Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.Ever feel like polyamory is “just too complicated?”  If so, you’re not alone!  This entry in the Agreements Workbook series is an appendix entry, showing one possible way of imagining the relationship dynamics in a polyamorous relationship, specifically a triad.

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.


Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics

A triad relationship (three people, each involved with the other), could be shown as:

Equilateral Triangle with vertices labeled A, B, & C

Which, when broken down into individual relationships is:

A <—> B

B <—> C

C <—> A

In addition, the relationship as a whole can be seen as a single entity. We talk about “saving the relationship” (as if it were a drowning person,) “building the relationship” (as if it were a house,) and “being in a relationship” (as if it were a boat.) So in addition to each person in the relationship, the relationship itself has a kind of separate existence as a function of the combination of relationships.  And on top of that, each person, in addition to having a relationship with each other individual person, also has a relationship with the relationship as a whole:

A <—> Relationship

B <—> Relationship

C <—> Relationship

So added all together, a triad relationship has at least seven sub-relationships, in contrast to the three found in an exclusive pair relationship (the relationship between the two partners, plus the relationship each of them has to the relationship).  If you add in the relationship that each member of the triad has to the relationship between each pair in the triad, it gets even more complicated.

Of course, most people aren’t consciously tracking all of these relationships all the time. But breaking it down like this can help to illustrate why subtle changes in the dynamic between two partners might affect the third partner, even if they aren’t directly involved, for instance. Or why many newcomers to polyamory conclude that it’s just “too complicated” for them to handle.

In addition, a triad is arguably the least complicated form of polyamorous relationship. If the form of polyamory that you practice is, say, an open network, then the number of sub-relationships can quickly multiply beyond the point of being able to track them all without software. (Which might be part of why many polyfolk joke about the handheld computer being a logical choice as a symbol for polyamory.)

It should be noted, however, that these sorts of relationship dynamics are occurring around us at all times, between three friends, three children, families of three, three co-workers, etc. It’s worth remembering that the only difference between any of these sorts of relationships and a polyamorous triad, is that the polyamorous triad has the possibility of a sexual relationship between more than one pair of people. Otherwise, they’re just the same.


~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Agreements Tip #1: Begin With Brainstorming]

[Previous Entry: Agreements & Negotiation: Radical Requests Exercise]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

3 thoughts on “Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics

  1. Pingback: Agreements Tip #1: Begin With Brainstorming — Uncharted Love

  2. Pingback: From Triads to Triadic Relationships (a response) — Uncharted Love

  3. Pingback: Agreements & Negotiation: Radical Requests Exercise — Uncharted Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *