Sexplain It: My Wife Is Obsessed With Threesomes. So Why Won't She Have One?

Zachary Zane helps a guy whose wife keeps backing out of her fantasy in this week's column.

threesome, wife crying
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I'm Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I'm very, very open about it). Over the years, I've had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I've learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I'm here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn't just "communicate with your partner," because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.


Dear Sexplain It,

My wife and I have been together for almost 20 years. We had one threesome in our early years, when we were dating, but have recently discussed exploring more. Unfortunately, after the first threesome, where we did it with her friend, my wife freaked out afterward.

Now, in talks, 90% of which she initiates, I suggest we have a threesome with a non-friend, but she always brings up friends she wants to do it with. Then she says she doesn’t know if she can do it again because it “wrecked” her last time. My wife has also mentioned many times that she wants to be with another woman. I’m fine with it and have given her a hall pass to explore with any woman she wants (even without me). She’ll then say she doesn’t want to. The few times I have brought up the threesome conversation, she’s quick to snap at me and always says, “Am I ever going to be enough for you?”

It drives me crazy, and it’s getting very frustrating. I feel I should be able to talk about it freely the way she does, and I should be able to ask questions from time to time. Why is it okay for her to talk about it but not me?

—Threesome Talker

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Dear Threesome Talker,

I agree with you. It isn't fair that your wife gets to talk about it and not you. I say this not as an excuse for your wife's behavior, but as an explanation: It sounds like she's simultaneously intrigued and terrified by the prospect of another threesome, and she's coping by trying to retain as much control over the idea as possible (i.e., not letting you weigh in).

Her concern makes sense. While threesomes are the most sought-after fantasies, they’re also the ones most likely to end poorly, Men’s Health advisory board member Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., told me when I interviewed him for Men’s Health Best. Sex Ever. 200 Frank, Funny & Friendly Answers About Getting It On. She's probably thought of a million things that could go wrong. What if she feels unwanted during the threesome? What if you develop a crush on the third? What if she develops a crush on a third? (Your wife may also be wondering if she's bisexual, which could be adding to her nervousness about having a threesome with another woman; maybe she’s not ready to open that can of worms just yet.)

So she’s torn. She wants to do this, but she's afraid that moving forward could radically alter—or ruin—her 20-year marriage. That's a reasonable concern, but it's not reasonable for her to project those insecurities onto you, saying things like, “Will I never be enough for you?” It's unfair, given that she’s the one who’s predominantly initiating these talks.

If you want more of a say in the situation, I can assure you that saying “This isn’t fair!” isn’t going to bode well with her. Given what you’ve shared about her, I feel like she’ll get defensive. Likewise, don't say "Shit or get off the pot!" (i.e., let's have this threesome or stop talking about it). That pressure will only worsen her anxiety.

Instead, address your wife’s concerns and see if you can reach a place where she’d feel comfortable having a threesome. The next time your wife brings up the idea, you should ask, “What are the specific worries you have about bringing in a third?”

Approach each concern with an actionable solution. For example, if your wife is worried she'll feel neglected, then set some boundaries on what you can do with the third. Perhaps you can haven't penetrative sex with the third or you can only kiss your wife. Perhaps you plan a romantic date with her the next day, just the two of you, as a form of prolonged aftercare. If she says she’s afraid she may want to stop partway through, talk about establishing a safe word; if anyone says the word, you can tell the third, “Hey, we were hoping this is something we were going to be able to do, but it looks like it’s not for us. Sorry, but we’re going to have to stop.”

Now if you attempt having this conversation, but you still feel like you're not getting anywhere, a threesome may not be for you at this point. They're only successful when all parties are on the same page—not when one person's calm and the other one's spiraling. If this turns out to be the case, you can say, “I know you’re not feeling comfortable enough right now, so let's agree to revisit the conversation next month (or in three months, six months, etc.).” That way, you're stopping the cyclical conversation in its tracks, but you're also not saying it's off the table forever. That should put everyone's mind at ease.

While having a threesome takes work and communication, it shouldn't be something you agonize over. There seems to be a lot going on between you two, so honestly, it’s probably not the time to bring in a third anyhow. Of course, you can always broach the conversation at some other point. In the meantime, why not refocus on your sex life, just two of you? Just because you can't have a threesome doesn't mean you can't dabble in BDSM, prostate massages, dirty talk, breath play, sex toys, and so much more.

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