I’ve wanted to be in a triad for a long time. Justan and I talked years ago, in 2001 or so, about how cool it would be to have a girlfriend and all three of us live together… but that was a crazy dream, right? Over the years I dated other girls and sometimes Justan dated them with me, but we never thought that three people could fall in love! Well, then one day three of us did fall in love. That changed things.
We then went on to be polyamorous in that we dated other people, for a few years. During this time we learned a lot. We learned a lot about treating people with compassion and respect, and about how some of our early language and perceptions in polyamory had made our other loves out to be more like objects and less like… well, people. Things like veto power, and hierarchical language.
By the time I started dating Andi, I was very conscious of the way I framed my own perceptions — of her rights to speak up, ask for what she needs and wants out of a relationship, and not be second place to anyone unless *she* wants to.
Here’s the thing. In the poly world we see a lot of what’s known as “unicorn hunting.” It’s when a straight couple go out searching for their perfect “third,” a magical addition to their relationship who is beautiful, usually kinky, bisexual and looking for an exciting, amazing couple to join into. It’s very common, especially on sites like OKCupid.
Do you notice that this woman (it’s almost always a woman) is commodified? Her value is in her sexual preferences, her willingness to join an existing relationship and the fact that she’s attractive. She is expected to be in awe of the stability and awesomeness of this existing relationship and feel honoured to join it.
It sort of takes the humanity out of the equation, doesn’t it?
But the people you love (even the people you don’t) *are* human. A partner isn’t some magic ingredient or missing puzzle piece that you add to your existing equation. They’re a person, with a soul, and needs, and context. They might steer you and also your other partner(s) in a different direction than you expected. They may do things or need things that cause you to question parts of your life — how you approach situations, how you react to things, your perspective on relationships or life in general. That’s what relationships do. These are the hazards, and rewards, of human interaction.
If you’re hung up on the triad idea or still thinking, “But my husband/wife and I have this amazing marriage and we really want to find an amazing lady to share that love with us!,” try thinking of it this way. When you were single, did you frame things like this? Did you think to yourself the following? “I am just such an amazing human being and I just really have my life together. I’ve sorted out what I want when it comes to kids, where I want to live, and marriage. I would really love to find a person to join me and experience how awesome I am.” Did you expect to find someone who would follow along with your plans, buy into your way of doing things, and feel privileged to be a part of your already awesome life?
Well, maybe you did. But that doesn’t work very well. It’s more likely that you had a life and your partner-to-be had a life and you combined them and discussed your beliefs and plans and compromised where you needed to, to build your awesome life together.
So why would it be any different when you start a triad?
I would love to see triads or anyone hoping to be part of a triad making a conscious effort to change their perspective and language around “adding another person.” This isn’t as much of an issue when three people get together all at the same time or very close in time. But when there is a longstanding relationship between two people and then those two people fall in love with another person, how about we work on not referring to this new member of the relationship as a “third”? Would you want to be a third? Do you want to be the add-on at the end of the sentence, the one who doesn’t get to choose their relationship structure or whether to have kids as part of the equation, because that was already decided by the “original couple”?
Think of your triad as a completely new relationship. You are three people coming into this relationship and you each have a back story and your own particular needs and preferences. Yes, two of you might have a history, and that is still valid. But it doesn’t take precedence over the triad relationship, or over either of the two new dyads that have been formed in this relationship. When we talk about someone “joining” a couple, it sounds as if it’s just a continuation of that couple’s story. This triad relationship is its own story. Give it the respect and honour it deserves by recognizing it as such.