I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to try dating a couple. Should be easy, right? There are a million of them out there looking for a partner. But that’s the whole problem. Quantity doesn’t mean quality. Still, I have seen happy triads, and I know that’s what I want for myself. This seems like the easiest way to get into one (as opposed to coupling up with someone and then trying to find someone).
I’m gonna have to sort through a fair amount of trash to get to the treasure though.
So I thought I’d ask if you have any questions I could ask couples (either on our first date or when I’m talking to them online) to help me vet them?
Thanks in advance!
Sure! I’ve dated multiple couples myself and have also been part of existing couples who are both dating the same person, so I have some thoughts.
But before I do that, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that triads can form in other ways than the ones you mentioned. Triads don’t only form when one person specifically seeks out couples or a couple seeks out a person that they can date together. In fact, one thing that frequently happens is that a couple who dates people separately as independent agents will find that someone new that one of them is dating suddenly realizes on their own that they also like their partner’s partner (and the feeling ends up being mutual). This is pretty much the most frequent way that I personally find myself ending up in triads. Typically, they’re V relationships that evolve into triads naturally.
This is not to say that dating people as a package deal (either on the single person or couple side) can’t work out sometimes. I have just had better luck with establishing connections separately (no matter which side I’m on).
Anyway, with that aside taken care of, here are some vetting questions I’ve found useful.
1. Are you open to dating people separately, or are you only interested in a setup where you’re a package deal?
This one is a biggie. Triads can be amazingly fun when they work out well, and it’s actually fairly understandable that there’s an appeal to dating someone who’s also into your partner (for one, it can help tremendously with scheduling and logistics).
But it’s typically a bad sign when this structure is a requirement, when folks cannot and will not date other folks separately. Oftentimes, people who have a package deal requirement implement it thinking that it’ll be the one measure that they need to take in order to prevent themselves from ever feeling jealous or insecure. The trouble with this is that dating together doesn’t actually guard against that. It’s still possible to experience jealousy or insecurity as part of a triad.
So even if that’s what you’re looking for, a couple you can date as a unit, you’ll likely do better if you date a couple who can date on their own, as they’re more likely to have at least attempted to build coping skills to address any underlying issues that crop up, rather than trying to find a completely un-threatening relationship structure — which I’m sorry to say doesn’t exist. (Even folks in monogamous relationships get jealous; jealousy and insecurity are part of life.)
2. What are your agreements with one another?
You can learn a lot simply about their relationship simply by asking them about their agreements with one another. Do they seem to prioritize their relationship above everything else? Do they seem to have a fixed idea of themselves as a cohesive unit that’s set in stone and wouldn’t be flexible enough to accommodate novel wants and needs that a new person in their life would bring? If so, you’ll likely have a very rough go.
Pay special attention to anything they’ve laid out that applies to other people in a way that’s uncomfortable to you as a person who could very well soon have those same standards applied to you.
Conversely, be wary of someone who can’t answer this question at all or with any level of complexity. While it might seem like a good sign when someone seems completely flexible and tells you, “Oh, we just go with the flow” or “no agreements, only love,” I’ve historically found that these folks can be some of the worst actors in a real-life conflict situation. Many of them are only easygoing because they don’t have any experience and haven’t taken any time to actually think about hypothetical situations. And when they actually do get there, it isn’t pretty. One of the worst couples I ever dated was like this.
3. What questions would you be asking me if you were in my shoes and trying to vet you?
This is a good question since it sees if they can easily take someone else’s perspective — an ability which is a huge boon to any relationship. It also gets to the heart of whether or not they understand what’s important to a person who is looking to date a couple. What sorts of risks you would be taking on.
4. What were your previous relationships like? How long have you been together? How long has your relationship been open? What has been your most frustrating experience?
Get them talking about their exes. What they may perceive as “failures.” Do they take accountability for their part in their relationships ending? Or do they vilify their exes? It’s not just what they say but the tone they say it in.
It’s helpful if you can get them to talk about more than one ex (and ideally, more than one apiece), since typically most people will have a bad experience or two. However, if it seems like every single person they’ve ever dated is the straight up devil and they’re portraying themselves with an eternal halo, that might be something to give you pause.
If they’ve dated people together in the past, pay particular attention to how they talk about those exes.
5. How would you handle it if I connected with one of you more than the other? How would you feel? What would you do?
This is a big one. One of the worst expectations that a couple can impose upon a new person that they’re both dating is that this person needs to “love both of us equally.”
First of all, it’s weird to quantify love — which you would have to do to assess inequalities. “No fair, you have 6 ounces of love for them but only 4 ounces for meeee.”
Yeah, it’s freaky. The whole premise is strange.
Anyhow, setting that aside, it’s entirely common to find that you hit it off on a deeper level with one person in a couple than with the other. It totally happens, especially if you’re taking a snapshot at any given time. (It’s worth noting that in some long-term triads, so long as no one freaks out or pressures anyone, deep bonds with the other partner can develop over time, just on a different schedule.)
I award big bonus points to couples who have actually experienced this situation before and can talk clearly and concisely about how things went and what happened. Even if they didn’t handle it as well as they wanted to, I typically find it impressive when people can recognize that and articulate important lessons they’ve learned from it.
6. If I broke up with one of you, would I not be allowed to date the other?
Theoretically, this is covered if you ask about a package deal (question #1), but I’ve found it’s also a good idea to ask about this explicitly. I like asking this one in person and watching their facial expressions (because they can typically tell you a lot about someone’s instinctive gut reaction).
And I’ve definitely encountered couples in my travels who didn’t have a package deal for new relationships but had a hard time honoring that spirit once a relationship was established. So while it may seem to be the same thing as having a package deal at the onset, it’s a different and important question in its own right.
7. Would you expect me to date you and only you, or would I be free to pursue other relationships?
This is important. It’s a really big demand to ask you to date only them when you have less access to time with them than they have with each other (especially if the couple you’re looking to date lives together, shares finances, etc.).
Even if you’re okay with it (and most folks who date couples aren’t), you at the very least need to know about it before you get involved.
If they’re completely opposed, it’s also another potential bad sign that they’re unwilling to work through any jealousy or insecurity (in this case, jealousy or insecurity they might have towards your other partners) and are trying to use structure to preempt it instead of developing coping skills.
8. Would there be a rule that I’d only spend time with both of you together?
This is another rule that couples who are trying to rely on structure instead of developing coping strategies will implement. In addition to that, it’s logistically annoying as heck. It can be a nightmare.
It’s way easier when dating a couple if you can spend time with one of them if the other isn’t free.
Plus, it can be extremely valuable to make sure you occasionally spend time with them each alone. It can help you understand what your individual connection to each of them is and help you differentiate both of those from the connection you feel when you are all together. This is all valuable information that can easily get lost if it’s only group time and nothing else.
9. If we were ever to have sex, would I be able to have sex alone with each of you? Or would you require that both of you be present?
This is in roughly the same vein as the last question, only more explicit, and it’ll give you a sneak peek into their thoughts on sexual jealousy and/or insecurity, which can function a little differently than the garden variety kinds in some people.
Again, this is another rule that is not only a sign that structure might be relied on in an unrealistic way but also a practice that can get very cumbersome, awkward, and even obnoxious in real world scenarios.
You know, when you have an un-horny person with an ear infection sitting and miserably chaperoning enthusiastic sex between the other two-thirds of the triad. (True story.) Or whatever.
10. [Pretty much anything else you would normally ask people you’re looking to date in order to vet them.]
Just because you’re dating a couple, don’t forget to vet them each as individuals. This involves making sure you’d ask them things you’d normally ask anyone you’re looking to date.
Hope that helps!
I feel for you and wish you the best of luck.
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