Ask RaeRay #7: Don't Put The Cart Before The Unicorn
So, I'm currently involved in a polyfidelitous ffm triad. While I see that there are some potential problems with "unicorn hunters," I find the universal disdain towards them rather offensive. My wife and I began as "unicorn hunters:" we were both more interested in finding a woman, and we preferred a woman who wanted to date both of us rather than just one. We were respectful throughout the process, and I found a girl that we've since really fallen for.
Is our lifestyle so wrong?
Hunting Unicorns is a Magical Process
Hey there HUMP,
Before I get to your specific question, I'd first like to address your tone. It sounds like you are already on the defensive with this question. I’m not here to validate or demonize you; I'm here to advise. On that score, I'd encourage you not to take criticisms of "unicorn hunting" as a personal affronts to you or your wife. You may wrongly identify folks' expressed concerns about "unicorn hunters" as disdain. What is more likely to be at play is skepticism & perhaps even association with past trauma at the hands of couples perceived to be “unicorn hunters”.
“Unicorn hunter(s)” is a term used in many places and ways across the polyverse. For the purposes of this column the term “unicorn hunter(s)” will mean the following:
A couple whose participants (usually a straight man and a bi/curious woman), in search of a third female partner, refuse to acknowledge any or all of the following:
1) The complex, intimidating, & extremely gendered power dynamics that can (and probably will) be involved for a person entering two new relationships simultaneously, both of which may be adversely by affected the pre-existing relationship;
2) The humanity, agency & needs/want/feelings/desires of the woman they're pursuing;
3) The fact that their own expectations correspond to a small subset of the poly population and that those expectations, if inflexible, are unlikely to be met by those they choose to pursue.
The "hunting" part of the moniker usually directly describes the objectifying or predatory nature with which such couples tend to approach potential thirds. (The term “third” is used here as shorthand to facilitate comprehension. It is not the right title for everybody in, or being asked to enter into, (a) three-person relationship(s).) Make no mistake, the practice of approaching women as if they were objects is not groundbreaking or sexually progressive. It deserves whatever amount of disdain it gets because it plays into misogynist fantasies of women being nothing more than status symbols. The skepticism many express about the intentions of those seeking an ffm relationship arrangement is subject to the same kind of skepticism expressed about those who seek out relationships with significantly younger partners.
Despite these potential pitfalls, ethical third-seeking couples do indeed exist. Now, I hope you are wondering if you fall into the happy category of “ethical couple”. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that you do... mostly because I have no idea what being "respectful throughout the process" of searching for a third looks like for you. Here is what a what being “respectful throughout the process” would look like to me:
Step 1: First, forget right and wrong. Work from empathy.
Put yourself in the place of your potential or current third. From the perspective of a potential third, the situation you are being invited into involves two people with a pre-existing relationship. You are also being asked to enter into two different relationships. You might be feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. In order to proceed into these new relationships you'll need to have your feelings, comfort levels, and consent regularly confirmed and affirmed. Ideally all of these things are present & even implicit in a marriage or pre-existing relationship. This privileges that relationship over the fledgeling relationships you are being offered.
You and your wife need to approach all your potential thirds with this level of empathy, and a flexible willingness to stabilize your third's well being at any time. In the beginning they will be a guest in your relationship. Be gracious & compassionate hosts.
Step 2: After you have properly empathized with your potential third, work from practicality.
Bring together what you know about yourself, your wife & what you have learned from your empathetic inquiry about the new person. Based on that information, begin creating a model for what might work between the three of you. Take heed to the “unicorn hunting” fears and horror stories you have been hearing. Ask yourself what you can do to avoid those outcomes.
I’m also curious about this specific “girl” you mention. Make sure you go all the way through step one― see her as a person before you approach her as a “girl”. Have you discussed relationship with her? What are her feelings & thoughts about this? If you don’t know yet, don’t start planning a relationship with her (it will be creepy). If she wants to proceed into this triad she will need to be present and have her choices front and center during all planning activities.
I don't know for sure if you're doing it wrong, but based on your defensive you-focused question it's plausible you aren't doing it right. This “problem” you're experiencing isn't a problem for anyone expect male/female couples looking for a female partner. From what little information your letter gives me about your ethics, their suspicions could be well-founded. It's a problem of privilege and selective tastes; not everyone will get or respect what you are into. People will be suspicious, and rightly so.
Stop concentrating on what people who you don't want to be in relationships with think is right or wrong. Concentrate on what the potential third says is right for her. That's what should matter more to you anyway, right?
Questions about your polyamorous relationship? Write to RaeRay here: RaeRay@modernpoly.com
About the Author
RaeRay is a polyamorous writer and educator, who believes that words and boundless enthusiasm might just save the world. Well-versed in saying what they mean, RaeRay is the kind of older sibling & devoted friend who will show up on your doorstep, post-breakup, with a bottle of bad wine and cheap poetry. They live in Seattle, WA with their partner of over a year, near countless friends and lovers, eating delicious food and riding bicycles as much as possible.
More articles by RaeRay
- Alt.Polyamory FAQ
- Creating A Line Family: What Bob Heinlein Didn't Tell You
- More than Two
- My Poly Place (social network)
- Online Dating Guide
- Poly Friendly Professionals
- Poly Matchmaker
- Polyamory Group Registry
- Polyamory Weekly Podcast
- Polyamory in the News
- Polyamory.com Forum
- Practical Polyamory
- Upcoming Polyamory Events
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