tips and tricks for triads

Lately I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about triads. How they work, what happens when they don’t, what the possible pitfalls are, how to avoid them (the pitfalls, not the triads).

It seems as though the triad is one of the most talked-about and desired forms of poly, and yet there’s very little written specifically about triad dynamics. Cultural fantasies about threesomes abound, but that’s by no means the same thing; and what little non-fiction I’ve found on the topic is generally a) all about the sex (natch – because the cultural fantasies are about threesomes, not triads – why bother relating to people when you can just use them as real live sex toys?) and b) based on a heterosexual, heteronormative, heterosexist and remarkably homophobic model. Having just read Vicki Vantoch’s The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping with Three, which explicitly discusses the specific forms of threesome sex that are best suited to helping you to not have to deal with your homophobia – ! – I’m feeling particularly grouchy on this point.

I realize that much of what I might have to say about triads probably applies to all sorts of other non-monogamous relationships, but I’m choosing to frame this as a triad post anyway. So there.

I’ll also state a couple points up front. First, I don’t see polyamory as needing different types of approaches based on your gender or sexual orientation. So I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on the various ways you can organize the gender balance of a triad relationship in order to best work around whatever your sexual orientation might be, nor do I make any assumptions about people’s desires based on their genital arrangements or gender identity. I do not assume the gender or orientation of any participant. Second, when I say “triad,” I’m talking about an equilateral three-person relationship formation – not a vee, not a vee with occasional threesome sex, but a relationship in which three people all want to be with one another.

With that all in mind, here are a few of the tidbits I’ve picked up within my own triad relationships. I’d love to hear what yours might be! Feel free to comment at the end.

A triad is a four-in-one relationship.

Triads can be born in any number of ways. Sometimes three singles come together. Sometimes a couple takes up with a third for some steamy sex and they all realize they want more than just the Saturday-night kind of fun. Sometimes one member of a couple gets involved with someone, and the vee eventually morphs into three-way love. Sometimes a larger poly formation is whittled down by break-ups and what’s left is three people who are all into each other. Regardless of how a triad forms, but especially if it’s not a spontaneous collision of three solo people, it’s important to keep in mind that each new person you add to the mix changes the  terms of the entire equation.

This is most relevant in the “couple plus one” version of triad formation – a common angle into triad, but one that often creates the illusion that somehow the original couple remains unchanged and enduring but with an extra added bonus. But that’s rarely how things actually work. You haven’t just added a third person to a pair; you’ve created three new relationships on top of the one pair dynamic you already had. You’ve got person A’s relationship with the new person, person B’s relationship with the new person, and the relationship that happens with the three of you all together.

This whole process cannot help but change who person A and person B are to each other. If it doesn’t, what’s the point? I’d be quite baffled to see anyone engage in a serious love relationship with a new person and not allow that relationship to change them even a little bit – I’d wonder what they were resisting, or why they were being so rigid. Relationships change us. That’s just what they do. So the original pair, if there is one, should expect that and communicate about it accordingly.

Invest in every pair.

To jump off this point, I’d add that each dyad within the triad needs care, or imbalance shall follow. If this imbalance is voluntary – if the type of triad relationship that works for you is not equilateral – that’s cool, but you better put it on the table so everyone’s got matching expectations. Care, in this context, means that you don’t get so wrapped up in your triad that you forget to spend quality time nurturing the relationships you have with each individual person. Triads can be intoxicating – the classic “new relationship energy” is exponentially multiplied, and that multiplication can last way past what we traditionally understand to be the NRE period (or “honeymoon phase” for the layperson). If you can’t remember the last time you had a one-on-one date, chances are you’re coasting on the triad energy but neglecting two dyads.

A key piece of this is to make sure that each dyad is actually communicating. Don’t assume that if you mention something to one person, it gets magically conveyed to the third. Even if that happens and works well at first, it means you’re placing a double burden of communication on one person, a strategy which is bound to occasionally fail (hey, communicating well in just one relationship is challenging enough!), and it means you’re essentially relegating the third person to the last on the priority chain of information-sharing. Even if you end up repeating yourself on occasion, better to err in that direction than make someone feel like they’re always finding things out after the first two, or like you couldn’t be bothered to tell them something directly. Create strategies that work for you. (Hint: Everyone has a different relationship to communication methods like Facebook, text messages, Twitter, cell phones, Skype, e-mail, handwritten notes, and – gasp! – real live in-person talking. Come up with a mix that works with everyone’s individualized relationship to technology, time and location.)

And don’t forget about yourself in the process.

With all this relationship-nurturing time, it’s all the more essential to keep your wits about you and remember that sometimes you need some solitude, too. Spending time on your own, whether that means alone or with friends or colleagues who are not your lovers, is an opportunity to breathe, integrate, let everything settle, and remember who you are when you’re not in the company of one or more people who want to get in your pants. Hey, those two hotties like you for a reason: because you’re you. So make sure you keep on being you. This means that, despite the time demands of triad relationship, it’s crucial that you refrain from dropping all your hobbies and friends and travel plans. Don’t let your entire existence get wrapped into your relationship. Do the “you” things you’ve always done, just do them with a bigger grin on your face.

Inclusion is a good thing.

Especially if you started out with a couple-plus-one situation, or any other situation in which two members of the triad know each other better or have been in each other’s lives longer than the third member, it’s a good idea to bear in mind the discrepancies in relationship history between each dyad and make communication choices accordingly. So, for example, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to reminisce about that awesome vacation the original couple had three years ago, but if you’re gonna do that, you might want to bring out the photos and make an evening of showing them to the newer member of the triad in a way that creates connection rather than making them feel excluded.

While you’re at it, let that be a good way to start the conversation about the fabulous things you’d like to do à trois. Likewise, use your existing in-jokes and habits become pathways for new intimacies with a new person, rather than turning them into shorthand for territoriality over a shared past. This isn’t about denying or downplaying history; it’s about making sure that history is not used for the purposes of exclusion or one-upmanship – especially since that can happen unintentionally.

Communicate about sex.

In addition to your in-depth safer-sex discussion, you’ll also want to figure out how to have sex in ways that work best for you. Threesome sex is totally hot, but it also presents a unique set of challenges, and I’m not just talking about where to put all the arms and legs. The way that you connect sexually with one person might look really different from the way you connect sexually with another. Maybe one of them calls out your toppy side whereas the other makes you yearn to bottom. Maybe the energy with one of them is all about soulful, sweet, eye-gazing sex, and with the other it’s about playful, silly fun, or intense down-and-dirty fucking. Put these two lovers in the same room, and then what? It can be awesome but it can be really confusing, too. Worse, the sexual energy is often so high that you all expect it to go swimmingly – you can’t wait to tear each other’s clothes off, so clearly all is right with the world, right?

That sexual high can carry you through a few moments where the discrepancies begin to show, but it’s wise to put ‘em on the table when you start to notice them, and talk about what you can do to make sure things stay hot and that sex doesn’t become a highly charged site of conflict. Keep in mind that your sex doesn’t have to look the same every time, either; it’s the overall balance that needs to be maintained. So if person A loves person B for their hot sexy aggressive toppishness, but person B melts into a puddle of kittenish submission every time person C is in the room, negotiate how person A can engage with person B when he or she is in bottom space, or how person C can encourage or support person A’s top energy, so that everyone has their favourite kind of fun at least some of the time, along with plenty of opportunities to stretch into new places too.

Hell, communicate about everything.

Sex is one place where this kind of communication is essential, but it’s a good plan to put things on the table in a really up-front way elsewhere too. Lay out your jealousies, insecurities, triggers and fears in as matter-of-fact a way as you know how, and don’t be shy about it. Are you worried that your partner’s going to leave you for your hot new lover? Say so. Often, just naming it makes it a lot less scary, and gives your partners an opportunity to reassure you and figure out how they can send messages that will counteract the scary ones in your head. This extends to other places too – if you hate the way the new partner acts as though they’re a guest in your home when you really want them to behave like family, if you aren’t sure whether asking them about meeting their parents is okay, if you secretly wonder if maybe they’re just using you to get to your honey – seriously, just open your mouth and say it. All the better if you can preface it with something like “I know this is just my fear talking, but…” or “It’s not that I actually think you would do this to me, but…” so they know you are acknowledging that you’re just trying to air out the bad stuff that might otherwise fester in your head, and that you don’t necessarily believe your mind’s scary stories.

And on top of that, communicate about how you communicate.

Yeah, I know, are we seeing a theme here? You bet. I’m not saying you should spend your whole life processing shit, but especially at the beginning, it’s often wise to expect a fair bit of calibration work as you figure out what your triad is going to look like. One of the biggest challenges in any relationship is figuring out how to mesh communication styles. This is exponentially harder in a triad situation, given the whole four-in-one relationship thing. Differing approaches to communication can cause major complications. It helps to lay out the nature of those differences so you can figure out how to predict your snarls and strategize about how best to deal with them. There’s nothing like a third viewpoint to shine a bright light on the spots where an existing couple was already having trouble – and there’s nothing like having two people point out the same problem to make it real clear that something needs to be addressed!

Communication styles can vary based on a variety of factors. Think about things like how the time of day, day of the week, the type and degree of stress you’re each facing, illness or pain levels, presence or absence of kids, menstrual cycle, time of the year, weather, how much sleep you’ve had, and any number of other factors influence your moods, feelings and how you interpret what’s going on in the world around you. Then think about your typical communication approach, and how it intersects with all those factors. Match that up with the same set of considerations for your partners, and see how best to deal with the discrepancies or take advantage of places of confluence.

For example, if person A and person C are both morning people, perhaps they might like to hash out the plans for the week at 9 a.m., and present a synopsis to person B when he wakes up at 11 – rather than impatiently waiting, or dragging person B out of a deep sleep to look at the calendar. If B and C both get really grouchy if they’re hungry, then save the deep relationship processing conversation for the tea-and-dessert portion of the evening rather than trying to hash anything out while you’re cooking dinner together.

On top of situational factors, make allowances for each other’s baseline styles and preferences – if person B likes to spend a couple of days thinking things through before a big conversation, you might want to give them more warning than you would person C, who might just spend those two days fretting and feeling more and more upset. If you can each learn each other’s styles and are each willing to adapt your own to the greatest extent possible, you’ll stretch your own skills and make the most of your points in common.

Make sure you’re all having the same triad together.

Don’t assume that because you’re in a triad, you somehow magically all come to it with an identical understanding of what that triad is all about, or what non-monogamy is about in general. What are your individual approaches to relationships? What are your experience levels in poly, and what forms have your past non-monogamous relationships taken? What assumptions are you bringing into the triad about what “treating someone well” or “respect” or “love” or even “sex” mean? How do you each feel about the big issues – money, time, family, domestic arrangements and so forth? How do you each feel about extra-triadic relationships? To be sure, a triad can be time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never have opportunities for some nooky on the side – so what’s okay and what’s not? Is there room for any of you to have other significant relationships outside the triad, or just for fun? (Note that this may not be about your emotional or philosophical preference, but simply about how many hours you have in a day.) What about long-distance relationships, or travel flings, or SM-based relationships, or fucking each other’s exes? Of course, these are conversations that may come up as time goes on, rather than in the first couple of months of your triad’s existence, but they’re worth thinking about along the way. Sometimes jealousy and a sense of fear or threat can come from surprising places, but reassurance and repair can also come from unexpected angles.

Do good PR.

It is an unfortunate reality that many people, when faced with a triad, will immediately start trying to figure out who the “real couple” is and who the “extra” is. Or they’ll sniff for signs that the “extra” is actually simply in line to be the next monogamous partner to the person from the original couple (if such a thing exists) to whom they are “clearly” more attracted. Or any number of other rotten assumptions. Add ‘em all together, and it sometimes seems like the world is jealous of all the fun you’re having and really just wants to dig into the chinks in your armour so they can precipitate your inevitable downfall into the land of the single/monogamous/miserable.

The world’s unfortunate tendency to tear down non-monogamous happiness can be exacerbated by any element of your situation that might seem unusual or lend itself easily to that sort of misinterpretation. If there’s an imbalance in longevity (a long-term couple with a new addition), distance (one person lives out of town or further away or even simply not in the same dwelling as the other two), age, financial situation, perceived attractiveness, amount of time spent together, and so forth, people will often seize on that as a sure sign that things are going to go down the tubes.

So it’s a great idea to talk about what words you want to use for each other, and a succinct but clear way to describe what you are to others who might not be in the loop. “We’re trying out this crazy triad thing, who knows if it’ll last but we’re all committing to be kind to each other if we ever break up!” “Person A is my partner, Person B is my lover, and they are husband and wife to each other.” “We’re a polyfidelitous triad and we’re planning a three-way Wiccan handfasting ceremony for next year.” And so on, and so forth.

And with all the world’s crap in mind, it’s worth figuring out a good PR message to give to people who get nosy and rude so they’ll shuddup and leave you alone. “Person A and I are still very much in love, and we both feel incredibly lucky that Person C finds us both as attractive as we find one another!” “I know I’m the new one in this situation, but I feel like their stability as a couple is an amazing place from which to start a triad relationship, and we’re building this together.” And so forth. Of course you need to personalize to your situation, but it’s worth talking about how to best do that in ways that suit everyone. It can be awfully awkward to realize you’re giving conflicting messages to the same friends about what’s going on, for instance.

And last but not least, those dang wedding invitations.

You know the ones. The ones that say “and guest” rather than “and guests.” Or the show your parents take you to every summer, with the two pairs of seats they reserve weeks in advance. Or any number of other social situations that are built, to greater or lesser degrees of deliberateness, around the social institution of The Couple. But not The Single or The Solo or The Triad.

Somewhere along the line, awkward conversations must happen. It’s up to you to decide how important it is that Aunt Mavis invite Person C to her annual bridge tournament brunch along with you and Person A. But unless you’re a hermit, eventually, something will come up where you’ll have to say the equivalent of, “And I/we’d really like to bring Person B as well. Is that okay with you?” Figure out how far you want to go in accommodating the rest of the world’s unhealthy obsession with matched pairs versus making the rest of the world accommodate your awesome but unusual relationship formation. You might want to offer to kick in the cost of that extra theatre ticket, and split the bill between the three of you, rather than asking Mom and Dad to buy three. Or you might want to say to your cousin and her fiancee, with confidence and firmth, “I assume that if you love me and want me to share in your special day, that you will welcome my two partners with open arms just like you do me. Am I wrong about that?”

Really, you can tailor your approach to the situation. The truly progressive friend or family member will discreetly ask your brother for your new partner’s full name and send the bloody wedding invitation to all three of you by name, no “and guest” at all, but such wonderful demonstrations of courtesy are as yet few and far between if you’re interacting with mainstream society. Expect a similar level of weirdness when dealing with things like couple discounts at the gym, consent forms, wills and so forth. Figure out how to roll with it.

Over to you.

Gimme more. What are your triad tips? I wanna know!

31 Responses

  1. No triad tips to share, but wanted to extend commendation on the word “firmth.”

  2. Warning: possible incoherence due to lateness and lack of sleep :D

    As you say, a lot of what you wrote here applies to various non-mono arrangements so I would add (for triads and any other arrangement) an additional PR point regarding any children that are involved. This needs to be discussed with the children too. For example, if all three partners can pick up the child after school or daycare, all three names have to be put down on whatever form they make you sign. BUT one needs to keep in mind that other kids are curious and will ask the child who that “other” person is. What do you want your child to answer? What does the child feel comfortable answering? How much does the child understand about the triad (or other) arrangement? Of course, this applies to all sorts of “alternative” realities such as same-sex parents, trans parents, etc. But I thought it was worth adding since you invited additional points and since children can easily be targets of scorn and ridicule from other kids when their family is “different” in any way and their well-being needs to be taken very seriously by the triad/vee/etc.

  3. I am so thankful for reading your words. A live in a play relationship with one girl. we both also are in a every-day-relationship. communication that is what its all about. her every-day-relation has still a big problem accepting me as a play-partner at the side of her girl. it is hard for me, since she doesn’t event want to talk with me. she just wants to fade me out.
    i don’t have any chance to contact her. she doesn’t want to be in touch with me. so my play-partner really is under pressure. she seems to talk and listen, talk and listen and nothing is changing. the girl just want to be hurt of beeing “only” the every-day-relation and me beeing the play-relation. so what to do? my playpartner is loving her much. i like her, but i don’t like the way she is dealing with problems.
    and for me it is hard to see my playpartner suffering. it is hard to have a happy play-relationship, if there is one part around having problems with that.
    nixe

  4. my triad tip: do good PR, but be honest. if there are themes to deal with: talk about them. without judgement, but with warm loving understanding. so everybody has the chance for following your all development within the triad.

  5. Splendid piece! Putting your RSS feed on my list purely on the basis of how much good clear sense you make.

    As a member of a MFF triad of 13+years standing, I’d only add two things:
    Be aware that just because two of the triad agree on something, the one disagreeing isn’t automatically wrong. (Sure that’s just a specific example of the No.1 rule of good continual accurate communications all round, but it can cause a lot of hurt when you’re the one in the middle. Especially if you’re the odd gender out!)

    And… make sure each of you has their own room. Even if you all sleep in a sweet tangly puppy pile, each of you will need a safe quiet space to get on with being yourself. Even if it’s just your study or such – make it yours, make sure others know that they’re mostly welcome but sometimes you need alone time.

  6. Hi
    I am in a triad relationship. I was the third to come along after seeing one on the side for 4 years. Now the three of us are in a happy family! The problem that I am face as you mention is the telling of friends. My friends are cool with it and are happy that I no longer am having a secret relationship. But they have not told their friends and are find it hard to involve me in their social gatherings with their friends. They are worried that their friends wont understand but they know they wont be judged. I just hate being left out of the social part of their life. I sit here at home alone while they are out on a picnic with their friends. Any tips of what to do?

  7. I’m a married woman 17 years. My husband and I are considering bringing in another woman to our relationship. This woman is his exgirlfriend from 20 yrs ago. I think I’m ok with this. I find myself excited about it really. I am shy though and dont know how to act in this situation. When talking to my husband I am fine. When I talk to the other woman I clam up. Any advice or recommended reading to help me?

  8. Nick – Doesn’t sound like it’s really up to you to do anything at all… it sounds like your partners are the ones who need to do something. Among other things that includes some serious thinking about what friendship means to them, what they think they will be losing if they tell their friends about you, and whether or not they can handle that loss, what it’s worth to them to hurt your feelings in the meantime and how to best take care of you in that situation, and so forth. On your part, what you need to do is decide how much, and for how long, you’re willing to let your feelings be hurt in order to accommodate their fear of coming out; and communicate to them very clearly how you’re feeling and what you want, so that they are making informed decisions about how to proceed. Supporting them in their own process of facing their fears is also a good idea, if you can do that without damaging your own well-being. I’m not saying coming out is easy or risk-free – it isn’t. But nothing worthwhile generally is. Good luck!

    Sande – Advice? Create a relationship with her, entirely on your own, apart from the one she has with your husband – whether that means a friendship or a sexual relationship is entirely up to the two of you, based on the chemistry between you (and not on what your husband might like). That will involve figuring out why you’re clamming up, and figuring out what to do about it, and doing it. And while you’re in the process of getting to know each other, it’s crucial for you to keep the lines of communication open in all directions, with no preconceived expectations of what this relationship “should” look like. Recommended reading – yes, definitely – just click on the “Poly Resources” tab here and you’ll see the whole list! Good luck!

  9. Thank you for this extremely useful article.
    Our m/m/m “Vee” has been in the process of trying to evolve into a more complete Triad. Much of what you’ve written has been very helpful for us…especially for those two of us on the edge of the Vee to work to strengthen our relationship, and not just rely on the hinge guy in the middle as a “go-between”. As you say–investing in every pair.
    It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it. And this article serves as a great “how-to” guide that really helps. Again…thanks for writing it!

    • I am currently in a similar situation. I am the original partner of the V and allowed my relationship with the folcrum to become weak. Now we are trying to do a triad with their relationship in the open. I want to strencgthen my relationship with the new third, but he wants to take it SLLLLOOOOWWWWW. I am starting to feal like I have given up so much, and gotten little in return. I’m sure some of it is in my head, but it’s hard to tell. I was wondering how your relationship is going.

  10. Thank you so much for your adivce. Time has passed and I am still in the same situation. It seems the feelings they have for me are not enough to come out to their friends!
    So I am going on my merry way…… but what is it about me? what is it that I so so want to be in a Triad again? Why do you think some people are attracted to this type of relationship?
    is it a childhood trauma or insercurity that I possess? Or do I deep down know that one person alone can not make me happy so to risk it I want two!?
    @What do you think?

  11. I just have a really quick question. My husband brought the idea of a poly triad to me, which I was completely opossed to. I did not like the idea at all. It made it much worse that the woman he wanted me to welcome with open arms was someone he had been cheating on me with. It has caused a lot of issues in our marriage, and at this point our sex life is in severe distress. i consented to a threesome with her and it was horrible. She is not bisexual so she had no idea as to what to do. Now he thinks I should get a guy for me and we should all do this together. Because he still insist on fucking her, he just doesnt want to do without my consent… am I completely misguided in wanting nothing to do with that or am i missing some kind of magical point here..

  12. Nick – Sorry, I seem to have missed this comment several months ago! If it’s not too late, here’s my take on things:

    I don’t know specifically why you want to be in a triad, but from experience I can tell you that when triads work well, the relationship form can be totally awesome for such a long list of reasons I barely know where to start. So it doesn’t surprise me that you’d feel drawn to the form of relationship even if it didn’t work out with the specific people you first did it with. Please don’t go down the thorny path of pathologizing – just because what you like doesn’t look like what the rest of the world likes doesn’t mean you’re sick, damaged or a “problem” in any other way. You’re allowed to be different. That does not make you “wrong.”

    My only caution would be to avoid going for form over content – as in, don’t turn down a wonderful twosome, or a vee, or some other kind of relationship form just because it isn’t a triad and you’ve convinced yourself that a triad is the only thing you want. As long as you are relating authentically and with joy, there’s nothing wrong with other relationship forms either. Good luck to you!

    Tiffany – Wow. What a mess. To answer your question, no, you are not missing some sort of magical point. Strong relationships are built on trust, period! Without that trust, everything will fall apart, whether you break up or stay together and endure it. There is no way around this one.

    Your husband cheated on you, which of course broke your trust – so now you have no strong foundation on which to enjoy your own relationship, let alone attempt any kind of non-monogamous arrangement with others. Your relationship with your husband will not be fixed by him trying to force it into a triad with a woman who’s not sexually compatible with you – the flaws in that approach are so glaringly obvious it’s almost funny. Nor will your relationship improve by bringing in yet another complicating factor of another guy – that just means there would be one more person mixed into an already very precarious situation, as in, another real live person with their own feelings about things that also need to be considered. Not a human band-aid for an open wound.

    It sounds like your husband has done a piss-poor job of considering your feelings about anything from the get-go, and is grasping for whatever solution he can find to keep on being inconsiderate instead of facing up to his rather massive fuck-up – which, incidentally, is his dishonesty and selfishness, not his desire for another woman.

    In short, you have every right to be deeply hurt and royally pissed. The question is, what will you do about it? Does your husband have the courage, and the humility, to admit that he fucked up and to put the time, effort and soul into repairing your relationship? Or is he just going to keep pushing for shitty “solutions” that will allow him to essentially keep hurting you while not “technically” doing anything wrong because now you have “consented” to it? Beyond that, though, how do YOU feel about all this? Do you still want to spend the rest of your life with this person, and if so, how do you think you, together, can fix things? Or have his dishonesty and lack of consideration broken your trust beyond repair? It’s your call – do you want to work on this, or do you want to drop it? The point of all this is, after all, to be happy. All options are on the table now. It’s entirely your call as to what you feel will work best for you. What will make you happy?

  13. I found most of what you wrote to be fairly accurate. At the very least it’s good material for those people that are thinking about forming a triad to ponder and see what they can come up with.
    My wife and I have been auditioning for a 3rd since we married 16 years ago, and years ago we were sucessful & have been in a full triad with another woman. Explaining the relationship dynamics of a triad to people that have only ever had threesomes at most, or are intruiged by them is a bit of a stretch at times. Enabling people to understand that it is not just them as a couple interacting with a 3rd person was difficult for many people to grasp. However, after many discussions with people who were interested in what we have I came up with a simplified explanation. I dont add the aspect of the trinary relationship on top of the three bianary relationships as you did, & overall it may be crap, but it has helped several people “get it”.
    This is an exerpt of an blog I wrote for an adult poly website:

    Now, take away the variations of “swingers”, from the people looking for real connection to the folks that are there for the sweatly sippery free for all. Lets look at basic relational dynamics.
    In a couple, you have one connection between the two people. Now in our relationship with our girlfriend, many folks just assume that adding another woman just doubles the potential for issues, and here’s where my thought process started.
    The reality is it’s almost an exponential figure as it adds twice the issues on top of the existing ones in a 1 on 1 relationship. Even more when you add a fourth person and so on. Lets simplify it with some visual aids! Get some paper and a writing instrument (Homework, yay!).

    Write a 1 and a 2 with a short line between them, the line being the personal connection. Now, write a 3 below the 1 and make a line from it to the 1, and another to the 2. We now have 3 lines of connection, hence not twice the potential issues, but 3 times as many.
    Now, lets have some real fun. Write a 4 under the 2. Draw lines from it to the 1, to the 2, and to the 3. If you count them all you’ll have a grand total of SIX lines of connection.
    How’s that for a mind $*@%?
    Wanna have more fun? Take our situation as a triad, and try adding a couple to that,… Take your previous four numbers, write a 5 next to them and draw an additional four lines to each of the other numbers. Thats TEN connections that have to work for five people that require having more than passing attraction in common to get naked (or in our case to add regular playmates). Add a 6th person, and now we’re up to 15 lines,… 0_o

    Anyway, reigning in that tangent, back to the full time triad scenario. Taking our visual aid in mind, think of three people, each single one of those three connections has the potential to affect every one of the others in varying degrees depending on each individuals reaction/s. Once you have that visual firmly in mind it may become easier to grasp the basic dynamics of a full time triad relationship.

  14. [...] I found an excellent text on this issue of finding the balance in triad relationships here: http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/tips-and-tricks-for-triads/ [...]

  15. Wow thanks so much for sharing. My wife and I have recently fallen in love with another woman and are bumbling through the NRE. Winning in some aspects and failing dismally in others. This will help all 3 of us I think.
    Thanks again :-)

  16. hi, my husband and i are considering a triad, we have found the woman of our dreams, but the only problem that im facing is, my husband has the fear because hes never seen me with a woman before, and he doesnt know how he will react to it. please any advise to assure him and some ideas?

  17. Hi Jen. I’m afraid I can’t help you much on this one… there’s very little one can do to reassure someone of how things will go in unknown territory, especially because we ourselves can’t predict the future. What you can do is establish solid lines of communication and trust in the present so that you are well equipped to work through anything that does prove to be difficult. Not so much promising what will or won’t happen, but promising how you will be kind and caring no matter what. Good luck!

  18. Lots of very good information but I would like to address a un-touched subject that I see popping up (above) and often hear about… That is what a Triad 9or poly in most cases) is NOT.

    Both terms get ABUSED badly by swingers, cheaters and well… morons. So much so that I find a bad stigma getting attached to something that I find very important to my life and as a human being and it greatly affects people whom know nothing about the actual relationship… but simply assume its is swinging, cheating, open, etc.

    From Tiffany’s post above… Hon your husband is an idiot and needs to be kicked to the curb. He is seeking an open marriage while trying to avoid every possibility of doing the right thing by doing the wrong thing and completely muddying up what a triad or a poly relationship really is… 1+1+1=3 mutually, openly and with consensual involvement. A triad is not one partner being an a-hole, getting caught, then trying to some how merge the accident scene into a quasi relationship at force or demand of abandonment. 1 wrong + another wrong doesn’t = a right or a Triad. It should = “hello, Mr Attorney… I need a Motion for Dissolution filed please”.

    Swingers… Really? I become almost vile when I hear these terms getting passed around that lifestyle. I’ve been there and done that and it is certainly not a “relationship”. As a matter of fact I think I graduated rather quickly from such ideas into a triad because I didn’t like or couldn’t stand what the life style often represents… A bunch of men whom have usually pushed their ego-less and mentally (if not physically abused) challenged partners into preforming sex acts on and for others at the price of trying to salvage what is remaining of their pitiful relationship… It wouldn’t be fair to say ALL swingers are like that but I will go as far as to say the majority fall into exactly that category! It is not suave, or regal to try and slip in such terms as “triad”… It is evil, disgraceful and manipulative… Just because your wife or partner happens to be in the same room or adjacent room while your openly trying to talk someone out of their panties to get laid does not = triad… or poly! It simply equals SEX in a OPEN RELATIONSHIP!

    3-sums… They are exactly what they are sometimes very fun and often times so unbelievably uncomfortable that may people whom could or would be open to a Triad end up rejecting the idea of the basis of previous experience. Sexual experiences are meant to be enjoyed, openly… but that does not make them transcend into a relationship. Taking a 3-sum experience and making that happen requires openness between everyone involved on the same level… Not one guys little fantasy getting carried for as long as he can muster the event.

    If your into the above situations then cool…. Its your life… by all means enjoy it… but people whom do these types of things under the guise of Poly or especially a Triad simply infuriate and frustrate me beyond belief because it is NOT what a Triad is! Triads are about love, respect, understanding, family, mutual care, selfless giving and friendship/partnership…

    Ill step off my soap box now ;)

    M

  19. Great to get this info…I’m freshly dealing with a completely new situation: I found out 4 weeks ago that my soul-mate husband of 12 years is in love with a new girlfriend (first time something like this has ever happened in our relationship)….to make a long story short: I also am totally attracted to her, and there is great potential for a “golden triangle” between us…both of us girls have never even kissed a girl before, but all 3 of us have since had (wonderful) sex with one another, and there’s a lot of chemistry (intellectually, spiritually, emotionally & sexually)…the thing is is that I am DRAINED emotionally right now: I’ve had so many extreme ups and downs with my emotions that I fear I am becoming depressed…their relationship together was the original spark for all of this, and I just feel that I am the one struggling here: I feel great potential for all of this, but am also so scared to let go of my monogomous marriage…no one said it would be easy, but I had no idea that this would bring up SO much darkness inside myself…..

    However, great to feel and see that these type of relationships can work….number one priority is to get my own relationship with myself more stable…I feel like I am losing my mind too often…

    • I think the darkness is normal depending on the situation and how it was created. If your husband was simply off cheating behind your back with out you being informed or intending to enter into a triad together then…. Your not in a triad… Your simply excusing your spouses cheating by calling it such or trying to turn his cheating into this shinny pretty new word “triad”.

      I am sorry if i sound rude in saying that but if you read my post above I am simply annoyed with those types of situations being called or even hinted at as a triad because of the god awful reputation it gives a very valid and loving type of relationship.

      If that is NOT the case and you were intending a Triad again I would say some points of darkness are normal and if not dealt with VERY quickly will forever ruin the situation. If you are in the relationship because YOU want to be in the relationship this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are pandering to a 12 year marriage and your husbands own desires then you will get what is expected because you are not there for the right reasons. (saving a marriage is not a valid reason to be in a triad).

      The green eyed monster (jealousy) is simply a projection of ones own insecurities being pushed onto the others around you and has to be handled and dealt with accordingly. Usually that realization alone jolts most people enough to keep it in perspective and work with it. If not, or if you cant maintain a self loving presence as such then you simply need to get out of it otherwise… you will get what would be expected in the end. Do the right things for the right reasons and like any relationship you will be rewarded, only in this case its will be double the reward in the end. :)

  20. my husband of 9 years and i have started a triad relationship and its fantastic. it is something we had talked about for a long time i have always thought that a 3 person relationship would be awesome with the right 3rd and i find both men and women attractive. we have been seeing our girl for 2 months and while any relationship takes work we are all in it completely and love one another. i think it helps in part that my husband vetted her as a friend for a while before he brought her home. i have never worried that my husband would cheat on me because i trust him and we have a very honest relationship so when he started the friendship i was totally fine with them having a friendship. when i met her i was even more ok with it as she is a younger version of me. im not sure if it is understandable or just narcissistic that i fell so quickly in love but im a shy introverted leaper when it comes to feelings. right now because of our long term relationship and her and my husbands friendship it is more of a v then a full triad but her and i are working on our side so as to complete the triad. im just so happy to have found someone that wants to share her life with us as i dont do one night stands even in 3ways

  21. My wife and I are rocketing towards just such a relationship with of all people my ex-wife. I love these two women more than I thought possible. Our relationship is growing every day. We are not a triad yet and are still struggling with social ramifications if we decide to do this. I/we have three children and my ex-wife has two. I love children and they are older, the youngest is 7 years old. For me the size of the family is only a bonus, it is how the children and me/partners will be treated. I need all the encouragement and advice an understanding community can offer

  22. Dumb question, how does one go about finding the “unicorn” for completing a triad? I am bi and my husband and I would very much like to find our other soul mate, but the LGBT community we are in met and ostrasized me in one fell swoop (the fellas are still trying to comvince my husband that he’s bi also, lol).

    • Not searching is the best way to find her.

      Mine showed up after three years of happy, content and complete monogamous lifestyle (although we never called ourselves monogamous).

      I don’t think we would ever succesfully hunted down our soulmate if we were, in fact, hunting.

  23. My longtime girlfriend and I are both bi. We have a strong relationship full of love, support, and open and honest communication. We both think it would be a good idea to bring a man into a relationship, feeling he could add something wonderful, assuming we could find the right man. Neither of us want this arrangement to be open in any way, though, and are uncomfortable with the idea of either one of us beginning a relationship with someone without the other there. How would we go about finding a man, then? Any tips?

  24. Reblogged this on The Polyamorous Side of Things and commented:
    I found this blog today and I really enjoyed this post, just wanted to share :D

  25. How do suggest sleeping arrangements if the triad lives together? Like one giant bed, two separate rooms with shared time, or three separate rooms?

    • Also add into that, I am in an extremely committed relationship with my boyfriend and we recently have had some occasions with my best friend whom I love just as deeply as him. We have been mulling around a triad, but sleeping arrangements is where I get lost. Him and I have lived together awhile and like having someone to cuddle with before you completely fall asleep.

  26. I found this post to be amazingly eyeopening. I have recently entered into a triad with two other men (in fact, I’m making them read this). This is a very new relationship. One of my boyfriends I have been seeing casually for about six months (I’ll call him J1, simply for chronological sake and that both their names start with J) and we recently realized that we do truly love one another. As serendipity would have it, we both just recently started seeing the third (J2) independently and unknown to each other. Once we all realized we were seeing one another, we figured if there is an interest on all of our parts, why not consolidate. More love to go around. We’ve recently decided to move our relationship to the next level and become exclusive (at least until we have a solid foundation built).

    I have been in a brief triad before, about 10 years ago, and so has J2. Our other boyfriend, J1 (I refuse to call either of them the “third” because for some reason that suggests a sense of hierarchy to me.), has never been in a poly situation before. In fact, he hasn’t been anywhere near as romantically or sexually active was either of us other two. I have had a pretty bad history of falling for the wrong guy. You know the one: says things you want to hear while doing the exact opposite.

    Very shortly into our relationship I began experiencing many scary insecurities. While I’ve never been jealous of either of them or the time they spend together, I became very insecure about my value in the relationship because they seem to relate to one another better and have more in common than they do with either of me. They share many little inside jokes and funny stories and I don’t really have than many little jokes or stories that I share with them. They’ve always been wonderful about explaining it to me and trying to make me feel included in it, but it’s always that “you just had to be there” kind of thing. I’ve never felt left out, but I constantly feel like the 3rd wheel. So much so that I’m convinced J2 would much rather spend time with J1 than with me (not to mention I believe he’s much more attracted to him than me).

    When I opened up to them about it, they tried hard to reassure me that I am off base and told me that I was being irrational: to start thinking with my head rather than my heart. Instantly defensive, I took this to mean that they wanted me to stop being emotional. I am definitely the emotional one in the group (I’m an Irish/German Southerner, what can I say?); however, because of the way I grew up, I learned early on how to easily flip emotions on/off. That’s what I did. When we discussed it later, they certainly did not like the emotionless me. When I confronted them on what they wanted from me, they promptly informed me that they actually LIKE that I’m the emotional one. They like that I can have a short fuse and overreact about silly things, throw tantrums when I’m feeling childish, and want me to address my insecurities with them. They rephrased much of what we were (badly) discussing through text message and I definitely feel much more secure now. I still have my issues surrounding my insecurity about J2 being more interested with J1, but it’s one day and one battle at a time. I definitely feel much more comfortable (not completely, but more) addressing it with them now. It’s a learning curve for all of us. I honestly think much of what you write about will help us fumble our way through this process of learning to communicate our needs and working out the dynamics that work best for us. Thank you again for writing this!

  27. Thank you very much for this piece of wisdom. Most of my life I’ve been very strict on direct MF monogamous relationships, not necessarily because I was against anything else, but because of my own insecurities and lack of faith in myself as a human being. Recently I’ve discovered a FF couple who I connect with on pretty much every level. They’ve been very open about the fact that they are looking for a male to fill in and complete a full triad, and I’ve found myself a lot more intrigued with it than I expected. I was introduced to them through meeting one of them separately, and had known from the beginning that they were together. They are an extremely loving couple, and they care about each other so much that it’s to the point of causing me physical pain to be around them because I want to be a part of it so badly. But the flip side of the coin is, is that I don’t want to enter this as some unknowing fool and in the process fuck up their relationship some how. I’ve been working at building up a repertoire with both of them, and not forcing but trying to encourage communication from the partner who I have less contact with, because if I we do pursue this, I want it to be from a position of strength, equality and understanding.

    Any advice for the hopeful newbie?

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