The Dynamics of a Triad Relationship

Can polyamorous relationships work?
on September 07, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Relationships are defined by boundaries. While some couples rely on monogamy, there is a growing interest in ethically non-monogamous relationships. 

Triad relationships specifically refer to poly relationships with three individuals involved. The dynamics of these relationships differ based on the couple's preferences. 

Although research showcases the difficulties that these relationships can encounter, even though they differ from tradition, doesn’t mean they can’t form long-lasting and healthy connections. 

What is a triad relationship? 

A triad relationship is a type of romantic or sexual relationship involving three people. In this kind of relationship, all three people have mutually agreed to form a three-person partnership. 

“For a healthy satisfying relationship, many individuals embrace that their partner does not have to meet every need they have,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.

“For some that means having multiple partners for others, it’s seeing intimacy in friendships.”

This union forms a romantic relationship, where the third person is not left out or excluded from the relationship but all members are equally important and involved. It’s not just about sex, like a threesome, but this three-way relationship involves consensual non-monogamy — with all three people committed to this arrangement. 

What is polyamory? 

Based on these terms, a triad relationship is a type of polyamorous relationship. By agreeing to a poly relationship, you agree to be committed to two partners equally. This form of polyamory differs from an open relationship, as although this also involves non-monogamy, there is one primary partner to consider. 

This is also different from polygamy, whereby there are multiple marriages involved and there may or may not be a primary relationship. It’s important to recognize the distinction as polygamy is not legal in most countries in modern times. 

What is the difference between a throuple and a triad? 

The terms throuple and triad can be used interchangeably, even though there are some slight distinctions in how these terms are understood. 

A triad relationship denotes a three-person relationship, while a throuple specifically refers to all partners being romantically and/or sexually involved with each other. Therefore, a throuple relationship emphasizes the emotional and romantic aspects of the partnership — even though the term used may depend on the situation in question. 

Types of triad relationships 

There are many different types of triad relationships, all of which depend on the specific rules and boundaries of the partnership in question. 

Even though there are distinctions in the types of relationships, all of them represent a form of ethical non-monogamy — which is agreed upon and discussed openly by all romantic partners involved. 

Closed triad 

This form of triad relationship is also known as a closed throuple or closed triadic relationship. If this kind of agreement is in place, all three individuals are romantically and sexually involved with each other to form a committed and exclusive partnership. 

Therefore this relationship doesn’t have any fluid boundaries, with the three individuals involved not seeking or engaging in any relationships outside the triad. This form of exclusivity is agreed upon and respected by all members of the triad. 

Full open triad 

An open triad relationship or open throuple, is a type of polyamorous relationship where all three members are actively involved with one another but can pursue additional connections outside of the triad. 

This kind of triad advocates for more fluidity and flexibility, with all individuals having the autonomy to establish relationships outside of the relationship. These additional relationships can vary in terms of intensity and duration, but they are typically conducted with the knowledge and consent of all members of the triad. 

Due to this level of fluidity, these relationships require a high level of communication, trust, and boundary-setting to ensure that everyone is comfortable with anyone who comes into the relationship dynamic. 

Asexual triad 

This triad relationship is whereby all members of the relationship identify as asexual.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation where there is a lack of sexual attraction, so the foundation of this triad relationship is based solely on emotional, romantic, and intimate connections. 

Depending on the agreed terms of the relationship, asexual triads may engage in cuddling, hugging, kissing, and other forms of non-sexual affection to express their love and physical closeness. 

Dynamics of a triad polyamory relationship

Non-monogamous relationships often come under fire as they go against traditional relationship structures. 

However, although two-person relationships are more common, there is no reason why polyamorous people can’t form healthy partnerships. No matter the dynamic in question, all of these intimate relationships rely on open communication and trust in order for them to succeed. 

If you’re in an existing relationship with one monogamous partner and they wish to open things up, it’s important that you realize what is involved and don’t agree just to make them happy. The decision to be non-monogamous may seem natural to some but it’s essential to discuss your boundaries and relationship rules to ensure everyone is happy with the arrangement. 

How common is a triad relationship?  

Triad relationships are becoming more popular, with alternative relationship models becoming more common and sought after. 

According to recent research, one in six people expresses interest in polyamory and one in nine has experienced these kinds of relationships. Therefore, although they may not be traditional, agreed-upon non-monogamy can form healthy relationships. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is unicorn hunting?

    Unicorn hunting is a term used in the context of polyamorous relationships to refer to a couple seeking a third partner, often a bisexual woman, to join their relationship dynamic. However, this term is often considered quite problematic as it can lead to the objectification of the third person, treating them like a novelty rather than an equal partner. This can lead to a power imbalance in this kind of triadic relationship and can also create unrealistic expectations for the outcome of this partnership.
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