'I'm in a Throuple, We're All Very Much in Love'

My first long term relationship began when I was 19, we were together for about three years and it was completely monogamous. Then there was a gap before I started dating my ex-partner after we both moved to Sydney, Australia in 2011. We were together for around three years and towards the end of the relationship we opened it up to include other partners.

I like the closeness, intimacy and the sense of building a story together that you get from a relationship but I've always slightly struggled with the loss of infatuation and freedom. Opening up the relationship with my ex was a bit of a compromise; a way of saying, "I really care about you, but actually there are other things that I think I need to do and explore."

I'm not a particularly jealous person and I felt more fulfilled in an open relationship. And, I liked knowing that my partner was free and fulfilled, too. My ex and I weren't romantic with other guys but we would hook up outside the relationship, we were quite fixed with our rules and I now think that was probably a bit unrealistic. But opening the relationship up wasn't necessarily the issue with it, it just wasn't working for other reasons, and we remain good friends even now. After that relationship ended, I dated quite a lot, but I had never been in a relationship with more than one person.

In 2017, I was living with two roommates in a house in Sydney we were all continuously dating, so there would be a lot of parties in the house and a lot of fun was had. I've always been quite gregarious and I actually really like dating and meeting new people. I think a lot of people hate it, but even if it's not a good match, I enjoy the experience itself.

I met Carlos and Hernán around that time, but I had no intention of a relationship. I just saw these two gorgeous South American men and definitely wanted to have fun with them. I actually met Carlos first through an app as the boys were in an open relationship at that point, and then we arranged to all meet up a while later at a bar. I was chatting with Carlos and I felt like Hernán and I had a moment of connection, but on talking to him later, he has no recollection of meeting me!

Hernan actually designs headpieces, like tiaras, and I remember he showed them to me that night and I waltzed around their apartment wearing them for a while; the three of us just really hit it off. We had a lot of fun chats, there were some more serious conversations that happened quite quickly. Both Hernán and Carlos' families are in Venezuela and they shared the struggles their families had been through.

At the very beginning I was seeing other people but quite quickly I began to spend a lot of time with Carlos and Hernán. We spent a good couple of months seeing each other almost every day. But although my housemates would tease that I was dating a couple, at that point it definitely wasn't something serious in my mind.

We'd been together around nine months when my parents and my brother came to Sydney to visit. I hadn't told my mom that I was seeing anybody, so I called and explained that I was actually seeing two guys and asked her to tell my dad. My parents are very open-minded, kind people but they had not met people in polyamorous relationships before. When they visited I could tell my mom was still a bit uncertain, but she and my dad really loved the boys; they get on so well. And my brother will FaceTime Carlos and Hernán as much as calls me. It's really nice. I knew I had strong feelings for them already, but around the time my family met them, I began to think that the relationship was something that had longevity and could be more serious.

The boys have been together for 12 years and I have been with them for about three years now and we describe ourselves as a throuple. We first all said we loved each other in 2019. I have a very different relationship with each of them; but neither is better or closer, they are just different. I would say Carlos and I have a calmer relationship. He's an engineer and he thinks very logically. Hernán's artistic. But it changes all the time. It doesn't feel unnatural to spend time with just one or the other, we don't do everything all together. I am a obstetrician and gynaecologist and can work unusual hours, so it's nice that the boys have each other to spend time with. There is a lot of depth and closeness to what we have.

Love, relationships, thruple, polyamory
Left to right: Carlos, Edward and Hernán. Edward Ribbons

Sex isn't something we discuss at length. We do have sex just in twos sometimes, but more often it's all three of us and there are no real rules on when or how it happens. If there is jealousy, it's more commonly about people outside the relationship rather than within it. We have been in an open relationship since we got together; we all have the option to have sex outside of the relationship. Carlos and Hernán were open when I met them, which is an arrangement I have seen more commonly within the gay community. I guess our understanding is that we allow each other that freedom on the agreement that none of us engage in anything that will damage the relationship. So far it seems to work.

I really feel that with any relationship the important thing is that everybody feels that the other people are invested, that you're spending time with each other and getting your needs met.

There are upsides and downsides to being part of a throuple. What has surprised me is that it can sometimes be difficult to make plans that make everybody happy. I'm definitely a social butterfly naturally, but if you asked Hernán what his dream was for our relationship, it would be for the three of us to spend a lot more time at home, watching Netflix and relaxing. I think we're all still working that out about each other. Also, with three of us, each person is only ever a third of the relationship, so you can't be selfish. There are two people there who will call you out if you're being unreasonable, which happens. It can be emotionally complicated sometimes but we love one another and I wouldn't say we argue much. Carlos is non-confrontational, I'd need to have a really good reason to argue about something and Hernán can be very direct. It seems to work so far, and it's not like I sat and made a list of pros and cons about the relationship before embarking on it.

Love, relationships, thruple, polyamory
Left to right: Hernán, Carlos and Edward together in Sydney. Edward Ribbons

I'm realising that a good relationship is one where you're invested enough to work through problems. Every relationship has issues, and if I was in a more conventional relationship I would lose some of those issues but gain others.

Unfortunately we have been physically apart for almost a year now. I had always talked about how I was going to come back to the U.K. to spend time with my family and complete a medical fellowship. I was going to return to the U.K. for work in March 2020 and the boys were planning to travel from Sydney to the U.K. in June and possibly even transfer to London and work here for a little while. But that's not going to happen anytime soon, so it's been hard.

I've missed them a lot, particularly during lockdowns. But we talk a couple of times each day. When I visited Sydney briefly in between lockdowns in the U.K. Hernán mentioned that it didn't feel like I'd been away for too long, because we'd stayed connected. But it's unlikely it will be able to return to Australia before the end of 2021.

I don't think I've had any negative reactions to being part of a throuple. My friends and family are all extremely supportive, and in Australia, I have a lot of close friends that I've met through work, so they all know and I didn't receive any reactions that weren't positive. I wouldn't really discuss my personal life with senior colleagues here in the U.K. but I have mentioned my boyfriends to a couple of people at work, they asked a few more questions and it wasn't uncomfortable at all. The only occasion that has been slightly unpleasant was at a party in Sydney where a woman who was extremely drunk was asking Carlos and I lots of invasive questions about our relationship. She kept repeating that she and her partner wouldn't be able to be part of a throuple, which was awkward but it didn't upset us particularly.

I was quite uncomfortable with my sexuality when I was young, but I am now at ease with myself. Perhaps if I felt uncomfortable with myself or the relationship, maybe I would struggle a bit more. But I don't. I don't feel that I'm doing anything wrong, it really works for me and it works for the boys. No one is being hurt in that process, so if people have a negative reaction towards it, I would feel the same way towards those reactions as I would towards homophobia or other discrimination; I almost pity the people with those opinions. If that is their limited worldview, that's ok, but it's not mine and I don't have to adhere to what they believe.

Love, relationships, thruple, polyamory
Left to right: Edward, Carlos and Hernán. Edward Ribbons

We live in a society now where you can really take charge of your dating life and what you want out of it. If polyamory or opening up a relationship is something you've been thinking about enough, then try it. If you don't like it, you don't have to sign a contract.

It's working for me at the moment. I'm very happy. Spending time with the boys in Sydney recently was really affirming. Yes, there are more people and moving parts so perhaps there is potential for polyamorous relationships not to last as long, but I think you have to live your life authentically and try the things you want to try. For me, the important thing is human connection.

Edward Ribbons is an obstetrician and gynaecologist currently based in London. His boyfriends Carlos Briñez and José Hernán Ávila live in Sydney, Australia. You can follow them on Instagram @eddyribbo @avilaco1 and @carlos_1mba.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.