Adding a Third to Your Relationship

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There are lots of different reasons why a couple might be interested in adding a third person into their relationship. But, successfully doing so can be a challenge. In this article, we’re giving you our top tips for adding a third to your relationship.

The First Step to Adding a Third to Your Relationship: Don’t Do It

Yes, I said it.
Don’t add a third to your relationship.

“But you’ve been in triad relationships before!” you may cry.

You certainly know a lot about my personal life, and you’re right. I’ve been in a number of triads, both MFM and FFM. It wasn’t easy, but I loved it every time. I loved cuddling on the couch, playing video games with a partner on either side of me. I loved taking silly, flirty selfies with one partner to send to the other partner we had in common. And of course, what’s not to love about playful, steamy threesomes?

If it interests you, I highly recommend trying out a three-person relationship.
However, you should never add a third to your relationship.

Feeling confused?
Don’t worry. It all comes down to basic shapes.

couple adding a third person into their relationship

The Triangle and the T

When you imagine a three-person relationship (or triad) it’s easy to picture a triangle. Each side of the triangle is solid, and together they are able to support the weight of the entire structure. The same is true of healthy triad relationships: each “leg” of the triangle has space and support to grow.
Each relationship in the triad may not be totally equal, but each one does need one-on-one time in order to thrive.

More often than not, when a couple seeks to add a third to their relationship, they are aiming for a T-shaped structure rather than a triangle. The established couple acts as a single unit perched at the top, expecting the third to just plug in and complement their relationship as a couple. There are often pre-determined rules surrounding who has sex with whom and how often the third spends time with either member of the couple. It is this imbalanced power dynamic that sabotages the triad before it has even begun.

This is apparent in the very language that many couples use: “We want to find someone who will be our girlfriend.”
Even by saying, “We want to add a third.” there are unsavory implications. The third (never the “first” or even “second”) ends up being added like a trendy accessory. It is unlikely that the couple will ever see the third as an equal player in the relationship with equal decision-making power.

The Third is a Person, Too

When a foundation like the one above crumbles (which it will), many thirds leave the relationship feeling hurt, and like their needs were never met. Thirds in these dynamics often feel as though they are losing their autonomy. All the while, the couple feels frustrated that they can’t find anyone to fit the rigid slot they have crafted up for their third.

“But we would be nice to our third!” you may insist.
I don’t doubt that you would!

Few couples are seeking a third because they want someone to abuse. But remember, you can treat someone like a princess while still keeping her locked in a tower. It’s an uncomfortable realization, but many couples are seeking a third that will be more like a pet than a person. “Play with us, cuddle with us, keep us entertained”, but at the end of the day, it’s clear who’s the boss is.

couple hanging out with their third

How to Add a Third the Right Way

If you and your partner have already been talking about adding a third, where can you go from here? It’s time to ask yourselves some hard questions about what may be motivating your desire to add a third person to your relationship.

  • Are you interested in someone who will be a friend with benefits?
  • Do you want someone who will have a threesome with you?
  • Are you looking for someone to watch you and your partner have sex?
  • Do you want a third so you can have sex with someone while your partner watches?
  • Are you looking for someone who will fulfill a particular sexual fantasy or curiosity?

Remember, it’s not wrong to want any of these things. But, it can get sticky if you’re pursuing the right things through the wrong channels. If you’re mostly just looking for someone to occasionally watch you and your partner have sex, then don’t write that you’re looking for a closed triad relationship on your joint dating profile. That kind of false advertising can and will blow up in your face.

Once you and your partner have gotten to the bottom of what it is you’re actually looking for, it’s time to be honest. If you have a laundry list of kinky fantasies to be fulfilled, there is no shame in sharing them. But you should actually share them.
Whatever it is that you’re interested in, it’s important to keep that communication open, with your current partner and with potential partners as well.

The Litmus Test

By now, you might be saying something like:
“I’ve gone through your list of questions and had lengthy conversations with my partner about this. We really do like the idea of a loving triad relationship. You’re right, T-shapes suck! We love triangles!”

I’m glad you have done the work to figure out what it is that you want! Now it’s time for the litmus test that I give all of my clients who are seeking a triad.

Close your eyes and imagine the ideal third person that would make up your triad.
Now, imagine your current partner going on a date with this third person, but they are heading out the door without you.
Imagine your current partner having sex with this new person, but they are doing it without you.
How does that feel?

It’s important to check in with yourself. What feelings arise?
If the idea of this third person having an independent relationship with your current partner turns your stomach, you may not be ready for a triad relationship.

Final Thoughts

An independently-functioning triad shouldn’t strike terror into your heart. In fact, the healthiest triads I have ever witnessed started organically. The difficult truth is to accept that you can’t force relationships, regardless of their format, into a particular shape. Despite our best intentions and desires, we can end up horribly disappointed or pleasantly surprised by the way our relationships turn out.

Don’t add a third to your relationship. Instead, do the work to figure out what it is you truly want.
Do have difficult, necessary conversations with your partner about what motivates your desires.
Make sure to create space in your life and heart for loving relationships to blossom on their own, whether they are dyads, triads, quads, or a complex polycule of intimate connections.

Members of the SwingTowns Community can discuss this article and its implications on the lifestyle community forum. If you’re not a member, you can sign up today and see what you’re missing.

Dedeker Winston
Dedeker Winston was raised to be a wholesome Christian conservative, but later opted to be a a sex-positive polyamory activist, relationship coach, and nude model. She currently provides one-on-one coaching services for people transitioning into non-monogamy and is one of the hosts of the Multiamory podcast. She has been sought out as an expert for Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Newsweek, Vice, Bustle, and also appeared on the FOX television show Utopia. Her book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know About Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love (Skyhorse Publishing), debuted earlier this year. Please visit Dedeker Winston to learn more.

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