Three-way therapy for throuples? Yes please — and demand in Cork is growing 

webnexttech | Three-way therapy for throuples? Yes please — and demand in Cork is growing 

Throuples have hit the headlines recently, thanks to the involvement of celebrities. Saturdays singer Una Healy, who hails from Tipperary, found herself at the centre of a media storm when she was reportedly in a throuple with former UK professional boxer David Haye and his model partner Sian Osborne. Healy subsequently denied the claims, but Haye and Osborne are open about wanting to be in throuple. They were previously linked to celebrities such as former Coronation Street actor Helen Flanagan. However, a Cork psychotherapist — who is seeing a growing number of throuples as part of his work in his Cork City clinic — said the lifestyle is not always as glamourous as that portrayed by celebrities. Graham Nagle said throuples have to navigate the same obstacles faced by ‘conventional’ couples as well as difficulties thrown up by their unconventional lifestyle. “When I first started working in this area it was considered hipster,” the 36-year-old said. “Now, it’s becoming more common among middle-aged people when the kids have left home. There are obviously concerns about what the friends and neighbours think. It’s not always as glamorous as it is painted by the media.” Throuples’ worries Many of the challenges, he said, are rooted in more practical, mundane issues. “A lot of the time it’s communication, chores around the house, the mortgage and bills that pose the most problems. If there are kids involved there are questions raised about how to tell them. Worries around what kids and friends think can take their toll. I had one situation where three people were filling out forms for school. The third person was put down as a carer or something to that effect as this was the only way they could be involved. These things can be very challenging.” The psychotherapist sums up unique challenges facing people in three-way relationships when they enter therapy. When there are three people involved it’s a little more difficult but you have the same approach. Each person has time. Each person has the space to speak freely. They are also made to feel listened to. I suppose it’s not too different to a two-person relationship. “However, the newer person can sometimes feel isolated and left out which presents its own issues.” The psychotherapist acknowledged the pressures facing people in polyamorous relationships. “Making it work is a long-term commitment. Everything is built around two people, whether you are talking about mortgages or any kind of legal process. It might begin with sex but we later see how important the practical elements are. Being heard and feeling seen are things that are very important.” He said a polyamorous household can be a healthy environment, given the correct approach. “If you think about it, in Ireland it wasn’t that long ago that you would have a grandparent in the house. The parents weren’t the sole caregivers. Obviously, there was no third partner but there are lots of cultures around the world with three parents. There may be even more. Life generally is really difficult when you take into account running a house and raising a family. Once you can get past the everyday obstacles like dealing with the school and family life it can work very well.” ‘There is a lot of stigma’ According to Graham, some throuples are tentative about trying therapy due to a fear of judgement. “I know there are other therapists in Cork who offer this but people are still a bit reluctant. There is a lot of stigma there. We live in a very monogamy-focused society. You would think that people would feel the need to speak freely but even here there is a fear of judgement. They are reluctant to come forward. I can remember working with one couple and sensing there was somebody else. It turned out there was a third person in the relationship but they were reluctant to bring it up. In that situation it was purely physical.” He said that effective communication is key to any successful relationship. “The whole idea of two people being together all the time has kind of died out anyway. There is a space for another person if that’s what a couple wants to do. The important thing is knowing what works for you in your relationship. You need to work on communicating emotionally.” He expects to see a rise in throuple clients in the next few years. “There is not a massive population at the moment but that will probably change in the coming years. I think young people are going to be more open to this way of life, particularly people in their early 20s or even early 30s.”

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