Throuple Dating? Make It Work!

Dating 101
18 Jul 2023
14 min read
Throuple Dating: All You Wanted to Know, Explained

“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!

Throuple 101: Let’s Ask the Experts

What Is Throuple Dating?

“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.

Has Throuple Dating Become a “Thing” Today?

“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.”

Dr. Becky Spelman

Throuple dating has become much more popular, and many dating apps are now incorporating this relationship into their profile and preference options.

Looking for a dating app open to throuple?
Looking for a dating app open to throuple?

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.

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What Are the Main Types of Throuples?

“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:

  1. A triad when a third person enters a pre-existing couple
  2. A three-way “V” relationship where each person dates two others
  3. A closed throuple relationship where there exists monogamy between all three partners
  4. The open throuple dating relationship

1. A Triad

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:

  • A three-way sexual and romantic relationship between two partners and the third person.
  • Just a sexual but not romantic relationship between one or both partners with the third person.

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 monogamous couple has a third partner sporadically when they decide they want that other partner for specific times and activities. It is the same third person all the time.

2. V Relationships

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.

Three-way relationships with two women

3. A Closed Throuple

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

4. An Open Thouple

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.

6 Tips to Make a Throuple Relationship Work

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.

1. Check If Your Personality Traits Work for a Three-Way Relationship

According to Liz Powell, PsyD, a psychotherapist specializing in non-traditional relationships, people who are successful in a throuple relationship should have these traits:

  • Lots of self-confidence
  • Being not prone to jealousy or at least have good coping skills when they feel it
  • Great communication skills
  • Ability to set boundaries and advocate for themselves
  • Being emotionally, physically, and romantically attracted to both of the other parties that will be involved.

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.

2. Be Ready That Jealousy Will Inevitably Happen in a Three-Way Relationship

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.

3. Honest Communication Must Be Your Top Priority

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.

4. Set the Rules and Agree on Them

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

5. Decide on Your Sleeping Arrangement

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.

6. Set Aside Time for Each Other and Time Alone

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:

  • group dates and activities that all three share,
  • an at least occasional date night that a throuple couple (two of the three) has without the third person,
  • alone time as needed that is honored by all three partners.

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.

A throuple relationship with one women and two men

8 Rules of a Successful Throuple 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.

1. Housekeeping Matters

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.

2. Legal Matters

Since throuples are not “normalized” yet, there are a whole host of things to think about in advance:

  • The legal standing for a third person: If two of the three are legally married, they can make many decisions for each other. When third parties enter these relationships, they have no legal standing (there are no legal unions for three people recognized anywhere).
  • Decision makers for legally single partners: If all three are legally single, who will make decisions for each other, in medical emergencies, for example? This will have to be determined and documented with such things as a power of attorney or medical surrogate form. Non-monogamy status differs from state to state.
  • Finances and property: If all three have pooled their finances and co-signed for things like rent or a car, how will this be handled if one person’s feelings change and they want out?
  • Investment decision and assets: If all three have assets and investments they own individually, and the relationship has been really long-term, with no children or other heirs, what happens, God forbid, if one suddenly dies? Has everyone made arrangements for the division of assets?

All of these will not apply to every throuple, but those that do should be hammered out. Two words here – be prepared.

3. Rules for Open Throuple Relationships

Is the relationship open, allowing each partner the right to be sexually involved with others?

  • What are the rules for how and where this occurs? If a straight man in a throuple is dating and sexually active with other women, is he allowed to bring those dates to the shared digs, or must that occur off-site? The same goes for females in an open throuple.
  • What are the rules that will protect everyone’s health? If any or all partners are sexually active outside the throuple, how often must they be tested for STIs? Any open relationship requires this – yours is no exception.
  • If one partner becomes romantically and sexually involved with someone else, all must agree that honesty will be the primary rule, no matter what the cost.

Non-monogamy in throuples has its challenges. Again, these things should be worked out with all three partners in agreement.

4. Honesty and Communication Above All Else

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!

5. Never Give Up Your Pre-Throuple Life – Find Your Balance

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.

6. Settle Issues When They Arise

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.

7. Admit When You Are Wrong

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.

8. Set Boundaries Together

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.

Throuple Dating Relationships: This Is a Lot to Digest

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!

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!

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