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Threesomes aren't always a toxic imposition on relationships

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story "Don't Ball the Boss" (inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) was nominated for the Pus...

Women's very real experiences with threesomes will give you a lot to think about

I admit I've spent time thinking about a threesome, but who hasn't? Sexual curiosity is built into our DNA, which is why in my marriage, exploration is always an open topic. Have my husband and I mulled over the threesome quandary? Of course. Have we made a final decision? No.

I recently published a novella called Wolf Among Sheep (Hot Ink Press) in which a fancy married couple invites a gorgeous young man to their marriage bed with disastrous consequences. I suppose the theme of this particular work goes something like, "Have a threesome; end up murdered." So yeah, not the most positive outlook, right?

No matter how much I talk about my sexual openness and bi-curiosity, there is apparently some dark corner of my subconscious that believes threesomes ruin relationships. No matter how much I support my friends who've had threesomes or are currently in polyamorous relationships, I feel as though there's something about me that just waits for bad news.

More: Wives need to let their husbands have relationships with other women

To clarify things in my own brain, and yours, I decided to interview both sides of the coin, from guest stars to established relationship folk, to get a clearer idea of what threesomes really are physically, emotionally and psychologically... and whether the implied pleasure outweighs possible catastrophe.

The guest stars

Andrea ended up sleeping with a married couple because she thought the wife was hot. She said, from the beginning, "None of us were unclear about our intentions. The entire experience revolved around me, and to have two very skilled people focus all their attention my way... Wow. Just wow."

So, indeed, the physical experience was hot, as one might hope, because threesomes should at least be a lot of fun, right? They are a thing of fantasy, written about in men's magazines ad infinitum. However, things went downhill for Andrea and her curious married couple.

"That night was pretty wonderful emotionally, even right afterward. But things changed," she said. "After that, we decided on a repeat performance, then a few more, and they eventually asked me to babysit their kids during the day when I wasn't working, and I'd end up staying the night. From there, it spiraled out of control. I slept in the living room, but the wife became convinced that her husband and I were sneaking around behind her back. This, of course, was not happening, because the only reason I'd decided to join this little love triangle was because I wanted to sleep with her! It was tough for me, emotionally, because what had started out as a fun and positive thing, an honest thing, turned into something weird and distorted and began to feel illicit in the worst way."

More: My husband sleeps with other women — and I'm OK with it

Needless to say, Andrea was soon no longer welcome, but she did come to realize something. She said threesomes are "only for the strongest of relationships. It's just so hard for most people to disconnect sex from emotion, and that's when things go wrong. As a guest star, I think the key is that, if you're going to do it, do it once and get out. Otherwise, things get messy."

Donna, unfortunately, had a very different physical experience as the guest star for a married couple. "Honestly, it was just OK for me," she said. "They were ecstatic and oh so happy and both climaxed. I, annoyingly, did not! Rather disappointing as I was thinking, why bother if I don't even come?"

Despite her own lackluster outcome, she says the couple (who remain her friends) apparently still talk about their threesome and how good it was for them, so at least their fantasy was fulfilled.

Donna contends that being the guest star is really the only way to do a threesome. She said, "If folks want to experiment, I suggest being single, or only being the guest star, and don't expect a happy outcome all the time. I know that if I were in a committed relationship, I wouldn't share with anyone."

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Most importantly, she said, "No one should feel pressured by their partner to do a threesome. It needs to be an honest decision by everyone."

The established relationship

Mark and his wife are polyamorous. They're even moving their guest star into their home this summer. How did it start? "A relationship with a mutual friend organically grew until the three of us decided that we wanted to be in a committed relationship together," Mark said. It's been an unquestionably positive experience within the bounds of his marriage, despite what other people might think.

"Some of our friends and loved ones have found the concept of consensual non-monogamy to be challenging," he said, "and we've had to work to explain what we're doing to some folks. But almost everyone has been supportive, and the good that's come from the relationship far outweighs the bad."

Does he think everyone should try a threesome? Well ... "I think people should do what feels right to them," Mark said. "A polyamorous or open relationship isn't for everyone, but for some people, it is as necessary as air."

Carol Queen, a Good Vibrations staff sexologist, has over 40 years of personal experience in the threesome department, and she's had good times and bad. In my opinion, her bad experience is up there on the "things I fear most about threesomes" list.

"This was a case in which my partner wanted to play with the third person much more than I did," Carol said. "I was down, just not as enthusiastic. But it turned out he was so enthusiastic that he basically left me out. I wound up leaving the scenario in the middle and hung out in the living room until they noticed I was gone, and we definitely Had Words. And this is, I might add, a really big rookie mistake and quite common. It’s pretty easy for a person to get into the new third party to the expense of their existing partner."

More: Mom and corporate employee by day, swinger by night

This relationship eventually ended, and although there were other factors that came into play, the botched threesome was definitely one of them. However, don't cue the sad violins yet. Later, Carol found exactly what she was looking for in a new partner... and their guest star.

"My partner and I both had a crush on a lovely woman friend, and we were quite glad to find out it was mutual. We had a delightful connection with her and had so much fun that we wound up being 'à trois' for a while before she broke up with us because she had a therapist who firmly believed monogamy was the only mentally healthy relationship choice," Carol said. "But this experience really opened my partner and me up to the fact that we liked having another person in the mix. And we finally found the right other person, years later. Without that first threesome date, we might not have ever figured out how much we were tuned in to a triadic relationship structure. That triad has been going on for almost 10 years now. We just bought a house!"

In the end

I honestly can't say I've made up my mind. Obviously, in my own fiction, I see threesomes as, well, deadly, but that's just fiction. I think what it boils down to is feeling secure, as a person and in a relationship.

As the guest star, Andrea had a point: Do it once and get the heck out. Consider it a check on your bucket list and move on. Donna made a good point, too, in saying a threesome has to be a passion for both partners, not just one. It can't be something you do for your husband's benefit; it has to be for your own benefit, as well.

As far as established relationships go, a couple needs to be really strong and good at communication to undertake welcoming a third party to their bed. Mark told me, "It comes down to being in tune with what's in your heart. No matter whether you're poly or asexual or something else, relationships always involve give and take. You have to think of others and the impact your actions have on them; otherwise, you won't be successful in whatever relationship you want to have."

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