This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

How do you enter a new poly (triad) relationship and ensure that it can be as equitable/fair as possible? I am interested in a couple but hesitant about them only wanting to play together. It sounds exhausting and inflexible. I am not experienced in this, but two-on-one dynamic sounds difficult to manage for the third if the couple calls all the shots.

We are planning our first date. Any tips on polite questions or recommendations on how to assess their interest in fairness from the beginning?

Also, how do couples add another person in a way where the third person isn’t pressured to follow the couple’s rules? I’ve read about power dynamics, but it’s hard to understand what a good situation looks like especially when the couple says up front that they want a connection but only want to play together?

I was going to begin my response to you by emphasising the inherent imbalance that a person dating a couple will face but acknowledge that this can be overcome with time.

Despite the bad reputation that comes with couples seeking “a third”, I do believe that there can and are good examples of two people creating a new triad relationship and doing so in a way that doesn’t alienate the person who has less experience dating both of those people. There is a way to lay the groundwork.

The problem? You’re not the one who has to lay it.

What worries me about your question is that you’re the one reading about power dynamics, you’re the one doing the heavy lifting, and you’re the one doing the groundwork — and not them. All they’ve indicated is that they “only want to play together”.

You can’t do the heavy lifting for these people. There is a way they could bring you in in a fair way, but if they have no intention on doing so, then there really isn’t going to be anything that you or I can say or do to prevent that from happening.

My honest advice to you is, as Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. They have not said to you that they have an interest in creating a new relationship. They -only- want to play together, and that doesn’t sound like something you want or have the energy to entertain. They can want a connection all they want, but until they’re willing to put in the research that you’ve already done, my guess is that they will not be likely to find it.

You can point them towards websites that explain what unicorn hunting is and why it’s a problem. I don’t agree with the use of the word “couple’s privilege” in how people apply it to these situations, but you can point out to them that there is an inherent power dynamic that they can’t just pretend doesn’t exist which they have to address and think about how they’re going to manage. You can do all this stuff for them but… is it really worth it? Is a triad where you actually want to be?

Would you walk into a living situation with someone who told you that they had no intention upon doing their fair share of the housework and no interest in changing that? Probably not, right? But if someone were to say, have a job that meant they had irregular and long hours and might struggle to regularly do a specific type of chore around the house and acknowledged the imbalance that brought but were willing to work with you on a way to make the living situation work despite this and compromise… you might be more willing to go into that situation.

Think about whether or not they’re putting in the effort it takes to counteract the inherent issue with the power dynamics and ask yourself if it’s really worth it when you could find someone else.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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