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How do I get my girlfriend comfortable with the idea of a threesome?

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muskate23 asks:

Me and my GF have been going out for about a year and I want to get her comfortable with us bringing in another girl, but I don't know how to approach her about it. I don't know what I should say to get her comfortable. I don't want to sound as if I want another girl, I just want to try something new.

Heather Corinna replies:

If you want to have any kind of sex with another woman, even together, than it's not honest to say you don't want another woman. You clearly do. As well, another partner is a person: not a sex toy, not an object, not some new "thing."

So, for everyone's sake -- particularly for that other person, because feeling like someone else's mere experiment can seriously suck -- it's really important that you recognize that a secondary or one-time partner is no less a whole person than a primary partner is. As with anything else sexual, particularly when someone besides yourself is involved, honesty and truthfulness is important. If you are considering adding an additional partner, and want it to have a chance at being healthy for anyone and everyone involved, you've got to be forthright and both own that desire and treat that other person, in all things, as another person, not as a sexual activity or novelty.

In other words, you DO want another woman. I'd say that if you can't even talk about it from that vantage point yet that it's probably not something you're at a point to even discuss now, let alone consider doing.

If you can talk about it that openly and plainly, what you can do is start by voicing your own desires, rather than seeking to influence hers. You can talk about what you're interested in, why you feel interested in that, and what you think that might have to offer you personally, your girlfriend, and your relationship.

What you can't do, if you're treating a partner with love and respect, is "make" your partner comfortable with something that she doesn't also want herself, and isn't okay with without some special spin. Has she expressed any interest in adding another partner at any point yet because that's something she wants for herself? Is she even attracted to other women? If she has expressed those interests, is there someone specific you're asking about (after all, we're not just going to usually be okay with having sex with whoever just happens along, so the who of this matters)? If so, how does she feels about that person and sex with that person? How does she feel about your relationship right now, and if she's secure enough in it -- or, alternately, casual enough about it -- to add another sexual partner?

Put the shoe on the other foot. Since you suggest adding another woman, I'm going to make an assumption that you don't have interest in adding an extra male partner. Can you see how, if that's something she wanted, it would be pretty uncool for her to try and make you comfortable with the idea of, or actual, sex with another man just because she wanted to try something new? And please understand, in the case that you're male and have a relatively common idea that somehow women sleeping with women is less real, or still somehow 100% heterosexual, that that idea is false and also pretty disrespectful of women, whose sexuality is just as real and whole as it is when women have male partners or no partner at all. Women sleeping with women is no more or less weighty or real than men having sex with men. Women having sex with women when a man is around also doesn't mean that the sex they are having is really all about men somehow, either, another recently common and equally flawed idea.

Adding a second partner, even casually, even just once, tends to be a pretty big step in a relationship, and one that can be really challenging in many ways, even for couples who benefit from it and enjoy secondary partners. (Understand, too, that even for couples where there are secondary partners and it works, many of those people aren't having sex together, but separately.) Having one partner is complicated enough: having more than one tends to be even more so, especially when at least one of the relationships between all of you is a serious one where your hearts are on the line.

For starters, not everyone wants more than one partner, either regularly or occasionally, and not everyone feels okay with that. How does your partner feel about monogamy and nonmonogamy?

Secondary partnership also requires good sexual communication and negotiation skills: how are you two doing with that all by yourselves at this point? Good enough to be able to negotiate something like this together and be sure both of you felt completely free to voice desires and limits and boundaries without caving under pressure from the other? Good enough to be able to negotiate that way with someone else? How are your safer sex skills: have you both already been good enough about latex barriers and testing to know that both using barriers with another partner would be easy, and that you could keep up with the extra testing you'd need afterward? If you've been together long enough to stop using condoms and other latex barriers, and you both okay with needing to use them again for at least six months after adding another partner? How are you two with working through hurt feelings or conflicts together: when something goes wrong with your relationship, do you manage it well together?

I don't know of any studies done yet on young adult relationships and threesomes. But what I can tell you is what I've personally observed in the ten years I've worked with young adults and sexuality. I'd say that for the most part, most teen relationships don't seem at a point, or of a flavor, where adding another partner tends to go very well. That isn't to say it can't go well, or that it hasn't for some, but that when teens have discussed these kinds of situations here, they have usually expressed less than satisfactory results.

I'd say, based on my observations, that most typically is because it's either something one partner strongly wants, and another just goes along with when they really don't, or because one or both partners -- including the one who initiated the idea in the first place -- find that their fantasy of three-partner sex and the reality of three partner sex are radically different. For the most part, threesomes in real life don't look like threesomes in porn, sexually or -- even more so -- emotionally and interpersonally. The fantasy of a threesome rarely includes some common or possible realities.

For example, while the idea of your girlfriend getting it on with another girl may well be very sexy and arousing to you, how might you feel if it turns out the two of them are way more interested in each other than in you, to the point that they don't even want you involved in what they're doing at a certain point? What about if you discover that, in the middle of the sex, you don't feel comfortable like you thought you would, but they do? How about if your girlfriend or the other girls ends up getting really upset in the middle of things? What if, rather than bringing you and your girlfriend closer, this kind of sex ends up pushing you apart? Heck, if you're male, what if an unwanted pregnancy occurs with the other female partner: how might your relationship weather that? What of one of you winds up with a sexually transmitted infection?

Here's what I suggest. You asking this, and in the way you have, gives me the impression that you already know or have the feeling this isn't something she wants or will be comfortable with. If that's the case, trust that feeling. And, if this, or women, period, isn't something your girlfriend has expressed any kind of interest in, or you don't feel like your relationship (or you, or she) is at a point where, even if the interest is there, this is likely to be something you two can handle and which will benefit you, just keep this fantasy in your head for now. You can bring it to the sex you two have together by fantasizing about it: that poses no risks to anyone, nor does it require anything extra from either of you that sex together doesn't require already. You can also explore this fantasy with your own masturbation. Who knows, maybe this is an experience your girlfriend or another partner later on in your life will have interest in in time. Just because one partner isn't into something we desire, or isn't right now, doesn't mean this will be your only opportunity.

If you feel like you two should try some new things, you can say that, and see what both of you come up with together that you both have interest in. Adding another partner, after all, certainly isn't the only new thing one can try sexually, or the only way to put a spark in a sex life. It's entirely likely you two can find some new things to do where neither of you has to persuade the other to come around to your desires which they don't also share.

By all means, if you do think she might have interest in this -- rather than thinking you'll need to persuade her -- then voice this desire and talk about it: see what she says. Do both of you a favor and make clear there isn't a deadline on this. If we ask someone to think about something, and want to assure they can really do that, rather than feel pressured, we've got to allow them whatever time they need to think about it. She may want to think about it for a few weeks, a few months, maybe a few years. That has to be okay with you, and she's got to know that. She's also got to know that whatever conclusions she reaches -- even if that means her nixing the idea -- are alright by you.

And again, be sure not to cloak it by pretending you're not interested in another woman or not interested in sex with someone else, you are. It's okay to have that interest or that desire: no one can realistically expect a partner to have zero sexual interest in anyone else. All we can expect is for a partner to honor the boundaries of our relationships we've both agreed to in terms of how they do or do not act on those desires. And do be sure to come to the conversation it in a way where you are both recognizing the complete personhood of an additional partner, not where either of you pretends she's a toy or less important than either of you are.

If and when you are going to add another partner to a relationship, to do the best you can to have it go well for everyone, you've just got to be sure you are all really, truly, on the same page with all of it, so everyone involved need to be totally honest to assure that. What you don't want, and what is likely to assure it does not go well, is for a partner to agree to one thing when something else is going on, or agree to something only when it's presented in a misleading way in order for you to get what you want.

Here are some additional links for you to take a look at, no matter what you choose to do:

written 15 Oct 2008 . updated 18 Jan 2009

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