I'm the 'Unicorn' in a Three-Person Relationship
Illustration by Soofiya Andry
My First Time is a column and podcast series exploring sexuality, gender, and kink with the wide-eyed curiosity of a virgin. We all know your "first time" is about a lot more than just popping your cherry. From experimenting with kink to just trying something new and wild, everyone experiences thousands of first times in the bedroom—that's how sex stays fun, right?
This week, footwear designer Nicole Everett talks about her experiences of being in a three-person relationship. You can catch My First Time on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Acast or wherever you get your podcasts.
I grew up in an extremely small town in Australia. My parents divorced when I was seven, and I looked after my younger siblings a lot. I never got a chance to explore my sexuality, and words like "transgender" or "bisexual" weren’t even a part of my vocabulary back then.
I moved away and that was the first time I got to see how different people live. I started to really understand my own sexuality when I was working as a stripper. Being around all these beautiful women, whom I’d love to watch on stage, I’d think about being with a woman sexually.
I became close with another girl at the club, and one night she asked me, "How do you feel about joining my partner and I in a threesome?" I’d just been through a bad breakup, and thought, Why not? We went back to his place, and it was my first experience of having sex with two people. It was beautiful; a natural instinct took over. That was the first time I was fully sexual with another woman.
I never thought I’d wanted to delve into a relationship with two people at that point. But I moved to the UK and went to a sex party called Killing Kittens with a good friend. We played with another couple, and it was a lot of fun.
Right now, I’m in a throuple—a three-person relationship, where each party has equal terms—with Thomas and Cathy, who are married. I identify as the third person in the relationship. People often use the word “unicorn,” which is the third person joining an existing couple in an ethically non-monogamous relationship.
Sometimes you can be the third person in relationships where the existing couple know each other so well and have a deep shared understanding. You can’t have that same kind of experience with them, so you have to create your own experience with them as the third party. You can feel a little shut out, but I almost like that, because it allows me to take a step back and watch this beautiful couple be how they are in each others' presence. I enjoy seeing other people be happy, especially if it’s a couple I’m intimately close with.
Communication is a huge deal. I don’t think you can move forward unless you discuss things, because the moment you hold things in, it bogs down deeper and deeper. Early on, when I first started seeing Thomas, I’d get on the phone to Cathy and ask her questions about him, and vice versa. Doing that helped me to feel comfortable about things.
When I hang out one-on-one with either Thomas or Cathy, or they hang out without me, we call that two-time. When it’s the three of us hanging out, we call it three-time. As we’re all fully open, if I fancied someone else, I’d tell them.
I’ve never felt jealous in our space. I came in as the third-person in our relationship, and they have such a solid grounding of marriage that I could never break, and I wouldn’t want to. I’ve never been a jealous person because I like to come from a space of positivity. Jealousy is a very negative emotion—it can bring people down without them realizing. In the throuple relationship, there have been moments where I’ve had to take a step back and think, This is new. I don’t know what this emotion is. Is it jealousy, or something completely different?
For example, there was one time when Thomas went out on a date with someone new, and didn’t share who that was. I experienced feelings that I thought were jealousy: I didn’t know this person or what she was about, and if she would come and take him away. But stepping back and processing that emotion, I realised that it wasn’t jealousy, but feelings of protectiveness over Thomas, and wanting to make sure he was safe.
I feel like I would always want to be in an open relationship, because I have the availability to love more than one person, and I like to be with both a man and a woman. So my relationship with Cathy and Thomas really works for me. One thing you have to take into consideration when you’re seeing two people is that you’re getting to know both of them, as well as the three of you together. You have to create a space where you can feel open and able to ask questions, and make sure everyone is comfortable in the situation.
As the third person coming into a throuple, communication is the most important thing. Everything has to start with that. Just put what you're feeling on the table, and go with it. Also, be open-minded about where the relationship goes. Sometimes it can happen that you're in a throuple, almost without realizing it. You're like, wow, I'm the third person in a three-way relationship.
Being in a throuple makes me feel so secure. Thomas and Cathy are my family and my rocks. Rather than just being someone’s girlfriend, I’m their girlfriend.