Published 09.04.2023
7 min read

What It's Like Being The Third in a Polyamorous Relationship

Alan Schin (he/him/his) is the Chief Editor at Taimi. He wears several hats daily as a writer, editor, blogger, and content contributor. He began his university studies as a Psychology student but found his passion in Advanced Communication Studies. Alan loves having the opportunity to write and help our content team shine. According to Alan, his education helps him to understand the dynamics behind dating and socialization better. When he isn’t busy with Taimi, Alan works on his first novel, a sci-fi thriller, and creates works of art in his ceramics studio.

A polyamorous relationship structure can come in many forms. One of the most common involves a previously involved couple that brings in a third person to create a poly or open relationship. In order for these relationships to be successful, every person involved must communicate well and be able to navigate particular challenges.

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    If you are the third person in a polyamorous relationship, you may be in the most challenging position. In this three-way relationship, you must find your place within the context of an existing primary relationship. When that works out, it can be wonderful. Sadly, when it doesn't, it is often the third person who suffers the most.

    If you are in a three-person relationship, this article is for you. Keep reading for a great explanation of poly relationships along with great advice for making your throuple relationship work.

    What is a Triad Polyamorous Relationship?

    It's difficult to define a triad relationship. It is a type of relationship that involves an agreement between three folks who are interested in pursuing a nontraditional relationship with one another. Although these non-monogamous relationships are often presumed to be centered around sex, not every person in a three-person relationship is having sex with one another.

    Likewise, a polyamorous triad doesn't always involve a married couple. However, that is always a possibility.

    Different Types of Triad Polyamorous Configurations

    So, how does polyamory between three individuals work? Each one is different. However, your poly relationship may fall into one of these categories.

    Fully Open Triad

    Here, three people have a romantic or sexual relationship with one another. This may be configured in several different ways. What makes this a fully open relationship is that everybody in the triad is free to date or have sex with other people outside of the three-person relationship. There is no primary partner monogamy here. However, two of the people involved may have a primary emotional bond.

    Closed Triad

    In a closed triad, the sexual or romantic relationship is contained. Nobody has relationships that are outside of the trio. This is, essentially, a monogamous relationship.

    Closed Relationship With an Open Third

    Not everybody considers this to be a truly polyamorous relationship. In this case, the original couple agrees to stay monogamous within their current relationship. However, as the third person in this scenario, you would have the right to freely date or have sex outside of this trio.

    Vee Triad

    This is a fairly unique configuration where one person is the corner or hinge of a relationship. The other two people are not necessarily involved with one another. You are just the common point in the relationship as both are in a relationship with you.

    Asexual Polyamory

    Yes, asexuals can be polyamorous. For example, a third individual may be taken on as a romantic partner with no sex involved. Alternatively, three individuals who are interested in forging a relationship may do so. It doesn't matter if everyone involved never has sex with one another. Remember that polyamory refers to love between multiple people. There is no rule that says this must involve sex or romance.

    What it Means to be The Third Person

    As a third person, you may deal with a lot of mixed feelings. Where do you fit in this relationship? Are you as important as the other two people? Worse, if you break up others may not agree that your relationship counts. Those hurt feelings can be even more difficult to overcome if nobody even believes that you experienced genuine connections.

    That said, your experience as the third partner doesn't have to be negative or fraught with drama. It is possible to engage in these relationships with a commitment to ethical non-monogamy that includes mutual respect, affection, and communication.

    Like any other relationship, it requires a foundation of mutual respect. Additionally, it is very important that every person involved consents to this relationship enthusiastically. Sadly, you may find that the existing couple doesn't fully agree on bringing in a third. If that is the case, step away for your own good. This is the opposite of ethical non-monogamy.

    Tips For Integrating Into Polyamorous Relationships as a Third Person

    You need to start with a commitment to behaving morally and ethically with your new significant others. However, you should also balance that by protecting your own best interests. This way, you ensure that your needs are met and respected.

    If you are entering a relationship with a married couple of two people who have an existing relationship, you should meet with both of them. It's important to define the relationship you will have with them. Get everybody's expectations and boundaries on the table so that there isn't jealousy or other issues.

    Advocate for yourself as well. Do you want one or both people to spend time with you? Express that to them. If you can't speak up for yourself and get your needs met, then you may need to rethink your situation.

    Here are some of the common challenges to a three-way non-monogamous partnership. Think about how you might deal with this broad spectrum of issues:

    • How will you handle legal agreements such as renting a home together or buying items together?

    • If the other two people are married what happens if they decide to divorce?

    • What will you do if you or the other two want to add new partners?

    • What if there is a disagreement over alone time

    • How will you respond if one member asks you to lie or otherwise behave unethically to the other partner?

    You may not encounter these issues, but they are not uncommon. If you don't want to think about these possibilities, that's fine. Just remember that not everyone is cut out to navigate relationships with multiple partners. One way to see if this is something that is for you is to try polyamorous dating before committing to a full relationship.

    Counseling With More Than One Partner

    Yes, you can and should consider counseling if you have multiple partners. There are relationship counselors who are capable and empathetic when it comes to dealing with relationships that have more than two partners.

    Of course, you want to verify that polyamory is something your therapist understands and treats with respect and empathy. Not every professional has the competencies or world views that enable them to work with people who have more than one partner.

    Once you do find such a therapist, the help they can provide is exceptionally beneficial. They can assist you and the other two people with strategies to maintain a healthy relationship where everybody's needs are prioritized.

    Additionally, if you have had multiple relationships end badly, it may be time to speak to a professional counselor individually. They will help you process the trauma of these break-ups. Additionally, they will assist you in developing strategies for future relationships and in understanding what you are truly looking for in a situation that involves multiple partners.

    When is it Time to Walk Away?

    You are going to want to walk away from a polyamory triad for the same reasons you would end any other relationship. It no longer meets your needs or has become toxic in some ways. In fact, that can be something of a litmus test.

    For example, simply ask yourself something like this: If this was a monogamous relationship with one person would I continue with things or would I leave? Next, consider your answer. If you wouldn't stick with one, there is no reason to stick with two people. Jealousy and drama are certainly no way to experience romantic or sexual connections whether it's with more than one person or not.

    Also, it's perfectly okay to realize that polyamory just isn't for you. Some people are truly conditioned to be happiest when they are in a relationship with one partner. Otherwise, they may constantly feel jealous or simply out of place within the context of that relationship.

    Final Thoughts: Open Communication is The Key to a Successful Poly Triad

    Polyamory is often unfairly associated with a lack of commitment. In truth, these relationships require a deeper level of trust and communication. All members of the triad must care about one another, communicate honestly, and show empathy for one another's feelings and experiences.

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