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October 30, 2017

Will a Threesome Ruin My Relationship?

man and two women in bed,women laughing

DR. JESS_SLIDER1_630 x 330This post is brought to you by The Everything to Do With Sex Show. Join Jess at the Toronto show on November 24th-26th. Seminars are included with entry and you can save $5 by pre-purchasing tickets here. Come say hi to Jess at the We-Vibe booth!

Threesomes.  Research suggests that the majority of us have fantasized about having one, but few are willing to take the plunge and actually engage in a three-way session. A recent study revealed that 24% of heterosexual men and 8% of heterosexual women report having had a threesome, which would suggest that either most threesomes (among people who identify as heterosexual) involve two men and one woman or the same women are having threesomes with different men; both of these scenarios seem unlikely and it’s possible (probable?) that men are over-reporting and/or women are under-reporting their experience. However you slice it, the number of people who fantasize about threesomes is far higher than the number of people who actually engage in the act.

This disconnect between fantasy and lived reality is no surprise considering the possible repercussions can be quite intense. From jealous overreactions to the potential for an emotional connection with a new friend, the negative fallouts certainly have the capacity to overshadow the red-hot rewards.

But can a threesome ruin your relationship? I’ve spoked with many (hundreds!) of couples who have had threesomes and I wouldn’t attribute many relationship breakdowns to a menage-a-trois per se. However, there are some related factors intrinsically connected to threesomes than have the potential to contribute to relationship strife and dissolution: dishonest communication, latent feelings of insecurity and partner pressure are just a few of the likely existing relationship issues that can surface after a three-way sex session.

via GIPHY

Dishonest communication involves avoiding the truth about your feelings and/or thoughts. Often, we are not only dishonest with our partners, but also with ourselves. For instance, after a threesome, you may insist that you experienced no jealousy or insecurity whatsoever in order to be perceived as strong or assuage any feelings of guilt on behalf of your lover. I sometimes observe this staunch refusal to acknowledge potentially negative emotions with clients who open up their relationships and it is commonly a warning sign that something is awry. When you care deeply about someone, it is normal to experience some feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Both of these emotions help us to recognize our values, needs, and boundaries and you cannot rid yourself of natural emotions. In fact, it is nearly impossible to control your emotions, but you can alter your thoughts and behaviours which shape both your feelings and the way you respond to a range of feelings.

If you have difficulty admitting that you experience negative emotions or avoid acknowledging feelings that make you feel weak, having a threesome with your lover may exacerbate this problem. In fact, this magnification of behavioural patterns and relationship themes applies across the board after a threesome: take the good, the bad and the ugly in your relationship and you’ll likely find that these elements are augmented (for better or worse) after a passionate experience like a threesome.

Another challenge couples face after a steamy menage-a-trois involves latent feelings of insecurity which can surface during or after an intense experience. Since having a threesome can be sexually, physically and emotionally powerful, our thoughts and feelings often run wild while we process the experience. Most of us can’t help but compare our bodies, technique, and performance with that of a third party and many of us worry that given a taste of novelty, our lover will long for more. Other concerns include fear of emotional attachments and worries that a one-time three-way might desensitize a lover causing an escalation in desire for further non-monogamous exploration. In my experience, most of these concerns can be put to rest with some honest reassurance. In fact, many couples I work with report feeling closer to one another after a threesome, as it was a shared experience in which they genuinely put their partner’s needs ahead of their own. While it is possible that an unintended emotional attachment could flourish as the result of a threesome, this seems to be a rare occurrence.

Based on my experience working with couples, the most common problem that arises as a result of a threesome is the recognition of partnered pressure in the bedroom. Though many couples report having no regrets, those who do often attribute their decision to engage in a threesome to pressure from their partner. In these cases, the emotional toll can be burdensome for both partners as they uncover patterns of sexual pressure that preceded the threesome. While it may seem obvious, it is worth emphasizing that partnered sexual activity should be free from pressure. Not only does pressure detract from sexual pleasure, but coercion (both in and out of the bedroom) can destroy relationships and degrade self-esteem.

If you want your threesome to be a mutually pleasurable experience, you both need to be on the same page. While it is normal for our levels of comfort and enthusiasm to differ from our lovers’,  taking some time to discuss your concerns will help to ensure that you are not pressuring your partner into a situation you may both regret.

Here are a few tips from couples who have experience with threesomes:

“Don’t do it with a friend. Pick someone you don’t know well who won’t show up on your doorstep the next week looking for more.” Ryan, 54.

“Start with a visit to a strip club (male or female) to help gauge your own reactions to seeing your spouse aroused by another person’s body. If you feel jealous, take a step back and reconsider whether a threesome will work for you.” Isabelle, 31.

“We made a list of rules divided into two sections to clarify which sex acts were permissible and which were off limits.” William, 40.

“Finish (orgasm) with your lover. The only time I’ve been overcome with jealousy was when I saw him climax with the other woman.” Lucie, 49.

On its own, a threesome will not ruin your relationship, but it may force communication and sexual challenges to the surface and compel you to tackle them head-on. We all believe that we are excellent communicators, but we all have something to learn and sometimes our bodies, minds, and hearts react in new and surprising ways. This is why sexual communication should be an ongoing process.

And remember, a satisfying sex life is not about bucket lists or living up to cultural standards of what is hot. There is no universal hierarchy of sexual feats that will ward off sexual ennui — monogamy is a viable and appealing option for many couples, so if threesomes don’t appeal to you, rest assured that you’re perfectly normal.

via GIPHY

If you are drawn to the possibility of trying a threesome, my advice is to explore this desire gradually proceed with caution. Don’t just be honest with yourself (and your lover), but go over the worst case scenarios and consider how you might handle an upsetting experience. There are always risks involved in bringing a third party into your bed, so weigh these considerations against the potentially positive outcomes.

Bear in mind that fantasy is almost always hotter than reality and trying to live out a hot three-way scenario can sometimes result in a let-down. In our threesome fantasies, all three tongues, six legs, and thirty fingers work in perfect harmony to create a cauldron of erotic pleasure; in reality, arranging all those limbs, lips and lovers in a queen-sized bed can be a physical challenge even before emotions, egos and performance pressure come into play. So if talking about a threesome and whispering wet, naughty words in your lover’s ear keeps your sex life sizzling hot, don’t be afraid to stop there.

Do you have experience with threesomes? We’d love to hear your stories and advice, so drop us a line!