Advice: How do I date a couple?

Third wheel

Third wheel (October 23, 2013)

I’ve recently found myself in an unexpected situation. I’ve known this couple for a few years, from work, and have flirted and had fun with them without thinking too much of it. However, they recently asked me if I’d be into pursuing a relationship with both of them. I’ve never really done the poly thing before and am worried I may be in over my head here. But at the same time, maybe it’ll be fun? I don’t want to lose them as friends. How does one date a couple?--Plus Two

The same way you’d date one person, with extra time penciled in for Feelings Talks and high-fives.

The most important thing is to figure out what exactly you want from the situation and to see if it aligns with their wants. For instance, if you desire to be mostly casual and friendly with sexy times thrown in, that’s going to require very different rules and expectations than, say, a long-term romantic partnership where you take each other to the gyno and argue about the Comcast bill. You might genuinely not know what you want at this point and adopt a “see where it goes” attitude, but I wouldn’t do so without first taking stock of what matters to you in a dating partner and what they expect. You may laugh, but spreadsheets are helpful. So is Google Calendar.

Emily, a friend who has much experience with couple dating, advises that you be your own primary partner and “make sure that you are looking out for yourself emotionally” since the couple will probably prioritize their established relationship over your new, budding one. Which is good advice in general.

Ask yourself how strong their relationship is and how much experience they’ve had adding new people into the fold. If they are having problems or have never dealt with the emotionality of a third, then you’ll probably want to run for the hills, girlfriend, lest you get caught in a menage-a-waah. Speaking from experience, there’s nothing more sobering than being left by not one but two people during a threesome. You lied to me, Doublemint Gum! Kate Conway, who wrote a great essay about the topic in xoJane, advises that you have relationships with both members of the couple: “I really liked being able to go on dates with the two of them individually. It gave us bonding time outside the triad.”

Don’t let them treat you like a sex toy (unless you’re into that). In a similar vein, be wary if one party is way more stoked about the idea than the other. And avoid becoming a middleman to address/solve their relationship problems. Also, jealousy. It’s a thing. You can’t avoid it, regardless of how groovy-man and free-love you want to be. As Emily says, “When you feel jealous over their existing intimacy, try to remember that they grew it over time.”

Consider sleeping arrangements. Sharing a bed with one person can be difficult enough, and three is like a clown car filled with elbows. And lastly, have fun. You know what they say, ‘Two’s company but three’s a crowd (pleaser).’ ”

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