Unicorn polyamory (aka unicorn poly) is the term for when two people who are in a relationship add a third party to their dynamic. Unicorn polyamory commonly refers to an arrangement between a heterosexual couple (of one man and one woman) and a bisexual woman—though they could also be a bisexual man or a nonbinary person.
The “unicorn,” or third party, can be a person of any gender or sexual orientation who joins a couple regardless of the people’s genders and sexual orientations. The unicorn is a third partner for anything from casual sex to long-term commitment and all possibilities in between.
The unicorn is most commonly invited into the partnership for sex with one or both members of the couple. In this case, unlike in some other poly relationship models, the unicorn is typically not an equal party. They may be beholden to the couple and their rules, and may not have equal footing.
The History of the Term “Unicorn Polyamory”
While recent times have led to much documentation around different relationship styles and models, with numerous books available on the subject, this hasn’t always been the case. Because of a lack of documentation about counterculture and subcultural relationship styles, isn’t possible to know who invented the term unicorn polyamory.
One blogger speculates that the term has been in use since the 1970s, saying that in the swinger communities of that time, the word unicorn was used to describe a bisexual woman who was available to have a threesome with a heterosexual couple.
The term also meant that the woman would not try to infringe upon the couple’s relationship or seek to become close with only one member of it.
The word unicorn is commonly used to describe a bisexual woman willing to have sex with a couple, and the people in the couple seeking a woman to sleep with them are sometimes referred to as “unicorn hunters.”
What Is Polyamory?
The basic idea of polyamory is that one or both parties in a couple are also involved with people outside of that couple. There are many different types of polyamory, such as:
- Ethical non-monogamy
- Hierarchical/non-hierarchical polyamory
- Kitchen table polyamory
- Mono-poly relationships
- Open relationships
- Parallel polyamory
- Solo polyamory
Polyamory implies an openness to outside relationships, not just sex,1 but it is also an umbrella term under which any relationship models that are not monogamous fall, no matter what the relationship setup looks like. Data estimates that at least 21% of single people have been involved in some type of sexual non-monogamous relationship.
It’s worth noting that some couples who have or seek a unicorn don’t necessarily identify as polyamorous.
What Is A Unicorn?
A unicorn is a person who is willing to join an existing couple. They may join the couple only for sex, or they may become a more involved part of the relationship and spend nonsexual, companionship time together too.
The word is used for this description because unicorns are rare, mythical, and hard-to-find creatures. It may be difficult for a heterosexual couple to find a bisexual woman who wants to be involved with them but is willing to play a lesser role, following along with whatever boundaries and rules the couple has established.
While the word unicorn can technically be for a person of any gender, they are usually a woman, or occasionally a nonbinary person. When a man wants to join an existing couple, they may refer to themself as a “dragon” rather than a unicorn.
What Does the Term “Unicorn Hunting” Mean?
“Unicorn hunting” describes the act of a couple looking for a woman to add to their relationship in some way. The couple is generally a straight one, and they are usually seeking a bisexual woman.
The act of seeking is called “hunting” because the couple is seeking someone exceptionally rare. However, it is a term that frequently causes discomfort and unease, as the act of unicorn hunting often involves a lack of transparency, harmful stereotypes, and the couple possessing greater power in the dynamic (also known as couple privilege).
A couple may have a dating app profile in which they declare they are “looking for their unicorn,” or “couple looking for a third.” They may attend LGBTQIA+ events, or go to clubs with a queer clientele. If a straight person is seen in an LGBTQIA+ space, the most common assumption made about why they are there is that they are seeking a unicorn.
What Unicorn Polyamory Looks Like in a Relationship
Outside of the personal or cultural knowledge someone might have, information about unicorn polyamory and what it entails can be found in places like blogs. Examples of these include Unicorn Yard and Unicorns Rule.
There are no hard and fast rules about unicorn polyamory, as it is a cultural term, not a technical one.
Unicorn polyamory generally regards the couple as primary partners and the unicorn as the secondary partner.
In entering the couple’s relationship, the unicorn consents to be a part of their existing structure. This means that if the couple has established rules, the unicorn must follow them. These rules might seem unfair, such as that the unicorn isn’t allowed to be intimate with only half the couple while the couple has permission to have sex without the unicorn.
Additionally, the unicorn is usually under the presumption that if the relationship between the couple were to fail, the unicorn would not continue to see either of its parties. The unicorn is specifically sleeping with or dating the couple, not a member of it.
The Difference Between Unicorn Polyamory and Triad/Throuple Relationships
Some elements of unicorn polyamory might sound similar to a triad or throuple relationship, but there are key differences. Primarily, a throuple or triad relationship is about three people who are all primary partners.
There is no hierarchy present in throuples generally, and it isn’t assumed that any of the parties in it were a couple first. Conversely, the term unicorn specifically implies that a single person is joining a couple.
Another major difference between unicorn poly and triads/throuples is how the group relationship moves forward once established. In a triad, it can be assumed that all rules made will be agreed upon by all three parties. However, in unicorn poly, the assumption is that the couple will always make the rules, and the unicorn must follow them.
Some People Believe That Unicorn Polyamory Is Unfair to the Unicorn
Because of these differences, unicorn poly isn’t viewed as positively within polyamorous and LGBTQIA+ communities as triads are.
The unicorn position is often seen as unfair because of the imbalance of power in the relationship. Queer people often dislike “unicorn hunters” taking up space in queer places, and may not treat them as members of their community.
If a unicorn and a couple decide that they do want to embark upon a triad relationship, they’ll usually change the terminology they use. Rather than continuing to call themselves a “unicorn” situation, they’ll likely refer to just being in a relationship together instead, and throw the unicorn word aside.
The Emotional Impact of Unicorn Polyamory
Someone who chooses to be a unicorn might have a wonderful time and experience with every couple they join. They might find it completely fulfilling. However, because the situation is unbalanced, this might not be the case.
A unicorn may be pressured or expected to defer to the rules and preferences of the couple. Unaddressed couple privilege can be problematic if it is not acknowledged and navigated by all parties involved.
While a person might decide that they want to try being a unicorn, that doesn’t mean they have to stick with it if it doesn’t feel right for them. Just because a couple thinks that they have the right to set all of the rules about how a situation goes, doesn’t mean the potential unicorn has to consent to them.
A unicorn is as important a person in the world as a member of a couple is, and this is important for them to remember.
What Is Unicorn Polyamory?
Most people have heard the terms threesome and polyamory, but there’s a whole vocabulary to learn for anyone new to having multiple partners. One common polyamorous term you might’ve heard is unicorn polyamory — also known as unicorn poly.
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What Is Unicorn Polyamory?
Unicorn polyamory is a term used to describe a polyamorous relationship between two people in a relationship and a third person who joins them. It’s called “unicorn” poly because, like the mythical unicorn, it’s not easy to find someone (in this case, a bisexual woman) who wants to join an existing couple in a relationship.
It is often considered by couples to be ideal because it allows both members of the couple to experience the benefits of having more than one partner—and all without having to deal with jealousy issues that can come up with other forms of polyamory.
In layman’s terms, unicorn polyamory happens when a straight, male/female couple enters into an open relationship with another woman who is bisexual and doesn’t want another partner. This can also include non-binary individuals.
A unicorn is also expected to identify as bisexual, pansexual, or sexually fluid—not just experimenting or curious about what it’s like to be with another gender.
What Is a Unicorn In a Relationship?
In the world of polyamory, a unicorn is usually considered a bisexual person (generally though not always female) who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple.
What Is Unicorn Polyamory Hunting?
Unicorn hunting is the most common term for couples looking to find a bisexual woman to join their relationship. Unicorn hunters are usually heterosexual couples who have decided they want to invite another woman into their relationship permanently. They usually have sex with the couple and date both partners, so they’re considered “equal” in the relationship.
Some people uncomfortable with “unicorn hunting” use the term “pursuing a triad.” A triad is generally considered a long-term polyamorous relationship between three people.
The problem is that many couples who go unicorn hunting want the unicorn to be “no strings attached.” They want the woman to hook up with them for a night or two and then leave; if she’s lucky, she can come back for occasional hookups. But many unicorns look for more than just sex; they look for love and companionship.
Related Read: What’s the difference between bigamy and polygamy?
What Is the Difference Between Unicorn Polyamory and Triad Relationship?
As discussed above, unicorn polyamory describes a polyamorous relationship involving three people. One person acts as the hinge in this relationship and dates two other people. While the term sounds cute, it’s hard to maintain a unicorn polyamorous relationship in the long term.
Triads and throuples are different than unicorns. A polyamorous triad is an arrangement where three people are all in a relationship. They are not dating each other, but they are dating one another. Depending on the people involved, these relationships can be either closed or open.
Throuple relationships involve three people who are romantically involved with each other. Much like triads, throuples can be either open or closed depending on what the couple decides to do. Throuples are long-term relationships that involve three people instead of two.
Being a unicorn can be frustrating and stressful, as the unicorn is expected to date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple equally. This can be satisfying for some unicorns but exhausting for others.
Problems Associated With Being a Unicorn
Unicorn polyamory relationships are a relatively new phenomenon. If you’re part of one, you might wonder how to make it work. Problems with unicorn polyamory relationships include:
– Unicorn burnout.
Unicorns tend to get a lot of attention from the couple and feel like they have to be “on.” It’s essential to set clear expectations about what time will be devoted to everyone and spend time alone with each partner or on your own. You’re not a machine!
– Feeling left out.
You may sometimes feel that the couple doesn’t pay enough attention to you, especially when spending time together. You and the couple need to know how much couple time is OK with you.
Do you sometimes feel jealous when your partners kiss each other? Or do you worry they won’t want you around anymore if they find someone else? These feelings of insecurity are normal, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored—instead, talk openly with your partners about them so they can help reassure you and give you what you need.
Unicorn polyamory relationships are complex.
While they may seem like the perfect solution to a couple seeking a third partner to spice up their love life, it’s often difficult to find willing partners who aren’t looking for something more exclusive and who are ready to end the relationship at any moment if they believe that things are getting too serious.
Plus, ensuring that everyone is equally satisfied in the relationship can be challenging. There’s always a chance that one or two of you will start feeling jealous or neglected and want to pull back from the relationship. So, know the ins and out before becoming a unicorn or getting into a unicorn poly relationship.
What to Do When You Face Problems In a Unicorn Polyamory Relationship?
Every relationship faces struggles. When you add a unicorn to the mix, it can be tough to deal with some problems. If you’re in a polyamorous relationship with a unicorn and you’re facing challenges, here are five things to keep in mind when things get tricky:
- Take a step back when your emotions are running high
- You don’t have to figure everything out all at once
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings and admit that things are difficult
- Talk with your partner(s) and find ways to work through the challenges together
- Check your expectations against the reality
- If you need help, reach out
It’s essential to be upfront with friends, family, or lovers. Once everyone knows the expectations and arrangements, everyone can work towards those shared goals. Some things may not conform to how society structures relationships — but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
However, there are a variety of polyamorous relationship structures, all with their own variant rules and guidelines that ensure the safety, consent, and well-being of all parties involved. All individuals deserve to feel loved and connected.
Balzarini RN, Dharma C, Kohut T, et al. Comparing Relationship Quality Across Different Types of Romantic Partners in Polyamorous and Monogamous Relationships. Arch Sex Behav. 2019;48(6):1749-1767. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1416-7