How to Have a Healthy, Happy Threesome

Illustration by Weronika Marianna

by Gigi Engle

If you’re a sexually active adult, chances are good that a threesome has at least crossed your mind. Nowadays, more people understand that sex with two people isn’t sexually deviant or weird, no matter what the adults who shaped your views on sex might have told you. In fact, threesomes are reported amongst the most popular sexual fantasies people have. Interest in real threesomes is on the rise, too, and the younger generation is especially accepting of them. There is something so sexy about bringing a new person into the bedroom, and exploring new sexual terrain with your partner (or being a third for a couple) in a safe, fun way. 

But how do you actually make it happen? While the above may sound amazing, putting it into play is not as easy as it sounds. No matter how accepted group sex becomes, you still have to make sure you know what you’re doing before you bring a third person into the bedroom. In a threesome, everyone involved deserves to have their needs met and to walk away feeling good about themselves. This takes finesse. 

Here is everything you need to know about having a healthy, happy threesome.

Set up a threesome efficiently and respectfully

Unsurprisingly, the first hurdle of acting on a threesome fantasy is figuring out how you find a third person (if you’re in a couple) or how you find a couple (if you’re solo and looking to guest star).

While some threesomes can be spontaneous after a night out, most are found via dating apps. And there are ones specifically designed for people looking for alternative relationship-styles and hookups: Check out Feeld, FetLife, and #Open. When it comes to drawing up a profile, be open and honest about what you’re looking for. If you’re in a couple, write it together, being clear about what you’re looking to get out of the experience. When it comes to sex, you do not want to be sketchy or cagey about what you’re after. Be truthful and you’ll be rewarded. No one has time for games when they’re trying to have a sexy group sex experience, you know?

Thorough communication and explicit consent is needed before you engage in a threesome.

If you’re looking to go old-school, you can find a third (or couple) in person. While bars can sometimes lead to chance encounters, the best in-person, neutral option is a sex party. If you happen to be in a big city, there are lots of sex parties you can attend. Most places accept single women or couples, which makes sense because think of safety. In New York, NSFW is the place to be. This cannabis-friendly, kink-focused membership club in Soho has some of the most fun parties around. Chemistry is also a great starter sex party that’s more geared to couples.

Other options include Killing Kittens and Kinky Salon. While I haven’t personally been to these parties, I’ve heard good things.

Meet up in a neutral place (if possible)

Meet up with the potential third or couple for a coffee or tea and get to know each other a little bit. This will allow you to access whether you have chemistry and to start preliminary negotiations before any sex is had.

A good rule: Don’t sleep with a friend. You may wind up compromising your friendship or making things really awkward. Obviously it’s your life and you can do whatever you want, but believe me, it’s a risk.

Lay out some ground rules

Thorough communication and explicit consent is needed before you engage in a threesome. Even if you pick up a third at a bar (or are the third at the bar), you need to express your needs, wants, hopes, and fears for this particular experience. It’s not a good idea to fumble your way through group sex, especially as a newbie. You may wind up with a personal boundary crossed. 

It’s essential to understand — without question — what works and doesn’t work for all individuals involved before getting into bed,” explains Charyn Pfeuffer, sex and relationships writer and author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating. “Nothing kills a mood faster,” she adds, than hearing “You never told me that” mid-threesome. 

Pay special attention to sexual health

When having a threesome, you need to be sure you’re having the safest sex possible. This means getting regularly tested for STIs, using condoms (and other barrier methods), and disclosing any STIs you may have to potential partners. 

Remember to, if you are having vaginal and anal sex, change condoms [between sex acts] because you don't want any anal bacteria in your vaginal canal,” says Lucy Rowett, a certified intimacy coach and clinical sexologist.

Create a list of things you want to experience

There's what threesomes look like in porn, and then there is real life. The two deviate substantially. Screw what society tells you threesomes should be like, and take the time to think about what you really want.

Rowett suggests acting like your own erotic movie director. Take some time to create a list of things you want to experience or how you want things to go. “It’s really helpful to fill out a ‘sex menu’ or ‘red, amber, green’ worksheet on what you really want, what you are curious about, and what is a hard, ‘no’,” she says. “The clearer you are about what it is you want and like, the easier it is to plan ahead and communicate with your partners.”

“Nobody is a mind reader, and a lot can get lost in translation, especially when there are multiple partners (hot and bothered) at play.”

Sit with yourself and really think about it deeply. Feel into your body as you imagine each experience. This will help you start to get comfortable with the idea of moving forward IRL.

Check in with each other during sex—and troubleshoot dicey moments

Navigating three people’s needs during sex means there’s going to be a lot of talking—not only beforehand, but during the deed, too. It’s not only necessary, Pfeuffer says, but “so damn sexy...Make sure you and your partners are communicating before, during, and after sex.”

If someone sets a boundary, respect that boundary. If you’re unsure if something is OK, ask. If something doesn’t feel right, you’re not into it, or you feel uncomfortable, you should be able to speak up freely and say so. Being able to acknowledge these feelings and take a break will only enhance the experience because it will make you feel safe and cared for. 

“Nobody is a mind reader, and a lot can get lost in translation, especially when there are multiple partners (hot and bothered) at play,” Pfeuffer said. It’s a learning process, especially when you’re with new partners.

Manage your expectations

Every threesome experience is different, and not all of them are going to be great. You can minimize the likeliness of a straight-up bad situation by following these steps, but even so, stuff happens. That’s just how sex works.

Since this group sex thing is new to you, there may be performance anxiety, strong emotions that pop up, or general awkwardness. Manage your expectations accordingly. Go in understanding that this is a new experience—one you want to have, but one that may not be as mindblowing as you’ve imagined in your fantasies. Threesomes, like all sex acts, take practice. It may take several rendezvous with the same two people to really nail down each other’s moves and wants.

Have an aftercare plan in place

Rowett says that having an aftercare plan is another thing that should be predetermined before the ménage à trois. Aftercare is the way in which we take care of our partners after intense sexual experiences. 

This can range from cuddling, to massage, to being totally left alone, and anything in between. Discuss with the group to determine the aftercare each person needs so everyone feels comfortable and emotionally well. 

In this same vein, be sure you know what the plan is after the experience is over. Is the guest star sleeping over? Are they staying for dinner? Are you calling them an Uber right away? Everyone should be on the same page so you can avoid feelings of rejection.

Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, sexologist, educator, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @GigiEngle.