What I Learned From My First Threesome

Andrew Zaeh/Bustle

There are so many resources for where to begin if you're curious about how to have your first threesome. What takes a little more skill (or the help of a very sex-positive and nonjudgemental librarian) to find are resources for how to process post-threesome. These four things I learned from my first threesome are ideas that took me years to articulate. I wish that there had been a "So You Had A Threesome, Now What?" article for every encouraging "Intro to Threesomes" article. Like, what if you did it once and hated it? What if you did it with a partner and it helped you realize that you would very much like to break up with that partner? What if you did it with a couple and now only want to be in triads for the rest of your relationship-having life (much more on this later)? Thoughts and feelings will come up afterwards that no amount of planning could have prepared you for, and what then?

My first threesome was a little bit of a beautiful mess. I distinctly recall the euphoric feeling of being utterly mindblown that hit me once I was back in my own bed, after a completely fucking adorable morning of getting vegan bagels and cream cheese together before parting ways. I'm pretty sure the first thing I did was vague-tweet my favorite John Green line (please cut me some slack, it was 2011) from Paper Towns: "I don't know how I look, but I know how I feel: Young. Goofy. Infinite."

I enjoyed the experience of stepping into an already-established relationship and filling in the gaps that needed filling.

There was a really complicated friendship/lover web surrounding the whole encounter, which led to some people who were invited into a potential group sex situation, but ultimately chose to opt out (whittling it down to a threesome), getting hurt. So it wasn't a situation entirely without collateral damage. But, importantly, the people who opted in were consenting, excited, and pleased with their decision. Here are the big ideas I walked away with after my first threesome.

It's Possible To Be Attracted To A Relationship

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The participants in my first threesome were myself and a married couple. While I was definitely attracted to each partner, and both of them were definitely attracted to me, what I realized early on in our flirtations is that I was much more attracted to their relationship than I was to either of them individually. I wanted to be a part of it more than I wanted just to have sex with either of them. We were friends first, and once each of them confessed to me individually that they had confessed to each other that they had a little crush on me, we started talking more openly about what the possibilities were.

Sex was kind of a given, but we joked about being "sister wives," and would go out on group dates that often looked like one of them and me playing a board game at a cafe while the other did homework next to us. I'm pretty service-oriented as both a romantic and a sexual partner, so I enjoyed the experience of stepping into an already-established relationship and filling in the gaps that needed filling.

If you subscribe to the ideology that kink or other "taboo" modes of sex and relationships can be a way of working through and recuperating from trauma, then the motivations for entering an already-established relationship are endless. Plenty of "little t" traumas could account for this preference. Were you raised by a single parent who never enjoyed romantic relationships? Did your parents go through a tough divorce? Did one of your parents never recover from the death of a spouse? Did you just never have good models of a loving, nurturing, supported relationship growing up? If so, it can feel restorative to be in the presence of a such a relationship — and intimately involved in it — after that. No, it's not some weird "you must want to have sex with your parents" Freudian garbage. It can just feel good to address the needs left behind by our traumas in creative ways.

It's OK To Ask For What You Want, Even If It Lets Someone Else Down

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I also learned from my first threesome that I had a natural skill for being something of a sexual fairy-godmother. This couple was pretty stuck, both sexually and romantically, and I found that I had the ability to be a catalyst for each of them to voice their desires. It was often as simple as asking one of them what they wanted and then asking the other if they could give that, or if they would prefer me to do it. It lowered the marital judgment stakes if I was the one doing the asking, and they each had an "out" in me if spouse wasn't feeling it. (I also have a ton of privilege in this arena, which is worth disclosing in full, in that I don't have any sexual trauma in my background. Not everyone can or should be expected to be function like a sexual multi-tool, and boundaries, even if you're playing with them, need to be respected.) And for me, if felt gratifying to be so useful, empowering to witness myself affecting positive change, and good to be appreciated afterwards!

While that first encounter was a very particular dynamic in which I was the third to a couple, I've had other configurations in my subsequent threesome-having life. This lesson served me well then, too. It basically serves me in life, in that it taught me that there are no bad asks; there are only people who can or can't meet your needs, and how you deal with it. If you can approach sex from a judgment-free place, then you're a lot less likely to take things your partner's desires and disappointments personally.

An Anxiety-Reducer Or Inhibition Lowering Substance Can Be Your Enemy, Or Your Friend

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If you are overwhelmed with shame because you are a badass champion of informed consent, but your first threesome was a drunk one, then I am here to tell you that you aren't a bad person. I promise. Obviously, informed, sober consent is the reigning queen of all sexual encounters, and negotiations should definitely get hammered out before substances enter the picture. But since Millennials are blessed with the highest anxiety levels of any generation, we sometimes need a little help out of the gate. For me, my first threesome was spurned on by the foregone conclusion that drinking Brandy Alexanders (shush, it was cold outside and I asked the bartender to make me something comforting that closely approximated a coffee milkshake) makes me want to have sex with married couples. But we had also been flirting for awhile and we'd had multiple discussions about having sex together before a night at their local dive bar coaxed us into following through on our mutually shared desires.

I am definitely not telling you to get wasted or super, super high and then go have a threesome. I am telling you that, if you have a safe history with using substances, having a drink, or splitting a joint with your partners, or making sure you've taken your meds for the day, can help you relax into your encounter, be a little more instinct/body driven, and be a little less in your head about the whole thing. Of course, alcohol, marijuana, and various meds can also mess with your libido and sensation in different ways, so know your body and brain's responses to them before you introduce a substance into your sexy space. And if at any point, you're questioning whether everyone involved was giving full consent or felt fully in control of their faculties the whole time, then ask! Talk about your individual experiences together and take accountability where and when necessary. But don't beat yourself up before you've even checked in with your partners about it.

Trust Your Instincts

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I don't mean this as in "trust your instincts" going into a threesome, although that's definitely an important thing to do. I mean after you've had your threesome, trust that your instincts were good. I remember feeling completely in my body during my first one, totally able to ride each wave, and I felt much less concerned than I do in two-person-sex about "what to do next." The fact that there was lots of stimulating stuff to engage in really helped me stay in the moment and anticipate less.

If you're feeling uneasy about whether you excelled at the technical sport of sex with multiple partners at once, and worry that you were awkward or didn't know what to do in some moment or another, then trust that your biological instincts kicked in. If you feel reasonably connected to your body, your sex drive, and/or your desire, then you probably have nothing to worry about. At some point, your body knows how to follow the impulses that feel good and steer you away from ones that don't. As long as you paid attention to those instincts and listened to your partners, you did a great job!

And if you still feel uncertain about it, then talk to your partners. If you specifically need affirmation that you did a good job, then ask for that. If your partners can't give it to you, then hear them out on why not, thank them for the feedback, and think about how you can work those pointers into your next experience.

If your first threesome was as transcendent an experience as mine, then I invite you to cherish it. If it torched one of your relationships, then maybe do some journaling to uncover what it revealed to you about your deeper desires. See if you can locate those needs in other relationships. And if it was just hot sex, then cheers to a threesome well-executed.