These couples, in their own ways, have chosen to acknowledge the possibility of the third; the recognition that our partner has his or her own sexuality, replete with fantasies and desires that aren’t necessarily about us. When we validate one another’s freedom within the relationship, we’re less inclined to search for it elsewhere. In this sense, inviting the third (this does not mean literally inviting a “third” into the relationship for extramarital sex, but it could) goes some way toward containing its volatility, not to mention its appeal. It is no longer a shadow but a presence, something to talk about openly, joke about, play with. When we can tell the truth safely, we are less inclined to keep secrets.
Rather than inhibiting a couple’s sexuality, recognizing the third has a tendency to add spice, not least because it reminds us that we do not own our partners. We should not take them for granted. In uncertainty lies the seed of wanting. In addition, when we establish psychological distance, we, too, can peek at our partner with the admiring eyes of a stranger, noticing once again what habit has prevented us from seeing. Finally, renouncing others reaffirms our choice. He is the one I want. We admit our roving desires, yet push them back. We flirt with them, all the while keeping them at a safe distance. Perhaps this is another way of looking at maturity: not as passionless love, but as love that knows of other passions not chosen.
Mating in Captivity
Esther Perel 2006