PolyLiving- Discussing Polyamory and the Poly Life

Brutal Realities => Ethical Scenarios => Topic started by: Administrator on July 09, 2013, 12:51:05 PM

Title: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on July 09, 2013, 12:51:05 PM
In the polyamorous community veto power is viewed by some with favor and others disdain.  What do you know about it? What are your thoughts?  Should veto power be used?  Should it only be used some of the time>  Should it never be used?  Please explain.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Bud on July 10, 2013, 06:41:55 AM
I believe veto power only has *power* to the extent that each partner will or will not abide by use of the veto; therefore, it would seem senseless to me to have veto power.  If one, or some, partners fully acknowledge the veto power while another, or others do not, it seems this would cause yet a whole new problem.  I see the risk of dividing a household by using veto power.  If someone feels strongly enough about an issue, a veto is not going to change how s/he feels.  Additionally, resentment may build if one feels s/he must abide by the veto when it goes against how s/he feels, thinks, believes, or values.

In a previous poly relationship, though it was agreed that I had final say, or essentially veto power, if there were any disagreement on an issue, I watched how well it did NOT work...then it would become of a test of wills.  For our relationship it created drama that was unecessary. 

I do understand why some might view this as a way to end a disagreement over an issue, or a way to divert what s/he might think is a disaterous situation.  Bottom line, we all have a right to an equal amount of say in any relationship and if things come to a stalemate, then there needs to be further open, honest communication and hopefully some sort of compromise on the part of each partner to resolve the issue(s) they are facing. 

In our case, hindsight was 20/20...we live and learn.

Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on July 10, 2013, 02:22:15 PM
Thank you Bud for you insight.  Are there any other thoughts on this subject from anyone else?
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Natja on July 15, 2013, 03:09:52 AM
I think it is a barrier to intimacy.  Veto allows someone to interfere with the independent relationship of another person, thereby denying them the ability to make their own choices and gives one partner power over the other. 

I think whenever a partner has power over the other there is an opportunity for abuse. But I think it is important to remember that with some martial dynamics one partner can exert power over the other mentally, physically or emotionally without even needing to use a veto and it is independent thought and non dependence which should be encouraged in Polyamory to dissuade people from behaving in these destructive and controlling ways.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on July 30, 2013, 08:41:05 PM
Thank you for your insight Natja.  It is deeply appreciated.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Deorccwen on July 31, 2013, 09:46:23 AM
I agree with the others that having or permitting veto power in a relationship is deeply problematic.  I see it as an uncomfortable 'in-between' state, where people want more autonomy in their own relationships, but are anxious about losing their partners to a new relationship.  It can lead to controlling behaviour, such as veto always being imposed when it seems that the partner is developing an emotional connection with another person, which is damaging to the new person, who may have become emotionally involved themselves by that stage, as well as putting a strain on the pre-existing relationship. 

I have heard the suggestion that veto power can often be a way that a couple can feel confident enough to make initial forays into poly, because it is a kind of security blanket, and that subsequently they may move away from a strict veto to fewer restrictions upon one another as they become more confident and able to trust their partner.  It has certainly worked that way in my case. 

I think the important thing, though, is for partners, whether a couple, a V, a triad or more, to be reliably good to and caring of one another, so that trust builds and it is not necessary to have or want veto power, because everyone involved knows absolutely that their partner/s would never deliberately do anything to hurt them.

It's also critical, if a couple or poly group has 'veto' power over one another's other partners, that they *only* get involved with people who actively want light and not very committed relationships for their own reasons, so as to minimise the possibility of hurting the new partner/s.  It would be extremely unreasonable to get involved with somebody who wants a serious relationship of any kind if a veto can be imposed by a metamour.  Similarly, if a veto is going to be imposed, it should be before the start of a relationship: it is deeply unreasonable to call an end to an existing relationship that is not your own. 
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on August 09, 2013, 06:33:52 PM

Your statement about only getting involved with people who only want light and very limited relationships is an interesting idea which Antony and I were recently discussing about a month ago as an idea for beginners to poly.  When I read your statement, it made me wonder again if this is actually a good idea.

What do others here think? Is this a good idea?

Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: beccablue on August 10, 2013, 08:36:24 PM
Human nature is what it is and especially a "beginner to poly" may not be able to stay detached enough to be unaffected by "veto" of themselves at some point. In fact, if you know a partner is liable to veto your choices (which has whole other issues associated with their feelings of trust towards you to begin with) then I think the best course is to not get involved. Nobody wants to start a relationship and then feel disposed of because another partner decided it was time for you to go away.

Unless the "veto" is for reasons of health and safety of the children, I just don't feel vetoes have a place in healthy poly. It is controlling and manipulative and puts your other partners in the firing line if they don't kiss your "primary" partners ass just so. It basically says they are a play thing and not a serious part of your life and that you can only play with them until your primary decides you no longer can. Plus, frankly, that makes vetoes become a manipulation tool for another partner to get what they want or threaten you with a veto.

Again, outside of the health and safety of children, security of the family as a whole (ie, employment, housing, etc., issues), or in the case of someone attempting clearly to dissolve an existing partnership, I see zero place in poly for vetoes. If you can't trust your partner and need to veto their choices of other partners, why the hell are you together.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on August 10, 2013, 10:50:55 PM
Thank you Becca.  So far, I am seeing that most poly's are against veto power.  The only ones that are really for it are the newbies.

Any other thoughts on this topic?
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Deorccwen on August 11, 2013, 07:39:59 AM
I agree with Becca. 

Perhaps it worked for us only because it was a relationship that we more or less fell into.  At the time we had never heard of poly.  It was simply that a friend of ours (who had been a very dear and close friend for 8 years at that point) actually wanted a friends-with-benefits relationship because she did not want a relationship that would make any demands that conflicted with her work.  She had also had a series of bad relationships which she needed to heal from, so didn't want the complication of an emotional romantic entanglement.  The veto was her suggestion, because she was anxious not to stress our mutual friendship.  It did work very well for all of us, for about 5 years, until she met someone with whom she was ready to have a romantic relationship.  We are all still friends, of course.

I do think it worked very well precisely *because* she really and truly wanted a less-involved relationship: it was certainly a very easy and comfortable introduction into poly for us all.  I'm sure I would have been fine even without the veto (especially since the whole thing was my idea in the first place) but I guess it did add a layer of security to what could have been rather threatening.  Then again, perhaps not: in fairness, I was never threatened by that relationship at all: we had been close friends for years and I trusted her implicitly to never deliberately do anything that would hurt me, any more than I would deliberately do anything that would hurt her.  (Occasional accidental hurt is to be expected in any relationship.)  I would also have been fine with the relationship developing into something more romantic if things had gone that way, but they didn't, and nor did any of us particularly hope or expect it to.  We were all very happy with the friendship; it was just about meeting other needs, in friendship and love.

The biggest problem that I see with beginning a relationship of a FWB or secondary type (where everybody involved *wants* that relationship structure, of course) is that you simply can't assume that the relationship will remain on that basis.  People may start out not deeply emotionally involved, and can believe that things will continue that way, but then find that they have become more serious about one another.  At this point, veto power is clearly unacceptable, but it is precisely at this point that the person with veto power may start to feel threatened and seek to impose it. 

If people are going to have veto power over their partner's (or partners') other relationships, then it is important that new partners get to meet and spend time with the veto holders as soon as even a hint of mutual attraction is recognised.  If a veto is going to be imposed, it should be before people get romantically involved.  Once that has happened, you really can't ethically impose a veto.  As ever, rules beget more rules, in an effort to be fair to everybody.

A woman on another poly board a few years ago was heartbroken because her partner broke up with her *after 2 years!* because his wife chose that moment to impose her veto.  He was unhappy about breaking up with her, but he did it anyway.  And the most hurtful thing for her was that it was not by his choice - not because anything was wrong between them - that he broke up with her, but because someone outside their relationship had final say in whether it lasted or not, regardless of how they felt about one another.  It can't have done his relationship with his wife much good either, unless he actually didn't care for his girlfriend as much as she thought he did. 

Addressing your point, Steady, that only newbies are 'for' veto power.  I think it's probably true to say that only the newbies who are already in existing relationships are in favour of it.  Except for people in my friend's position - people whose priority is not to harm an existing friendship, *and* who are not romantically involved anyway - I think it's likely that most single people who want to build poly relationships would dislike the idea of the stability of their relationship/s being at the whim of a metamour.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Administrator on August 11, 2013, 04:22:53 PM
I agree Deorccwen that only newbies who are in pre-existing relationships are for vetoes.  Heck, we didn't have a veto when I joined Antony and Jadez.  We didn't even know that a veto existed back then in 1999.  I know for a fact if we did have one and Jadez used it on me, I would have been devastated. 

What is everyone's thoughts on a partner using a veto power if another partner of their partner is being continuously dangerous to the children or the overall well-being of the family?
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Deorccwen on August 12, 2013, 07:11:41 AM
I would hope - no, *expect* - that our mutual partner would deal with the situation pro-actively, and that there would be no need to use veto power.  It may be necessary to draw the problem to the partner's attention, as love can be blind.  But after a period where the partner has had an opportunity to think about what has been said, to think back, and to make their own observations, then I would expect to see some action. 

If the partner doesn't... well, that suggests a rather more serious problem regarding their attitude towards their basic responsibility to the well-being of their children.  In which case, it might be more appropriate to rethink one's own relationship with that person than to impose a veto over any of their other relationships.  After all, if they are that irresponsible, then *any* partner they have now or in the future could present a danger to the children or to you yourself (in terms of security from cross-infection by STDs, for example).  How could you trust them to care for the children in your absence, if they are so irresponsible?  And closing your relationship - becoming monogamous - would not necessarily mean that you were any more secure, as a person who is not prepared to make themselves uncomfortable to protect their own children may be more likely to cheat, since they may follow their own inclinations in preference to their responsibilities.

This may sound rather extreme, but the fact is that, in the absence of disability, we are only responsible for children for a relatively short period of our lives.  If we can't put our children's interests first for even that brief portion of our lives, what does that say about our character?  I don't mean that we should deny ourselves all recreation or breaks, but simply maintaining a safe and peaceful environment for our children to grow up in is not setting the bar too high.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Natja on August 12, 2013, 10:27:36 AM
What is everyone's thoughts on a partner using a veto power if another partner of their partner is being continuously dangerous to the children or the overall well-being of the family?

I don't know about 'well being of the family' since I am unsure there is an objective measure of that...my mum did not have many boyfriends when I was growing up and I hated every...single...one! Not until I was 19 and independent was I happy(ish) with my mother's choice of partner. (I really like him now and we get on like a house on fire.) My point being could my vitriolic hatred of him be considered unwell?  I think so, I might have made a case for my mother disregarding our well being by patching up with a man we did not like because we did not want any changes to our lives....let's me honest, our little angels can actually be manipulative beasts when they want to be and we know our parents love us enough to make sacrifices for us.  We take any risks as a parent (of teens especially) at our peril and as a parent being near tortured right now by such action, I do not take that lightly.

And as the mother of a newborn too, I am suffering with that protective paranoia if anyone so much as looks at the baby sideways.  If anyone puts either of my kids in danger they will incur my continuing wrath forever and had I a partner who did not see that as a problem, than they would no longer be my partner.

I can't control anyone, I can only control me and I don't like co-dependence.
Title: Re: Veto Power
Post by: Deorccwen on August 14, 2013, 09:00:08 AM
I missed reading the 'well-being of the family' part and focussed only on the 'dangerous to the children' part.  I agree with Natja that 'well-being of the family' is very subjective, and so it would be much more difficult for everybody to agree on what threatened the 'well-being of the family'.  Certainly it is a phrase that is vague enough that it could be used by a controlling partner in order to control, rather than because there was any real problem. 

Again, I would think that the issue shouldn't be dealt with by imposing a veto, but in expressing one's concerns to partners clearly and then managing one's own response.  If I was deeply concerned about an issue and none of my partners thought it a problem, then I hope that I would try to see their point of view.  If, after thinking through their opinion, I still felt that something was deeply wrong and they did not, then I suppose I would need to think about whether I should still be in that relationship - at least, in that form - and whether my children should still be in that environment.  Just living separately might resolve the issue.  I can't see how veto power would help if the other people involved really couldn't see a problem with an issue that worried me that much, because it suggests very different basic ideals in the partners.  And, even if you could manage to enforce your will on that one occasion (and I don't think that enforcing one's will is ever a good way to approach a partner or build a relationship) then the relationship would naturally fall apart later over another issue, due to such divergent world-views in each partner.