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Navigating Life Beyond Two: The Essential Role of the ‘Third Place’ in Relationships

We all want to have a smooth going relationship today. But what are the factors that are hindering this wish? Learn what is wrong with relationships today.

Many things are associated with distorted relationships. But today I want to talk about the so-called 3rd place. 3rd place? No one wants to be in 3rd place; that’s the worst!

No, no, no. I’m talking about something else. Let me explain.

What’s the story, Norm?*

First, I’m inviting you to take a look at the picture taken from Community Punta Nova, Costa Rica:

What's the story, Norm?


Here is a short excerpt from their site:

We’re grateful that we don’t have too many rigid rules, and instead find our structure from holding each other accountable to our values, our responsibilities, and our agreements… We expect each other to:

  • Honor our commitments and do our best.
  • To be kind, supportive, and welcoming to our guests.
  • Take care of our stuff.  This means taking responsibility for our things, our projects, and our emotional and physical well being.

Now, you are totally confused. You might even think that I’m trying to sell you a trip to Costa Rica (perhaps visiting the link above will tempt you, as it did for me). Or you might think that this is another anti-capitalism manifesto, promoting communities, etc.

No, you are far from the truth.

That just points to one of the main things that’s wrong today in relationships (or society, if you will) – or better said, what’s missing!

It’s a dog eat dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.*

Relationships at the beginning are pretty easy. If you disagree, then you better just split now and stop wasting each other’s time.

After some time, things get a bit scarier. Still, these are just little bumps on the road. Nothing that a weekend in a 5-star hotel with room service cannot fix. Emphasize on room service because you should not leave the room, if you know what I mean.

But life gets more and more complicated when you start counting above the number 2. A baby comes, a second one, or even a third one. Throw in a dog or two, and you’re done.

Suddenly you have stuff to do. School starts and ends at some hour, there are naps, sports activities, doctor appointments… It’s not about you or him/her anymore. It’s about them.

Stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, unfulfilled, blah. Still, these things are unavoidable if you want to be a good parent and a good spouse. The main issue today with this is that we are planning to live a life as pair bonders. Places where two people stick together, with kids. All alone. And going insane.

Some rare individuals have enough finances for hiring an army of babysitters, chefs, and chauffeurs (those three-times-a-week soccer practices are insane).

But the majority are keeping it in-house, indoor. Even if the mother becomes a housewife with 2+ kids, there is a big chance she will start losing it and become neurotic.

In the mid term and long term, this can and probably will break the relationship. Both parties will slowly grow apart. Add to this no intimacy and no respect… You will end up with no relationship soon.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.*

A third place comes to the rescue. Both genders, not only men, need it. Children need it. We all need it!

It’s not a new concept. It’s not something that I figured out (shoutout to @Meta_Trav). But it is something that changed my life. And it’s as old as old can get. But why is it called a third place?

Because the first two places are reserved for work and home. And in too many times it ends up there.

We need a third place, a place where we align values, goals, interests. A place where we gather with like-minded people, where we share issues and solutions. A place as a support system! Try to survive without that. It’s a no-go.

Throughout history, we all had our own third place.

People gathered at:

  • Hunting lodges, country clubs, gyms,
  • In a common room in front of a fireplace, in a big library as a book club, in cigar rooms,
  • Churches, and other congregation points like parks and brunches,
  • Podcasts and digital tribes.

This can be easily forgotten. We are just too busy. Tell me, when was the last time you all – when I say all, I mean the whole family – met at the brunch place with other families? At the church? At the playgrounds, parks, events, theater?

If your answer is the previous week and before that 2 weeks ago, etc., then you know what I mean. That’s your third place.

But for others, I’m highly recommending finding one or five. And finding time and energy to do so. You will be surprised how this will change your life.

Going back to the mentioned community above, people there fully live in their 3rd places. A 3rd place is implied for them. They fully enjoy life and fully enjoy having families.

It’s like, you know, when you’re a kid and they tell you it’s bedtime.*

Let me end this article by telling you another secret. A secret that is all well known to the mentioned community. They also live in the so-called tribal territory, where children are helped raised by the ‘extension’: grandparents, aunts, friends, neighbors, … Ufff. Mind blown! That’s a totally different story, maybe a totally different article in the future. And a totally different life. A life worth living.

*Quotes from the 80’s sitcom Cheers.

Father of three and dedicated entrepreneur, sharing my personal journey and insights on relationships.

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