Here’s what you need to know to protect your relationship and enjoy the ride.

By Dr. Jenn Mann
Updated Jun 24, 2020 @ 2:30 pm
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DEAR DR. JENN,

My boyfriend suggested a threesome with a third woman. I’ve always been curious, so I’m game. But I’m also nervous about hurting the relationship if things go awry. How can we prepare for — and avoid — that? —XXX

DEAR XXX,

Threesomes are an extremely common fantasy, especially for men, and more and more women are feeling the pull, too. However, despite this desire, according to a 2017 study, only 10 percent of women and 18 percent of men have engaged in a threesome.

If you fall into the group that has always thought about a threesome but has yet to turn the fantasy into a reality, read on for my essential rules for having a successful first threesome.

1. First, think about why you want to have a threesome.

I need to state a disclaimer: I don't recommend threesomes for couples in committed relationships. I'm all for them for people in casual, non-committed relationships, or situationships. But as a relationship therapist, I care most about the long-term impact on the couple dynamic, which leaves me with several concerns.

First, if the threesome idea was sparked by boredom in the bedroom, bringing a new person into the mix disincentives you from putting energy and creativity into your sex life with your partner. You’re no longer working to up your game and figure out new fantasies to explore, techniques to try, and preferences your partner may have that you haven’t yet probed. While a threesome may be exciting initially, it does not solve the longer-term issue of how to keep things fresh and become a better lover.

I have also seen way too many jealousy issues arise and emotional bonds form as a result of what was supposed to be meaningless sex. Sometimes, people who have a hard time with emotional intimacy find it hard to maintain sexual interest in their long-term partner; for them, opening the relationship to other people is an ineffective Band-Air and can stunt personal growth.

2. When Choosing a Partner, Don’t Make the Fatal Mistake

When it comes to picking a third, many couples gravitate to someone they know. This is a huge mistake. Inviting someone into the bedroom who one or both of you already have an emotional bond with makes it more likely that someone will have feelings or someone will get their feelings hurt.

Picking up strangers at bars can be tricky can also be tricky. Fortunately, there are many apps, like Thrinder and Feeld, designed specifically to help you out. Once you both agree on a potential partner, I recommend meeting her for an IRL “date” before inviting her straight to bed, so you can make sure she’s true to her photo, test the chemistry, and see how it feels to take the next step.

With that said, now more than ever, it's important to consider safety when it comes to who you are bringing into your bed...

3. Put Safety First

There's a lot we don't know right now about coronavirus and sex. However, we do know that health experts and local governments are recommending limiting close contact — including sex — with anyone outside your household to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you do have sex with others outside of your household, the current advice is to have as few partners as possible and pick partners you trust. It's also important to talk about COVID-19 risk factors beforehand.

If you do feel comfortable moving forward, there are other safety measures to consider. First up: Birth control. You should talk about birth control with your partner and your guest star before the big event. Make sure that if your boyfriend is wearing a condom he does not double-dip. Check that everyone involved has a clean bill of health and establish in advance with your partner whether there will be any exchanging of bodily fluids. Limiting drugs and alcohol prevent things from getting out of control and makes it easier for everyone to keep their agreements.

4. Make a Sex Act Checklist

Some couples make a no penetration rule. Others embrace a watch-but-don’t-touch philosophy. For other couples, it's about limiting intimacy during the threesome experience and focusing solely on sex, aka no kissing or cuddling. However you feel, it's important to go over every possible sexual scenario together and talk about what is off-limits and what is acceptable. Just because you are all getting naked together does not mean that it is a no holds barred sexual experience. Physical rules should be established upfront in order for this to be an emotionally safe experience.

5. State Your Fears

Communication is key when bringing a third party into the mix. You both must be skilled talking about delicate topics, and be willing to share any concerns or fears in advance. Find out what your boyfriend’s expectations of the event are and share yours. If during this conversation you discover that one of you isn't fully on board or enthusiastic about the idea, it's best not to move forward. A threesome should never be about doing something solely for your partner's pleasure or 'taking one for the team'.

6. Pick a Safety Word

The moment one person becomes uncomfortable, they should have the right to end the threesome, no questions asked. One way to do this is by creating a safety word with your boyfriend. This is something that either of you can say that indicates that you’re no longer feeling comfortable with the situation. Discuss in advance that this may be a real possibility that neither partner can roll their eyes at.

7. Follow the Leader

It can also be helpful to discuss who will lead in this sexual dance that you will be doing. Who’s going to be the person to initiate physical activity with your new partner? Who is going to politely end things if that’s what it comes to? It may seem un-sexy, but talking all of these logistics through in advance can make sure things go smoothly once you bring in a third person.

8. Establish Relationship Boundaries

Ahead of time, set explicit boundaries about staying in contact before, during, and after the threesome. Is it OK for you or your boyfriend to text the other woman without their partner knowing? How do you want to handle things after the event is over? Is she invited to spend the night? Are you having breakfast together in the morning? Are you hoping to escort her out ASAP? Most couples find it helpful to say a kind goodbye to the third party relatively quickly and find time to connect with one another.

It's also important to be clear on whether or not this is a one-time thing or if either of you is hoping to have this be a regular activity and, if so, with the same person every time. Stay true to these commitments. All too often people get slippery about the agreements they make, develop bonds with the non-primary partner, become jealous, or hurt each other’s feelings.

9. Talk to the Newcomer

While all of these tips are about protecting your relationship with your partner, be sure to discuss expectations, boundaries, and protocol with the newcomer, too. They also have the right to bow out if they feel uncomfortable at any point. You all need to be on the same page in order for everyone to feel respected and have a good time.

In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.