Written by Lucy Fry
Think three’s a crowd? There are lots of long-held stereotypes about toxic trios, but for therapist and author Lucy Fry finding a friendship ‘throuple’ has become an integral part of her life. Here, she explains the understated beauty of a friendship triangle and how to maintain your own.
I used to think about friendships as straight lines: a dual exchange where one person listens as the other talks, one shoulders while the other leans or one jokes while the other laughs.
Over the last year, however, I’ve become initiated into a new form of friendship as one-third of a three-person bond and it’s become a consistent source of laughter and support in my life.
It started unintentionally. One night, without knowing each other especially well, two other women and I chose to have dinner together, simply because two were already doing so and decided to invite the third.
It was a brilliant and hilarious evening. There was something about our platonic chemistry, the mix of our viewpoints, stories and senses of humour that was totally unique. We created an emotional and mental threesome that worked impeccably and we were each equally stunned by it.
Immediately, our triangle became an essential part of calendars. We set up a private WhatsApp chat where we shared voice notes and texts, including everything from deep anxieties to in-jokes and everyday frustrations. Before I knew it, this friendship became an integral part of my daily life and, a year on from that first dinner,it still is.
Given that my previous experience of triangular relationships had been nowhere near as successful (probably because they were either familial or romantic), I decided to reflect on why this small group is so positive.
Far from other relationship triangles I have been involved in, which have typically been full of conflict or jealousy, here the focus is on love and support. Any inevitable differences between us all are just entertainment and a source of colour and learning.
Integrity is a key part of our bond too: on the occasion that two of us speak about the third without them present, it is only if they are in crisis and require protection. There is also something reassuring about being a three – knowing that when one of us is going through rough times, two people have the other one’s back. In essence, the triangle remains solid because the other two sides hold the weaker line in place.
As much as we like each other individually, there is no doubt that the primary unit here is our triad. We call it our sacred ‘throuple’, using a term coined in polyamorous communities to express that three people are all in a romantic relationship with each other. It’s tongue in cheek because there’s nothing sexual or romantic going on between us.
Our trio is full of back and forth and feels much more energised than a two-way friendship. When the three of us are together, the banter is fast and exciting, bouncing like a squash ball off all sides of the conversational court.
If anyone drops the ball, there are more people to help pick it up. When things are tough, there’s double the compassion, perhaps because no single person feels they have to help the other one on their own. To put it another way, in a friendship triangle there is more intimacy than in a large group of friends and yet less intensity than you-and-me.
Our friendship has taught me to appreciate the beauty of this shape and its ancient symbolism. Through the centuries, triangles have been regarded by spiritual types to represent enlightenment, revelation and a higher perspective. Thanks to our friendship triptych, I can see why. If you don’t have a three-way friendship in your relationship arsenal, then it is one to consider creating.
Friendship triangle dos and don’ts
- Force it. Any friendship ‘throuple’ has to develop naturally; you can’t just grab your two favourite friends and expect them to get along brilliantly or the dynamic to work as a three. Ideally, there will be some clear common ground between the three of you, relating to work, life circumstances or hobbies and this will keep you speaking the same language.
- Let the triangle get toxic. What is said within the triangle, stays within the triangle. Threes are more complicated than twos, so as with any group dynamic, it’s important to keep the space full of integrity and not allow one side to split off from the whole shape. Yes, it’s tempting to gossip about the other one when they aren’t there, but it risks the group becoming splintered.
- Keep your other friendships. This applies to all relationships and friendships, really – just because you have one that feels brilliant, don’t ditch the others. It’s best in life to spread the love and the load because no one friendship, even a triangular one, can hold you completely when you are struggling. In my view, we all need more than just a couple of best friends or family members in our support network.
- Keep the space sacred. Sure, if you’re partner is staying over it’s tempting to let them join your friendship throuple dinner, but really, it could be awkward for them and you. When you have such a tight-knit group, one with its own set of jokes and references, it’s like that anyone outside will feel exactly that way: like an outsider.
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