Something that comes up loads in polyamory discussion threads, is the concept of the ‘Unicorn’.
It is a hot topic that carries strong opinions and often draws the ire of many polyamorous communities. For newbies, most often, a ‘unicorn’ is thought of as a bisexual woman who joins an established heterosexual couple and is equally into both of them, for sex or romance, depending on the needs and desires of the couple.
Why is this appealling?
For couples, this is frequently the first step in their opening up process. It serves to spice up their sex life, and inject excitement and variety while retaining the basic safety mechanism of their dyad. It seems as less of a threat than dating separately.For the single person, becoming a unicorn can be appealing, especially if you are a woman that is exploring her bisexuality. You get attention from 2 people, you do not have the responsibilities and pressures of a full relationship, and you are usually treated very well while the couple are both into you. The same can also apply to bisexual men, who are referred to as ‘dragons’.
Why can this practice be toxic and unhealthy?
The most important reason that this is inherently an unethical practice is due to the outsized influence and power that the couple hold. This is called Couple’s privilege. Couples who use this as their opening up strategy, are literally looking for a ‘third’. They have a checklist of what that person should be in order to fit in with their existing relationship dynamic. Expecting the 3rd person to be attracted to and remain interested in both people, is expecting a lot. While this could definitely happen, there are high chances that over time, the connection with the couple may not survive.If the couple agree among themselves that this dynamic is only valid as long as it is fully three-way, then this means each hold a veto power over the entire dynamic, while the ‘unicorn’ has no say other than leaving the entire relationship. If the couple encounter issues in their own relationship, they are likely to close back up, something that the unicorn has no say in.
If the couple think of themselves as a single unit, this likely will clash with the perspective of the 3rd person that sees each person in the couple as an individual. This mismatch often leads to drama. Any existing co-dependency issues in the couple are very likely to emerge and interfere.
Can finding a Unicorn ever be ethical?
Yes it can, when the established couple has done the home-work, accept that they are both individuals with a direct connection to the 3rd person. They know that each separate connection has a life of its own and may continue even if the other strands do not. A triad relationship contains multiple separate relationships within. Each person is an individual with a relationship to Self. There are 3 dyadic relationships that exist, plus a 3-way one.The 3rd person joining a couple needs to feel empowered and be part of any agreement that is formed, that affects everyone in the dynamic. Rules cannot be ‘handed down’ to them, and couple’s privilege needs to be explicitly acknowledged and mitigated as much as possible.
A prerequisite to a healthy triad relationship is that the couple examine their own relationship closely, address and co-dependent behaviour and talk through their own privileged position.
Do you have experience as a unicorn? Are you part of a couple that is looking for a ‘3rd’ and want to share some of your experience?
You can share in the comments below or message with your experience.