The arrangement can backfire if a couple isn't on the same page. Here’s how to tell if you are.

Anthea Levi
December 11, 2017

Having a threesome can be an exciting way to turn up the heat in the bedroom. It’s different. It’s edgy. And since you’re doing it with your significant other, you’re still having sex with the one you love.

But jumping between the sheets with a third party isn’t as simple as it sounds—and if you aren't truly comfortable with it or fail to stick to ground rules, the experience can put a major dent in your relationship. To help you figure out if you and your significant other are ready to give it a try, we asked sex and relationship experts to weigh in on the crucial questions couples must have answers for.

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Am I having a threesome because I want to—or because my partner wants me to?

Nothing is more important than making sure the desire to have a threesome is mutual. “The first question you need to ask is whether both people in the couple are entering this wholeheartedly,” says Stephen Snyder, MD, New York City–based sex therapist and author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Term Relationship ($17, ).

Like any kind of sexual activity, threesomes can potentially shift things in your relationship. Your partner might catch feelings for the third person; you might become jealous. If you're not 100% on board, you might not be ready for any fallout. It's also important to figure out if your partner is pressuring you into doing it. That's never okay, and it can be a sign that your relationship in general isn't healthy.

“If you can’t answer this question in the affirmative, then you’d just be going through the motions with a threesome,” says Dr. Snyder. “And sex should never just be about going through the motions.”

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What do I want to get out of the experience?

Identifying your motivation to hook up with two people will help you approach it the right way, says Marissa Nelson, licensed sex and relationship therapist and founder of Intimacy Moons couples retreats. “Do you see the experience as a safe place to explore same-sex play? An opportunity for you and your partner to dip your toes into opening up the boundaries of your relationship to include others?”

Having a clear understanding of what you both want to get out of the experience will enhance the threesome and help ensure that your needs are met, says Nelson. If you're not actually sure why you want to do it, hit pause until you have a clearer idea.

What's allowed during the threesome?

Threesomes have the power to bring a couple closer together if they are open and honest about what they want to happen sexually; it's a shared experience that can bond you two and add some spice to your sex life. That said, they can also leave partners feeling wounded if one crosses a boundary with the third party and the other feels excluded.

Though it's not always easy to talk out the sexual specifics, setting clear ground rules about what's allowed and what isn't will make it more enjoyable. “Have an honest conversation about what may trigger you, whether it’s certain sexual acts or lines that shouldn’t be crossed,” advises Nelson. “Being on the same page as your partner clears the path to a more transparent, intimate, and erotic experience.”

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Is our sexual relationship solid enough to handle it?

A threesome should be an enhancement to a good sexual relationship, not a fix for a bad one. “If a couple is satisfied with their sexual relationship and feels good about it, but they just can’t stand the thought of dying without having had a threesome, then go for it,” says Dr. Snyder. “But if your sexual relationship isn’t in good shape, don’t expect adding a third person to put you on better sexual footing.” 

Do we trust this third person?

Be mindful of who you welcome into your bedroom, especially if you and your partner intend to keep the threesome under wraps. “Choose someone you feel safe and comfortable with,” says Nelson. “But if you want to keep the experience private, you may want to select someone who is not in your immediate friend circle.” Above all, be sure they can be trusted to respect your relationship. And they should also be someone you know will play it safe when it comes to birth control and STD prevention.

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How will the third person fit into our relationship?

Some threesomes are one-shot deals; others are about bringing a specific person into a regular activity. Sit down with your partner to discuss where you see that third party fitting into your relationship, if at all. The arrangement can evolve in time, but everyone should be clear from the get-go.

That includes the third party too. Couples entering a threesome often don't consider what the solo partner expects to get out of it. Once you know where you and your SO stand, talk it out with the other person to find out what they expect. When couples don't do this, their needs get prioritized over the third person's needs,  says Dr. Snyder. “Yet for most of us, sex touches deeply into our feelings and sense of ourselves, and presumably that’s true of the third person as well,” he says. Be prepared to consider the newcomer’s needs too.

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