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How to be a unicorn

Poly Philia

September 15th, 2022

Joining a couple for a threesome? Here's how to ensure you have the best of experiences.

If you are new to non-monogamy, you’ve probably heard the term ‘unicorn’ being bandied about in the swinging and polyamory communities, referring to a person (most commonly a single, bisexual woman) who is willing to join an existing couple. In swinging, this is usually for casual, no-strings-attached threesomes; in polyamory, a unicorn is expected to begin a romantic relationship with both members of a couple to form an exclusive romantic triad.

With threesomes being one of the most common sexual fantasies, and triads being vastly overrepresented in mainstream media depictions of polyamory, it is no wonder that there are a lot of resources out there geared towards couples on how to find a unicorn. Surprisingly, though, not that much has been written for the unicorns themselves, particularly as they are going it solo and are often the more vulnerable party in this dynamic. So, if you’re a person who is interested in engaging with couples but you aren’t sure where to start, here is a quick guide on how to get the most out of the experience and stay safe while doing so.

The first step is to identify where your boundaries are and what you are interested in. Are you looking for casual group sex, or would you like to have a romantic relationship with two people who also happen to be dating each other? Emotional entanglements often carry far more expectations than purely sexual ones, and some people may find it intimidating to not only date two people, but also to date two people who already have a lot of shared history between them.

If you are interested in a threesome, ask yourself:

  • Do you prefer to be the special guest being spoiled with attention, to collaborate with one partner to ravish the other, or a mix of both?
  • Are you open to being watched by one partner while you are engaging with the other, or watching them with each other?
  • Are there any sexual fantasies or sexual positions you want to experiment with, and what fantasies would you be willing to fulfil for the couple?
  • Are you looking for one-time encounters or would you prefer to cultivate a longer-term connection with regular meetups?

If you’re interested in a romantic triad, ask yourself:

  • Are you seeking an egalitarian arrangement where all three relationships are equal, or to be a secondary partner to a couple for a more casual romance?
  • Are you interested in cultivating individual and unique relationships with both members of the couple as well as the group dynamic, or do you prefer to only date them as a unit?
  • Are you looking to date other people outside of the couple, or are you seeking a polyfidelitous and exclusive arrangement?
  • What are your long-term plans for this relationship? Would you like to eventually move towards cohabitation, raising children or other entanglements with your partners?

The next step is to put yourself out there – be specific as to what you are after in your dating profile, so you are better placed to be matched with people who have similar goals. Unicorns are very sought after in non-monogamous circles, so you will likely be spoilt for choice! At this stage, vetting your options is key and there are several things to be aware of with the couples you come across.

  • DO: have an honest conversation with the couple about your expectations and desires, and make sure you’re all on the same page so there is a smaller chance you’ll be surprised and/or disappointed later.
  • DON’T: engage with couples where one member seems significantly more interested in a threesome or triad dynamic than the other. If you find yourself only ever communicating with one of them, or get the sense that one is uncomfortable and only reluctantly going along with things to appease their partner, this suggests that someone is not entirely on board and the couple have not communicated with each other enough about what they want.
  • DO: have a conversation about jealousy. Particularly with couples who are new to the scene, opening up their relationship for the first time will be an experience that is met with both excitement and trepidation. Have a game plan ready for if someone feels overwhelmed, whether it’s agreeing on a safe word during the threesome or simply having an honest conversation about how their insecurities can be accommodated and their worries reassured. The last thing you need is to be caught in the middle of a fight and potentially even be blamed for the end of a relationship! Similarly, look out for yourself and don’t be afraid to speak up if you are feeling neglected.
  • DON’T: engage with couples who do not make an effort to consider your needs and desires and expect you to be there purely to supplement and enhance their dynamic. Watch out for couples who open their conversations with a laundry list of requirements and overly sexual interrogation-style questions, to the point where you feel as if you are being interviewed for a job rather than feeling out a connection. Even if all you are looking for is a no-strings-attached arrangement, remember that you are still a person and not an accessory or a sex object (unless that’s what you’re into, of course).
  • DO: be aware of the effects of ‘couple privilege’. ‘Couple privilege’ refers to the way society accommodates and prioritises two-person relationships, from the tax benefits and hospital visitation rights that come with marriage, to ‘plus ones’ being standard at events, to couple discounts, joint insurance or bank accounts and meals ‘for two’. If you are interested in egalitarian polyamory and are engaging with a married couple, you will have to make peace with the fact that there will be legal and financial privileges afforded to them that will likely never be available to you. ‘Couple privilege’ can manifest itself socially as well: be wary of couples who constantly make decisions that affect you without consulting your opinion, who don’t make an effort to include you at social events or among loved ones or who insist that their relationship must be the one that is kept the same and protected at all costs. In particular, it may be a good idea to avoid couples who practise veto power, i.e. the ability to force an end to your connection to them if they feel you are a threat to their relationship, at any time and for any reason.

Finally, it’s important to advocate for yourself and enforce your boundaries kindly but firmly. Even in a situation where you are willingly consenting to be viewed as a casual or secondary addition to a couple, this does not mean that they have the right to treat you with disrespect, or that you must submit to their demands and sacrifice your needs in the process. Getting to know two people at the same time as a single person can be daunting, so make sure to cultivate dynamics with people who are willing to embrace change and who you can trust to consider your feelings and give you a voice. Threesomes and triads can be beautiful, fulfilling and even immensely healing experiences – as long as you find the right people to do it with. Good luck!

  • ENM