Unicorn Hunting 101
I wanted to write this as a bit of an orientation for people who are interested in adding a third person to their relationship, as this is a pretty common way to want to start exploring polyamory. Typically, this is a male/female couple who are interested in finding a bisexual woman to date them both exclusively (though you can certainly have any gender in any of those roles!). This is such a common place for couples interested in getting started in polyamory that it’s actually a cliché, and the term for it is “unicorn hunting.”
The first thing to realize about unicorn hunting is that, as the name implies, it can be very difficult to find unicorns. There are several reasons for that, but the most obvious can be seen if you think about what the dating opportunities look like for a hot, bisexual, sexually open woman. Out of the limited pool of hot, bisexual, sexually open women out there, many are just not inclined to date a couple (more on that in a bit), and the ones that are have all the single people on the planet to pick from, in addition to all those other unicorn hunters…the numbers are just not looking good for you. And the odds look a lot worse if you’re picky and want to set your bar at “compatible” rather than “available”.
But let’s say you do manage to corner a unicorn, and she’s theoretically interested in dating a couple, and furthermore seems compatible with both you and your spouse. Score! You’ve beaten the odds and are off to your new happily ever after! Right? Well…no. I did mention that line of interested people, and the 500 other offers to buy her a drink, right? So now it’s time to talk about what you’re actually putting on the table relationship-wise for her when you’re asking her to date you two exclusively. This is where the term unicorn hunter can take a bit of a derisive tone because most unicorn hunters haven’t thought this part through.
You and your spouse are looking for a third after a hell of a lot of talking. You discussed fears, limits, boundaries and what you’re both looking for (or you sure as hell should have!). At this point, it would be absurd if you each didn’t have some level of fear that adding a third would disrupt your existing relationship, so you have probably come up with rules to try and protect it. These rules might be things like both original people always having a veto over the third, or no saying “I love you” to the new person, or no sex without condoms, or she can only have sex with both of us at once, or…well, all kinds of stuff that could be reserved between the original two people. The term for this is “couples privilege” and just like unicorn hunting it’s extremely common. You have set up a rigged system that makes your third expendable before you’ve even met her because you want to protect your existing relationship viagra 50mg ou 100mg.
So put yourself in the shoes of this unicorn you’ve got cornered, that one who can date almost anybody on the planet and has a line formed behind you of people wanting her attention. “Would you like to come join our relationship as a non-voting member that can be vetoed for doing nothing wrong other than being party to jealousy from one of us or any number of perceived slights, real or imagined, and have a list of arbitrary constraints on what you can do which you never had or will have any input on? Now, we don’t want you seeing anybody else of course! On top of these explicitly stated rules is the unspoken one – you’re always secondary to our marriage, so don’t ever expect your needs to come first.”
You can see how this might be a deal that’s hard to close. For the sake of argument though, let’s say you beat the odds and do manage to lure that unicorn back to your lair. Now you’ll learn what very few unicorn hunters ever make it far enough to discover – you’ve skipped right over the kiddie pool and are chin-deep into advanced polyamory! You managed to jump right into the 400 level college class without taking any of the pre-reqs. Who needs pre-reqs when you’re both dating the same person. Not you! …Nothing could be further from the truth!
You’re still going to need to learn how to handle jealousy. You’re still going to feel left out sometimes. You’re still going to need to work tirelessly on improving your communication and emotional awareness. But now you’re trying to juggle and balance things that never, ever grow exactly equally apace while you’re working on the basics. Instead of adding one new relationship to the equation you’ve added 4 (because your relationship with your spouse is going to change and have new needs): A-B, A-C, B-C, A-B-C. These are all separate relationships — each has its own needs, each will grow at its own pace, each will have its own problems, and each will impact all the others.
How do you handle it when you get in a fight with one of your partners and you feel like both of them team up against you? What happens when, despite the “rules,” your other two partners fall in love and you just don’t feel that strongly about the new girl? How are you feeling when you have to go out of town on business and the two of them spend the whole week alone together in your bed? What about if you just need a little space but new girl is ALWAYS over to see your spouse? What if you fall in love with her and your spouse starts hinting at a veto because they feel left out? In addition to all this, there’s also a pretty good chance that the reason you managed to lure this particular unicorn back to your lair is because she’s never been around this particular block either. You’re all new, so nobody set expectations appropriately and she’s just finding out what it means to be a second-class partner. That’s not a fun time for her, and is going to lead to new struggles that everyone will need to overcome.
Now, I’m not going to claim that this never works out, but when you see that dude with his arms happily around two girls, it’s overwhelmingly likely that things were not approached as I describe above. This is not doom and gloom, it really is a suggestion of how to open your marriage to a third more successfully. The key to successfully opening your marriage to another person is to lose one specific concept: drop the ideas of “equality” and that everything needs to be done in tandem.
Things will never be equal, and trying to force them to be can cause a lot of damage. Instead of trying to date one person exactly equally (hint: even when it works out and things are incredibly good, “equal” is never a truly accurate description) just…date people. There’s nothing wrong with dating somebody with the hope that they might also hit it off with your spouse. But trying to force the issue and keep things in tandem is a very difficult job for someone who has already mastered the skills you have to learn. It’s not where you want to be your first time at bat. Instead of trying for the impossible “equal,” instead focus on a much more realistic “good” with an eye always on “even better” for everybody involved.
I know it seems way scarier to just let your spouse go out there without you, but that is just an illusion that it will be easier if you can manage to land a unicorn. First, learn how to do poly right, and a great many wonderful things are possible for you. You can’t get the answers out of the back of the book – you need to put the time into the homework. If you want to open your marriage up, you need to learn how to be comfortable with your spouse dating somebody else, so…get on that! The other big concept I hope you take away is that, regardless of what model you choose for polyamory, the people you’re adding into your lives are not abstractions, they’re people who have needs and feelings that can be hurt, and those feelings need to be considered just as carefully as you considered the feelings of your spouse when you first started dating. I hope this post has inspired you to look at trying things differently and helps you avoid some of the the most common pitfalls new people make.
~Andre Laroussini has spent his 30’s being a poly advocate and giving advice to people exploring poly. He’s married and a Relationship Anarchist which may seem a bit counter intuitive, but he describes as having one particularly intimate partner while also being excited to explore every relationship as a unique experience without pre-made expectations or limits.~