Three’s a crowd, they say…but it’s the perfect number for Tom Hillyard, his wife Lesley and their girlfriend, Emma Coomber.
The throuple have been together for two years after a jokey suggestion by Tom about bringing another woman into the relationship became a reality.
Now he, Lesley and Emma are thoroughly committed to each other, sharing everything from a super-king-size bed to household chores and bills.
The trio, who live in East Sussex, have even discussed starting a family together – but no decisions have been made on who would carry a baby.
Lesley says: “People have such preconceptions about our relationship. When people think of throuples they think crazy kinks. It’s nothing like that.
“We are all in love with each other. I think some people think we are massive swingers or something but it’s just not true.
“We have a loving relationship like other couples – there’s just three of us, that’s all.”
Lesley, 24, and Tom, 25, married in 2017 and both knew the other was bisexual.
Three years later, they decided to bring another woman into their relationship on a long-term basis.
“It kind of started out as a joke,” says Tom, who works in management at a supermarket.
“I said to Lesley, ‘Do you want a girlfriend?’ It was something we had discussed. We are both bisexual and open to exploring that.”
Lesley adds: “We started discussing bringing in a third person – not in a weird way, in a relationship way.
“It was decided straight away that it would be a throuple rather than just polyamorous.
“Some people have open relationships, but we wanted to be exclusive.”
Polyamory is a term which typically involves people having multiple, intentional relationships with the consent of all parties involved.
After making the decision to find a girlfriend, Lesley joined Taimi, an LGBTQ+ dating app. And after a few false starts she met Emma, 31, from Wiltshire. They started talking and met up alone after around a month.
Tom was introduced to Emma later and she eventually moved in as the UK went into its first lockdown.
Emma says: “I was a bit nervous when I met Tom for the first time.
“When Lesley told me she was married and looking for a throuple, I’d never thought that it was something I would want but I was open to it straight away.
“It took time for me to fall in love with him. It did take me a bit longer to get that feeling with him as I had been talking to Lesley for so long – but there was an instant connection, right from day one.
“They made a lot of effort to bring me into the fold.”
While Tom admits the dynamics between all three are different, he says the relationship works in a traditional way.
He and Lesley did everything they could to make Emma feel welcome and an equal part of the throuple.
Tom says: “We understood that it could be difficult as Lesley and I had been together, that we would naturally be much closer than we would be with Em.
“We tried to counteract it as best we could to make sure she didn’t feel left out. I do love Emma.
“We realize that the dynamics are different. We find a happy medium where we can all work on our relationship together.”
Although there was inevitably some jealousy early on, the throuple dealt with every issue straight away to prevent resentment building up or problems occurring further down the line.
Emma goes on: “The first-line communication wasn’t great.
“But I think that was down to my self-esteem and confidence. I wasn’t confident in myself.
“I didn’t think I was good enough. But they have been so supportive and reassuring – eventually I have come to realize that communication is the main thing.”
Lesley, who works as a senior financial administrator and sells artwork on the side, agrees with Emma – and says honesty is key, too.
She adds: “It is just the same as any other relationship. Communication is key. We don’t argue much, just random tiffs. I think we argue less than others.”
The trio have opened up to family and friends and say they have never come across any negativity – although some relatives were understandably a bit taken aback.
Lesley reveals: “It was scary, telling our friends and our family, but they have all been very welcoming. It took awhile to adjust.
“Really, we have never had a problem. We did keep it secret at first, in case it didn’t work out.
“But our friends are more open to that world now. They have realized there’s a lot more to life than just two people. Take laps it up, really.
“There was a stag do last year. Every single male that was there was like, ‘Go on, son.’ He loves it.”
Emma, who works as a team leader at a care home, adds: “My sister was absolutely fine with it from the beginning.
“It took my parents a while, they didn’t really understand it. My mum tried to educate herself with polyamory and now she’s brilliant.”
The Mirror’s newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.
The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12 noon and every evening.
Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here.
It can get tricky explaining the relationship without people assuming, wrongly, that they are game for anything.
As Lesley explains: “Me and Tom have been at Pride and were invited to join some guys in a dungeon!”
But on that subject, the throuple say they enjoy a traditional sex life, with ebbs and flows and days where everyone is happy just to have a cuddle.
“It’s either all three of us, just two – it can be whatever,” says Lesley.
“I think sex with women and sex with men are very different. I’m straight-down-the-middle bisexual. It’s a bit of both. It works very differently when it’s all three of us together.”
Lesley sleeps in the middle, while Emma – who prefers the side closest to the window – adds: “I’m a light sleeper, so I have earbuds and a sleep mask.”
Despite committing to exclusivity between the three of them, Tom says he is still free to “explore” things with other men, he should choose to.
He says: “If I want to explore with a man, then as long as I keep the communication open and let them know, I can. But in terms of women – it’s exclusive on that side of things.
“I think with men as well, neither of them want to explore with any other men.
“That’s their choice. If they do want to explore with another man that’s absolutely fine, as long as it’s talked about.
“They have both said they don’t want to.”
And there are other benefits to a three-way relationship – with Tom, Emma and Lesley splitting the bills three ways.
The chores are much easier, too, with each person pulling their weight around the house.
“I always used to cook for friends anyway,” says Lesley. “So it’s no different, in that sense, cooking for three people.”
As for holidays, the throuple have been unable to get away as much as they would like due to the pandemic.
But they are making plans for a getaway as soon as their busy schedules allow – sharing a king-size bed, of course.