I apologize for the delay in posts.  It has been a busy time in Autumn’s world, but we made it through our annual “Extended family Dinner” with flying colours.  I also have to admit that this topic has given me the most cause to pause and rethink a few things in my life, as it is not one I can relate to as well as the others.  I have been “the other woman” but never a third, and writing this article has forced me to face the fact that there will be times in my triad relationship when I have to sacrifice, when I may not be put first, or when I may be alone.

The first thing to remember is that there are different kinds of relationships extraneous partners have with a couple.  No matter what is decided, it needs to be decided before the relationship progresses too far to avoid confusion and hurt feelings.  Some outside partners have very little association, if any, with the partner they are not directly seeing.  Others are incorporated into the marriage and become a member of the household, like Emmy is in our marriage.  The latter arrangement can mean the third is involved with both partners, but this is not an assumed position.  It all comes down to the third’s comfort, attraction, and willingness to be involved.  Would it be easier for me if Emmy were attracted to and in love with me the way she is with Hubby?  Of course it would, but I can not force the issue.

The hardest thing for some monogamous or uninvolved partners to realize is that thirds are not drones or robots.  They have their own issues, emotions, need, fears, and concerns.  For the involved partner the important thing to remember is that thirds also have flaws and inconsistencies.  No relationship is perfect.  The uninvolved partner may not be made privy to these issues and concerns, but if the third is a part of the household it may help.  I have been told there are issues Hubby and Emmy have discussed, but I have not been told what they are.  At times I wonder if I am the issue, and it becomes a dangerous cycle of doubt I have had to train myself not to enter.  It really is none of my business, but I wonder if we would not function better as a triad if I knew just some of the concerns and questions brought to the table.  I know Hubby discusses our issues with Emmy, and I wish sometimes I was afforded the same openness.   In any case, it is important that Emmy’s needs be addressed whether it fits the ideal image of our household or not.  It doesn not mean she should not be expected to compromise as much as the rest of us, but it means I am expected to as well.

In speaking with people who have been thirds and had experienced this role in polyamory I have encountered a few things that have been issues in their minds.  The first is that they are always “the other” man or woman.  Especially in one’s first encounter as a third there is a feeling that maybe this really is not acceptable or that they will always take a back seat.  While a significant other will take priority in a situation that requires a choice be made, usually a third will not become a third wheel.

Another concern brought to my attention was the constant fear of overstepping one’s bounds.  Even in the most open situations it may be hard to read where the boundaries are and what permissions one has.  This is why i stressed in my last couple posts the importance of setting boundaries and sticking to them.

An issue I had never really considered before was public image.  Emmy once mentioned an uncertainty about her social role with us.  Would she be our “roommate” forever?  Who would she be to the kids.  This situation is rarely replicated in any two poly relationships, and it really depends on a triads need for discretion professionally and with extended family.  It also takes into consideration a third’s social structure and comfort with what information becomes public knowledge.  All these things will decide how a third is mentioned in  conversation.

The last, and biggest, concern I came across was a fear that while a married couple wills till be married a third is vulnerable and will be the one ultimately left alone.  I can tell you, as a significant other, that I have felt this way, too.  It is not a fear exclusive to thirds, and not a vulnerability specific to them either.  Hubby could just as easily decide he wants to spend the rest of his life with Emmy and leave me.  I could decide I can no longer share his heart and leave him with her to decide if she wanted to remain committed to him.  Everybody is vulnerable in this situation, but it is unhealthy to think this way.  It breeds nothing but paranoia and competition.

As I wrap up the series, I hope I have been at least some help.  If nothing else, it has helped me work out a few of my own fears and unravel some misunderstood emotions.  I honestly do not know where this relationship between Hubby and Emmy will lead, but I have decided to stay out of it unless it directly affects me and my marriage.

I have my own issues to work on, but if nothing else it is a growing experience for all of us.  It has served to strengthen my relationship with Hubby and forced me to trust another female, something that has been extremely difficult for me to do all my life.  I am still learning to share and to trust, but no matter how much we learn it does not mean there are no more speed bumps or dead ends to encounter.  It just means we are better equipped to deal with and move past them.  There will be other partners, and there will be other arrangements.  People will come, and people will move on with their own lives.  We will continue to grow and learn from everyone who enters our life as a household, and we will love them all the same.

Remember this, my dears, love makes a family. Now go, love your family!