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17 Things You Should Know Before You Date A Couple

Three may be a crowd but it can also be a whole lot of fun with the right approach.

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So you've met a fun couple and you all want to hang out (in a ~sexy~ way).

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Congratulations! You've been selected by a fabulous couple to share their bed/lives on an ongoing basis! You're not out for a threesome fling – you're in this for the medium to long haul.

So what does that mean?

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It's likely (but not guaranteed) that the couple in question will identify as polyamorous, meaning that they are able to feel nice sexual and/or emotional stuff for more than one person at a time.

So while there will probably be a physical component to the relationship, being a couple's "third" often means you'll also go on dates and spend time with them in much the same way you would with an individual. You'll increase your chances of exciting conversation but decrease your chances of successfully splitting a main course.

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Note: This is different from cheating

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If you are dating a couple, it's not cheating because everyone is aware and consenting to the arrangement. The normal (monogamous) rules don't apply.

Also, you're agreeing to spend time with both partners. If you're only interested in one of them and they've asked you to be their third, you should know right now that it's probably not going to work out.

So, provided this is something you want to do and you're attracted to both partners, experience has taught me to follow these guidelines for maximum fun and minimum mess.

1. Start with a long conversation.

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Apologies if you're the "a little more action" type, but while a casual threesome can take place as soon as everyone's consenting, a continuing relationship needs a lot of careful thought. You should always talk things out in advance, because if this is all going to end in disaster for one or more of you, it'll probably be obvious from that first conversation.

Make sure you're all compatible and equally enthusiastic. An unconventional setup brings its own challenges and complications, so this is an extremely important step.

2. And find out exactly what kind of situation you're getting into.

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If you're being approached as a "third", the implication is that the couple will remain primarily committed to each other, with you as an ongoing feature of their relationship.

Over time, this can evolve into a triad situation, in which every party is equally committed to each other. But this is rarer and, if you're just starting out with this couple, it's unlikely to be what they're proposing.

3. Follow their rules...

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One you've all decided that you're in, the couple are likely to have a few rules about the way they want their relationship with you to work. If they don't, ask them to make some – it's the only way to be sure no one's overstepping boundaries.

Do they want to keep the relationship on the down low? Do they want it to be mostly about sex with very little "cooking pasta together" domestic bliss? Do they never want to travel to your house? Find out! And if you agree to these rules, FOLLOW THEM.

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4. And make some rules of your own.

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There's no point going into this if you're not going to enjoy it. Figure out what you'll want and need from them and be upfront about it. Hate sleeping over and doing the breakfast thing? Let them know. Need a lot of affirmation and text-y affection? Speak now or get quietly sad, really fast.

Whether you're looking for casual fun or actual inclusion in their lives, you need to establish your expectations early.

5. Be aware of your emotional limits.

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Are you also polyamorous? Can you happily fall in love with more than one person? Do you want to? If this couple is keen to get emotionally intimate, you need to know if that's something you can handle.

And what if they want to see people other than you? Will you feel OK about that? Sure, sometimes you won't know until you try it, but if the idea of having serious feelings for multiple people causes a panic attack, emphasise that you need to keep this light and fun.

6. Know what you will and won't do sexually.

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One of the best things about any relationship is experimentation and having your horizons expanded. So there's a chance this couple will teach you some new, fun tricks. But if there are certain items that are permanently off your menu, let them know.

Similarly, if there's a fantasy of yours that can only be fulfilled with two people present, now's your chance to make that happen (well, ask politely for that to happen).

7. But be generous and open-minded.

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Once the business side of things is over and the ~business~ side can begin, make sure to be a giving and thoughtful lover. Inviting someone into your bed is an act of trust, so do your best to honour that trust. One of the beautiful things about being close to an existing couple is that they will have established patterns; integrate yourself into them as organically as you can.

8. Always be safe.

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This is a rule for dating anyone, ever, but it's particularly important in this case as you know, with absolute certainty, that multiple sexual partners are involved. Always use protection and make sure they do, too.

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9. Don't try to dominate their time.

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Have the couple you're seeing told you they want you to move in or that they'd like to spend every waking second with you? If so, good for you! Those must be some moves.

If not, give them space to just be a couple when they want it. Asking a third person to get involved doesn't mean you want to compromise the emotional sanctity of the primary relationship. Respect their commitment to each other.

10. Don't expect invitations to family events.

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Look, one day we may all live in a sexually liberated utopia where people can bring however many partners as they like to a party (though not to a wedding, those things are expensive). But for now, you need to accept that you might not be invited to your significant others' family events.

If you think the sight of them in a Facebook photo, cuddling up over plates of turkey at one of their siblings' flats will cause you distress, this scenario is possibly not for you.

11. Don't arrange to see one person without the other.

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Unless it's expressly part of your arrangement, do not have solo hang-out time with one half of the couple. Dating an open couple is different from dating an individual person in an open relationship. If this is how they've chosen to structure things, there's probably good reasons for it.

12. Do not get caught up in their fights.

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When a couple is having problems or arguing a lot, it's very easy for the people around them to get dragged into that emotional whirlpool. It's even easier if those people are useful pawns in the "making my partner jealous" game (which is a terrible game, don't try this at home kids). Resist this kind of problem by explaining that you won't take sides (and dump them if it becomes a pattern).

13. Learn to talk about it with other people.

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Unless you're an incredibly private person, you'll probably want to discuss your relationship with loved ones at some point. If you're scared to tell your friends about it, ask yourself why. Are you ashamed? Or do you not trust them to understand?

The best way to bring around doubters is to show them how happy you are and to explain that you've thought this through. That being said, all bets are off when it comes to telling your parents, especially if they're the "BUT WHEN ARE THE BABIES ARRIVING?" types. Proceed with caution.

14. Keep dating other people.

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Unless monogamy between the three of you is part of the relationship – unless you're entering into a full triad situation where you're all equally committed – it can be emotionally useful to keep seeing other people.

Dating without full commitment is a lot of fun, but it can wear on you after a while. You might need some reminding that, should this not work out, there are other people out there for you.

15. Know that if things end, they end with everyone.

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Unless you enjoy being an agent of chaos in other people's lives, do not attempt to break up with one member of the couple and keep seeing the other. You all went into this together, you need to finish it together too.

There's a chance that you will end up connecting more to one half of the couple than the other but if that's the case, you need to get out of there even more urgently. Remember: their relationship with each other preceded their relationship with you and you are violating their trust by attempting to destroy it.

16. Keep the conversation going.

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If you want the terms of the relationship to change, or if something is bothering you, speak up and make sure both partners hear it. Just because things seemed fine to begin with doesn't mean they'll always be that way and you don't need to accept anything you're not enjoying.

If this is your first time dating a couple, you may only become aware of certain issues over time. You may feel less powerful to act because they're a team. But if they're good people, they will make sure you feel heard.

17. Get out there and have double the fun!

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When it comes down to it, dating a couple is a wonderful experience. You get to know two people really well, you're invited into an existing intimate space, and you can often get more genders for the price of one (if that's your jam). Make the most of the experience and good luck!

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