Creatures, ménages and the power of three: can a ‘triad’ relationship really work?

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call of us a throuple,” Selena Gomez recently captioned an Instagram photo of her hugging Brooklyn Beckham and his wife Nicola Peltz. She was apparently joking, but maybe that’s part of the problem. Although lately it seems like several celebrities are vaguely alluding to polyamory, everyone is decidedly shy about coming out and talking about it.

So while the word “trouple” may be having a moment, moreover, fueled by speculation about boxer David Haye’s romantic life, the internet, as usual, has gotten very excited about something that’s been going on people have been curious for a long time. and hot Even the expression “ménage à trois”, which is commonly used as a synonym for sex between three people, actually translates closer to “house of three” – a domestic environment built around a relationship established three-way, which traditionally even involved votes, rather than a brief encounter.

It’s also worth noting that there are countless different ways to look like a triad. Grace, a 41-year-old civil servant from Bristol, recalls that her first experience of throuple was a bit of an accident. “We had some really good times and there was a genuine desire and intention between my partners to be together and with me, but they were both quite shy and their relationship was slow going,” she explains.

Eventually, one partner went back to college, met someone new, and decided to give monogamy another shot. “It’s been almost 20 years now,” he says. “It’s sweet that the three of us are still close and friends, and we’ve all come out as trans.” After a second triad that was marred by dishonesty, Grace has been in two more since then, and looks back fondly on “some very warm (and hot) memories” of those relationships.

Many of the hierarchical problems that arise in throups, however, are due to the way in which they are formed: often an established couple that then meets a “third party”, with all the problems that arise from this type of language.

“If two out of three people had a pre-existing relationship that was already well established, those two people have partner privilege,” Grace explains, adding that it can affect everything from “the big decisions.” [that] always prioritize the stability of one of the triad relationships, over small things like language that belittles or alienates the newest partner.” Saying to the newest partner “Do you want to come to the concert with us on Friday night? , or even “We love you, we’re so glad to have met you” reinforces an unequal “we” and “you” dynamic that can lead to pain in the long run.

Winter, a 28-year-old from Bristol, says it’s not a strange set-up: all her dating experiences have been with herself, the same established partner and a third. “My goal has always been to create different, separate relationships between each of us, thinking of it as three couples rather than a group,” she says. “That’s not to say we didn’t stay as three sometimes, or even most of the time, but I felt that mood was important to how things looked.”

While Winter says he didn’t struggle to find parity within the triad, there were certainly snags elsewhere: “What I did find that caused problems was that eventually one of the couples got weak and it broke apart, sometimes leaving an awkward hinge in the middle. I think if I were part of a group where none of us lived together, that would be friendlier to me. It would allow for easier distinction.”

While it’s great to see more conversations taking place about ethical non-monogamy, there’s also a strong awareness among everyone I spoke to that the media’s portrayal is usually a massive letdown. US-based sex expert Anne Hodder-Smith says the well-worn cliché of a man and two women enjoying a series of threesomes is a cis-normative trope that very rarely reflects reality.

Stop using the word “third party”. Nothing says you want to devalue a human being by adding them to your relationship like this word

“Because of patriarchy, there’s an assumption that sex is for men, that sex is centered around the penis and that everything else is extra,” they tell me. “So there’s this combination of male entitlement and this idea that it’s women’s obligation to serve this entitled man. Partly because we’re culturally monogamous, there’s this assumption that there are ‘safe’ or ‘d “agreement” of three: two women and a man. May heaven not be two men and a woman, or two trans women and a cis guy.”

Not all triad relationships look identical in terms of gender and sex, and it is also important to accept that not all individual triad relationships need to meet the same needs. In fact, it may be better if they don’t: the assumption that one person should meet all of one’s life needs is a hangover from monogamy that doesn’t need to be kept in a group. It’s not just about sex, either; as Hodder-Smith says: “He might be playing Fortnite, someone might want to go clubbing on Fridays.”

The joy of having two or more partners is that they don’t both need to be ravers or gamers, just as no one expects their friends to share the same interests. For people who fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum, sex can be a very minor or entirely absent consideration. For some celebrities, presumably having a partner who likes super yachts and another who prefers to take a helicopter can mean a wealth of romantic opportunities.

Regardless of the setup, the question everyone wants to ask is: can it work? And if so, how can it work? For Grace, it’s about recognizing differences and making sure that privilege or hierarchy is recognized and managed. “If you and an existing partner are considering a triad, be very careful to be aware of the privilege you have as a pre-existing relationship,” she says. “Give all your partners the opportunity and love to express any feelings they may have about being undervalued or feeling deprioritized.” She also wants to remind people that the way we love will not look the same to all people and to embrace variety. “Also, stop using the word ‘third’. Nothing says you want to devalue a human being by adding them to your relationship like that word.”

Winter also recommends taking time and leaving space for it to work. “Go slowly and make sure everyone has figured each other out and the dynamic has reached stability before you really commit to any label,” she says. “This involves the general relationship advice of strong, open and honest communication on the part of all parties, and reached 10. There is no place for ‘oh shit, let’s go there and see what happens’, because you have a guarantee. . “

“The number of partners involved is not really the determining factor,” says expert Anne Hodder-Smith.


Whether you call yourself polyamorous, in an open relationship, monogamous, or whatever, it seems the key to success comes back to the same old factors: transparent, honest communication and vulnerability. Maybe you’re not looking for a deep, meaningful connection. Maybe you just want a hot threesome. You will still benefit greatly from being open about what you want and listening to what others want.

“That’s a big part of success, and the number of partners involved isn’t really the determining factor,” says Hodder-Smith. “Having more than one partner potentially makes it work a little bit more, but I think regardless of the dynamic, success in a relationship is when each person has their own humanity and individual needs.”

As with any intimate interpersonal reaction, it’s better to address conflict or tension head-on than to keep it bottled up. “It’s not the absence of fights, or the absence of ‘I don’t know if I love you anymore,'” they say. “None of this is what success looks like. I think success is remembering why we chose this person. Recognizing that there are other people in the world who could really fulfill elements of your life or the life of a couple in a way that one or the other individually cannot. What would it look like to expand that opportunity?”

You don’t have to be living a wild celebrity lifestyle to take advantage of these opportunities.

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