What Is a Unicorn in a Relationship?

A guide to this common open relationship dynamic
by Paired
what is a unicorn in a relationship

If you’re interested in exploring polyamory, you may have come across the terms “unicorn” or “unicorn dating”. Here we break down what it means to be a unicorn in a relationship, how to tell if you are one, and the key issues to consider if you want to meet your version of the mythical creature.

What does it mean to be a unicorn in a relationship?

First things first: the term unicorn is useful shorthand for dating apps or conversations about what you’re looking for, but the word doesn’t define a person, their needs, or desires. 

A unicorn is a third person who wants to become involved with a couple in an existing relationship. This could mean a long-term commitment, a one-night threesome, or anything in between. The difference between unicorn dating and a throuple is that throuples or similar polyamorous relationships usually don’t have hierarchies. In a unicorn relationship, the existing couple remains the primary partner.

What does looking for a unicorn mean?

A common assumption around so-called unicorn hunting is that the unicorn hunters are a heterosexual couple looking for a bisexual woman — but this isn’t always the case. Unicorns and the existing couple can be any gender. The primary partners may identify as LGBTQ+ or not. The couple might be in a poly relationship or simply looking for a one-night threesome. The unicorn could be viewed as another romantic partner or purely part of a sexual experience. An existing couple is looking for a unicorn when they want to meet a third person whose sexual orientation fits theirs.

The term unicorn comes from the idea that they are as difficult to find as the mythical creature, but dating sites have made it easier than ever to connect with people with similar desires. In fact, certain dating apps are designed specifically for people looking for less mainstream relationship dynamics, including unicorn dating.

What is a unicorn’s role in a relationship?

All romantic relationships are different, and this doesn’t change with unicorn dating. An established couple in a previously monogamous relationship may want a unicorn to explore sexual fantasies or add a spark to their love life. For other couples, the decision may go deeper than their sex life. They may be considering long-term non-monogamy, such as an open or polyamorous relationship.

All these possibilities mean it's important to know what you want and to be upfront about it. Communication is key to any relationship, especially one navigating non-monogamy. The existing couple should talk openly and honestly at every stage. Not every unicorn experience is a fairytale: needs and comfort levels can change and should be discussed.

A unicorn can take on any role in the relationship that all partners are comfortable with. They might provide support, romantic experiences, or only be part of the couple’s sex life. What matters is that the existing couple and the unicorn communicate their needs and expectations. The established couple may be the primary partners, but everyone’s comfort and autonomy are equally important.

How do you know if you might be a unicorn?

If you’re looking to explore different romantic relationships or sexual experiences, you might be considering becoming a unicorn. Maybe you’re pansexual or bi, or interested in non-monogamy. Being the third person in unicorn polyamory can be a great way to experiment, but there are certain things to consider before you take the plunge.

Before meeting couples, think about what you’re looking for. Dating both members of an existing relationship can be complicated. Unicorn dating can involve many different types of commitment and sexual experiences. Make sure you know you know your needs and boundaries and are comfortable expressing them.

It’s also important to think about how you handle jealousy. Unlike being part of a throuple, unicorns are usually not considered a primary partner. This may be perfect for you if you want to maintain your independence. It could also cause issues related to jealousy or insecurity. Communication is key, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the relationship dynamic doesn’t work for you.

What to consider if you want to be with a unicorn

Adding a third partner is a big decision for any couple. It may have a great effect on your love life, but it can raise complex issues. Here are some questions you and your partner should consider before going unicorn-hunting.

  • What will the unicorn’s role be in our relationship? Is this a purely sexual experience, or will we go on dates? Will this be a long-term arrangement? How much commitment do we want to make?

  • Will we have individual relationships with the unicorn? Will the third partner date or have sex with both of us individually, or only together? How will we divide our time?

  • What if our feelings change? How often should we communicate about how we feel? How often should we communicate with the unicorn about how they feel?

Whether you’re just starting out or looking for an open relationship, it’s important to be open with your partner and let them know how you feel — even if feelings change. Get the communication right and you’ll be unicorns and rainbows from hereon in!

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