Q & A: Is Adding a Third Life-Partner a Realistic Goal?

Disclaimer: all answers given here are the opinions of one person. There is no one correct way to “do” poly, nor is there one correct way to conceptualize it.

Q: For the last year we have just been out to have fun with other people outside our relationship but we recently agreed that we would like to find someone to add to us in the next five years. Ideally this would be someone both of us would love and they would live with us, sleep in the same bed, everything. Five years isn’t a deadline its just a guideline, like we want to be moving towards having something like that.  The question is, how do we do that? Its hard to meet people and even harder once they know you’re poly so is it naive to think we could ever meet someone who could fall in love with both of us and actually desire and be happy in a three (or more) person relationship?

A: If you’ve spent any time around polyamorous discussion groups, you’re probably aware that a lot of couples are looking for what you’re looking for. And actually finding it is so rare that there’s a term for what you’re seeking in poly circles—a unicorn.

Happy, successful triad relationships do exist. But the vast majority of lasting ones I’m aware of did not begin with two people dating as a couple, and expecting someone to fall in love with both of them equally and at the same pace. Instead, most of the long-term triads I know of began as a romantic/intimate connection between one member of an existing couple and a new partner and eventually evolved to include the other member of the couple as well, or they arose from a situation where both members of a couple already had a deep, shared friendship with someone, and that friendship developed into something romantic.

I don’t think that it’s impossible to find what you’re looking for. But I do think you’ll have better chances if you’re open to dating separately and allowing things to evolve naturally, rather than dating only as a couple and expecting someone to have exactly the same level of attraction and interest in both of you at once.

If you do attempt dating as a couple, it’s important to be conscious of the feelings of your prospective partners. Many people don’t feel comfortable dating couples because it feels like they’re being viewed as a fun “accessory” to the existing relationship, rather than an individual of equal importance. The pressure to develop feelings for both members of a couple at exactly the same pace can feel very inauthentic to many people. And many are put-off by what feels like a very “couple-centric” approach, ie., the existing couple will always be central and will always come first. To at least a fair amount of people, the expectations attached to dating a couple feel a lot less like a true openness to develop loving relationships on one’s own terms and a lot more like applying for a job. There can also be something that feels very objectifying about the way couples go about looking for a “hot bi babe” to join them; I’ve seen folks describe what they’re looking for in a “third” in terms that sound more like a “M/bi-curious F looking for a hot lady to share fun sexy times with” personal ad than an attempt to find a true partner to fully share in a couple’s life. That’s not to say that you’re approaching this in a way that’s at all objectifying, but I think it’s important to know where some of the inherent apprehensions and misgivings might come from if you encounter potential partners who feel uncomfortable or who make negative assumptions about the scenario.

I think you can date as a couple in a way that’s fully respectful of your potential partners, but it requires consciousness of the pitfalls. Ideally, you should be comfortable with the possibility that someone won’t connect with both of you to exactly the same degree and at exactly the same pace, and make it clear to anyone you’re dating that this is totally acceptable. It might even happen sometimes that you begin dating someone as a couple and only one of you really hits it off romantically with that person, and I would encourage you to be open to situations where one of you continues romantic involvement with that person while the other develops a friendship instead. And throughout this process, I think you’ll find a lot more satisfaction if you also remain free to date as individuals as well.

Finally, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hopeful about bringing a shared partner into your lives and your home one day, you might also want to give serious consideration to other forms that an expanded poly family can take. I share a home and a life with my two partners, but they are not romantically involved with one another. And many other happy poly households are made up of more “zig-zag” type configurations rather than fully-shared relationships. Don’t close yourself off to the possibility that long-term happiness could take a very different form than what you’re envisioning right now.

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