Threesomes, Feelings, and Triggers

Here’s a question I got in my inbox:

I am a guy in a polyamorous relationship with a woman who is rather more experienced than I am in the poly world, and in terms of threesomes, group sex, etc. We’re planning on having a threesome soon, and potentially a foursome with another couple. I know she is turned on by the idea of me fucking another woman. I’m in a bit of a different place, in that I am cognitively on board, but can see getting triggered with jealousy, feeling unmanly, or any host of negative emotions, by seeing her fucking or sucking another man. She knows about all of this, by the by. I firmly believe that the only way to get past those fears is to DO IT, and I am cognitively super on board with the whole idea of group sex with her. How can I prepare myself to survive getting triggered in the moment, should that occur, and what can I do to make these upcoming experiences as smooth as possible? Thanks!

First off, good for you for recognizing the potential challenges ahead and looking for ways to minimize or avoid them. A lot of people go into group sex situations imagining all of the fun things that might happen, and don’t think about any of the things that might go awry.

While I think that in some situations, it can be helpful to push through and just do the scary thing, I’m not sure that’s the best approach in this case. It’s clear that your mind is a “hell, yes!” to threesomes and group sex, and that’s a great place to start. But if you go into it with a commitment to push through any fears, that could easily turn into a train wreck. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. So here are some suggestions for a somewhat softer approach.

Make an agreement that you can join in the action

I think group sex works best when there’s an agreement among all of the participants that anyone can join in at any time. If you want to sit back and watch, that can be lots of fun. But if you’re sitting off to the side and wishing you knew how to get in on the action, it can easily turn into resentment that nobody is noticing you over there. If you have an agreement that you can join whatever is happening, you’ll be less likely to worry about it. So if, for example, you take a break to go to the bathroom and come back to see your partner playing with someone else, knowing that she’s already consented to your adding yourself to the mix can make it much easier. (Note: this is for threesomes or private gatherings of folks who know each other. Play parties are a different matter, since you need to get consent from folks before approaching them. Though if you’re part of a group scene at a party, this still applies.)

Joining in doesn’t have to mean getting into the middle of what’s going on. If your partner is having sex with someone else, you can connect with her by making eye contact, talking with her, holding hands, kissing, or finding skin contact. In these situations, jealousy might show up if you feel disconnected from her, so creating some connection can help.

Don’t get focused on intercourse

It’s pretty common for men to report that they have challenges getting or keeping an erection in a group sex setting. You might have difficult feelings showing up. It can be distracting to have more people in the space.  It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of comparing yourself with someone else in the room. Quite a few guys have told me that they enjoy threesomes or group sex a lot, but that they tend to have non-intercourse sex because the distraction or the anxiety can get in the way of having an erection. So go into it with that in mind. Don’t expect intercourse to be what happens. You can enjoy sex in so many other ways, from erotic massage to oral to toys to kink. Take the pressure off and you’ll boost your odds of having fun. And who knows what might happen then!

Know what to do if you get triggered

Difficult emotions can easily come up for anyone in a group sex situation. Even folks with lots of experience sometimes have it happen to them. If those feelings show up, they can short circuit your arousal and lead to a vicious circle. Fortunately, there are some ways to move through them.

Set up a code word or signal to tell your partner if you need her. I like to do three squeezes or taps somewhere on my partner’s body, like a squeeze on the shoulder. It’s subtle and easy to use in noisy situations. It also works at boring work parties, or when your partner runs into a friend at the grocery store and you want to interrupt the conversation without being obvious about it.

Don’t endure or try to ignore the emotions. The more you do that, the louder they get. If you pay attention to them when they’re quieter, you can figure out what they need and look for ways to meet it before things escalate. Sometimes, though, we don’t notice that the emotions are there until they escalate to the point where we get flooded. If that happens, the best thing to do is stop what you’re doing and take care of the trigger. It might mean stepping into another room to take a break and ground yourself. Get a glass of water, have a snack, and do some calming breathwork. You might be able to slow things down enough that you can return to the party, or you might decide that you need to go home.

If you have a great time, but you feel a little raw or emotionally tender the next day, that’s probably a shameover. It’s like a hangover, but with emotions. It often means that you overdid it a little bit and your emotions are balancing out. You can make that easier if you plan for it. Keep the next morning clear, if you can. Give yourself and your partner some room to move through the shameover. And if the shameover doesn’t happen, you’ve got a free morning together to talk about how much fun you had, and maybe get inspired to have some more!

Make and stick to the plan

If you want to set some agreements with your partner about what sexual activities are off limits for your first threesome, that can be a great way to manage things. You might decide that neither of you will have intercourse with someone else, for example. It doesn’t have to be a forever decision. Instead, it can be a way to reduce the number of variables you’re dealing with in an unfamiliar situation so you can ramp up. If you agree to not engage in certain activities, keep those boundaries in place. It’s easy to change your mind in the moment because you’re turned on, and that can easily turn into a shameover or worse. If it’s a “no” before you get started, stick with that. Besides, you can always revisit the question when you’re planning your next threesome.

When it comes to deciding what to do in the moment, I suggest only doing things that you’re a “hell, yes” to. Your partner might ask something like, “would you like to watch me have sex?” If your answer is “hell, yes!”, then go for it. If your answer is anything else, try saying, “Thanks for asking. I don’t think I’m in the mood for that.” The “hell, yes” test goes a long way towards helping you figure out if you have mixed feelings or worries before you start. That’s a great way to make sure that you’re not doing anything that you’re not totally into, and it reduces the odds of a shameover. If you’re not a “hell, yes”, then say no.

Connect with each other after the threesome

Plan on having some one-on-one time with your partner after the threesome. Go home together, take a shower, cuddle in bed, and talk about the experience. It doesn’t have to be heavy duty processing- talk about the stuff that was super sexy to do or see. Talk about what got you turned on. Making some room for the two of you to reconnect can create a feeling of completion.

One fun way to do that is to finish three sentences:

  • Something that happened that I really enjoyed was…
  • Something that I’d like to to next time is…
  • Something that happened that I’d have enjoyed differently was…

So that might look like this: “I loved watching you kiss her while I was going down on you. Next time, I’d like to be the one in the middle. And it would have been even hotter if you and I had taken turns going down on her.” That’s a simple and less threatening way to talk about your adventures, and sometimes, it can lead to some exciting fantasies or sexy talk between the two of you.

Stay sober-ish

While I don’t have any judgement about your enjoying alcohol or whatever substances you might want, it’s easy to go overboard with it. That’s especially true when you’re nervous. I’ve seen folks try to overcome their triggers with a little too much alcohol. Sometimes, it means they do something they regret the next day. Sometimes, it means that they fall asleep or say something mean or try to cross someone’s boundaries. Go easy on the alcohol, if you have any at all.

I hope this helps. Have fun!


As a coach, I work with a lot of people to help them find new ways to create the relationships that support them and help them thrive. Get in touch with me to schedule a free 30 minute Get Acquainted skype call and let’s talk about what’s going on for you and how I can help you make sex easy.