How to Join a Couple Without Losing Yourself

Male Unicorn Sighting

Many couples dream of finding a third partner (sometimes called a unicorn), which means solo non-monogamists interested in joining have the potential to be in high demand.

Couple-solo threesomes and relationships can be a sexy way to play, but can also be risky when it comes to interpersonal dynamics. It’s all too easy to get lost in the energy, passion, or even the drama of joining an established couple. So, how can a playful solo poly person become a third without losing their sense of self?


Start Strong

Be sure to start on stable footing with yourself. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about joining a couple, and it can certainly be a very positive experience. Some people who look for couples, however, have unhealthy goals without realizing it. If you’re looking to join a couple in order to give yourself a sense of meaning, purpose, stability or safety, then you’re looking in the wrong place! Invest some time in building yourself up so that you can bring your best self into the relationship, instead of trying to find yourself there.

Know What’s Important

The best time to figure out what you need is when you’re clear and centered in yourself. It’s hardest to identify your needs when you’re suddenly part of a relationship with a couple that is already on its own trajectory, with its own goals and needs. If a difference of opinion occurs you may quickly find yourself outvoted. Determine your needs as best you can in advance, and write them down along with a promise to yourself to trust that list if you’re in doubt later. Some things you can only learn once you’re in the midst of the situation, so your list will grow with time, but don’t betray your core values.

Make Your Identity a Priority for Everyone

Some unicorns are looking to commit and build a home, while others want to run free. If maintaining your own identity is a priority for you, then make sure you say it proudly and stand by your promises to yourself. Only join couples that support your goals of individuality, and that actively encourage ongoing conversations about how you can all protect your well-being.

Enjoy Multiples

Unless you’re looking to join a couple, and then close your triad by not seeing anyone else, you might want to enjoy multiples! Multiple couples, that is. Solo non-monogamists who are looking for casual relationships could do well to share their attentions with several partners or couples in order to avoid becoming overly tied down.

Never Settle

While a hot, no-strings encounter can be fun and healthy, sometimes solo players want to stick around for a while. When we’re feeling lusty it’s harder to make clear decisions, but do your best to carefully consider more than the sexy parts. Do all members of the relationship consistently demonstrate the kind of positive qualities that you seek and deserve? Make sure everyone you’re becoming involved with meets your standards for being part of your life.

Have Someone Just For You

Everyone deserves to have someone just for them, whether it’s a therapist, a best friend, or another trustworthy confidant. It might mean risking coming out, if you haven’t shared your non-monogamy with others. But keeping things a secret means that you have no one to check in with, help you with reality checks, and support you. This someone can help keep you grounded and make sure you’re still getting your needs met.

Boundaries Are Sexy

People who know what they want and can stick to it are self-aware, confident, and attractive to others with similarly healthy qualities. What are you willing to compromise, and what are your firmest boundaries? If the couple you’re considering appreciates and values you, they’ll also be willing to compromise in order to take good care of you as well as of themselves.

Be Ready to Kiss It

Not every relationship is meant to be. If you are worried about yourself, afraid to tell people what is happening in your relationships, or feel that you are losing yourself, then take a step back and talk to someone trustworthy until you can more clearly evaluate the situation. Sometimes the best way not to lose yourself is to kiss a situation goodbye, giving you time to heal and energy to start looking for better matches.

Now get out there, have fun, and find people who help you be your best, happiest self. Being a solo non-monogamist that joins a couple (or lots of couples) should be a fulfilling, exciting experience that helps you feel like you keep finding wonderful new parts of yourself, rather than losing yourself.

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Dr. Ruthie Neustifter
Dr. Ruthie Neustifter is a Canadian university professor, researcher, and psychotherapist. They are proud to be a co-chair of the longest running sexuality conference in Canada and a co-host of Sexually Charged Radio. They’re also a poly, kinky, sex- and gender-queer force with which to be reckoned. Dr. Ruthie has been professionally slinging dildos and spreading pleasure since the late 1990s and especially enjoys working with diverse sexualities, genders and relationship structures, as well as survivors of trauma. Dr. Ruthie's writing and talks should never be considered a replacement for professional medical or psychotherapeutic services, and their opinions are strictly their own. Visit Exploring Intimacy for more information on me.

1 Comment on How to Join a Couple Without Losing Yourself

Egalitarian Polyamory | SwingTowns Open Library | Non-Monogamy Blog said : Guest Report Subscribe a week ago

[…] is equal in time and energy always? Of course not. The important thing is equity, not equality. Are everyone’s needs being met? Does everyone have the same opportunities and potential to evolve and grow together? Those are the […]

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