A threesome is the most common sexual fantasy among Americans – as well as maybe the most misunderstood. — Read the article on The Guardian.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Welcome back. There is a ton to unpack here. Today though I want to focus on the understanding of the journalist. While Ms. Hunt seems to have researched the definitions, she hasn’t caught on to the nuances, it seems, of what exactly is ethical non-monogamy. or at least not objectively. She presents differing points of view, but definitely weighs more heavily toward the “problem experience” while not exactly delving into why the experiences are often problematic.
Briefly she addresses a “stigma” of polyamory, stating a non-sexual love/intimacy definition of it is only “marginally” more accepted than the sexual one.
The problem — and I think a problem with many who start from a monogamist point of view — is that polyamory works from a completely non-monogamous paradigm. You can’t actually discuss it effectively in terms used by monogamy culture. The experience is wholly different and has created a thoroughly different language. It’s the difference between speaking Greek as a native, and learning to speak Greek as a student in school. You can practice conversations in Greek, use common phrasing, but the dynamic is utterly foreign until you understand the culture that birthed the Greek language. Language is as much an expression of culture as it is a form of communication.
Accurate and effective communication is at the heart of how non-monogamy (and even monogamy) fails or succeeds. You have to begin from the right paradigm or context. It’s sort of like word order in a sentence. Say something out of order and the recipient might think you’re saying something else entirely. This leads to communication breakdown.
Ms. Hunt points out in the example she uses that the female partner left “Matt” and the new woman alone for a bit to get their own dynamic going. At least that’s what he realized after the fact. But the female partner didn’t communicate that expectation beforehand, so in the moment, Matt just felt he was left floundering. So was the other woman. There’s no indication of the manner in which the two females discussed and agreed to the evening’s progress. That was probably more properly poly dynamic and if properly journalistic in her approach Ms. Hunt should have investigated a way to get that other side. Instead she focused on the floundering, the guessing, the uncertainty. And the fact that Matt never tried it again. Certainly not a balanced perspective for an article as polyamorous relationships, particularly triads/threesomes, are a growing dynamic of many relationships, and not just in the 40+ age group.
Here’s some “counsel” for the threesome on how they might have done it better. See if you agree:
Communicate your intentions clearly
“Why don’t you two talk for a bit while I get us something to drink?” is a simple transition. It communicates that you want people to get to know one another and you don’t intend to be in the way of them forming some sort of “working” relationship that doesn’t have you in the picture. That’s what a polyamorous dynamic is: creating multiple, separate intimate relationships that progress independently of one another.
Wanting to have sex with more than one partner is a fantasy, yep, but consensual sex inherently requires relationship, even if it’s just the openness to express desires.
So if Matt’s partner had started with her intentions clearly, the experience might have gone better.
Communicate your expectations clearly
A threesome is not something to surprise someone with. Before you go seeking, if you have a primary partner, you should openly establish both fantasies and expectations, limitations and what you’re willing to do/try. And when you think you’ve found a prospective partner, be up front — both of you — with this new person with what you’ve already discussed.
The conversation could have begun not in the ladies room between the two ladies only but continued at the restaurant table with some conversation about expectations for the rest of the evening.
The fact that the other woman appeared disappointed that she wouldn’t be staying over again communicates that there were expectations never expressed between the three. If you feel inhibited to communicate your desires, you are going to be inhibited during sex — because the brain is the biggest sex organ.
Listen to what is being said
and reflect it back to make sure you understand. This might sound like a very “talky” approach and “unsexy” but polyamory really is more about the relationship than the sex. But I definitely think open communication and informed consent are vital components for any type of relationship to succeed.
Finally – practice communicating
Ms. Hunt is correct. Many couples seek a third person to “spice” up their sex life. But if the communication isn’t healthy between two, it won’t improve between three. So practice with your current partner on how to express your sexual and non-sexual desires, wants, and needs. Practice listening and reflecting back what you understand your partner’s saying. Then act on what you learn.
Whether or not there ends up being another person in your bedroom, I can promise you will find your relationship enriched.
Note: This post marks the first I’ve officially categorized as ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, and/or swinging, because I’m not talking here about writing or editing or even LGBTQ issues in particular, just the orientation/practices. While I’ve tagged other posts, I’ll go through my archives and categorize any other posts I’ve done that are not primarily about writing these things so they’ll be searchable.