Searching for the perfect threesome

I feel most alive with bisexual women -- how can I find the ideal match?

Topics: Sex, Since You Asked, Coupling, Love and Sex,

Dear Cary,

My most rewarding relationships have been with bisexual women who enjoyed threesomes. These were committed relationships that included occasional, mutually agreed-upon threesomes with women whom my partner and I both desired and who in turn enjoyed being with a couple. My relationships with straight women were never as satisfying for them or for me, although until middle age they were all I experienced.

The lifestyle I’ve described isn’t based on the banal male fantasy cliché of one man having two women satisfy him. It would be much easier for me if it did. My parents, bless their hearts, led a bohemian lifestyle rich in threesomes for their entire lives together, 60 years. I idolized their marriage (as did all who knew them). I accidentally learned of their lifestyle preference as a preteen and it stuck with me. I’m really happiest in a twosome that occasionally includes a mutually desired third.

About 10 years ago, in my 40s, I came to terms with my situation. I started seeking a woman who fit my fetish. When first meeting, whether in person or online, I was sure to come out about my preference — and wouldn’t you know it, there were plenty of takers! But although these women were definitely bi at one time in their lives and open to threes — they generously (perhaps too generously) shared their past experiences and fantasies — in a short while, each for one reason or another opted out of our planned adventures and asked me to do the same. A few went so far as to arrange threesomes but then became distant during the dates or in front of the fire, to the embarrassment of the other women and me. Inevitably, each of these partners and I separated, although we remain good friends.

I’ve almost concluded that my fantasy woman is only an ideal or so rare she might as well be. (My late father laughingly berated me for being an idealist; he meant in my profession, in which I’m accomplished. He had no idea how right he was relationally!) I’m tempted to give up seeking her and go solo. I don’t relish the loneliness, but at least it wouldn’t end with me dreading the inevitable recriminations and disappointment with a next partner. I’m fast coming to the conclusion that this difference that life has dealt me is too large to overcome. Honestly, I don’t know how my folks managed.



I don’t expect a pat solution, Cary. I just want to express my frustration and also my empathy for all the other people in the world with unusual lifestyle preferences, for whom living among a more conventional majority is a difficult business. For those not so afflicted, please reserve some compassion for your friends and acquaintances who may look fine on the outside but inside are secretly suffering, crying “tears of a clown.”

Unrequited Love

Dear Unrequited,

Thank you for eloquently expressing your particular plight in a way that has universal application. Living with a more conventional majority is indeed a difficult business for those of us who differ. It is made more difficult by the despair that accumulates with each failed attempt to find someone who is compatibly different in just the right way.

To this, what can I add? Only, perhaps, that in using your private experience to express a general aspiration, you crystallize what it feels like to be “different.” Thus you take the next step of a man on a quest: You become a leader.

I just read “Tribes” by Seth Godin and am thinking about how each of us can turn a private quest for a particular good into a public and more general campaign that galvanizes others, gives them support, opens dialogue and helps us envision a direction for millions.

This might sound comically high-minded if you really just wanted a good threesome. But I don’t believe you really just want a good threesome any more than Rosa Parks just wanted a seat on the bus. The accusation of selfish motives is a cheap way to denigrate the common struggle. (Lest I appear to equate one man’s desire for a good threesome with the entire civil rights movement, carelessly denigrating one while attempting to elevate the other, I can only say that I believe my readers are too careful and too generous to accuse me of such a thing.)

What you want is to find a home in the world for your desires. You want to find a home in the world for who you are.

No desires are in themselves selfish or ignoble or trite. It is those very desires that we snicker about, uncomfortable with what they represent — difference, scorn, rejection, failure — that are key to human liberation.

One of my online writing group’s prompts this week was “Every angel is terrifying” from Rainer Maria Rilke’s second Duino Elegy.

Without belaboring the vast, all-consuming paradox at the heart of this simple formulation, and while trying to walk a high wire alongside Hugh Hefner and Nelson Mandela, let’s just postulate that all our desires are holy and universal, that all our private aspirations are in some sense the aspirations of millions, that all our struggles belong to the struggling world, that all our heartache is the world’s heartache, and that it is a high calling, for those of us who can do it, to turn ourselves inside-out and say, “Look, see here, there’s nothing here you don’t recognize in yourself, so let’s try to do this together!” Those who express the universal truths that lie buried in our private struggles help others find what is noble in their own hidden and sometimes shame-ridden dreams. To lead, to visualize, to describe for others this far and strange direction toward which we walk in the heat: This is the job of a leader.

Ha ha! Such high-blown rhetoric for a man simply in search of a good threesome! But why not? Is not one man’s desire for a good threesome like another man’s desire for a cleaner-burning engine, and like another man’s desire to free all political prisoners? No matter what the particulars of our dreams may be, silence is the enemy of us all. If we keep silent, others will suffer that same silence and will go to their graves having never achieved what they want or even voiced the aspiration for it. Imagine lying in your eternal tomb and saying to yourself, “Well, at least I didn’t try and fail. That would have been so much worse!”

So I think you have done more in writing this letter than you know. It is difficult to balance seriousness and pleasure. Those of us inculcated in an intellectual tradition find it particularly difficult, because we have necessarily delayed pleasure in pursuit of knowledge and at times derided as shallow the search for pleasure; many of us are suspicious of those who elevate the acquisition of their personal pleasures to the status of a social good. We have been taught this, often in our families. It is part of our tradition.

But what else is there, in the end, but our drive for pleasure? My love of literature is what? The love of its pleasures! My empathy, my sympathy, my compassion for others, what is it in the end but the pleasure of feeling connected? My rare periods of self-sacrifice and discipline in the pursuit of a larger aim? What are these but the studied pursuit of a delayed pleasure?

What will motivate us to work toward some great good if not pleasure, deeply contemplated and deeply tasted?

Now, as to the operational aspects of your personal quest, let’s speculate about a few possible reasons why you have suffered this recent string of failures.

The desire to contravene social conditioning disturbs deep patterns of being of which we are often only dimly aware. It might be, therefore, that someone contemplating such an arrangement with you suddenly and unaccountably becomes “uncomfortable with it.” Having been taught since childhood to heed our discomfort in sexual matters, we therefore back off, forgetting that discomfort sometimes arises not because what is contemplated is wrong but because it contravenes social conditioning. It may also be that the expected glow of perfect compatibility was too finely etched and beautiful, and that reality pales unacceptably. Not to mention that this is a path your parents pursued: Having your parents in the bedroom can tend to undermine the proceedings.

But these are just passing thoughts, and they are not really to the point. It is more my purpose to applaud how you have made your personal plight public. Your honesty can be a model for all of us; your willingness to speak for many others can be a universal good.

You have a calling. Mobilize your tribe.



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