Is there a term for the specific type of relationship we're looking for?

My partner and I have been together 17 years and we are wanting to bring another male in to our relationship (MMF). What would the correct name be for this relationship? Both males are straight.

Well, for one, I can't quite parse exactly what kind of 'relationship' you're trying to name. If both males are straight, then they probably won't want to be in a sexual or romantic relationship with each other, so the new person probably won't be "brought into" your existing relationship - they'd primarily be with the female partner, right? Dating one person in a relationship is different than "joining" or "being brought into" a two-person relationship. You'd be well served to think a bit more about the specific dynamic you're hoping for, so you can better explain it to yourselves and future partners.

Are you planning for this to be primarily sexual, like someone to have threesomes with? The word for that is really just "threesome" - or "group sex," "multiple partners," that sort of thing. There are specific sexual concepts common in MMF sexuality, like "cuckolding." Are you looking for someone for the female partner to date? That is just called "polyamory," "V-shaped polyamory," or an "open relationship." One person sought after by an existing couple to date that couple as a unit is called a "unicorn." 

There are not, to my knowledge, specific terms for relationship configurations based on the specific number and genders of people involved. I'm not sure we need those, frankly. If you are looking for linguistic validation that what you want is "a real thing," that also doesn't exist, and you don't need it. If you are looking for a very particular term that you think will perfectly describe what you want so that you don't have to do other work of explaining, defining, and communicating, that doesn't exist. You need to continue to do the work of identifying and defining your needs and boundaries.

Would the stress of unicorn hunting be alleviated by having both members of the couple date the person separately?

Hey I've been doing some research (I'm new and still questioning) and I had an idea that I think would be more sensible than trying to add a third person straight into a couple and would like your opinion (please). My idea would be to have one person of the couple date the potential third person for a while and then the third person could start dating the other member of the original couple too before the triad is formed. I thought this might help reduce the stress on all involved but idk.

This kind of arrangement doesn’t really work, because it puts all sorts of prescriptions, demands, and expectations on the “third person” to date the other partner if they like one partner.

Think about how hard it is to find someone you ‘click’ with - someone you enjoy dating and want to be in a relationship with. Now imagine that you’re dating someone, and they go “also, as part of a PACKAGE DEAL, when you date me, you also date this other person! Who you didn’t get to choose, they’re just also here!”

It puts a lot of pressure on the “third” to like this other person. Even if you say you want to “take things slow” or “let things be organic,” there’s a major expectation there that “once you’re ready, you’ll start dating this person too!” What if they’re never ready? Most people I meet are not people I end up wanting to date. Simply being a partner of one of my partners doesn’t automatically make someone a perfectly eligible candidate for me. 

Almost no one likes being told who to date; there’s a reason arranged marriage is no longer in vogue for the most part. So this isn’t a very realistic plan, I’m afraid, since it requires someone essentially assigning a partner to someone else.

Ultimately, relationships are healthiest when they form organically, not out plans, arrangements, timelines, or prescriptions. If three people want to all date each other, let that happen. If it’s ultimately healthier and more sensible for a V-shape to form, well, it might be better to make that work than to try and force human relationships into an arrangement they’re not well suited for.

Check out this post, where I addressed a similar situation. Person A asking Person B and Person C to date is almost never sustainable or sensible.

Hey, do you have to focus on sex to find a good poly relationship? I would like to start seeing women, but my husband insists that the only way to find someone is to sleep with them. I have sex related PTSD and it takes me a long, long time to be ready for sex. My husband is sure that we can never find anyone because I’m not capable of having endless one night stands to find someone to stay. I feel totally worthless and unlovable and he seems pretty miffed that I can’t just screw strangers.

What!? Of course you can meet people without sleeping with them. The first thing that comes to mind is making an online dating profile where you make it clear that you want to make sure you “click” with someone before hopping into bed. You can also hit it off with someone at a bar, get their number, and text-flirt for as long as you like before touching bits. There are lots of ways to meet people and establish chemistry besides one-night stands. Sure; it’s sometimes easier to flirt really sexually, then “invite them up for drinks,” then go in for the heavy petting, but it is pretty lazy and uncreative thinking to imagine that that’s the only way to find a partner. 

If you two are trying to find women to see together, and your husband insists that he has the best strategy for picking up women, let him do it his own damn self! He can go out and be like hey, I’m married, I’m interested in women, let’s bang, would you be interested in my wife? Or, you two can date together - make an online dating profile, go to poly meetups, join hobbyist groups and communities where your-kind-of-people hang out. Or, you can date on your own; pick up people’s numbers, go dancing, whatever.

It’s a huge problem that your husband is acting in a way that makes you feel “worthless and unlovable,” that he isn’t respecting your totally valid boundaries, or that he’s pressuring you to do something that triggers your PTSD. If this is any kind of pattern with this guy, you may need to reconsider the health of this relationship overall. And if you’re not already seeing a therapist for these feelings and this PTSD, please do yourself a huge favor and do that!

It’s hard for any couple to find a woman to date; if you two are having struggles, it is NOT the result of you setting reasonable boundaries. Your husband is very wrong that his imagined way of finding someone to day is the only way. He should not be blaming you for the fact that you two haven’t found someone to date, or pushing you to do something you’re uncomfortable with. This is definitely a relationship dynamic that needs to be addressed; partly because you deserve to be in a safe and healthy relationship; and partly because it’ll be totally impossible to date a third person while you two are acting like adversaries, not partners, in this project.

Do you think there have been situations in which polyamory happened naturally? Like, three people meeting each other and all being interested in one another and eventually deciding to form a relationship? Instead of like, a couple seeking out a third person??

Absolutely I think that has happened! In fact, I know that it has happened - I have seen it happen in my own life (not to me, but to other people) and I have gotten plenty of letters here about that.

Please note that “three people all being interested in each other” is not a synonym for polyamory - that is called a triad, or polyfidelity, and is only one way of being poly. But yes, people have definitely found themselves in situations like that organically.

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 starting to accept myself as bisexual and I have a boyfriend of 6 years and he is very open to me exploring my feelings for girls…but if I find one he will want me to share her with him otherwise he will feel left out, I feel like it’s going to be very hard for me to find a girl friend who will be understanding of the situation. I’m not really sure what to do…

People are not things to be “shared.” There is really no situation in which you can require someone to get romantically or sexually involved with someone else, or just assume that they will. If a girl likes you and is into you, there is NO guarantee that she will also like and be into your boyfriend. Having that as a prerequisite for dating someone limits your options severely - think about how hard it is to find someone who likes you+you like them - now you have to find someone who likes you+you like them+they like your boyfriend+your boyfriend likes them. So you are very correct that it will be hard to find someone who will be “understanding.”

Talk to your boyfriend about why he has this as a requirement, and what you two can do to address it. If he just feels “left out,” why not open up your relationship on both sides, so he can pursue other partners as well? Does he see this as a mostly sexual thing, like finding someone to have threesomes with, rather than you finding someone to explore your feelings with? There are other ways to help your boyfriend feel comfortable with this besides setting unrealistic expectations for a mythical person who will be equally interested in both of you.

I do not want to have multiple boyfriends. I just want another female that me and a primary can share. Like more than a threesome but less than a poly family… Is this weird??? Is there a name for it???

The general term for this is “unicorn hunting.”

You didn’t ask for my feedback on whether this is wise or not, but you did write to my advice column, so here goes: people are not sex toys or objects to be “shared.” Please think very carefully about why you want this arrangement to be you and your partner sharing someone else (instead of all three of you dating on equal footing) and why you clarify that this would be “less than a poly family.”

Wanting this kind of arrangement is not “weird” in the sense that it’s very common, but it also can create lots and lots of problems. Be introspective and honest with yourself, your partner, and your unicorn about exactly what you want, what you can offer, and why. 

hello! I was just wondering what a “metamour” and a “unicorn” is? I’ve heard these terms but I don’t understand them.

In the poly world, a “metamour” is a partner of your partner, who you aren’t dating. So say Harry is dating Hermione, and Hermione is also dating Ron, but Harry and Ron aren’t dating. Harry and Ron are metamours.

“Unicorn” is typically used to refer to a bisexual woman who is willing to date both members of an established couple and abide by whatever terms they’ve decided on. 

Programming note: while I encourage people to come to me with any and all manner of poly questions, there are some that could more easily be resolved with Google rather than needing a specific, personalized answer from an advice writer. If you have a specific terminology question, try checking out the Poly Glossary at More Than Two or doing a few Google searches so you don’t have to wait for me to get around to your question!

Don’t forget Poly Advice now has a Patreon! If you liked this post & want to see more, consider becoming a backer

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.”

Hey there! My long term boyfriend and I have recently decided to open our relationship up and include a third person. I was wondering if you knew of any online communities or dating sites where we could find said person? Thank you!

3ndr is an app for finding threesome partners, and OKCupid is a dating site that lets you be pretty open about who you are and what you’re looking for.

But remember that other people aren’t toys you can pull off a shelf when you find one that suits your desires - there’s no online warehouse of single people waiting for a couple to come along and invite them into their relationship. In fact, it can be very difficult for couples to find thirds, even in the poly community. Make sure you and your boyfriend are in a healthy place as a couple and are prepared to enter a new relationship with open hearts. Take no one for granted, be generous and gracious, and be patient.