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Helen Flanagan, David Haye and Sian Osborne: How ‘throuples’ work – and why

If we can let go of our fears that other people may be having a better time than us, then we can open our minds to the kind of relationships that we truly want

Rosie Wilby
Thursday 14 December 2023 16:53 GMT
Carol Vorderman shares her only rule for the 'five special friends' she's dating

On the eve of Valentine’s Day earlier this year, I hosted a discussion about monogamy and polyamory at a funky event space above a bar in Brixton.

The audience were largely in their twenties and thirties. I assumed that a significant contingent would be actively embracing some form of ethical non-monogamy. Having studied the psychology of human attraction and attachment for a few years, I have begun to wonder why anyone younger than me would not be.

If I still had the energy, time and headspace to juggle multiple lovers, it’s certainly something I’d consider. We all have multiple “relationships” in the form of friendships. Why does some sexual intimacy make things so very different?

Yet when I asked the question, “Who here is monogamous?” hands shot up. And one young woman, with a tinge of sadness and frustration, asked “How do you even talk about polyamory to monogamous people? The two things are so diametrically opposed”.

“I don’t think they are so opposed,” I told her. In both monogamy and polyamory, there are many conscious, compassionate communicators who have done the psychological work required to have healthy intimate relationships filled with love and respect. They can talk freely about boundaries, consent and trust. They have developed a secure attachment style, as opposed to an anxious, avoidant or chaotic one. This is the key.

Similarly, in both monogamy and polyamory, there are people who are being less conscious, honest and compassionate due to their less secure attachment styles.

I was once an anxiously attached person. I was constantly berating my closeted partner for not being open and public about our relationship. Although she once tried to comfort me by saying that her parents had enjoyed the film Brokeback Mountain, I wasn’t sure this was giving a sense of how well queer relationships turn out.

If I had felt more secure in myself, I’m sure I could have been more supportive to her coming out journey. And it was only when that relationship ended (horribly) and I tentatively explored polyamory, by using the cloak of “research” for my comedy shows and books to sneak into sex parties and lesbian saunas, that I started to figure out how the hell to communicate about my desires, needs and fears.

If you open up a relationship, you absolutely have to have these discussions. Yet, as it turns out, these discussions were essential for a happier – and more actively chosen – version of monogamy with my wife, too. When we both took an attachment style quiz recently, we both came out as secure – at last!

For this reason, I was intrigued to see the new iteration of David Haye and girlfriend Sian Osborne’s apparent throuple (which once appeared to include The Saturdays singer Una Healy, but is now rumoured to be with Helen Flanagan). If Flanagan is enjoying a triad relationship with David Haye and Sian Osborne, then I hope that they can work out their alleged differences – and be positive role models. Seeing a successful polyamorous partnership would do wonders for young people like the woman at my event, and her friends who sound so fearful of alternative relationship structures.

Throuples aren’t really so new or different – among many species in the natural world, social monogamy is far more common than strict sexual exclusivity. A primary pair can have some occasional fun outside of the nest without it ending their bond or commitment. When a group of scientists gave a group of male blackbirds vasectomies, their female partners still had chicks.

Around the world, polyamorous communities exist. Eighteen Amazonian tribes believe in the concept of particle paternity, whereby many fathers have communally impregnated the woman and should therefore see have an interest in a child’s welfare. Throughout history, love letters have documented open marriages and passionate not-so-secret affairs.

If we can let go of our fears that other people may be having a better time than us, then we can open our minds to the kind of relationships that we truly want. I may have chosen monogamy for now. Yet in another 10 years time, I’ll be Carol Vorderman’s age. And she’s living her best life with a system of what she describes as several”‘special friends”.

I’ll need to get a little better at spreadsheets and time management. But I’m not ruling it out. Nor should you.

Rosie Wilby is a comedian and the author of The Breakup Monologues (Bloomsbury)

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