James W. Hicks, M.D.

Embarking on a Threesome

In Flexercises on July 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

You realize that you’re attracted to both men and women, but you’re already in a straight relationship. What do you do? You could have a sexual experience on the side, as about one in four men and one in five women do at some point during their marriages, but this poses both ethical and practical problems. Rather than keeping secrets from your partner, wouldn’t it be better to explore your options together?

A declaration of bisexuality by one person in a couple poses some problems. First, your partner may be upset that you are interested in having sex with anyone else, regardless of their gender. Second, your partner may hold one of many stereotypes about bisexuality and fear that you are really gay, or at least confused, and that your love and desire were never genuine. Your partner may become outraged, allege that you are having an affair, suspect that you have concealed prior homosexual experiences, and conclude that the two of you are incompatible.

That is not a desirable outcome, though it is a risk you may be willing to take, as an alternative to having an affair or leaving important feelings unexplored for the rest of your life.

It is best to raise the topic of your sexual feelings cautiously in order to gauge how your partner will react. You can mention bisexuality in general, ask your partner about his or her prior feelings and experiences with the same sex, make reference to mutual friends or family who have come out as gay or bisexual, explore his or her interest in having a threesome (with the combinations of genders you think he or she would prefer), and gradually reveal your own curiosity. You may find it helpful to first introduce role-playing, fantasies, or pornography with bisexual themes into your love making, to prime his or her sexual interest. Or ask your partner to take the Flexuality Test.

Your partner’s reaction may surprise you. Some may be relieved that you’ve broached a topic that has been on their mind. Perhaps he or she has always wanted to try a threesome but has been afraid to say so. Some may have never considered it but become sexually excited at the possibility. Many men would enjoy having sex with two women, and many women would enjoy having sex with two men, so long as they are confident in the stability of your relationship.

Rather than feeling deceived, your partner may feel that your disclosure is a sign of your trust and commitment to a growing and deepening relationship. Relationships can evolve, just as people do, and this may introduce an exciting change. A positive outcome is more likely if your partner is open-minded about sex to begin with and has some understanding that bisexual desires are commonplace and natural, not deviant and rare.

On the other hand, you both need to be realistic about the risks of opening up your relationship, such as jealous reactions, falling in love with a mutual partner, or starting down a slippery slope away from sexual commitment.

Finding a partner can also be a challenge, though you may have someone in mind. You may be able to pick someone up at a bar or on a cruising Web site, some of which allow you to set up a profile as a couple. If you are trying to pick up a stranger, one or the other of you may serve as bait, flirting and then explaining the situation to the man or woman whose interest you have captured. If you want to invite a friend into bed, do so cautiously. Even close friends may be shocked to discover that you have sexual designs on them. Explore your friends’ attitudes towards sexual practices and swinging before you pop the question. Don’t assume that they anticipate or share your interest.

Once you work things out with a stranger or friend, keep in mind that you may have different preconceptions or desires in terms of who will be doing what to whom. You may want to establish ground rules with your partner ahead of time, and you may want to explain your preferences to the third party and establish his or her expectations before you get into bed. But that can also have a chilling effect and reduce the spontaneity and excitement that are a part of love making. I recommend keeping the discussion to a minimum, but be mindful of any discomfort or pleasure that arises. You might enjoy things you hadn’t anticipated trying.

What if you’re in a gay or lesbian relationship and want to explore your heterosexual side? The same principles apply, as with a straight couple, and the same risks. A gay or lesbian partner may be more understanding, if only because he or she is likely to have had prior heterosexual experiences. On the other hand, after struggling to come out and come to terms with a minority sexual identity and battling homophobia, your partner may be upset that you are contemplating sliding back to the majority. Your expression of opposite-sex desire may feel like a slap in the face and trigger feelings of abandonment, especially since many gay couples feel particularly fortunate to have discovered each other and to have built a relationship against the odds.

  1. 159 readers of my original blog took a quick poll, and half indicated that they had been in a threesome. The other half had not.

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