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What Is a Polycule? Plowing Deeper Into the World of Polyamory

Interested in putting the “more” in “amorous?” Not sure what a polycule is? Here’s everything you should know about joining a holly jolly polycule.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
May 24, 2024
June 22, 2024
7
min. read
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Discussing relationships without acknowledging polyamory nowadays is pretty much impossible — and understandably so. Many people are waking up to new possibilities in their love lives, and we’re always here for that and whatever new terminology that comes along with it, like “polycule.”

But just because you want to hit that (gesturing vaguely to a crowd of people) doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to go about doing it. What is a polycule? How do people make polyamory work? And what sort of things should the polycurious among us know before diving head-first into a sea of dicks (and whatever else is in the mix)?

The chemistry that makes up a polycule

Polycule is a clever combination of the words “polyamory” and “molecule.” It describes any group of three or more individuals who share romantic or intimate connections.

A polycule relationship can take many forms. Members don’t necessarily have to date every other person in the group; the formation looks more like a Venn diagram than a cohesive unit. The freedom and flexibility are part of the appeal.

Another gorgeous element of this situation: Polycules can stretch on to infinity. That means as long as there’s love in your heart and blood flow to your loins, there’s no limit to just how big your polycule can grow!

Polycule vs. polyamory

The two terms are closely related, save for one distinction: You can practice polyamory without joining a polycule, meaning you and your multiple partners can all be in bed together (or just some of you) without being officially committed. But you can’t really be in a polycule without being polyamorous.

For example, a polyamorous person might have multiple relationships, none of which are related to each other. Polycules will always have some kind of connection binding members of the group together, no matter how tenuous that connection might be.

Certain types of open relationships, such as swinging, could be called polyamorous, but the people involved aren’t typically considered a polycule. Those practicing ethical nonmonogamy or in a “monogamish” relationship might not consider themselves polyamorous at all since they often focus on sexual relationships that have little bearing on their romantic life.

Polycule types and structures

Like many sexual terms these days, the actual poly relationship meaning is up to the involved parties to decide. That said, it helps to understand what structures already exist so you know what you’re looking at (other than a bunch of hotties). Here are some common types of polycules you’ll likely encounter in the wild:

The V

In a “V” polycule, one person is in a relationship with two other people, but those two people aren’t in a relationship with each other. All members know the situation and are cool with it, though. It’s like a love triangle, except everyone involved is good at geometry.

Triad

Connect the two people at the top of your V, and you have a triad. The triad, aka a “throuple,” is essentially a really, really long threeway. Each member of the triad is equally committed to the other two. Now, that’s what we call equilateral!

Quad

For some, three’s a crowd; for others, four’s a party. The quad is the same as the triad, only you say, “Ah, get over here, you rascal!” to a fourth person and invite them into your cum-glomerate. 

Platonic polycule

Polycules are first and foremost about love, but not every polycule involves romantic relationships. Platonic polycules are a type of queerplatonic relationship — a deep and committed connection that doesn’t contain sex or romantic feelings. Who doesn’t love a found family story?

Polyfidelitous polycule

Polyfidelity is a subset of polyamory that specifically stipulates the relationship is a closed system. A polyfidelitous polycule usually agrees sexual and romantic connections are reserved for those inside the group. It’s a restriction everyone is on board with that creates trust and safety for those involved.

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Polycule hierarchy

Many assume polycules have set or implied hierarchies. Those certainly exist, but plenty of polycules practice an approach that looks more like relationship anarchy. Relationship anarchy is when autonomy and equality trump any rules or hierarchies regarding sex, intimacy, and romance. Although it might feel like a lawless relationship wasteland, the freedom confers many benefits.

A polycule’s preferred approach often depends on the personalities within the group, and these dynamics may shift with the introduction or exit of members. If you choose to assign members roles like primary or secondary, you might benefit from drawing out a web — no need to post it like a ranked competitive leaderboard, though.

When are hierarchies a good idea?

Sometimes, hierarchies make sense and can significantly clarify priorities for members of the ’cule.

If some partners live together, share finances, or have children, they may prefer to establish a hierarchy to ensure that everyone knows where they stand. Couples who have opened their relationship may remain each other’s “primary” and establish rules about how they interact with metamours (their partner’s partners or partners’ partners). It’s about transparency — not putting anybody down.

Still, many polycules prefer to treat every partnership with equal priority. This philosophy rejects the idea that just because individuals live together, their connection is somehow more valuable than others.

Joining a polycule

They saw you from across the bar. They liked your vibe. You’re kinda into it. Now what? Here’s what you should know about joining a polycule:

Know why you’re joining

People join a polycule for different reasons. Maybe you’re fully invested in polyamory and feel like shooting your shot with everyone at the party. However, polycules provide far more than an outlet for choice paralysis and indiscriminate horniness. Community, a sense of security, and the freedom of sexual flexibility are all great reasons to apply for your local ’cule.

Negotiate your needs

You might be high on the polycule’s supply of romantic and sexual energy — all the more reason to be careful about signing up for something you’re not ready for. Every person joining the polycule should come with questions and demands about the kind of relationships they’re after. The polycule should discuss these terms together to ensure an agreeable dynamic. Hopefully, someone has a project management kink.

Be transparent

Honesty should be the policy in every relationship, and that applies to every thread in your polycule, too. This also means being transparent about your needs and emotions. There’s no point in hiding anything from the group; polyamory is often sought after because fluidity and flexibility are integral aspects. Your polycule should support you while you become your most authentic self.

Tips for successful polycules

No polycule can subsist on sexual attraction or romantic interest alone. If you’re all going to be in this together, take these steps to ensure things don’t go off the rails:

  1. Be honest with what you want

A two-way relationship doesn’t benefit from you being silent about your needs. Polycules are no different, so don’t hesitate to express your feelings. Your partners should take a genuine interest in keeping you happy.

  1. Learn your boundaries and communicate them

Healthy boundaries are a must for human connection. Thanks to a surge in interest surrounding mental health, discussing boundaries has never been more relevant (and, thankfully, easy). Finding your boundaries is an individual journey. But if you want to be in a polycule, it’s one you must embark on.

  1. Connect with other members

It might feel like you’re at a peculiar sexual mixer, but connecting with other members is kind of the point of joining a polycule. You never know who you’ll click with, regardless of whether that click involves dick or not.

  1. Have regular check-ins

Relationship dynamics can change on a dime. It’s common enough between two people, so imagine how quickly things can shift with the myriad dynamics of a polycule. There’s nothing wrong with these shifts, but how you handle them becomes a testament to the strength of your group. Schedule check-ins to ensure everyone feels happy and comfortable with how things are progressing.

’Cule as a cucumber

Anyone interested in polycules or polyamory shouldn’t shy away from it. A polycule can be a rewarding sexual and romantic experience, provided all members are open to communicating in a healthy, mature way. 

It’s also completely fine if this isn’t your thing. Polyamory requires a lot of maintenance and check-ins to work. All relationships require this on some level, but a polycule can magnify communication requirements to an overwhelming degree. Don’t feel pressured to be poly if it’s not the perfect fit.

Are you looking for new recruits? Or maybe you’re shopping around for a local ‘cule? Grindr is a great place to start! Download the Grindr app today and get started.

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