10 FAQs About Being in a Throuple: Definition, Dynamic, and More – Healthline


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Maybe you caught that one “House Hunters” episode that had HGTV-lovers around the globe up in arms. Or maybe you binged “Politician” specifically for that throuple subplot (#relatable).
Or maybe you were rooting for (read: turned on by) Alice, Nat, and Gigi in Showtime’s “The L Word: Generation Q.”
Whatever the reason, you stumbled across this article because you’re curious about what exactly a throuple is and how it works.
Luckily for you, Liz Powell, PsyD, licensed psychologist, LGBTQ-friendly sex educator, and author of “Building Open Relationships: Your Hands-On Guide to Swinging, Polyamory & Beyond,” and Lateef Taylor, pleasure-based, queer-inclusive sex educator and sex-positivity advocate, are here to explain.
Taylor offers this definition: “A throuple is a relationship between three people who have all unanimously agreed to be in a romantic, loving, relationship together with the consent of all people involved.”
You may also hear a throuple referred to as a three-way relationship, triad, or closed triad.
Typically, an open relationship is a relationship that occurs between two people who have mutually agreed to open their relationship up to sex — but not romance or love — with other people.
If two folks in an open (or closed) relationship have sex together with a third person, this is a threesome, not a throuple!
A threesome is explicitly sexual in nature. While throuples can (and often do!) have a sexual component, throuples are ongoing relationships that are full of feels and romance. Threesomes (usually) aren’t.
Here’s where it gets tricky: A throuple can be an open or closed relationship.
If it’s open, it means that the people in the throuple can only have romance within the throuple, but can have sex with folks outside of the relationship.
If it’s closed, it means that the people in the throuple can only have romance and sex with the other people within the throuple.
A throuple relationship can also be polyamorous.
This means that the individuals within the throuple can have sex and romance or love with folks outside of their three-person relationship.
“As with a two-person relationship, what the throuple looks like is dependent on what the people in the relationship’s boundaries, needs, and wants are,” explains Taylor.
“Being in a throuple gives you access to more or different types of emotional affection, intimacy, care, and joy,” says Taylor.
And if the throuple is sexual: sex, pleasure, and orgasms!
There are three main ways a throuple can form:
A throuple can include any combination of people of any gender or sexual identity.
According to Powell, “A lot of times a throuple is formed when a heterosexual couple seeks out a hot bisexual babe.” (P.S. This is called unicorn hunting).
Powell adds that a three-way relationship may be especially attractive to folks who are bisexual, queer, or pansexual.
If you’re in a preexisting relationship, a throuple may work well for you and your partner if:
If you’re single, a throuple may work well for you if:
“Many of the benefits of a throuple are similar to the benefits of a two-person relationship,” says Taylor. These include:
There are also benefits specific to being in a throuple.
If, for instance, you’re someone who experiences compersion — joy from witnessing another person’s joy, which is essentially vicarious joy — you get that in spades from a throuple. You get to watch two people who you love, love and be loved by another person.
There are also the logistical benefits of a throuple.
If you live together, for instance, there are more people to contribute to household upkeep and finances. If there are kids, there are more people to help with child-rearing responsibilities.
There aren’t necessarily any disadvantages of being in a throuple.
But there are unrealistic expectations about what a throuple will actually look or feel like. Or, how much work it actually takes.
“Couples who want to add a third person need to be prepared for their original relationship to undergo a complete shift,” says Powell.
Unfortunately, OG couples aren’t always prepared for that.
Powell explains: “[Often] they come up with tons of rules around what the throuple is going to look like and what the boundaries will be in order to preserve the relationship.” Then they go out to try to find a third.
The trouble? For starters, this is extremely disempowering to the third person!
“Any conversation about the boundaries of the throuple needs to take place with all people involved,” says Powell.
Beyond that, it’s just not realistic.
“A throuple isn’t just a slightly different take on a relationship between two people,” says Powell. “It’s four different relationships: the three individual relationships and one group relationship.”
No doubt, this can work. But it requires a lot of work and communicating from all people involved — like, a lot.
We aren’t going to sugarcoat it: If all parties aren’t prepared to put in the work, the throuple will not last.
It may not need to be said, but “transitioning your two-person relationship to a three-person relationship isn’t going to fix any underlying issues in a relationship,” says Taylor. “It’s going to exacerbate them.”
This is especially true if the issue in the relationship is lack of, or poor, communication.
Currently in a two-person relationship? Before you bring it up with your current partner, ask yourself:
Taylor adds, “Before you bring it up with your partner, you need to know if you’re willing to continue your current relationship if your partner says no.” Or if it’s throuple or bust.
Once you know the answers to these Qs, you’re ready to bring it up. Start with an “I” statement, then pose a question. For example:
Remember: Your partner may not be interested, and they reserve the right to say no without being pressured.
This is supposed to be a conversation, not a debate. K?
Financial, sexual, relationship, and familial boundaries all need to be discussed.
For example:
More often than you think you need to!
“You don’t want to wait for things to come up before you talk about them,” says Taylor. “You want to be proactive.” Fair.
They recommend establishing a weekly check-in meeting where all parties are present.
If you want to learn more about throuples, Powell recommends also learning about polyamory and open relationships.
Popular polyamory and open relationship resources include:
For resources specifically about or for throuples, check out:
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.
Last medically reviewed on June 15, 2020
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