Or, this one’s sure going to make me popular 😀
First, definitions. In this context a ‘veto’ agreement is when polyamorous people (often a couple who’ve decided to open their relationship) agree that if they are uncomfortable with their partner’s new relationship, they can tell their partner to dump the new partner, who gets no say in the matter.
Vetos are for assholes. Why? Because secondaries are people! It is not okay to break some innocent person’s heart because you feel insecure. Isn’t the entire point of polyamory loving more than one person? Hurting people so you don’t have to face your demons is the opposite of loving. It’s cruel, and it’s cowardly. If you aren’t ready to work through jealousy and insecurity without treating people like they’re disposable, you’re not ready to explore polyamory. And there’s nothing wrong with not being ready! But if you’re not, admit that you’re not and don’t hurt yourself and others by pretending you are ready.
Cruelty to secondaries alone is plenty of proof that vetos are for assholes, but wait, there’s more!
Using a veto is also cruel to your primary partner. You know, that person you supposedly love and trust? How are they going to feel about having to suddenly dump their other partner? Putting a partner through a breakup so you don’t have to work on your insecurities is basically saying that if someone has to be in pain you want it to be them, not you. Again, how exactly is that a loving thing to do?
And if that doesn’t suck enough, like Mistress Matisse says in her article Poly Power of Veto, actually using a veto is going to damage your partner’s trust in you. Here they were thinking you two were partners in this poly adventure, and now they discover that you’d rather force them to dump their other partner than work through the underlying issue. They’re going to ask themselves whether you’re really supportive of them having other partners or if you’re just grudgingly tolerating it. They’re going to wonder what’s going to happen the next time they get really excited about someone, and they may even start to wonder if they ended the right relationship.
So not only are vetos cruel to secondaries, they’re cruel to primaries too.
They’re also harmful to the relationship. If you don’t trust your partner to take it extremely seriously if you came to them with a concern about one of their other partners, you have a much bigger problem than whatever your partner’s other partner is doing that makes you so unhappy. If you trust your partner and respect their judgement, why on earth would you need a special rule allow you to unilaterally end their relationship with someone else? I mean, would you ever in a million years consider making a rule that your partner can’t invite people who are openly rude to you to your shared home? No, anyone who would do that would undoubtedly be a terrible partner for a multitude of reasons, so there’s really no point making a special rule for someone you should just dump.
If you need to be able to end your partner’s other relationships to feel secure, you’re not ready for poly. Ending one relationship is just a bandaid on a larger problem, as Matisse also said in her article. Outside of situations where your partner’s other partner really is the problem – if that other partner is trying to disrupt your partner’s relationship with you or is constantly having crises that affect you and your partner’s lives, for example – the underlying problem is either your own insecurity or a weakness in your relationship. How is a veto going to fix that?
That’s a concept it took me a while to wrap my head around, so a non-poly example might help. Here is a quote from a ridiculous blog post titled My Husband Doesn’t Need to See Your Boobs:
When your bare shoulders and stretchmark-less bellies and tanned legs pop up, I not only worry if my husband will linger over your picture. I worry how he will compare me to you.
And then the insecurity monster comes back to bite at our relationship again…me, begging for affirmation, and him tiring from saying the same thing over and over.
Asking your partner for a little extra reassurance is absolutely fine, but asking complete strangers to change their behaviour (by not posting revealing pictures of themselves, if you couldn’t make it through that post) so that you don’t have to face your own insecurities is completely unreasonable. It’s also a total waste of time. Even if all conventionally attractive women did stop posting revealing photos, her insecurities would just find another target. Maybe she’d start worrying that her husband wishes she was a better cook, maybe she would worry that she’s not pious enough or doesn’t work hard enough. If nothing else she would, without a shadow of a doubt, start worrying about getting wrinkles and her husband wishing for a partner who didn’t have crows feet or smile lines. Then what? Would she start asking young women with smooth faces to cover those up too?
Just like a lack of boobs on social media wouldn’t do anything to fix this woman’s insecurities, kicking another partner out of your partner’s life won’t fix whatever you feel insecure about. The same problems will come up the next time your partner finds another partner, and the next, and the next, until you finally deal with the underlying problem or (more likely) the relationship crumbles under the strain. Even if the problem is that you’re just not poly (not everyone is!), it’s not the other partner who’s the problem, it’s you and your partner needing incompatible things.
So, vetos are cruel to secondaries, they’re cruel to primaries, and they don’t solve underlying problems. Like I said in the beginning, vetos are for assholes.