Three In A Marriage

The arrangements people make for living and loving can confuse a small girl.

Posted Dec 21, 2018

When I was small my parents used to entertain often, usually in backyard barbecues, and usually the same people would be there:  Mr. and Mrs. Lerner with her yappy little dog tucked in her arm, Dr. and Mrs. Apland who had teenage  children but left them at home, Mr. & Mrs. Dennis whose little boy always had his nose in a book, Dr. & Mrs. Berger, Mr.and Mrs. Kane and the three Ellisons. The Ellisons had no children.  The three consisted of Mr. Ellison, a thin little man of about 5’2” who was a clothing designer, his even tinier little wife who was very flirtatious with everyone, and their “friend”.

If I ever knew the name of their friend, I’ve forgotten it.  He was a large boned, tall man with graying hair and enormous hands.  He towered over both Ellisons.  He never talked to anyone at our parties that I can remember.  He nodded pleasantly if he was addressed, went straight for the food, and sat somewhere separate as he ate.  Occasionally one or the other of the Ellisons came over to talk to him, pat his back, smile, and then go circulate. They three of them always went everywhere together, not just to my parents’ parties.

It was my habit to study the behavior of my parents’ guests, trying to figure out adult relationships.  How could nice Mrs. Dennis ever have fallen in love with unpleasant Mr. Dennis?  Was it his money?  Dr. Berger always spent a lot of time talking with Mrs. Kane.  Didn’t Mrs. Berger care? What about Mr. Kane? Wasn’t he jealous?

I never asked my parents about the Ellisons and their friend.  I sensed that here lay an adult mystery that couldn’t or wouldn’t be explained to a 10 year old, something to do with sex.

As I grew older and studied in the field of psychology and sexology I gave myself an explanation for their a typical arrangement.  I never forgot them.  I don’t know what the basis of the Ellisons’ marriage was , if they were or ever had been sexual with each other, or when in their marriage their friend joined them,  but I decided, based on the body language I remembered, that he was lover to both of them.

Over the years I mulled over all possibilities:  that he was her lover and Mr. Ellison didn’t mind, that he was Mr. Ellison’s lover and she didn’t mind, that they only connected in sexual  threesomes, that the friend was their surrogate child (since everyone I knew of my parents’ friends had one or more), and finally that there was nothing sexual going on at all but that they were drawn to make their lives together for some other reason I couldn’t fathom.

I surmised there was a sexual bond somewhere in that strange arrangement because nobody talked about the oddity of it. Since three people living in what looked like a marriage in the 1950’s  certainly would be a topic of general comment, wouldn’t it? Also, both the Ellisons were sparkly sociable individuals and the friend was what is called in Yiddish “a shlub”, a lummox, a large lump of a man who seemed to have no personality whatsoever.  What would draw them to him if it weren’t sexual somehow?

Now, more than  60 years later living or loving arrangements are not so rigidly structured in married twos. Marriage itself isn’t required and people make their lives together as they wish.  I no longer notice it as odd when a man refers to his husband, or a woman to her wife or someone  to his or her partners.

Today the arrangement the Ellisons had even has a name. No matter who slept with whom, they were a “thruple.”