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3 Women on What Triad Relationships Are Really Like

3-way, aka triad, marriages & relationships are about way more than just sex

There’s no such thing as being a third wheel when you’re in a triad relationship. What is a triad — aka thruple, throuple or troika? It’s pretty much three people in a romantic relationship. It’s not just about sex (i.e., a threesome), but a union among three people.

To find out more about this modern-day relationship, we spoke with three women in separate triads about how they got into their relationships, how they make it work and some of the pros and cons about having two serious partners at the same time. Here’s what they had to say.

Two grieving couples form one loving triad

Lisa, 55, Orlando

“I married Roger 33 years ago, and together we married John 22 years ago. We've raised two children and now have grandson. After Roger and I married, John — a close friend who I went to college with — and his first husband, Mark, used to visit us. But sadly, Mark died very young and unexpectedly, and we worried about John. From there, it just made sense.” 

On how they make the relationship work

“All relationships have rules and terms. One difference is that we make sure each pair has time alone as well as all three of us spending time together. One of the positives about this kind of relationship is financial. We do not all have to work full time. When the kids were little, I was a stay-at-home mom. Now John and I work full time and Roger does a variety of paying and nonpaying things. Also, when the kids were little, it was nice to have more parents than kids and to live with multiple friends. If Roger has something going in the evening, I have John for company and such. Also, we don't have to be interested in everything our partner likes. For example, John and Roger are engineers, and I let them discuss something in that realm and be my history-major self.” 

Advice to others considering a triad

“First, if you thought getting one spouse to agree on something was hard, try three people. But all kidding aside, what's made it work for us is that we were friends first. I think that's important in any marriage. What I've learned through the years is that we have not gotten the grief from others that we sort of expected.” 

More: 6 Triggers That Can Lead to an Emotional Affair

From an open marriage to a triad

Marcy, 32, Denver

“My triad relationship is only about three weeks old, but I've been married for two and a half years. My husband and I opened our marriage last year, and over the last couple months, he's been seeing another man. I could tell they were getting close, and I said that I'd be happy for the new boyfriend to spend time at our house. Well, on the day this guy came to our house for the first time, he confessed to my husband that he was attracted to me as well. I shared the attraction, but was unsure about pursuing anything because I didn't want to tread on their existing relationship. My husband insisted that he had no problem with 'sharing,' so our new throuple formed. I never anticipated this dynamic before, and it just sort of happened, but I was never against it."

On how they make the relationship work

“We're still ironing out the details. We've agreed to practice safe sex until everyone has been tested, and that it's vital for each smaller couple within the triad to have ample time and space to grow meaningful individual relationships. One positive is that there are always more hands on deck, whether it's in caring for our daughter or accomplishing chores around the house. Having a new person thrown into the mix means more excitement as we all get to know each other and go through that typical honeymoon phase together — and it definitely spices up any physical encounters! We also face less pressure in some ways — if my husband is in the mood for sex but I'm not, he has the option to turn to someone else for that need. And when one of us feels sad or down for some reason, there is a larger built-in support system.”

Advice to others considering this kind of relationship

“There's always some element of jealousy, and it takes practice not to let that turn into the unhealthy kind of jealousy. You have to absolutely be willing to give voice to your feelings or concerns, because otherwise it festers. Above all, the biggest negative for me so far has been the fear of social stigma. I'm terrified of anyone in my family or broader circle finding out what my marriage dynamic is like because I worry about what others think of me. Also, sometimes you're the one who's waiting at home for the other two people to get back from their one-on-one date, and you get annoyed more easily than you might expect. But you have to accept those fears, those annoyances, all those negative feelings and just realize that much of the negativity stems from societal constructs more than anything else.”

More: What It's Like to Be Decades Older or Younger Than Your S.O.

Two happily married women become three

Gina, 39, New York

“My wife, Joanne, and I opened up our five-year marriage to a mutual girlfriend, Sarah — who actually married us originally, ironically — about two years ago. Sarah lost her father at a young age, and when her mother died, Joanne and I wanted to make her a part of our family permanently. Sarah didn’t have many others. Between the three of us, we have a 2-year-old son and couldn’t be happier.” 

On how they make the relationship work

“At first, defining boundaries was difficult. We didn’t allow sexual contact with Sarah for a few months, but then it sort of morphed into Joanne and I each having our own personal relationship with our new wife. Making sure the time is split evenly and adequately between the three of us is crucial. It’s important that all three of us get the same amount of time with each other, as well as spending time with our son, doing household chores and paying bills. And speaking of bills, it’s really nice have three paychecks coming in to pay the mortgage and other expenses. We also try to look at our relationship as one consisting of three people and not two couples meshed into one.” 

Advice to others considering this kind of relationship

“All people involved in a triad have to have a strong bond or else jealousy is imminent. At times, you can feel lonely or bitter if your two spouses are out together and you’re home by yourself. There may also be some awkwardness or feelings of insult if they desire getting intimate without you, which is why communication and being open is so important. Also, it may be hard for family and friends to understand this type of relationship you are entering into, so be prepared to face some tough questioning. On the other hand, also be prepared for lots of love and fun, because you’re adding another person you love into your relationship, which is a rare and special thing.”

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