Dating app Feeld has seen a 500 per cent increase in searches for the term “polyamory” in the past year, and according to research by the Kinsey Institute, one in five Americans have been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. According to a 2019 survey by YouGov, 7 per cent of UK adults said that they had been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at some point in their lives. Here, Nicole Everett, a 32-year-old content creator, tells i about her experience of being in a three-way romantic relationship, otherwise known as a ‘throuple’.
When I was in my late 20s, I worked in London on a series of events at work with a woman named Cathy. We became friends, and I got to know her well over a few months. During that time I learned that she and her husband Thomas of nine years were in a different kind of marriage to the monogamous ones I had grown up knowing about. I did some research and began to understand what an “open marriage” or “polyamorous relationship” meant. They were not things I was familiar with.
Cathy invited me out to dinner, and then asked whether Thomas could come along. I said yes, not necessarily knowing anything would happen, but when we met, he and I got on very well, and we found ourselves flirting, almost subconsciously. There was lots of jokey banter and innuendo going around the dinner table that night between the three of us, and then Cathy left Thomas and me to get on with the rest of the evening alone. He came back to my place for the night.
He and I started a relationship, one on one, and would see each other about once a week. After a few months, I started to go over to their family home at the weekends. During that time I began to get close to Cathy too – what started out as a friendship became something more. I had, a few years earlier, realised that I was attracted to women as well as men. Cathy and I had an intense connection.
So I became the unicorn, the term for a bisexual person who’s willing to join an existing couple and practice ethical non-monogamy. We realised we were in a three-way relationship. The three of us would have sex together, but I’d have sex with Thomas separately, and also Cathy separately. Cathy and Thomas had a beautiful, strong bond in their marriage, and had had previous open relationships, and so this was me stepping into their world, which they were transparent about with their friends and family. I found that remarkable, as my polyamory wasn’t something I initially felt comfortable sharing with my loved ones back home in the small Australian town I grew up in.
It was wild, because the three of us were having very transparent conversations about our dynamics, and our relationships with each other. For example, the morning after Thomas left my place the first time he stayed over, I rang Cathy once he’d left mine, and told her he was on the way back home to her.
I never felt jealousy or that I was left out of Cathy and Thomas’s marriage, because we were very communicative, and were never reckless with what we did. We were also all free to date other people, and we were thoughtful about telling each other about these dates. I often felt compersion [loosely defined as the opposite feeling to jealousy] when I was around them, seeing these two people I loved, be in love with each other. It was joyful. There was such an amazing emotional intimacy between the three of us.
After eight months of us being a three-way-relationship, I began living with Cathy and Thomas for big chunks of time, in between going back to Australia for periods of time to get my visa sorted. They had a seven-year-old son, too, who called me “auntie”.
In terms of logistics, Cathy, Thomas and I didn’t share a bed to sleep in because three people in a queen sized bed isn’t very comfortable! I preferred sleeping on my own but it would depend on work, and who was coming home late. Thomas would come and see me in my bed, and then go upstairs to Cathy, or Cathy and I might share a bed sometimes.
Something we’d do together would be to fetish events like Torture Garden, and that was fun because we’d dress up and then separate at the event and go and have our own experiences, before going home together and discussing on the car ride back, who we’d met that night, what we’d been up to.
After about three years, the relationship came to an end. During one of my trips back to Australia, I realised that I was ready to leave Cathy and Thomas. I just needed to branch and focus on myself. They were so supportive and helped me grieve leaving them. It was remarkable, really. I now live in the Australian countryside, and Cathy and Thomas are in the UK, but we are still friends and they’re part of my life.
I haven’t been in a poly relationship since then because there aren’t many of those relationships in the rural area in which I live. However, my partner of a year-and-a-half and I have conversations about being open with other people. I do also sleep with a couple who I have a long-standing connection with from before I first went to the UK. I’ve always been transparent with my partner that bringing someone into our dynamic might be something we could do in the future. After 10 years of being in a relationship, bringing someone new in can reignite the passion and connection with your existing partner, because you’re relieving that honeymoon phase and bringing this energy into your relationship. There’s time for us to explore.
People often ask me for tips when it comes to ethical non-monogamous relationships. I know that a lot of people struggle with jealousy, which I think comes from an insecurity within you and also within your partner, but it also comes from insecurity from being able to communicate what you’re feeling.
I suggest working through it, because you have to peel back the layers to work out where that’s coming from. Equally, I do think there are people who will organically be more successful in poly relationships – that dynamic may not be for everyone. When people do embark upon poly relationships, the key is to make sure you and your partner have totally transparent conversations. Check in with each other, even on the tiniest details.
You have to be able to move and change with your partner, in general, and especially if you bring someone else into your relationship. That can transpire in surprising ways; you think you’re going to be ok trying it, but the moment you see your partner showing interest in somebody else, you might feel a pang of something, and think ‘woah, ok, that’s a new feeling!’. So you’re having to do a lot of self-work to understand why that is. It can be so worth it, though.
I am so happy that I was in a relationship with Cathy and Thomas, it was so much fun, but also so supportive, compassionate and loving. Everything was on the table, and we had to be vulnerable and communicative with each other. It really was so good for the soul.