At each Wild and Sublime event, audience members submit anonymous questions to the panel comprised of various sexuality and gender experts. For this guest column, Karen Yates, somatic sex educator and producer and host of Wild and Sublime, responds to one of the questions submitted by the audience.
How do I deal with jealousy in a 3-way?
Fear of jealousy is one of the reasons more people don’t try group sex—fear that when you see your partner kissed, fondled, groped, fucked, sucked, licked, tied or flogged by someone else, you’ll be overcome with terrible feelings. If you really want to have a three-way though, don’t think of jealousy as a barrier. In planning ahead, knowing that yes, you could, you might, you very likely will feel sexually jealous—if only momentarily—in a multi-person intimate situation, you can begin to make choices about how you want to react, rather than succumbing to triggers.
Here’s how to proceed.
Do an Inventory of Your Jealousy
When you feel jealous, your body usually reacts. Maybe you start breathing more quickly or you feel warm. You might even feel panic. Most likely these uncomfortable feelings are signaling that a basic fear of yours is getting triggered.
The basic fears from which jealousy stem are pretty simple: Fear of abandonment; fear we’ll be found inadequate; fear that what we have will get taken away; or fear that love and/or affection is a finite resource and that if someone else is getting more, we will be getting less.
Check out this amazing jealousy resource: The Jealousy Workbook by Kathy Labriola. The book is geared toward people in open relationships, but anyone can use it. It’s full of self-assessment surveys, advice, and exercises you and your partner can consider, depending on the situation.
One exercise Labriola outlines is something that might come in handy when considering a three-way. Similar to the Buddhist meditation on visualizing your own death, in Labriola’s meditation, you are visualizing your partner having sex with someone else. For our purposes, I’ll amend the visualization to incorporate the three-way and what could happen when the three of you get together.
Labriola suggests you get comfortable and give yourself 30 minutes for the meditation. Walk yourself through the situation as vividly as possible, from the first moments you all meet up, to the beginning of intimacy, to mid-scene, to afterwards. Imagine moments when your partner might be more focused on the new person or vice versa. Imagine your partner enjoying the attention of the other person or engaging in specific acts. Imagine what you could be doing—as an active, less active, or passive participant. Imagine the scene winding down and your partner wanting to meet up with this person again or being upbeat and excited about what just happened. Imagine your own responses.
At any point in the visualization, if you feel uncomfortable, pause the scene and assess what you are feeling exactly. Maybe it’s a mix of emotions.
When the visualization ends, take some centering deep breaths. Now visualize some great experiences you’ve had with your lover to anchor back into reality. Open your eyes and then write down all the triggers you experienced. Congratulations! You now have a blueprint of your triggers that will be helpful going forward. Labriola suggests, and it is my experience as well, that jealousy is only triggered at very specific moments in a relationship, which can be very helpful, since you can then have very specific methods for working with it.
At this point I suggest you talk to your partner.
Have a Conversation With Your Partner
Explain the exact things you are worried about, as ludicrous as you think they might be. For example, you might fear that your partner will find the other person more of a turn-on than you or that the two of them will shut you out of the scene, leaving you just sitting there. Or that the new person might have better sexual skills than you. Maybe you’re afraid your partner will fall in love with the other person and want to dump you. That’s sounds extreme on paper, but jealousy isn’t rational. You might find, as you talk, that your partner has some worries too.
Ask your partner for an affirmation that allays some of your fears, like, “I love you and our relationship is extremely important to me. I would never want to intentionally hurt you.”
Come up with a plan of action or a simple code phrase either one of you can say to the other to remind you of each other’s presence. Perhaps you can agree to stay physically connected during whatever acts you’re engaged in, if that makes sense, like holding your partner or stroking their body.
Have a Back-Up Plan For Yourself
Sometimes, for all the planning, triggers will come up you didn’t anticipate. Or maybe you didn’t do any planning and you were at Target with your partner and kinda fell into a three-way. It happens!
If You Get Triggered
Here are some things to try if you get triggered during the scene:
- Breathe deeply and slowly.
- Don’t concentrate on what you’re not getting. Focus on some aspect of your partner or the other person that youfind attractive and act on it. Touch them, stroke them, compliment them.
- Come up with a neutral phrase you can use if you feel you’re being ignored, like “Hey, I’d like some of that.”
- If you are really triggered and can’t work your way out of it, go into the bathroom, breathe, drink some water, relax. When you’re ready, go back.
Usually the worst-case scenario won’t happen but it doesn’t hurt to have a plan!
After the encounter, check in with your partner (and with the third person if it makes sense). What was cool about the encounter? When did you feel uncomfortable? Would anything need to be different next time? Will there be a next time?
While there’s always the potential for jealousy in trying a three-way, remember the benefits: you are expanding your sexual horizons and exploring new things with your partner that potentially could deepen the relationship. Good luck!
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