'Couple to Throuple' Misses the Mark on Polyamorous Dating

The new polyamorous dating show “Couple to Throuple," available for streaming on Peacock, features four couples seeking to add a third to their relationship. By the end of the show, couples must decide if they want to “throuple-up.”

“Couple to Throuple” explores the world of ethical non-monogamous relationships, which is the practice of being romantically involved with multiple people who respect the relationship setting. For most of the contestants, becoming a trio doesn’t happen without challenges.

The new series comes at a time when non-monogamous relationships are on the rise. Match.com’s 2024 Singles in America study found that 31% of their 5,000-plus survey respondents had been in a non-monogamous relationship at some point. On TikTok, videos under the hashtag #polytok have garnered over 1.2 billion views.

“Couple to Throuple” focuses on couples forming a polyamorous relationship as a triad, meaning a relationship between three people. Only one of the four couple contestants has any experience with non-monogamy, while the 13 available singles all have experience with the form of relationship. Couples receive assistance from relationship expert Shamyra Howard as they navigate unchartered territory in their relationships.

Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist and therapist at The Sex Consultant, explains the reasons for exploring a non-monogamous relationship may vary, with sex not necessarily being at the top of that list despite the taboo.

“Couples who struggle to meet particular relationship needs may seek alternative partners who can fulfill these needs for them,” Cooper tells Healthnews. “Whilst many may believe these needs are sexual, many people are forming ethical non-monogamous relationships to explore other forms of intimacy and connection that don't lead to sex, and even to find someone they can share a particular hobby within a more relational way than standard friendships.”

Mental health in non-monogamous relationships

Like most dating shows, trios are presented with challenges to grow and strengthen their new non-monogamous relationship. The first episode allows the four couples to select their chosen single to join their relationship. The first challenge for the new trio is to see one partner get intimate with the newly added single, which sparks some jealousy from on-looking partners.

Cooper notes jealousy is not exclusive to on monogamous relationships, but is found in all forms of love.

It's how we act on jealousy that can act as a negative within relationships. When jealousy occurs, it's best to ask where that comes from and why you are feeling it. There are resistances where jealousy can even be a positive, but without reflection, it can be hard to tell when these moments are. That's why it's best to take your time when it comes to jealousy rather than acting in fight or flight mode.

Cooper

Oxford University review evaluated studies from 1985 to 2011 comparing polyamorous women to monogamous women. The investigation found poly wives were more susceptible to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. The research showed that jealousy, or envy, can lead to mental health troubles, which is more prevalent in polyamorous wives compared to monogamous women.

In "Couple to Thouple," contestants are guided through their journey by Howard, who is an award-winning sexologist and licensed clinical social worker. The contestants are located in a tropical resort with no outside-world distractions until the show’s conclusion. However, in many non-monogamous relationships, ensuring equal time spent among partners can be a difficult barrier to overcome.

“Time management can be hard as the power dynamic within the relationship can shift and it can feel like the other relationships take up more time,” Cooper says. “Whilst some will see this as an unfair psychical time split between couples, for others, there's a feeling of loss that they haven't experienced that moment of intimacy with their partner. It can feel a bit similar to grief at first for some. And communicating this and talking through what needs are being met is important in helping resolve this.”

Cooper says while the show is an interesting watch as a whole, it does not accurately represent how “polycules” are formed in the real world. She highlights any trios that form will need to overcome performative intimacy obtained through reality TV, which may cloud their desires versus others' expectations.

However, Couple to Throuple host, Howard, recently posted on X that the show is a "conversation starter. NOT a poly docuseries," highlighting the fact that it's an introduction, a way to show couples ways they can explore, and for the couples in the show to open up to the idea. She's aware that this isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. And by introducing non-monogamy to the public, the lifestyle can be more embraced.

How to be in a non-monogamous relationship

Non-monogamous relationships typically include more communication than monogamous as they require check-ins, understanding how all parties are feeling, and what's allowed or what isn't. Usually, non-monogamous relationships aren't an "anything is game," mentality. That's where feelings get hurt, and relationships fail.

Folks involved in non-monogamy have to figure out what works for them, and it's different for everyone.

Tips for exploring ethical non-monogamy include:

  • Honesty
  • Communication
  • Checking in with one another and yourself
  • Exploring attachment styles
  • Educating yourself and reading up on the pros and cons of non-monogamy
  • Understanding that non-monogamy isn't always only about sex, but real connection
  • Being true to yourself and your partner(s)

“Many relationships go through stages, and generally, it takes going through many developmental stages for a couple or polycule to form a secure relationship where they can also be truly vulnerable and themselves too,” Cooper says. “The show only shows the early developmental stages of the relationships forming, which can make it hard to judge whether or not the relationships will be successful in the future.”


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