Mind Matters: Throuples

Two's company, but is three still a crowd?

Have you ever watched the online show You Me Her? It focuses on a fictional American husband and wife.

The husband sets a date with a female escort and falls for her. The wife finds out and goes to meet the woman. The wife also falls for her.

The three of them move in together as a throuple. Family members, friends, and neighbours react. The show is part comedy, part drama.

I read recently about a real American throuple. Like the fictional trio, the real three had a man and two women.

I started wondering whether throuples will become common, like same-sex couples. The French culture has long had somewhat similar arrangements - a husband, a wife, and the husband's mistress. However, the two women usually remain separate.

If you wonder why the man seems always to be the one who gets two partners of the opposite sex, look no further than who has power in the society: men.

In some societies, men can legally have up to four wives, if they can support them. Women do not have the same option.

Breakaway Mormons in the US sometimes form families that involve one man and many wives. That imbalance started out because the religion originally had many more women than men.

One good thing about throuples is that they give women, not just men, two partners. There is potential balance there, but I have not yet heard of an actual throuple with one woman and two men.

There is nothing that prevents throuples from being all one sex. Keep your eyes on the news.

Are throuples happy? The trio in the US seem satisfied. The fictional three on TV seem to ride an emotional roller-coaster, in part because of jealousy.

People who dislike same-sex couples will not like throuples. Older folks might refer to throuples as The Three Stooges. Young people may be more open to accepting them.

Over time, tolerance may grow. Inter-racial couples face less stigma now than before. Inter-religious couples get murdered less now than in the past.

Right now a trio cannot legally marry in Australia. But they can live together and buy a house together. They can run a business. And raise children.

Some people might worry about the effect on children of having throuple parents. What do you think the effects would be?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.