Triads and Throuples, and Quads, Oh My!

What’s a triad?

Although the concept of triads (sometimes called a throuple, though there are members of the community who prefer not to use that word) is widely discussed and used in media regarding polyamory (and is often the only representation of it), it’s definitely not the most practiced form of ethical non-monogamy. Being in a triad can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience, but there are some unique challenges that come with a multi-person relationship.

Six common conflict areas

These same conflict areas apply to relationships that are larger than triads, such as quads, as well, though for this episode we mainly focus on triads. The six main categories of conflict are defined by a Pew Research Study concerning the “Reasons for Disagreement in Romantic Relationships Scale” or RDRRS.

  1. Inadequate Attention or Affection
  • Not showing enough love or affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other: these can be exacerbated and enhanced by comparison of one person to the other in a triad. It could manifest as feeling as though you’re a third wheel, particularly if there’s a couple plus one dynamic. Ensuring that a new person both is not neglected and is simultaneously not fawned over too much can be vital. Regular RADARs can help with addressing issues with appreciation, hopefully before they become systemic.

2. Jealousy and Infidelity

  • Outside of polyamorous relationships, this may include talking to exes, being possessive, and past relationships. In polyamorous relationships, it’s more likely that jealousy will manifest earlier on between different triad members. In an established triad, these feelings might stem more from being left out of some situations and less from worry about being abandoned.
  • “Whose friends we hang around more” can also be included in the jealousy category, since one person may not feel like they’re getting their preferred friend group experience.

3. Chores and Responsibilities

  • The dynamic of housekeeping/chores and who does more work/sharing responsibilities can change drastically with different living situations. Continual communication is vital for this, as is the ability to be willing to readjust based on changing needs.
  • Not showing up when supposed to or not being on time falls into another responsibility and is commonly a reoccurring fight. One way isn’t better than the other in this case, there’s just more room for variation in a triad.

4. Sex

  • Frequency of sex, sexual acts, and one person wanting sex while the other doesn’t is another very common issue. Triads open doors for fun and amazing group sex, as well as different sex acts and possibly more frequent sex. As always, it involves frequent and active communication.
  • Sharing private information regarding the relationship to others can become an issue if one partner doesn’t feel comfortable having personal information shared but it might be assumed that the “established couple” might share everything with each other and keep each other’s lives secret, or that an established partner may think they are entitled to share information that another partner might not feel comfortable with that.

5. Control and Dominance

  • This includes who is in control, keeping up appearances, and dominance. Some members of the relationship might want a more quiet, normative life, while other(s) could want the opposite. Sociologically, it’s also possible that a triad, as a relationship with more members, may help balance each other and keep each other in check.

6. Future Plans and Money

  • Life goals, future plans, and children fall into this category. Many triads rush into things (then again, so do dyadic couples), so it’s always recommended not to sign anything in the first year in any relationship.
  • Who pays for things or one spending the other’s money can become a big conflict very quickly. We always recommend keeping finances separate unless you need to combine them for a specific reason.

Some additional concerns with triads or quads are navigating RADARs with three or more people, traveling together or going on dates with everyone, the fact that marriage is only allowed between two people, most of the time child custody is only granted to two people, and general power dynamics. Listen to the full episode to get all the details about triad-specific conflicts and challenges.

We offer new ideas and advice for multiple forms of #love: everything from #conciousmonogamy to #ethical #Polyamory and radical #relationshipanarchy.