Pedrom Nasiri is a 30 year-old Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary who studies multi-partner kinship across Canada with polyamory being one facet of that work. Though the interest isn’t exclusively academic as Nasiri is currently involved in an intimate polyamorous partnership with seven other partners.
Polyamory is having a close emotional, often sexual, relationship with a number of persons at the same time who are aware of one another. It is also described as non-monogamous.
Nasiri was first introduced to polyamory during their undergraduate degree.
“When I began my undergrad, in 2010, I met this incredible group of friends. Several of these people ‘tested the waters’ of polyamory, so to speak, allowing me the opportunity to gather a wealth of knowledge before engaging the paradigm, myself.”
At the time, Nasiri was in a relationship with a partner who had strong pre-existing emotional ties to other individuals, ties that Nasiri’s partner did not want to lose..
“Coming from a monogamous background, and being introduced to this relationship paradigm, I wasn’t sure what this meant. The first thought that crossed my mind was whether these other attachments would somehow mean that my partner would be unable to have a ‘strong’ relationship with me.”
That was not the case for Nasiri. Nasiri believed that they could maintain connections with their group while having similar relationships with others, with some of the relationships including sexual contact, and others not.
Nasiri is currently in several different relationships. Their first relationship of eight years, is still strong with both Nasiri and their partner engaged to be married. They each have numerous other intimate relationships, including a triad that they have maintained for 3 years.
“Our conceptualizations relationships of love and intimacy are very much socially and culturally defined and that there are many different ways in which humans are practicing family, intimacy, and love throughout the world.” -Pedrom Nasiri
Jonathan Griffith, who is a 34-year old lawyer, is one of Nasiri’s partners.
“I practice "solo polyamory." I don't live with any of my partners. I do not have an "anchor/primary/nesting partner." My polyamory is non-hierarchical [meaning] none of my relationships are given priority over any others.”
Griffith says that polyamory provides him with a framework to define himself as a separate and autonomous individual.
“I have friendships that might look like relationships to others and I have partners that may seem more like just friends,” says Griffith.
“Generally speaking, I have been in a partnership with for about 10 years. They [genderqueer] live with their nesting partner [someone else] with their two step-kids. I have two other partners who both live together. My fourth partner is married and happily lives with her husband and one child.”
Polyamory is not always a three-person relationship. Nasiri says that the largest Canadian polyamorous family that they have come across, during their fieldwork, consists of a seven-person unit.
“It’s fascinating the way in which [the seven] organized their relationships. Only three of the adults are involved in sexually intimate ways. So, there’s this strong intense emotional bond that has manifested within this seven-partner family that works to decenter sex and sexuality as the principle ties–that-bind. Internally, no one relationship is given preferential treatment over the other.”
This seven-partner family have all decided to raise children together. They are currently raising two children, with one more on the way. Nasiri says that they all take part in the raising of the children, with parental roles having been negotiated between them.
“Within this family, everybody operates as a parental figure, and none of the children currently know who the ‘biological father’ is. The children are taught that they can rely on all of the adults in this seven-partner family, regardless of their biological relation, and respond to each adult as either mother or father. This family outright questions the need for biological relatedness, preferring to emphasize emotional attachments,” says Nasiri.
Nicole Pesta, who is a M.Ed. Registered Provisional Psychologist, and Cory Hrushka a Senior Psychologist, Ph.D., CCS, DST Registered Psychologist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, say that there are many reasons why someone may choose to pursue non-monogamy.
“Some may include: not being able to/or wanting to make a choice on having only one person in their life emotionally or sexually, the desire for having sex with someone if their partner is not interested in sex, because they have fallen in love with a Poly individual, for increased intimacy, shared enjoyment, growth, financial or emotional support or for cultural and/or religious reasons.”
Based on Hruska's experience in also working with polyamorous families, most of the children that grow up in this lifestyle adapt to it and have no significant different issues than non poly family children, especially if they are young when it started or if they grew up with it.
“Most of the issues appear to be related to social and peer pressure, prejudice and discrimination (including that of teachers, family, church, etc.) rather than to the relationship or lifestyle itself.”
Nasiri says that, in Canada, polyamory operates liminally, as neither legal nor illegal, with state-sanctioned marriage for all partners being, at present, unobtainable.
Nasiri, Griffith, Hruska, and Pesta all agree that there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to polyamory. Including, mistaking polyamorous individuals to polyandrous, which describes a person who has sexual relations with others that a permanent partners knows about, or confusing polyamory with polygamy. Or, mistake them for cheaters or swingers.
Nasiri says that when we talk about polyamory what comes to mind is “very patriarchal constructions” meaning that the man is head of the family and the women and children have little to no power.
“People may assume that the majority of individuals seeking out polyamory are misogynistic or males who subscribe to toxic masculinity predominately seeking sexual fulfillment.”
Griffith explains that when humans are exposed to something new for the first time, like polyamory, they automatically try to slot it into their own understanding of the world.
“When people learn about polyamory, they associate it with polygamous sects or cults. Also, people learn about polyamory as an opposite to monogamy, so they develop the negative assumptions about polyamory.”
“Another misconception is that polyamorous people do not feel jealousy, and that must mean that they do not really love or care about their partner(s). Further myths include suggestions that there is a greater likelihood of sexually transmitted infections being spread by or between polyamorous individuals,” says Pesta.
Although there are no specific statistics, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association suggests that the number of polyamorous Canadians is anywhere between 1,000 to 17,000 multi-partner families.
“I would say that social pressure and disapproval [of polyamory] has been historically more common but over the past 10-15 years there has been less over social disapproval in Canada based on my clinical experience,” says Hruska.
“When it comes to jealousy and trust issues it can occur in polyamorous relationships, just as they can within monogamous relationship, frequently due to a lack of proactive communication about relationship boundaries, rules, or expectations.”
Nasiri and Griffith both believe that having trust in a polyamorous relationship, and allowing your partners to be happy is important.
“When one sees their partners enjoying the time that they're sharing with their partners instead of feeling jealous, polyamorous people will flip that script and turn around and say. Well seeing them makes me happy.’ -Pedrom Nasiri
Griffith says that jealousy is a normal human response and like all emotional responses, it’s fair to feel jealous.
“Blaming the people closest to me (i.e.: a romantic partner) for my jealousy doesn't work for me. I don't like the control that goes along with that. When I feel jealous I process that emotion the same way that I process other difficult emotions (like sadness or anger). Sometimes I ask my partners for help with that to talk things through; or to provide me with support.”
When it comes to emotions like jealousy, Nasiri believes that polyamorous people take these emotions and reorient them towards something positive.
Ultimately Nasiri sums it up this way: “The love that we share for another person is not necessarily contained to that [one person]. But is in fact multiple and so it has the opportunity and capability to spread itself around. It was my degree as an undergrad in Anthropology that started to introduce me to the ways in which our conceptualizations [of] relationships of love and intimacy are very much socially and culturally defined, and that there are many different ways in which humans are practicing family, intimacy, and love throughout the world.”
- By Hillary Ollenberger