How do you discuss your desire for non-monogamy without spoiling what you have together?

People often reach out to me wanting to know how to find a third person for a threesome. They are asking the wrong question. There is an important foundation that needs to be established to have a threesome without damaging your relationship.

Two of my clients, Sarah and Brad sit before me, frustrated, hurt, but wanting to be open with each other. “I can’t even imagine having a threesome again… at least not like that, it was like he was having an affair right before my eyes.” says Sarah.

“I have no idea what I did wrong but I feel terrible. It really wasn’t worth it because it hurt Sarah so much and devastated our relationship.” says Brad.

I encounter this confusion and hurt around threesomes frequently in my practice as a holistic sex and intimacy coach. Often, a couple like Sarah and Brad believes that because they are both open-minded people, spicing up their sex life with a threesome will automatically be easy and fun so they go out to trying to figure out how to find a third person for a threesome. They are often disappointed, discovering the painful truth after the fact – they jumped in the water without knowing how to swim and deeply hurt each other as a result.

Rebuilding the relationship vehicle of a couple who crashed into a threesome with a lead foot on the gas is possible, but it’s also easier (and way more fun) to do it the right way the first time. There is a way to have a threesome consciously, bringing a couple closer together instead of driving them apart.

Step One: Establish “I got you, babe” trust.
It seems like this would go without saying, but you have to trust each other for a threesome to work. I might be dating myself here, but Sonny and Cher really were onto something.

The first exercise to do with your partner is to ask each other simply and directly, “Do we trust each other, why or why not?” Then have an open, respectful discussion about what comes up for both of you.

I remember having a conversation like this with a former (female) partner. I admitted to her, “I don’t trust you to tell me when something is not okay.” Saying this out loud ended up strengthening our relationship. She felt safer to tell me her truth. I then got the opportunity to be accepting and compassionate with her process of naming boundaries. Naming my lack of trust in a loving, supportive way brought us closer together.

If you find you can’t have a conversation about trust without it devolving into an argument, you’re definitely not ready to have a threesome.

Step Two: What’s the Point?

If you are in a monogamous relationship, it’s essential to have clarity on what having a threesome will do for your relationship. The more outside your comfort zone this potentially touchy topic is, the more important this clarity will be.

For your second exercise, free-write for five minutes about why you want a threesome.

How do you see it supporting your relationship? Share your discoveries with your partner and then return the favor.

Keep in mind when sharing that everyone has a different baseline of openness around sex. Take this into account and tread lightly. For some, bringing up a threesome can be somewhat casual and talked about as a novel idea that might or might not happen. For others, the topic can be highly triggering. Bring it up from a place of curiosity instead of necessity.

Step Three: Then There Were Two
Here are some things threesomes will not fix between you and your partner: boredom, restlessness, communication issues, sexual dissatisfaction, and breakfast. Relying on opening up your relationship as a solution to issues between you and your partner creates a shiny distraction that very quickly leads to disaster. Many people find they are better off to first consciously cultivate the practice of remembering why they have chosen to wake up next to their partner every day.

I met Jenna and Matt after they had made the decision to open their relationship due to intimate dissatisfaction and the inability to communicate about it honestly. Matt had become like a kid in a candy store, focusing all of his sexual energy outward. Jenna was resigned and bitter because there was no longer any room for intimacy between the two of them. They had lost all interest in sex with one another. Moral of the story: A threesome or opening your relationship will not fix the intimacy between you and your partner.

Sometimes couples decide there’s a mismatch of sexual desire or drive and a couple chooses to explore a more creative relationship structure. This choice can be made with care, conscious awareness and from a place of exploring what works for the couple.

Often times couples don’t have an ongoing discussion of sexual desire. You may be surprised to see what one another actually wants.

For your next exercise, ask your partner and yourself:

What do you love about your sex life?
How often would you have sex ideally?
What kind of sex do you want to have more of?
What are desires and what are deal breaking needs?

Step Four: Make agreements and run experiments.


If you’ve completed the previous three steps with your partner, and it seems like you’ve both got the “green light” to pursue a threesome, the next step is to make agreements about the boundaries both of you would like to establish. I find it helpful to look at these agreements as a science experiment, not a math problem with only one correct answer.

Some examples of common agreements around threesomes include, “We can flirt, but let’s stick together and check in before we touch anyone,” or “We can make out and touch but nothing below the belt tonight,” or “I’m open to anything but it has to be with the right person, so I want to have a private conversation when we think we’ve found someone.”

One agreement I highly recommend is to use a shared color system coded around comfort level in situations that might escalate from zero to “whose tongue is in my mouth?” very quickly. Using a color system might seem cheesy, but in a moment of emotional drowning the simplicity is a life raft. I’ve also found using the system consistently fosters a deeper connection between partners because it provides a structure to check in. A simple “let’s check in” and a private moment is all it takes. This opens up a conversation about all of the things that might, could, did, or surprisingly didn’t trigger you as an evening of exciting sexual experience progresses.

The colors are easy to remember:

1. Red: I’m unable to regulate my emotions and I’m freaking out. Stop now. Let’s get the out of here.
2. Orange: One more move and I’m going to be in red. Slow down now.
3. Yellow: I’m definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I can handle it. I’m growing and uncomfortable. Let’s keep going at this pace and continue to check-in about it.
4. Green: I’m enjoying all of it. I could even step on the gas if you’re open to it.

Even after all the intimacy you’ve cultivated from completing the first three steps, someone is bound to have unexpected emotions come up in the heat of the moment. I suggest talking ahead of time about what kinds of things trigger jealousy with both of you and use this conversation to see how you can support each other with agreements.

Step Five: Gift Each Other with a Date in the Language of YOUR Desire
To really set you and your partner up for “succ-sex,” I recommend having a date for each of you that is centered around your specific desires of sex and intimacy. Making a specific date to explore the landscape of sexual desire with your partner BEFORE including someone else decreases jealousy, confusion, fear and chances of damaging your relationship.

Imagine yourself on your ideal sex date with your partner.

How would you want the environment set up?
What would you feel on this sex date?
How would they be with you and what would they be doing?
Architect the exact experience you would want to have from start to finish.

Share this new clarity of intimate vision with your partner and ask questions to gain clarity so you can each show up for one another in what might be a completely new way or with some important but minor tweaks to your usual sex and intimacy experiences. Then employ something I call ‘sexy scheduling’ to put it on your calendar. If your priorities go in your calendar and bringing your sex life to a new level is important then demonstrate that by scheduling this date in your calendar.

Most importantly, remember to always honor and take care of the two primary people in a relationship before even dreaming of figuring out how to find a third person for a threesome. Take the time to ensure your cups are both full, overflowing with deep intimacy and passionate desire. From this point with a delicious meal of your connection already prepared, a threesome experience can be a truly conscious expansion that adds some spice to your relationship.

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