“Throuple.” Is that even a word? Actually, the term originated in the 2008 movie, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, a romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen. Vicki and Cristina are two friends who travel to Barcelona together and meet artist Juan Gonzalo. Ultimately, they have a three-person relationship that is beyond just sex, known as throuple dating in real life.
The three partners share sex, of course, but they also share all other aspects of a committed relationship. In this respect, it could be compared to some Mormon environments in which a man has more than one wife and all share the benefits and responsibilities of living as a family together. Intrigued? Let’s see how throuple relationships work – maybe that’s what you need in your love life!
“A throuple is where three people decide to have a relationship in a polyamorous type of way. This could be sexual or romantic. It may vary between different throuples as to what the exact agreements are in some situations. There is a closed throuple where they are exclusive within the three people. And other arrangements are far more open. You also have all sorts of different living arrangements in relation to throuples.”
Dr. Becky Spelman, psychologist, founder of ‘The Private Therapy Clinic”
Simply put, throuple refers to dating between three people. It may have different relationship dynamics depending on the rules set between these partners.
“In this day and age, people are far more open to alternative, nonconventional types of relationships. Throuples are becoming more and more popular… just because it’s nonconventional doesn’t mean that these people can’t be happy in their arrangement.”
Throuple dating has become much more popular, and many dating apps are now incorporating this relationship into their profile and preference options.
Try the Hily dating app! We have over 26 million users looking for different relationship goals, so your chances of meeting the right person are pretty high here.
“There are no specific ‘rules’ that all triads follow. Most throuples have their own unique relationship agreements, so it’s therefore not possible to give across-the-board examples of how they work. As a unit, the three people must decide what approach they want to take and what dynamics feel good to them in terms of who has sex with whom, where everyone sleeps, how date nights work, and the like.”
Jennifer Schneider, licensed therapist and social worker
Indeed, the relationship structure of throuples depends on their types. Here they are, with a detailed overview of each in the sections below:
It may happen that a monogamous married, pre-existing couple invites a third person into their current relationship structure. The most common variations of such throuple relationships include:
One original partner has become asexual, but the other original partner still wants and needs sex. Or both partners want the excitement of having sex with someone other than themselves or as a threesome sharing the same bed.
A three-way relationship where each person dates and shares the same bed with two others (who don’t date each other) is known by the letter “V.” The person at the apex dates two others, but those two partners do not date each other. While this is not a classic definition of a throuple, it is certainly a recognized variation.
Notwithstanding the gender identity and sexual orientation, all three parties agree that they will date only each other and have strict sleeping arrangements, not letting anyone else penetrate their relationship. And so they are monogamous with their own rules, something a bit different from many other polyamorous relationships.
Related reading: Rules of Open Relationships
This throuple with mutual feelings for one another is a bit more complicated in relationship style. Here, people involved don’t limit their relationship boundaries to prevent the partners’ independence to date others. But usually, such polyamorous relationships take precedence over other people any of the partners may be dating.
So how do we come up with an overall definition of a throuple relationship? Here is the simplified definition offered by Ariane Renick:
“Just like with two-person relationships, there are no hard and fast guidelines that must be adhered to in order for a throuple to “count” as a real relationship. Three people deciding they want to be in a relationship is all that is needed in order for a throuple to exist.”
Ariane Renick, mental health writer and wellness author
With all of the complexities involved in throuples, how in the world does a successful throuple relationship get set up and survive? Read on about how such a relationship works.
Dump the notion that a successful relationship with two people is very different from that of three partners. They both take commitment, hard work, and the ability to face the same challenges. To help you navigate, here are the tips and strategies to make relationships involving multiple partners work.
According to Liz Powell, PsyD, a psychotherapist specializing in non-traditional relationships, people who are successful in a throuple relationship should have these traits:
Related reading: How to Choose Between Two Guys (or Not)
When three partners are in a throuple relationship, each person involved remains an individual – they just entered the throuple relationship. Even for a married couple, there will always be disagreements and issues. A healthy normal relationship among mature adults is worked out through discussion and compromise. The partner in a throuple relationship is the same person, willing to remain on the same page with all the partners.
If you ever got two good friends simultaneously, you’ve encountered that feeling like two of you are spending quality time, having more fun together, and one of you was a bit of an “odd man out.” Well, the same can happen now. You will have times when you feel jealous because the other two are connecting more or better.
How do you deal with this? First, by knowing it is bound to happen in any three-way relationship. And then, by working through those feelings and coming out okay on the other side. You should feel free to express your feelings to your partners and expect they will understand.
All three of you must be open and honest about your feelings, wants, and needs. It’s really no different than if you were only in a relationship with one person. It’s just that a throuple can be a bit more complex because you need to listen to more than one person now.
The best strategy here is to set a schedule when all three of you can discuss issues, challenges, and feelings and work out compromises that will work for everyone. It will mean that all of you better understand one another. Open communication is critical, and no one in a throuple should dominate decision-making or problem-solving.
In any personal or professional relationship, there are guidelines for how it can be successful. These may be in writing, such as in business contracts or verbal. All throuple relationships are unique, so that no common ground rules will work. We’ll have a whole section dedicated to these rules later.
Rules for a successful throuple relationship are even more important. Some basic boundaries should be set up when the relationship is begun, but there is no way to anticipate all of the circumstances that will arise as those relationships move forward.
The setting of rules must be flexible and established as the need arises. And old rules that no longer apply should be trashed as concerns change. Each partner should contribute to the rules as the three people face challenges that must be addressed.
Related reading: Setting Relationship Rules For a Healthy Partnership
Lots of throuples keep their own digs. But just as many pool their money for a larger place to allow them all to have private sleeping space. This is ideal, no matter how they actually sleep. Some throuples sleep all together; some sleep all apart; and of course, there have to be decisions about privacy or not when two are together sexually.
Just be sure each current partner understands and agrees on the sleeping arrangement you’ve come up with.
A key element in making a throuple relationship work will be that all three have the time with and attention from the other two partners and time alone. After all, no matter how tight a relationship, everyone enjoys being by themselves to recharge.
So, it’s important to set aside time for:
Note: If one partner feels they are the only person being slighted in throuple couple time, there will be “trouble in the paradise” of this relationship.
To make a throuple committed relationship work, you should set some “rules of the road,” just as there are for any type of partnership. If you read what others say about the rules for a throuple relationship, you will discover that they are pretty general. Many of them have already been covered in other sections of this article – like dealing with jealousy, closed or open relationships, communication, and time together and alone.
Each throuple will obviously make its own specific rules as the relationship moves forward. But here is a list of things that will probably come up, so each partner should be thinking about them so they can voice their opinions, wants, and needs.
This may sound a bit silly since most people who start a throuple relationship are focused on the romantic and sexual aspects of it. But if all three live together, there had better be rules about cleaning, cooking, and group laundry matters. When relationships are new, it’s easy to gloss over these things until they become issues.
Since throuples are not “normalized” yet, there are a whole host of things to think about in advance:
All of these will not apply to every throuple, but those that do should be hammered out. Two words here – be prepared.
Is the relationship open, allowing each partner the right to be sexually involved with others?
Non-monogamy in throuples has its challenges. Again, these things should be worked out with all three partners in agreement.
These are the cardinal rules of all rules. If communication is not an ongoing activity, or if any partner in the relationship is dishonest, the whole relationship breaks down. Can it be repaired? Yes, but trust has been lost, and that’s a difficult thing to get back.
Related reading: What is NSA in Dating? Let Freedom Ring!
When a relationship is new, it’s easy to become so immersed in it that you forget about your life with friends and family before this. But as the newness wears off, you will miss those other aspects of your life. Do not ignore this. Each member of the throuple also has an independent life that they should pursue. Agree that all of you will maintain those other important relationships in your lives.
Ignoring issues will not make them go away. And postponing addressing them only lets them fester. This leads to all sorts of negative emotions – frustration, stress, and even anger. All must agree that any issue will be addressed and resolved as it comes up. Again, communication and honesty are the hallmarks for resolution.
As hard as this may be for some, it is another key to relationship success. No individual can live or be together in a relationship without making mistakes. “Man or woman-up,” admit when you’ve goofed, and do what you can to fix things.
Boundaries are not just for open throuple relationships. You are living with two other people, and you should not cross the lines if everyone is going to remain happy and satisfied. You should establish boundaries in concert with everyone’s agreement, which should happen early in the relationship. Misunderstandings are a lot more difficult to resolve after they have happened. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is better than the cure.”
Is this an exhaustive list of throuple relationship rules? Not by any means. You three will be making additional rules as the relationship moves forward. Just be certain that you realize when a new rule is called for, get right on it, and reach agreement.
Do you think you may want to be in a throuple dating relationship? You won’t know until you actually try it out. So, go for it. The worst that can happen is you decide it’s not for you, and you get out. You can begin your search on Hily, an online dating site that honors preferences for throuples seekers.
If you are considering a throuple, you no doubt have questions about how this works and what makes for success. The key is to start – and make it comfortable for your situation. Onward!