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 can’t tell if I have commitment issues or if I’m a swinger or maybe I’m poly. I have a partner. One. Singular. And I want to keep them as my partner, I love them. But I kinda like the idea of allowing other people into our relationship. But am I doing this because I’m not entirely happy with my partner or am I not happy because I only have one partner? But I don’t want us seeing people separately, I want it to be a together thing. Like a love triangle where no corner is unloved by the other.

What you’re describing is polyfidelity or a poly triad. That is a common and doable polyamorous arrangement, as long as your partner is also on board.

I can’t tell you whether you feel this desire because something in you would be more fulfilled in a polyamorous triad, or because you’re unfulfilled with your current partnership. But that is a really important question to dig into! Consider reading up on polyamory, thinking about your “best case scenario,” and really giving some introspective time to working this out with yourself.

P.S. If you do decide that a triad is what you want, be careful with the phrasing of “allowing other people” into your relationship. Dating you two as a couple isn’t a privilege that people are clamoring to gain access to - in fact, it’s going to be something you’ll really have to work to make desirable. You can read more about that here.

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 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. 

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.

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!

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.

I see so many stories under the poly tag of married poly couples dating different partners than their partners. But what about a married couple that wants to date other women together i.e. date the same woman as a couple. That is really what we want long term and I know it won’t be easy..but is it possible to have a triad that just involves the triad?

There are two ways I want to answer this.

One is perhaps less helpful to you, but I think worth saying: There as as many ways to be poly as there are poly people. Who cares if what you want isn’t well represented in the poly tag? Do your thing, find what’s healthy for you, develop practices to make it work, and don’t worry about whether there’s already an established name for it or whatever. Don’t ask me or the internet whether something is possible - you’re ultimately in control of that.

Two: Yes, there is an established practice for what you’re describing. On one end of the spectrum, there’s polyfidelity, where three people all date each other, with the “triad” serving essentially the same function as a “couple” in monogamy. Three people, one relationship. On the other end is “unicorn polyamory,” where a couple seeks partners together, but the relationship is between the couple (as a unit) and the third person.

There are pros and cons to both. And of course there’s an infinite grey area between those two options - like I said above, define what you want and figure out how to go about getting and practicing it in a healthy way. That matters way more than what you call it or what other people are doing and calling it.