Father Tony

Third man in

Filed By Father Tony | January 02, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay advice, polyamory, relationship advice, sex advice, threeways

Have you ever seen a 3way relationship work? Really? We tried it once and it didn't go so hot because he was more into Fred (my partner) than me. This time I was the instigator, but he seems to like Fred just as much as me and Fred feels good about it.


Dear adventurous partner of Fred,

Yes, I have seen 3way relationships work, but they are not to be encouraged for most couples that are looking to expand their love.

They are more dangerous than the illegal back flip performed by that French skater, Surya Bonaly.

The relationship that you and Fred (or any gay men) now have, no matter how secure, is a perilous high wire act. No matter how devoted you are to each other and no matter how solid the foundation of your relationship may be, are you sure you want to act like the Wallendas, adding one more cousin to the pyramid and then falling to the ground before a tentful of screaming children?

In subsequent emails, you clarified for me that you are not talking about just a one-nighter. You're talking making someone a fixture. (Like buying season tickets to watch the Nets or the Celtics, you're advance-planning your pleasure.) Also, you are talking about someone who is considerably younger than both of you.

It seems that you do not intend for this fellow to actually move into your house, but rather, you intend to maintain some distance that would preserve an element of sanctuary to your partnership with Fred.

Like good scouts, you must be prepared.

Here are my thoughts about this:

  1. Be prepared for the fact that the Third will never feel equally about you and Fred. He will feel more affection for one than for the other. More attraction to one than to the other. And, over time, that balance may change. Most couples cannot deal with this reality. One always ends up feeling on the colder side of the bed. It takes two very strong egos to play this game.

  2. Be prepared for unexpected changes in your relationship with Fred that will be caused by the addition of the Third. Some couples actually feel more affection for each other once they can bounce a Third back and forth like a beach ball between them. Others find that they don't have enough affection for all involved and someone starts to starve for it.

  3. Be prepared for the Third to change as well. Today, he adores you both. In a short amount of time, he'll be chatting away with the neighbors, shopping for a puppy, thinking about school and batting his eyes at your closest friends while serving mojitos at your next Christmas party.

  4. Be prepared to become bored with sex with the Third. We pretty much follow a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule when it comes to 3ways. Very rarely have we had any interest in having sex with a Third more than three times. It quickly becomes work. Some of those guys have, however, become lasting friends.

This type of experience has taught me how to be an excellent Third (albeit not in a longterm relationship) myself. I now know how to give a couple an extremely satisfying night because I know what they are thinking. I can sense their insecurities and I know exactly how to put them both at ease. I've had guys thank me profusely for what I brought to their bed, and I'm not talking about dick.

If you are prepared for the eventualities, give it a shot.

I sometimes wonder if there are any 3ways that have lasted for more than a few months or a few years. I don't know of any but I suspect there are some. The fact that I don't know of any indicates their rarity or perhaps some fundamental deficiency of structure. There are significant differences between gay 3ways and hetero 3ways that make them incomparable. (Three of a kind relate differently than do two of a kind plus one of the other kind.) Also, I've never known a lesbian 3way relationship of any permanence, although I suppose they do flourish somewhere on some unexplored portion of the Amazon.

One final question. Why do you want this? If it is because there is something not quite right at home, don't do it. If is just for fun or just because it has come knocking on your door, and if you and Fred have both studied the map in each other's eyes, then have fun and let me know how it goes. And send pictures.

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I've always felt it a mistake for Gays and Lesbians to mimick straight marriage by limiting their idea of what constitutes a household to just two people. Says who? It doesn't seem to be working all that well for heterosexuals with an over 50 percent failure rate.

I know one household in San Francisco that consists of three men in a romantic, committed relationship that has now survived about 20 years. So we know it can be done. I'm sure there are examples in Utah which support multiple partners, so let's not pretend it doesn't exist anywhere.

Gays and Lesbians are not "just like heterosexuals." We should be more creative than heterosexuals in forming relationships.

Once again, what was the reason you think one partner works better than two or three?

It is curious how so many gays that complain about heterosexism and homophobia are so quick to dismiss heterosexuals as limited, dull, and erratic.

*raises hand*

Almost four years here.

Also, you can see a family in more depth here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3Vc9DqQQ_A

Or look at the Cat Dancers (M/M/F). Of course, they didn't meet a happy end-- and they even manifested some of the problems Tony explained(more affection for one party; Joy wanted to commit suicide after the younger man's throat was punctured by the tiger's fangs, regardless of the remaining partner)-- but they were a model of happiness while the members were alive.


You could look to dozens of examples of monogamous couples ending in depression, suicide, even murder, but that does not mean that couples are doomed to such gruesome ends.

Neither does the example I pointed to represent all triads, nor are they a perfect family. But the original question was "Have you ever seen a 3way relationship work?" and such families certainly do exist.

....What gave you the impression that my example was a counterpoint?

Read it again, without that impulsive, pissy defensiveness you seem to be sporting, and you'll notice that the example I presented is SUPPORTING polyamorous setups.

I'm sorry, that was an honest miscommunication. You tossed out an example without any explanation as to how you intended it to be taken. I actually did read it two or three times before I responded, trying to figure out what your intent was, but it simply isn't clear, even when I re-read it now.

What gave me the idea it was a counterpoint? Well, most of your comment is about how they had problems, met an unhappy end, and faced death and suicide. So please forgive me if I thought you were offering an example of a poly relationship that didn't work out. From that understanding, I couldn't help but respond to what appeared to be the assertion that my family may be perfectly happy now, but so was this other one that fell apart after an accident.

I made the reference so that it could be looked up. Their end was a tragedy, not a result of their relationships (having your loved ones torn apart by your tigers isn't what I would call a consequence of faulty relationships). What should have made my point clear, however, was the "but they were a model of happiness while the members were alive" after that tangent about their misfortune. Emphasis on the "but" after I mentioned the misfortunes.

I tend to ramble, so I apologize if my meandering about misfortunes misled you.

timberwraith | January 2, 2009 4:36 PM

I know an F/F/M family who have been together for nearly a decade.

BTW, I noticed that the article failed to mention bi/pansexual partnerships.

Dear Timber,
I thought about mentioning other possibilities, but in the interest in time (and I can hardly say) brevity, I let it stand as is, but yes, the possibilities are much broader than what i touched on.

I am friends with a trio of Brits that have been together as a trio for 15+ years, with the third added after the duo had been together for nearly a decade. I have only discussed the dynamics briefly with one of them, but they have an inspiringly queer arrangement.

Surya Bonaly? Looks like somebody's trying to boost his gay points... ;-)

And I'm happy to see I'm not the only one wanting to remind you triples (and other multiples) are not an exclusively gay arrangement.

I think the "3 strikes and you're out" rule seems rather practical.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 3, 2009 10:58 AM

Here in Thailand I know a couple who have been together 40 years. They have had a Thai partner for eight years. Recently the younger of the two original partners found his own separate flame as his bed was left cold and he was sleeping alone in the separate bedroom. People evolve, and the household may split and I feel sorry for all concerned. Monogamy issues aside I feel fortunate to be loved by one person at a time.

Love the discussion on this. We're in a "triad" with 3 guys. 8 years now as a triad. Our original couple, Joel and Todd have been together for 18 years, meeting Michael at year 10. It just happened, and wasn't something we were looking for.

It's worked out great, and we know of 2-3 other successful long term triads. It's not for everyone, and it's not easy. The right chemistry makes it work for us.

Todd, Michael and Joel
Humboldt County, CA

Well, there you go. We're only limited by our imagination.

I'm an aging old Hippie from the 60s. I can't begin to tell you the combinations my affection took in the late 60s and early 70s. Even though I've been on the frontlines in the battle for same-sex marriage, it's because I'm offended by religious bigotry, not because I believe in the romance of the perfect couple. I don't want to give the bigots any material, but I see nothing wrong with three, four or more persons being recognized as a family unit.

That's just me.

I very much agree with your assessment, Father Tony. I spent four years with two other guys who had been together before I met them. I believe the relationship ended not because of any stress from the fact of three, but because I had personal differences with one of them which would have ended a couple relationship as well.

I would add that while three way relationships rarely seem to last for many years, this fact should not encourage emotionally stable men from attempting them. After all, couple relationships also rarely find decades of staying power. If the issues are largely the same, why not try to expand the amount of love in one's life? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.