Why couples looking for a third* drive polyamorous people stir crazy

Theory hat on

Hetero couples seeking another woman to “add to their relationship” represents what happens when people steeped in toxic monogamy culture encounter polyamory. Polyfidelitous triads are seen as a “safe” way to engage in polyamory without having to embrace a full-on rejection of toxic monogamy culture.

Polygamy, or having “sister wives” is a template that many people are familiar with. Network polyamory hasn’t really existed before in Western Eurocentric culture. Network polyamory being here defined as individuals involved in intimate relationships with multiple people who are also involved in multiple intimate relationships with the full knowledge and consent of those involved.

Network polyamory is inherently feminist. That is, it fully requires that we reject women as being property. It also requires that we respect women as autonomous people able to make their own decisions about their sexuality and relationships and to pursue intimacy for its own sake decoupled from the need to form a family and have children.

Polyamorous people reject a whole lot of Western mainstream premises about love, such as:

  • true love exists and that it’s only with one other person
  • relationships’ value is based on the length of time involved with them
  • the only way to show commitment is through exclusivity
  • one romantic partner must fill all of your needs
  • jealousy is an acceptable way to show how much you love someone
  • jealousy is a good way to control your partner
  • the only natural outcome of love is marriage and children

That’s a whole lot! And it’s a pretty scary thing, to give up all of these ideas of what love and relationships should be. It’s a big leap in thinking to be OK with the ideas that relationships can last for a short amount of time and still be meaningful, or that relationships are valid even if they don’t result in marriage, or that relationships can exist for their own sake and not because of what they might become in the future. It’s also a radical idea that women can pursue equal and open romantic and sexual relationships with other people. That privilege had previously been mostly the wheelhouse of wealthier men who were free to pursue mistresses while their society consciously chose to ignore that extramarital relationships were happening. The women who became mistresses in times past were also shut out of societal standing because they were fucking but not creating a household.

How do closed MFF triads attempt to have their cake and eat it too?

  • Both women and men can have multiple intimate relationships with women but not with men. They don’t have to buck deeply ingrained societal notions that a woman fucking multiple men is unnatural and dirty and promiscuous and wrong. [Note: there are multiple kinds of intimacy, and polyamory doesn’t have to involve fucking, but Western Eurocentric society at large views relationships as fundamentally being about fucking]
  • Commitment is defined by exclusivity; the participants don’t need to muck around and figure out a way to have commitment that doesn’t involve limiting each others’ activities
  • Two romantic partners will fill all of your needs rather than one
  • Jealousy can be avoided through relationship configuration rather than through dismantling why and how we feel jealousy and possessiveness of others.
  • One single home remains the site of family and reproduction and closed MFF triads just become nuclear families plus one, rather than imagining alternate kinship networks

I think that newbies in search of closed triads drive many of us polyamorous people crazy because in many ways we’re trying to create an intimacy revolution. Meanwhile others think that they can take a shortcut and not do the mental groundwork to change their assumptions, and still get all of the benefits. For me it’s a wish that these newbies would dream bigger, and look at the ways in which Hollywood ideas about love and romance box us in to an impossible ideal.

*Couples looking for a third meaning hetero couples looking for a woman to join them for a polyfidelitous triad. AKA Unicorn Hunters. But that doesn’t make for a very snappy title to say that. :p

(This blog post inspired by this poly.land post and the book Love’s Refraction, as well as this post about men and nonmonogamy. Thanks also to Fetlife user _SummerStorm_ for checking me on my Eurocentrism and Fetlife user mehitable for her suggestion to make this writing to be a bit more clear as to exactly who I mean. I definitely do not mean all people looking to be in triads but instead the people commonly referred to as “unicorn hunters.”)


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Just as mouthy in real life.

8 thoughts on “Why couples looking for a third* drive polyamorous people stir crazy”

  1. Unicorn hunters are not usually hetero. The husband is, but the wife is bisexual. So a bi unicorn can have sex with both of them. It sounds great to the uninitiated.


  2. Or maybe the unicorn wants a closed triad. How about we encourage open dialogue when pursuing any kind of relationship (poly or mono), with a focus on honesty and integrity in all communication, including allowing people to express when they feel insecure, jealous, or unloved/unlovable. Different people have different needs and those needs may change over time and depending on the other people involved. Encouraging people to find what works for them without shame and guilt (that they are probably struggling with from the outside world anyway) would be a better use of our collective love energy.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ignoring that men can be bi sexual in a triad, which those relationships deflated several of your feminism related points, add on to that that this is basically just an attack on relationships that don’t match your personal view. You can acknowledge that everyone has different prefrences, levels of need, and differing amounts of time, but you can see how some poly(multiple) relations could be the result for SOME people, without implying that they simply are not doing enough for the culture of poly by finding what makes them fulfilled?


  4. When I’ve seen unicorn hunters out on the prowl (usually in “looking for…” posts on poly/kink websites), it’s always been straight guy and female partner looking for another woman to add on. While ones looking for a man statistically have to exist, I’ve never seen it.

    Part of the reason is that it’s more acceptable for a man to have multiple female partners than it is for a man to have even one male partner, and women are expected to either accept the presence of another woman in the home or be bisexual for the sake of the man’s fantasies.

    Liked by 2 people

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