Here's What It's Like in a Real Throuple
Editor's note: Some of the sources for this article requested their full names not be used.
In pop culture and day-to-day life, the concept of a throuple is often a punch line. But joking about throuples (also called poly triads) is not only dismissive, but also misses the nuances of these relationships—the joys, the hardships and the trust they require.
We spoke to two throuples and a gender specialist about what it's like to be in a poly triad, and what some common misconceptions about this type of relationship entail.
Adrian, Andrea and Julie
Nine years ago, Adrian and Andrea met Julie. The married duo went on a few dates with Julie, and while both parties decided the timing wasn't right, they stayed in touch as friends, dating on and off over the years. Eventually, a romantic relationship resumed among the triad, and Julie became Andrea and Adrian's girlfriend. Three months ago, the three, who live in Pueblo, Colorado, married in a ceremony. While three people cannot legally get married to one another, the three still held a celebration to honor their relationship.
"The reception was gorgeous," Andrea said. "We had beautiful dresses. It was just like a wedding that anyone would have. There were over 100 guests. But after the fact, we're starting to see the support isn't there as much as we had hoped it would be."
Adrian added that friends who outwardly said they were supportive ended up being skeptics. Andrea's relationship with her family has changed dramatically as a result of her poly marriage; she barely speaks to them anymore.
"Many people who we thought were supportive just aren't in our lives anymore," Julie said.
While it's not uncommon to lose friends and even family members over relationships that fall outside the norm, fortunately, the concept of throuples is becoming more mainstream. In February 2022, the first-ever restaurant designed for throuples and polyamorous relationships opened in London's Shoreditch neighborhood, and in 2015, the app 3Fun, designed for threesomes and polyamory, surpassed 10 million downloads. But there's still a long way to go.
Damon, Jason and Simas
After eight years together, Damon and Jason married in 2015.
"Jason and I had a magical relationship," Damon said. "We were excellent communicators; we were always honest with each other; we were considerate of each other's wants and needs; and we were deeply in love. That being said, what could the harm be in adding a little icing to an already tasty cake?"
So they made the decision to branch out sexually and try a threesome. They had a few boundaries in place: The experiences would be "together or never," meaning neither man had sex without their partner there, the third person would have to live outside their county in Nottingham, England, and finally, it wasn't to become a regular thing.
But the boundaries began to fall away when they had a drunken encounter at a party with Simas, a friend of a friend they'd been acquainted with for years. They invited him to sleep over the next weekend, which became a regular occurrence as months went on. Damon said he was the first one to verbalize the question all three of the men were thinking: What's going on here?
"I was honest and explained that I was enjoying feeling like there was some 'monogamy' back in our relationship with Simas—we hadn't seen anyone else while we were seeing him. Jason agreed," Damon said. "We asked Simas what he was thinking and he said that in the six months he'd been spending time with us, he'd fallen in love with us. To be honest, I think I had fallen, too, whereas Jason took a bit longer to warm to the idea but was happy to let the relationship develop and see where it went, and then admitted he was in love with Simas a few weeks later."
The joys of being in a throuple
It's hard to generalize about the experience of a throuple, just as all couples function in unique ways. As Julie said, "People think that every polyamorous relationship is all the same. But everybody's different and what works for one family might not work for another family."
"Being in a throuple can be wonderful for folks because it means there are even more opportunities for joy and connection," said Rebecca Minor, a licensed independent clinical social worker and gender specialist in Boston. "Some people get to experience being with partners with different attachment styles, love languages or ways of physical and emotional intimacy."
"We're not weird," Andrea said. "We're regular people that have room in our hearts to love more than one."
Common misconceptions about throuples
"People think we're sex maniacs," Julie said. "That's not true."
The bond in a throuple is built on genuine emotional connection first.
"I've [had] colleagues who have asked me why I'm so open about [my relationship], like it's something I should be embarrassed about," Damon said. "I think as soon as people hear that a married couple have invited a third person into their relationship, [they think] it was because they were having problems."
To this point, he challenges people to think about it from the point of view of the person who entered the throuple last.
"If you were in [Simas'] shoes, would you be eager to join a relationship that was failing? I think the answer to that is fairly simple: No," Damon said. "Simas wanted to be a part of what Jason and I have; to be part of something special. Although things have certainly changed a lot since Simas moved in, the magic hasn't. It's still the same."
And the challenges
"It can require a lot of emotional labor, just like any relationship, but with more people involved, it's more complicated. It can be challenging when the dynamic shifts from an established dyad to a triad and can require some renegotiation of norms, roles and expectations," Minor said. "All parties have to be committed to making the relationship work."
Andrea said she doesn't want to give the impression that "a polyamorous lifestyle is easy, because it's not. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of dedication."
"Consistent open and honest communication is essential," Minor advised. "And a shared Google calendar."