Dating shows have been around for decades — women looking for boyfriends, men looking for girlfriends, and some even wanting to get married. No matter the storyline in each show, all parties involved are looking for love. Until now, most dating shows have centered around individuals building a monogamous relationship. But Peacock has changed that with Couple to Throuplea new original series. 

The show follows a group of curious couples experimenting with polyamory by bringing a third partner into their relationships. While at a remote tropical resort, the four couples will meet, mix, mingle and date a group of singles, some experienced in polyamory. Relationships are put to the test when feelings and drama come to the forefront. Although it’s three times the fun, at the end of their time at the resort, couples must decide if they have room in their relationships and hearts for another person and move forward as a throuple, leaving with the one they came with or leaving alone. 

Blavity’s Shaow and Act Unscripted had the chance to speak with the show’s host, Scott Evans, and resident sex and relationship expert Shamyra Howard, who holds a doctorate in social work, to discuss the new show and its diversity. The pair also shared why they think the idea of a throuple has been considered taboo for so long.

This show centers on what many may consider to be a taboo subject. So, for you, Scott, as the host, what was your initial reaction to the show’s concept?

SE: I was very excited by the show’s concept, mostly because it was an opportunity to see something on TV we had never seen before. To have a reality dating show, this destination dating show that was inherently queer; it wasn’t like a spin-off of a season and to include this kind of community. At the center of it was going to include and highlight queerness was something that was very exciting to me. 

I was also a little worried that it was going to be like, ‘OK, this is going to be a show where couples just come to this resort to hook up with random people and have threesomes?’ And I was like, ‘How is this going to go? What are we really doing here?’ And when I was able to kind of drill down into the concept and drill down into the idea with the show’s creators and our showrunner, Matt Cox, I quickly found that this is a totally different approach than most other dating shows, and so was even more excited by the fact that we would be guided along this experience. We would have the resources and support of an expert, who is a doctor, who would be guiding these individuals through this experience in a meaningful way. It’s centered in real research, real understanding and real science. It’s real theory, which also added to my excitement. These people go through therapy. And there’s a reason why we’re all fascinated with dating shows, and there is a reason why we’re all fascinated with seeing people go through therapy on television. And so to be able to combine that, in this beautiful location, with these beautiful people, I was like, ‘How can I be one of the singles?!’

Dr. Shamyra, as a relationship and sex therapist, what are the most common factors you’ve experienced between couples who want to bring in a third party? 

Howard: That’s a good question. So one of the main concerns people who want to bring in a third party are considering is the sexual partners. So oftentimes, they’ll talk about sex, and their concerns are about how sex is going to work, but also how they are going to allocate their time. That is a huge situation when it comes to being in non-monogamous partnerships and, especially in proposals like on this show, is figuring out how to allocate time, how to dispense your sexual energy, but also how to set boundaries. And a lot of people struggle when in switching or opening their relationships and monogamous spouses how to set boundaries because many people don’t know what their boundaries are. 

So what we’ve done in these relationship sessions is we’ve helped people, couples and singles, to define or to be exposed to what some of their boundaries are so that they are prepared to know what they’re OK with. And that’s actually what I do every day with my couples on a green couch and my throuples and my quads and all of my other poly relationships.

Now you mentioned boundaries. Some challenges expected with arrangements like this can include jealousy. That would be the first thing that comes to mind. But what else will viewers be shocked by when they see what these couples experience when opening up their relationship to one or multiple parties?

Howard: Jealousy is a big one. That is one of the bigger things, as well, because it comes up. One thing that happens is that people, when they’re experiencing jealousy, they’ve been automatically taught that we don’t talk about jealousy because if you have jealousy, then something is wrong with you. So what viewers are going to see on this show is how couples navigated jealousy, but also how the singles navigated jealousy, as well. And that’s going to be interesting because while the couples have little to no experience in non-monogamy and polyamory, many of the singles do have experience in non-monogamy, in polyamory, and jealousy comes up, and people think that people who are polyamorous by default don’t experience jealousy. 

Many also believe that jealousy is a negative emotion. And we teach the opposite because we know that jealousy is just an emotion. It’s like happiness or sadness. But we’ve been taught that we are supposed to suppress it. So you’re going to see what happens when people don’t suppress their jealousy, but also you’re going to see what happens when people do suppress their jealousy in this show.

Scott, you mentioned that you love the inclusivity of the show. I agree with that. Something that also stood out was that it’s very much centered on people of color, whether it’s singles of color or couples. And that’s something other than what we’ve seen. So that’s another taboo aspect to it. What has your experience been with showcasing this within our community?

Evans: I’m so glad that you noticed that. When we landed in Panama, I looked at our singles. There’s a shot that you’ll see when I think I’m in a purple set. And I’m looking at our singles, and I’m looking at our couples, and I’m noticing a mirror, and I’m even looking at members of our crew, and I had to take a moment to realize how incredibly diverse this experience felt and how ingrained and inherent and authentic that felt. It didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, we need to get some more Black people in this, or we need to have some more Asian people in this.’ It felt like, ‘We’re going to work to find the best people to be associated with this as possible. And these are the people that we found. And it was intentional to find them in this way.’

And so when you look at a show like this, the first of its kind to ever come to the market, to also be helmed by myself and Dr. Shamyra in kind of the host capacities, the guidance capacities for the show. Brown skin, Black people — that is not lost on me. This is special. This is unique. And then you add on the dynamic of the search for love. That is coupled with a couple. I just was like, ‘I hope that we pause long enough to not only see ourselves represented in this cool show on Peacock. But that we also recognize that things are changing and that we are a part of that change, and that while our minds are changing, so are our workspaces, so are our resources, and so is our reach. And that we support one another in that, that we back one another in that.’ 

There’s a Black couple on this show that I think is going to challenge the way that we organize relationships in our mind, that is going to challenge the way that we have measured success in relationships, and maybe even provide opportunities for us to see success in a relationship in ways and in a space that we might not have otherwise thought was possible. 

As far as challenging the way we think, how do both of you feel this show will open up more conversation about non-monogamous relationships, especially because when you ask a lot of people, this is not as uncommon as people probably think.

Howard: It used to be taboo and it used to be uncommon, but now we’re seeing a rise in non-monogamy. Specifically, we’re seeing a rise in throuples. And we’re seeing an interest in people who were traditionally historically monogamous more open. We see 34% of people say that even though they’re in a monogamous relationship, their ideal relationship involves some type of non-monogamy structure. So people are now talking about it more. Over 4% of people here in the U.S. are in some type of non-monogamous relationship. So people are talking about it; people are engaged about it. And I think what this show is going to do is it’s going to increase the conversation. It’s also going to increase who we talk about when we’re talking about polyamory and non-monogamy because for a long time people would say, ‘Oh, that’s white people s**t.’ And that’s not the case.

That’s exactly how a lot of people, especially Black people, experience it. But what we know now is that a lot of Black people, and now white people, are engaging in ethical non-monogamy, and polyamory, and they are exploring transitioning from being a couple to a throuple. I think why it has been historically troubling, or it wasn’t popular is because it was always seen as monogamy plus one in a closed dynamic — not necessarily polyamory, where polyamory is multiple relationships. I think the reason that throuples are becoming popular is that now more millennials are open to the idea of therapy, and lots of millennials are in non-monogamous relationships. And so because they’re becoming more open to the idea of non-monogamy, they’re like, ‘OK, well, let’s try it by adding in another; let’s try polyamory by adding another partner, and let’s be in a relationship with them together.’ Where we know that polyamory has many different structures, and you can be in various different types of relationships. Lots of people are wanting to explore their relationship by adding another person. So a couple plus one is a throuple.

Evans: And I think, also, people are more open and honest about where we are and about what we want and about what is not working. We are also finding that there are resources; there are opportunities; there are situations available to us that we didn’t otherwise acknowledge that we didn’t otherwise know. And so I think we’re excited about being a part of this show because it’s going to be one of those opportunities to be a conversation starter. So even if you have no intention of doing that now, you have this springboard for a conversation that might help you, at the very least, become more intimate with one another, become close to one another, and have a better understanding of one another. And I think, at the end of the day, that is a mirror. And I agree that that is in its purest form. That is the intention of this show.