Why couples always want a triad

Lola Phoenix
Feb 14 · 6 min read
Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

I’m looking for some advice on how to add someone to our relationship. My husband and I recently discussed opening our marriage up to another woman with the end goal of having a closed triad but in reality there’s only one woman in my mind. She’s a close friend of mine and she’s perfect in every way. Her and I had multiple threesomes with my ex boyfriend in college and looking back we were sort of a triad without the label because we didn’t even know this lifestyle was an option. We stayed close even after him and I broke up and her and I even fooled around just the two of us. But it’s been 8 years since then and now I’m married with two kids and she’s single but I want her to know that it wasn’t just a phase or experimentation for me. I loved her and I’m still in love with her (my husband knows this). I just don’t know how to tell her! Help!!!

First off, I want to point out that in your letter you’re really focused on how to tell this woman you care for her while ignoring some very real structural issues that are probably the least bit attractive let alone advantageous to a single woman who may or may not be looking for romantic relationships.

I don’t personally believe that ‘couple privilege’ is the right word to use in this case for a variety of reasons you can find in the linked article — but I do believe that there is inherently a problem with a couple that is only ‘opening up’ in so far as it allows for a woman to join them in a closed triad.

It’s not that there is necessarily anything wrong with being interested in triad or a two individuals wanting to date and like the same person, but the reasons that usually motivate couples to have this ‘preference’ are often symptomatic of deeper issues that need addressing that will eventually, in the process of attempting a closed triad, rear their ugly heads viciously, usually with the ‘third’ ending up worse off.

Couples choosing to open their relationships make the mistake of assuming that a closed triad or only opening up to find a woman is ‘safer’ somehow. The inherent problem in that is the assumption that your relationship with your husband is the most important and must be protected at all costs.

While I understand the jump to opening a relationship is scary and new, the knee-jerk reaction to always prioritise saving the ‘primary’ relationship often means that that relationship is not as secure as it could be. If you feel like truly opening your relationship in a way that means you both date independently risks destroying your relationship together, then you need to work on strengthening that bond.

Not to mention, the assumption that any type of relationship or partner is ‘safe’ is not true and is only delaying the inevitable. Approaching opening your relationship with these types of safeties in place will only discourage you and your husband from really coming to grips with some of the scarier aspects of opening up. Instead, you’ll rely on these safety wheels to reassure you, rather than each other, and in the end, this won’t actually prepare you to deal with negative emotions.

Also, opening up a relationship to one gender — which is usually a couple consisting of a man and a woman only allowing for another woman — is usually based off of the man’s fear of being overshadowed by another man and the assumption that a woman cannot overshadow him. She most certainly can. what I challenge most folks to do is abandon the assumption that one can do anything to prevent a partner from leaving them. Rules will not prevent you or your husband from falling out of love with each other.

That aside, you should also really think about wanting a closed triad as a couple means and what that means for the individuals you’re seeking. You expect a woman to be single and be interested in both of you, which is a hell of a lot of pressure to put on one person. And you also have children so that woman has to most likely be interested in co-parenting.

Many would describe what you’re doing as unicorn hunting because it’s not realistic to expect a single, bisexual woman to see this as an attractive proposition, especially in the polyamory community where most people are not interested in polyfidelity but completely open options.

While asking how you should tell your friend this, you’re not even remotely considering the fact that you and your husband both want her to be with you both and only you both. It’s one thing if you were asking me how to independently date her — and I’d say then you should just approach her and ask her out.

But this is way more involved in that. You want someone who has had a long history with you to suddenly have feelings for your husband and to potentially be a step-mother to two children. While you do have this long history of sexual exploration with her, you have an established life with your husband that she is not going to be able to necessarily match. She can’t marry you and at present, you don’t have children together. There will always be a power imbalance there — even if you were to date her independently — that you have to at least acknowledge and be willing to understand.

My honest suggestion is that you go back to the drawing board with your husband and you think about what it is you both want in terms of opening your relationship and why it is that you want that. You need to really consider your preference for a ‘closed triad’ and ask yourself if that is based on fear and insecurity rather than a “this would be nice” situation.

I’m sure a lot of couples with children would love another person around the house who could reinvigorate their sex lives and help take care of their children — but this isn’t a realistic role for a person to play. Your friend may be perfect in every way for you, but that doesn’t mean that will make this situation work, especially when you’re not really considering what position she would have in your life on a permanent basis.

If you are willing to date independently, then I’d say just tell her what the situation is and that you’re interested. But you also, in that case, have to have had good conversations with your husband about how this situation is going to work in your day to day lives with the responsibilities of two children and avoid making rules that give your husband veto power or any rules that prioritise your marriage over other relationships. It’s one thing for you to say that the majority of your time is going to be taken up by your kids and your husband, but it’s another to see all relationships other than your marriage as sacrificial.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Lola Phoenix

Written by

Lola is a non-binary (pronoun: they) queer future best selling sci-fi/fantasy novelist. All writing projects: http://about.me/lolaphoenix

Non-monogamy Help

Advice for people in non-monogamous relationships written by Lola Phoenix with consult from a 10 year experienced therapist. Submit your question to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com.

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