Every few months or so I come across a post that makes it abundantly clear who is new to polyamory and who has been in it for a while. Those posts usually start out with a cute and innocent (seeming) intro post.
“Hi, thanks so much for letting us join your group. We’re a fun friendly couple just looking for that special someone to complete us. We are into [various hobbies inserted here]. We are not looking for a one night stand, but a genuine connection with another woman, one we can both love. Feel free to PM us if your interested!”
Sometimes they include words like hierarchy and equal (“We don’t believe in hierarchy. Our third will be an equal in the relationship.”). They almost always include pictures of the fun couple, with the woman front and center.
The comments start out nice enough, a lot of welcomes and compliments. Then there is that one veteran who will offer a friendly piece of advice: to do a little more research before jumping into the polyam dating pool. An innocent “Why?” or “Oh, we’ve read a lot about polyamory already.” will set the spark that lights the dumpster fire to come.
If you’re a part of the community, you’ve seen it happen. Over and over. If you’re new to the community, you may not understand how an innocent post could turn so quickly. Allow me to explain.
How to spot a Unicorn Hunter
Almost every new couple opening their relationship thinks the easiest, safest course to take is by inviting another woman into their existing relationship. This is polyamory on EXPERT mode. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a triad relationship. But starting out with that goal is the hardest way to do so. Why, you may ask. A triad is not just a single relationship between three people, like many assume. A triad is 4 separate relationships. And each of those four requires a lot of care, communication, and work.
Now, back to that couple. They’ve talked it all to death and decided that adding another man to their relationship just isn’t possible. He’s straight, you see. And there will be no sword fighting in the bedroom. Not to mention it would be hard for him to know his girlfriend/wife is having sex with another man. So no men allowed. Which leaves… Women. Specifically, bisexual women who are into both partners equally. Easy peasy, right? Not so much.
Those women, the bisexual sex kittens who love the couple the exact same amount, are called Unicorns. Because they are near mythical creatures. They do exist in the polyam community. But they are rare. And they tend to guard their unicorn status closely. Because as soon as they pop up, they are bombarded with messages and invitations from couples looking “to add a third.”
But Lucie, you just said triads are great.
What’s the problem?
The problem is in the language and execution. First, these are people. Reducing what you are looking for to “a third” takes away from their autonomy and personhood. They become a thing to possess, to collect, instead of a partner in a loving relationship. It also puts them into a position of inferiority to the couple. The couple is the central relationship, and this new person is something to enhance that. Not to be taken seriously or allowed any say in what happens within that relationship.
So already, the woman is coming into a relationship at a distinct disadvantage. One she is unlikely to overcome.
Consider what happens when one part of the couple has a stronger connection to the woman than the other part. Will she be cast aside, to preserve the central relationship between the couple? You may scoff and say never! But it happens all.the.time. And what if the woman meets someone outside of the couple that she wants to pursue a relationship with. Will she be allowed to? Or must she only be with them? This is another thing that happens often.
So, how do you avoid it?
If you are new to polyamory, I suggest you start with these three things.
- Research. Ask the community for their favorite recommendations for newcomers to ENM. Do a quick google search. You will find many websites and blogs to point you in the right direction.
- Date separately. Seriously. You will have much better luck, and be happier for it. And maybe, if you are super lucky, that triad you wanted will happen all on its own.
- Listen to the advice you receive. And don’t get defensive when that advice is more blunt than you expected.