I wanna talk a bit about vetos.
I don’t like ‘em – not one tiny little bit. I don’t like the ramifications of a veto. There is an implication of ownership overlaid with a serious lack of trust. No, don’t whine at me about this. If you need a veto, there is a desire to protect yourself. This isn’t meant to activate some macho thing. You know, “I don’t need to protect myself!” Sometimes you do, and there’s no use at all in fooling yourself about it.
My concern with the veto power is that I think it actually promotes a lack of trust between partners. To me a veto says, “I don’t really trust your judgment, and I feel fairly sure that at some point, if you meet someone <more attractive><more intelligent><better in bed><name your insecurity>, and you will <leave me><screw me over><take your pick of your personal relationship “disaster”>.”
A veto also says, “I need something with more ‘firepower’ than merely asking for what I want.”
If that’s the way you feel, and feel it strongly enough to want yes or no say over someone else’s choices, is that relationship really a good idea for you? I mean seriously, think about it a minute.
Have I ever felt the need for a veto? Yep, sure did. And I took away from that experience that a desire for a veto is a big ole waving red flag that the particular relationship was Not Healthy for Mama Java, and I need to examine stuff really closely.
Now, I know how stuff like this can be twisted, so don’t take this article as an excuse to beat someone over the head, saying, “If you want a veto you don’t trust me. If you really love and trust me, you won’t even ask for such a thing!” If you get asked for a veto, it’s time for some introspection. Your partner knows you1. If you habitually lie, your partner knows it. If it is your habit to get obsessed and disregard agreements, your partner knows this. If you do not ask for what you want, but what you think you can “get away with”, your partner knows this, too.
Now look me in the eye and say, “But he should just trust me!” I’ll laugh my ass off, I will!
I suppose what it really boils down to is the emotional bank account. The emotional bank account is the amount of trust that has been built up in the relationship. Is it high? If it’s not, I am strongly of the opinion that polyamory with veto conditions is not the way to make those deposits. The very need for vetos means that the emotional bank account with your partner is not very high. You need to work on other things. The very veto agreement will prey on your mind – a constant reminder of the difficulties in the relationship.
This is not to say that I think boundaries in relationships are not needed. Of course I don’t think that! Agreements are important. Mutual understanding is very important. But the very concept of the veto is inherently false, as it says, “I get a say in what you do.” You don’t. You get to ask, but you don’t have the power to choose for someone else, so why pretend?
I think it’s important to keep things rooted in reality. In reality, if you’re edgy about someone’s new interest, you can ask for what you want and set your boundaries2 for what’s okay. It’s also fine to point out things that might concern you because you’re concerned about someone you love being hurt. That’s different from saying, “No, you can’t.” and is a lot more respectful of your partner’s boundaries.
1If you don’t feel like your partner knows you really well, you are a fucking idiot for even considering handing that person a veto. Sorry. I can’t sugarcoat that. It’s shooting yourself in the balls.
2Remember when you set your boundaries that this can only be done when you’re very clear on your locus of control. Don’t mix it up with what is genuinely not under your control!
This isn’t part of the article, but when I noticed the date it was going out, something in my own life hit me, so I have to say this. If you love someone, tell them. Love is a pretty simple and basic thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean “I want to have your babies” or “I want a lifetime commitment.” It can be a lot simpler than that. I’m talking about friends and family just as much as any romantic relationship you have. Love is love! But…
Don’t let the opportunity pass. You never know if you might lose it. When the chance is gone, it’s gone forever. I know this sounds awful fluffybunny, but love ain’t fluffy and it is important.