Veto the Veto

Veto power doesn’t really work. I know a lot of us start out wanting to have some kinda failsafe, some kind of pilot eject button for if things get scary or hard or threaten us. A lot of us start out with a veto.  We say we’ll dip our toes in the pool of poly dating, and if things get hairy or go horribly awry, we’ll pull the rip cord and close up shop or cut off an undesirable partner.  Problem is.. we’re dealing with humans here.

I get it. I do. I get being scared. I get wanting to protect a great relationship to a person you love. I really do understand this. When I opened up with my husband of 11 years I wanted a safety valve too. I wanted to know that if we dated other people we’d be okay. I want to know now while Traveler and I date others that we’ll be okay. But you know… love is risky.

I say love is risky not to warn people against poly or something. I say love is risky because it just is. I think there are ways to protect a relationship as you add others to a point. I think we can make agreements and prioritize making sure we get time with our existing partners and nurture those relationships, no matter how crazy in love we get with a new shiny thing. I think existing partnerships can work to make sure they don’t take each other for granted, and set date nights, and keep pursuing interests and hobbies and choose to keep a space for the people that have stood by us.  I think we can take special care to nurture our connection. I think we can communicate well and often. I think we can do many many many good things as we find and fall in love with new partners.

But I don’t think cutting off new partners is a great idea.

  1. Veto sucks because you are choosing for your partner what they can have in their lives and who they can love to suit your selfish jealousy, fear and insecurity. This is a shitty thing to do to someone you love.
  2. You are saying you know better than your partner. Think about this. Do you really think your partner is a dummy? An oaf? A less-than-complete-adult who cannot decide things for themselves?  If so, why are you committed to a relationship with this person?!?!?
  3. Is it possible that your partner has feelings and thoughts and reasons that you don’t necessarily share? Is it possible THEY are having some need met or growing in some way that they are drawn to that you don’t necessarily share?  I’d think long and hard about yourself if you think you are some “better judge” for your partner than they are for themselves. I have to admit I cringe when people say they know their partner better than their partner knows themselves. Or worse… that they know what is best for their partner.  I gotta call bullshit here.  There is ZERO chance you know more about your partner than they do about themselves. You know what you have experienced with your partner and what they told you and what you’ve observed. You don’t know the innermost workings of your partner better than they know themselves. What an ego.
  4. You might break your partner’s heart.  If they love someone and you cut it off, you are hurting them.
  5. If you and your partner actually respect each other and share your thoughts and observations with each other, isn’t it better to let your partner hear your thoughts and input and decide for themselves? If you have a healthy relationship, why wouldn’t you listen to your partner’s input and respect their thoughts? Traveler doesn’t need a veto, because if he leveled with me about a partner I would listen to and respect his input as the intelligent and capable man I know him to be. We do sometimes see things that people in the rush of new love don’t see. This is truth. But that can be a reason to share your insights with your partner so that they make the best decisions possible for themselves.  Right?  Even if it’s not on your time schedule?
  6. There is a reason your partner was drawn to this person. And there is a reason they want this relationship. You cutting that off doesn’t actually answer that.  Sometimes our partners need to learn a painful lesson and sometimes our job is to support them in doing so.
  7. The person you are vetoing is a human being. They matter too. Or they should. Human beings aren’t put here to spice up your marriage or your life. They have feelings and thoughts and they matter.  If you are upset or jealous or hurt, the answer isn’t to run ramshackle over other humans. It’s to figure out what you need and want in your relationship. The answer to “I’m insecure” isn’t “dump that other bitch”.
  8. Breaking my partner’s heart and demanding control over them doesn’t actually make our connection more secure.
  9. Punishing your partner for doing something bad by calling in your veto card to punish them doesn’t make your relationship better.
  10. Did you really think it was okay to weigh in on relationships you aren’t even a member of?  Our relationship will be hurt if I hurt my partner. If they choose to honor my veto, they may resent me. At the very least they know that *I* broke their heart. If they choose not to honor the veto, now what?  I don’t have a magic wand that lets me make the people I love only want the things I want them to have.

So.. what do I do if my partner is with someone I don’t want to accept or can’t accept?

I share my thoughts with my partner and let them make decisions for themselves. I can stay with them and help them pick up the pieces when they learn this lesson. Or I can choose not to be with my partner if I can’t trust their decisions or deal with the results of them living as they choose to live. I can choose for myself what I am willing to experience.  But I can’t really choose for you. Even if I have a veto and FEEL like I can choose for you, I can’t. And that’s why veto’s don’t work.

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5 Comments

    • Good. I’m glad it works for you. I also appreciate drawing boundaries and partners with good boundaries. I don’t like the idea that I’d have to cut off a person to do so though. If you love anyone besides her, how do you accept that those people you say you love are expendable if your partner of 22 years cuts them off? Would any of them ever become full relationships too?

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      • IN all fairness, we’re not poly but consider what we do more monogamish. Starting out monogamous, and then over the years realizing that just wasn’t real and then opening it up. We live in a small town, and hence discretion is key. Anything local is off base, unless extremely discrete. Mutual friends are also off base.

        Within that, I am just not going to fall that deeply for anyone. I might and do, crush on some of her friends. But that’s entirely okay. I am just not going to loose sleep over not getting them even if I could.

        And I don’t like to speak for her. But I think it works.

        BTW, I’m a regular read and (clearly) rare commentator. Appreciate your column and perspective.

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