Your 8-step guide to having a healthy threesome, from couples who swear by it


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“It’s made us better communicators, lovers, and partners,” Liz* tells me. She’s not referencing a choice to try couples’ counseling or get a puppy together or another typical, mainstream marker of relationship-building and -boosting strategies. Rather, she’s talking about bringing a third person into bed.

While she’s always been interested in threesomes, Liz, a 24-year-old bisexual, cisgender woman, says she never knew how to broach the subject with past partners, so she would go about it in a joking way. But when she joked about it with her current partner, Tucker, a 32-year-old cisgender, heterosexual man, he didn’t laugh it off. Instead he asked if that’s something she’d be interested in exploring together. She said yes, and now they’ve been having regular threesomes for almost as long as the two years they’ve been together.

Liz and Tucker are part of a growing number of couples who are expanding beyond traditional monogamy to create a relationship structure that works best for them. “A lot of couples, including those who identify as monogamous, are interested in exploring threesomes,” says pleasure-based sex educator and sex-positivity advocate Lateef Taylor.

“A lot of couples, including those who identify as monogamous, are interested in exploring threesomes.” —sex educator Lateef Taylor

One survey of more than 4,000 Americans, analyzed in Tell Me What You Want by sex educator Justin Lehmiller, PhD, nods to that fact. In his research, Dr. Lehmiller found group sex and threesomes to be the most common sexual fantasy for Americans, with less than 5 percent of men and 13 percent of women claiming to have never fantasized about it. However, only 14 percent of Americans report having ever actually had a threesome.

Given this disconnect between fantasy and fruition, it stands to reason that a number of people are curious to try group sex but aren’t sure how or where to start. That’s where Taylor and two couples who regularly engage in it come in. Below, find your guide for how to have a threesome, informed by real people who have group sex regularly.

Confused about how to have a threesome? Find your 8-step guide below.

1. Figure out your “why”

“The only reason to have a threesome is because you and your partner both want to have a threesome,” says Nova*, a trans woman in her twenties who regularly has threesomes with her partner, Rachel*, also a trans woman in her twenties. So what threesomes aren’t, then, is a relationship Band-Aid or a gift of some sort. To make sure your reason for exploring group sex satisfies this rule, identify your why for wanting to have a threesome, including what you’re hoping to get out of it.

Also consider what you want group sex to mean, if anything, for the structure of your relationship. Do you want to continue being romantically and sexually closed to non-monogamy, with the exception of joint threesomes? Or might threesomes be a means for exploring this? (As in, are you interested in group/partnered sex when your partner isn’t present)? Are you interested in a triad or having an ongoing relationship with this person? Are you open to romantic involvement with the third person or do prefer to keep things purely sexual? These are all questions you should be able to answer.

2. Communicate boundaries

Next step: all talk, no action. “You and your partner need to be able to talk openly about what each of you want, what each of you are looking for, and what would make you each feel uncomfortable in the threesome,” says Nova.

Liz and Tucker went about this conversation by making a “Yes, No, Maybe” list, outlining where they felt completely comfortable, where they didn’t, and where they weren’t totally clear. (Jotting down notes on any piece of paper will work, but for guidance, this example—which includes words and activities that can be triggering, birth-control practices, and more—is a good place to start).

And if this pre-action chat make you feel uncomfortable? Consider pausing on the group-sex plans. “If you and your partner struggle with communicating, a threesome is going to put additional strain and stress on your relationship,” says Nova.

3. Find your third

Everyone has different preferences regarding this point: Nova and Rachel only have group sex with other trans women who are also their friends. Liz and Tucker only have threesomes with, as Liz puts it, “women who are acquaintances, but not my best friends.” But, there’s no right answer here.

Maybe you only want to have threesomes with strangers. Or with people visiting your city on vacation. Or with people in other cities while you’re on vacation. “There are pros and cons to strangers, acquaintances, friends, and best friends.” says Liz. “Tucker and I had to figure out who might best for us, and I’d recommend anyone planning a threesome to do the same.”

4. Figure out logistics

For Liz and Tucker, sex parties and sexually liberal atmospheres have proven to be great places for living out their fantasies. For Nova and Rachel, it’s more of a when-the-opportunity-arises type of thing among their friend group.

Another option? Using a dating app. Ideally, it’s an app that’s geared toward threesomes and group sex, like FetLife or Feeld. (If you use a mainstream option like Tinder or OkCupid, make very clear that you’re a couple looking for a third. The swiping singles who aren’t interested in threesomes will appreciate it.)

5. Establish boundaries, rules, and safer sex practices with the third

You’ve talked to your partner about your boundaries. Now, it’s time to loop in the third and learn about their boundaries. What’s off-limits? What is the protection plan? Is kissing okay? How about pegging or kink? Come up with a safe word, or establish that you’re going to use the consent traffic light. There’s no such thing as being too detailed here.

Also, make sure to have a sexual-health check-in: “You need to know your own STI-status, talk to the person you’re inviting into bed about their sexual-health status, and come up with safe-sex plan before the clothes start coming off,” says Taylor.

6. Stick to the rules, but be adaptable

Ongoing consent is imperative for pleasurable, healthy sex with any number of people. That means the communication must also being ongoing, even once things start heating up.

For example, even if you thought you’d be okay with your partner penetrating the third’s mouth, maybe you changed your mind in the midst of the action and now have a bad feeling about it. If this is the case, say so—and as soon as you feel this way. Or, let’s say you thought you’d be excited to explore your foot fetish within this threesome dynamic, but now the prospect feels uncomfortable. Just press pause. You can always talk things through, regroup, and then restart when everyone’s comfortable and on the same page.

7. Have a postmortem chat

“Tucker and I have some serious post-game analyses the next morning,” says Liz. “We originally said it would be okay to have a sleepover with the third, but the next morning when we woke up, we both felt weird about it.” So, they talked through those feelings and established new rules for the next time.

This is also a great time to address any jealousy that may cropped up. “It’s normal to feel jealous, and it gets easier to manage the more you learn what’s making you jealous,” says Nova. “What’s important is that you talk about the feeling with your partner.”

8. Do it again

“Threesomes have given me and my partner so so much,” says Nova. “They’ve been so affirming for us as trans women, they’ve exposed us to new ways to engage with each other sexually, and they’ve made us closer emotionally.” If you and your partner feel the same might be true after your first threesome, why not try it again?

*Names have been changed

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