider whether this arrangement is working.

I’m new to the poly LS. I’m a DD in the Bdsm community. My LG is poly an wants another LG to join our family. I don’t know where or how to go about looking for another poly LG that’s pan or bi sexual in our area. Any advice or tips would be helpful.

(For my readers unfamiliar with the acronyms, DD stands for “Daddy Dom” and LG stands for “Little Girl.”)

Let me just start by saying that what you’re looking for is pretty rare. You are looking for someone who checks three very specific boxes: bi/pan, LG, and polyamorous. Then you’re hoping that very specific person wants to enter a relationship with you and your girl. Those are five separate ‘stars’ that all need to align. It will take a long time to find this, so be patient. Don’t treat people and relationships like customizable toys you can pull off a shelf with your own specifications.

Women, especially women who check certain boxes - like being bi/pan, identifying as a LG, etc. are all too used to people trying to get them to join an already existing relationship, so you are already offering something that isn’t in super high demand. Be aware that anyone you approach will likely be wary and even on the defensive. Be patient, mature, and genuine. The key here is to highlight what you have to offer, not what you’re asking for. 

The best way to meet people in the BDSM community is through scene events. Make a Fetlife profile, if you haven’t already. Let people know who you and your LG are, and what you have to offer. Again: highlight what you have to offer, not what you’re asking for.  Be clear about what you want, but put most of the focus on why an awesome, poly, bi/pan LG would enjoy playing with you.

Go to scene events and meet people. Don’t go in with a “shopping” mindset, acting like you’re there on the prowl for a second LG. Just be yourselves and make friends. If you’re comfortable, go to play parties and let others see what your style is. If you’re patient and genuine, you’ll find play partners.

In the meantime, beef up your BDSM skills - The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy are my favorites. Go to workshops hosted by your local scene, volunteer at events, etc. Again, it’s less about “how do I find what I’m looking for - where are all the perfect ones hiding?” and more about “how do I attract what I’m looking for - how do I become the DD that other LGs want to play with?”

It’s frustrating to want something in your sex life that you can’t get right away, I know. But you can scratch that itch in other ways while you wait for someone to want to join your family. When you and your girl play, tell each other stories and share fantasies about having more girls to play with. Watch porn or read erotica together that reflects this fantasy. Be prepared to compromise - maybe you’ll meet someone who wants to do a play session with you two, but isn’t ready to ‘join the family.’ If you’re flexible and fun, you’ll get what you want!

my girlfriend and i have recently discovered that we’d like to add someone to our relationship! any advice on how to do that?

Remember that opening your relationship is like opening a checking account, not opening a door. There isn’t a warehouse full of single people waiting to be invited into an existing couple’s relationship.

Remember that people are people, not toys or things. You don’t go to the sex and relationship store and pick up a third to add. You find a person you care about deeply, and who meets your needs, and whose needs you can meet. 

When you were single, did you wake up one day and say “I have recently decided that I’d like to add a girlfriend to my life”? Getting into relationships is complicated and organic, and it has to also be like that when it comes to finding a third.

Know what you’re able to do, exactly, and be prepared to make your needs and expectations clear. Are you hoping to find yourselves in a polyfidelitous triad, or are you wanting to “date” a third person as a couple-unit? Is A dating B dating C dating A, or are A&B dating C? (This article has a good diagram that explains this.)

Get your house entirely in order before you invite someone over. Unpack your baggage, hone your communication skills, and cultivate a relationship that a new person would be excited to jump into. Finding a third won’t solve problems, add excitement, or fulfill some existing and unmet need.

Prepare for rejection. Lots of people have been burned by “unicorn hunters,” so don’t take it personally or decide you’ve been unfairly profiled by the poly community.

Once you’re entirely sure you and your girlfriend are in a place to meet a third person’s needs, head over to OKCupid and local polyamorous meetups to find folks already familiar with the community. And do what anyone does when they’re looking for someone to date - go out more, hang out around people who share your interests and values, whether that’s book clubs or underground raves, and be kind, genuine, and interesting!

Hi! My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 6 years and are now polycurious. I’m a straight male and she is a pansexual female and are interested in finding a bisexual girl for a triad. However, we would only have sex/date one another. Where do we start?

I’m confused - if you’re only having sex with each other, and you’re only dating each other, where does that leave this third person? What does it mean to you to be part of a “triad?” What do you want from this person, specifically? You need to figure out between yourselves what you’re looking for more specifically.

In my experience, bisexual women are very often approached by mostly-hetero couples looking for someone to “invite into their relationship” or otherwise fool around with. None of the bi women I know are all that excited about this invitation. Think about it: would you want to be brought in to spice up someone else’s relationship but not given equal emotional or relational (or even sexual) consideration?

It’s not a very appealing offer for this bisexual woman you’re hoping to find. If you’re not offering her sex or a fulfilling, committed relationship, what does she get out of the deal? Lots of “unicorns” have been burned by couples who don’t have their emotional baggage sorted out well enough to incorporate a third person, with all their feelings and needs, into their sex life, let alone their relationship. Please don’t be part of this problem.

You two may have decided that it would be fun to play around with another woman, but there is no “polycurious bisexual woman” store where you can go pick one up. You need to have something on the table to offer her, whether it’s an intimate friendship or one night of sexy fun, and be clear and upfront about what you are and are not able to provide.

Once you figure that out, the internet is pretty much your best bet. Find a site or app that meets your needs, and be humble and prepared for lots of rejection - you’re essentially asking a pretty big favor from another person who has her own life to live. I don’t know many people whose fetish is spending their time and energy helping a couple they’re not part of explore their “polycuriosity.”

I think I might be poly? I am a female and I am dating a man that I absolutely adore. But also I want to find another female to be part of our relationship.

You might be poly, you might not. The key here is to figure out where this desire for another woman to be part of your relationship is coming from. Are you feeling isolated by being part of a couple, and want more intimate female companionship in your life? Are you feeling an attraction to women that you want a safe space to explore? Is this emotional? Sexual? An intellectual curiosity about polyamory? What’s your best case scenario?

Bringing other people into your relationship complicates things - it’s not a solution to an existing problem. If there’s an issue you think a third person would resolve, you need to identify and resolve it before you two are ready to invite a third person in. 

Hi. I’m kind of facing a weird time. I have feelings and attraction to one of my best friends and her boyfriend. He seems interested but I’m scared to cross that line and ask them about a relationship. Do you have any thoughts on the matter? I’d really like some advice if you can provide it.

A lot of this comes down to the context. If you know that these two people have had exposure to poly ideas and poly community before, it will be easier to broach the subject. But unfortunately, polyamory hasn’t gotten much exposure in general culture, and most couples would recoil strongly at a friend’s suggestion that they start dating other people as a couple.

Try testing the waters - bring up polyamory with your friend, without mentioning your attraction to her and her boyfriend. If you can chat casually about couples dating, triads, about threesomes, you might be able to gauge her interest. If there’s none there, don’t push. Some people operating under the paradigm of monogamy might feel very threatened by hearing that a close friend wants to get involved in their relationship.

Or, you could keep it focused on yourself - confide in your friend that you’ve been reading about polyamory and think it might be nice to date a couple or get involved with a triad (without mentioning them specifically), and see what she has to say about it. You could get spectacularly lucky and find out that she and her boyfriend have also been feeling the chemistry, or she could say something like “cool, I support you, but I’d never want to be involved in something like that” - either way, you’ll have a better idea how to proceed.

Poly folk falling for mono folk happens all the time, and it’s agonizing and frustrating, but there’s not much we can do about it, especially since we’re in the minority. If this attraction to your friend and her boyfriend has opened you up to wanting to date other couples and isn’t exclusive to them, you are in luck, though - there are lots of poly duos looking for a third.