So, you know me but some privacy is much appreciated <3.
I love reading you so I hope to hear back one day.
I am in an amazing relationship right now with the most wonderful guy I’ve had the chance to be with and you know him. We are 25 years apart but it feels like none most of the time. I write you here because for a couple of months I’ve wondered and would like to try out James* and I having a boyfriend. There are so many aspects of that and the topic is so complex I don’t even know where to start and what seems to be appropriate and whatnot. I talk to James about it and he is not avoiding it but he is afraid we would lose what we both have because we are really happy. He’s also contemplated the idea and he’d like very much to try it out too. I don’t know what the future holds but there are these two guys I know we both like but nothing has happened yet sexually or emotionally. I am excited waiting for it. I’d like to know your opinion, thoughts, dos and don’ts. And again thank you for your amazing writing. It makes me feel understood and not alone.
*Name has been changed.
That is so kind. Thank you for trusting me with the intimacies of your relationship. Discretion is an automatic courtesy on this blog. (Full disclosure for my readers: this question is from a friend, someone I know.)
The fact that you have the honesty and communication skills to talk about this means you’re already in a good spot. Having this conversation would be threatening and uncomfortable for many couples. As comfortable as you or I may be with the idea of a triad and with polyamory, many find it scary. Most of us were raised by two monogamous (or seemingly monogamous) parents. Most of us were taught the rule that you pick one person for life — one, not two, and certainly not more than two.
But triads (what some call “throuples”) are very possible, and I’ve seen some triad relationships unfold beautifully. I have only ever seen successful triads among gay men, but I’m sure there are triad hetero relationships out there. It’s a big world.
You’re asking for dos and don’ts. Since I normally write in numbered lists for my column in The Advocate, I’ll present a numbered list here.
You’re a gay couple, so I’m writing this for you, but these pointers apply to any couple composed of any genders (or no genders) who are considering a three-way relationship.
1. Do expect your relationship with your current boyfriend to change.
Most of us are indoctrinated into relationships believing “starvation economy” myths — the idea that there’s not enough love or enough sex to go around, so we have to vie for love and beat others out. For this reason, most of us get jealous and threatened when our partner notices someone else, or seems to be interested in someone else. We fear that we’re about to get “beaten” by someone else, that our sliver of the pie is about to be lost to someone who must have an edge over us in the competition, whether that “edge” is better looks or a better body or better sex skills.
The truth is, there is no competition. There is no limited pie of love. There is enough love (and enough sex) for everyone, so long as we let go of this sense of possessiveness and allow the people we love to be shared with others who may love and enjoy them too. Other people loving and enjoying your partner doesn’t cheapen, negate, or diminish the connection you have with him. He can hunt the world and never find another person exactly like you. You are a unique individual with unique things that make you laugh and your own unique sexual experience. Your partner should love all that stuff and understand that even if he’s fucking other people, he’ll never replace the unique experience of being with you.
That said, once you and your current partner start dating someone else, your relationship now has a third experience to contend with, one that becomes part of your collective experience. As with all the experiences you share together, this one may change you. You won’t be the exact same boyfriends you were before. That may seem scary, but it may also reveal beautiful truths about each other and character traits you never saw before. It may make you love him even more.
2. Don’t expect two identical relationships.
The relationship with your current boyfriend will not be the same relationship you have with your third. You and your boyfriend have a history. You and he will be closer in many respects than you will be with this new guy, at least in the beginning.
This new guy won’t have identical relationships with both of you. He may get closer and move faster with your partner first. You may feel you’re doing something wrong. People grow and develop and date at different speeds. Don’t expect your relationships with him to happen at the same speed or same intensity.
3. Start casually.
It’s a tall order to say “hey, we’re going to have a three-way relationship.” Triads (“throuples”) are daunting.
Don’t force it. Keep it casual. Many gay couples have a casual sexual playmate they occasionally take home. That playmate may become a fuck friend, then a really good fuck friend, then a come-over-and-cuddle fuck friend. Doing this makes the transition to the question “Should we all just date?” feel more natural.
4. Before you do this, feel certain that you can tell your partner anything without repercussion.
If you feel confident you can communicate with your partner about anything without coming to an automatic fight, you’re ready.
You will still have fights and disagreements. Good communication doesn’t mean problems don’t pop up from time to time. Good communication skills simply mean you are able to work through them without attacking, demeaning, or ignoring each other. You face them head-on with as much patience as you can muster, listen as attentively as you can, speak your feelings without blaming or accusing, and work for a resolution.
5. Kinky people are good at pack relationships. Seek them out for advice.
If you want to meet many more triad (and foursome, and five-some, and more-some) relationships, look to the leather community. I have seen more successful triads form in kinky, dominant/submissive relationships than anywhere else.
These setups have always existed among kinky people, perhaps because we’re so comfortable challenging paradigms in sex that it’s a natural extension to challenge them in dating. Two daddies collar a pup who becomes an important long-term partner in both their lives. Many couples have a daddy or sir to one or both of them, who becomes a long-term fixture in their relationship.
Here’s just one example. You’re in a relationship with your boyfriend and you love him and you have great sex, but you’ve always wanted to get trained as a BDSM submissive. Your boyfriend is cool with that, but he’s not very dominant. So you seek a sir and you start having training BDSM sessions with him. At some point, your sir meets your boyfriend, and they hit it off. Sure, your boyfriend may not be into d/s (dominant/submissive) stuff, but he likes to watch. He finds other ways to click with your sir — even sexual ones — and suddenly you are slipping into a triad. After a few years, you discover that you yourself have a dominant side, and you find a boy, who you and your partner both enjoy, and he gets close to you, and suddenly there’s another added member, and you’re starting to develop a leather family, a pack, a group of men who love and enjoy each other with no jealousy or overt sense of possessiveness at all.
This is a common story in kink. Kinksters are polyamory pros. Seek help in your fetish family.
6. Don’t have a triad just to have a triad.
Many people think triads are sexy, but they’re a lot of work. Having one for the sake of having one is a bad idea. This third person is not going to fix any relationship issues you guys may have. He’s not going to be a sex cure or a fight referee. In triads, emotions that have to be managed with empathy and understanding, although the same can be said of any relationship.
Those are the six basic tips I have. If you’re interested in this guy, talk about it more, and see if you’re both ready to at least plan a playdate. Good luck.
Above: Photo by Tom Bianchi.