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Sex - Exploration | August 12, 2021, 12:56 CDT

What If I Threw a Threesome and Nobody Came?
Expert secrets on setting up a successful three-way—and making sure everyone has a good time.
Kurtis Bright

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Kurtis Bright
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Illustration by Tré Carden

Anytime you're planning a party or even a small get-together, you can't help but have a little pre-event anxiety. Making sure you have enough snacks might be your first thought. And then…

Do I have enough lube? Are there any nonlatex condoms? Will it be weird to see my girlfriend's college roommate naked? What if Steve's dick is bigger than mine?

Yes, this is a very specific kind of party, known better as a three-way, threesome or ménage à trois. Beyond picking up condoms and veggie chips, there are several considerations to keep in mind when organizing such a shindig.

Why are we here?

Threesomes consistently rank among the top sexual fantasies for both men and women. But accomplishing a smooth transition from fantasy to reality is challenging.

If you're going to take said fantasy outside the dreams of a schoolboy who recently discovered how to erase his browsing history, start with the most basic question of all: What are you doing this for?

No matter what kind of connection you have with the two people you plan to get naked with, you all need to have clear lines of communication.

"Be ready to share what you want from this experience so that you're letting your partner know more than just, 'Oh, I think it would be hot,'" said Rhoda Lipscomb, Ph.D., a licensed sex therapist based in Denver. "What do you hope this will accomplish? Are you wanting to open up the relationship more? Or is it just the fantasy and you've never really [thought] any further than that? That's often the case. People don't really know why they want it, what they want from it, what they think it'll be like afterward or how they think it'll affect the overall relationship."

Set up ground rules

Of course, you could say having a threesome is about expanding your sexual horizons and being adventurous. Nevertheless, it's important to make sure everyone involved has a very clear-eyed understanding of what's on the menu and what's off-limits. Clarity in advance can often help prevent bad feelings after the fact, too.

"It's important to have a conversation," said Heather McPherson, founder of Respark, a couples and sex therapy counseling service based in Texas and Colorado. "A lot of people might feel embarrassed or nervous or silly talking about what might happen, but there are ways that you can talk about your fantasies, about what you'd want to do during this time together. Are there any things that are off the table? Are there any limits? Any things you do want to do, any things you don't want to do?"

Lower your expectations

Fantasizing is fun, but you should have a very grounded sense of reality, too, as opposed to what your inner horny self imagines.

"Sometimes people are so excited about the fantasy, they don't think about the reality," said Lipscomb, author of "No More Hiding: Permission to Love Your Sexual Self." "They have these high expectations about what this is supposed to be like, how it's going to go. It's not going to go like porn. They're not going to have porn bodies or porn genitals."

Deal with the green-eyed monster in advance

Sex therapists note that a threesome leaves a lot of room for someone to feel left out.

Especially if you're part of a couple that's bringing in a third, the potential for jealousy and bad feelings is something to address ahead of time. No matter how open-minded we are, it can sometimes be weird seeing your partner going at it with someone else.

"[Avoiding jealousy] is really about getting on the same page before you walk into the actual event," McPherson said. "Think about yourself. What are some things that you might see that would make you jealous? Also, talk to your partner about how everyone can feel included."

McPherson said people should also be aware of the possibility of getting distracted by the novelty of something new.

"We've got this shiny new toy to play with, and then we forget about everything else," she said. "I think it's helpful to realize that whenever you have that newness, you try not to forget [the other person]. So really keeping that mindful piece, that you want to make sure your partner feels included—that you're touching them, even while you're touching someone else, or you have eye contact or something."

Be thoughtful about how you bring up the idea

Long before bodies get naked and start slipping and sliding into and over one another, you want to think carefully about how you broach the subject of setting up a threesome.

"Some people like to bring it up during sex, so that it's part of [a] fantasy. I don't know that I'd recommend that," said Lipscomb. "Talking about sexual stuff should be done when it's not in the bedroom—when you're not naked and you're not in this vulnerable position. It almost needs to be over coffee or over lunch, in a neutral place."

At the end of the day, a threesome can be a fun, exciting way to spend time with your partner and a friend, or with two entirely new friends. However, you must make sure everyone's on the same page and you communicate clearly. Be aware that focusing on two people at one time might be a bigger chore than you expect.

"Men need to realize that if it's their fantasy to have sex with two different women at the same time, it's a lot more work than they think it's going to be," said Lipscomb. "There's no guarantee both the women are bisexual. Now you've got a lot of work on your hands—otherwise, you're going to have two women you've disappointed."

Kurtis Bright

Written by

Kurtis Bright

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