Ethical Nonmonogamy | Polyamory, Love & Relationships

I Choo Choo Choose You!

The topic of the “Veto” came up recently in conversation. While engaging in very healthy communication and negotiation with a new partner, a friend of mine was told that their partner’s wife had “limited veto power.”

Which made the collective group go *gulp*.

My friend communicated back (because yay communication!) for clarification on what “limited veto power” means.

But it got my mind spinning.

And while they (we) were awaiting a response, I posed a question:

What if we re-branded “veto” power to “right of ultimatum?”

I googled it to be sure, but here in the United States, a presidential veto could be overridden by a 2/3 majority vote in congress.

“Does that mean if a “primary” vetoes a prospective new metamour, it goes to vote by the rest of the metamours – and if there’s a 2/3 majority, the new meta gets to stay?”

I mean, I was joking. It got a laugh.

But what if we thought of this “veto” power more like a “right of ultimatum?”

If the established partner (’cause I really don’t like the hierarchical terms) doesn’t like a prospective new partner, they can tell the hinge “I invoke the right of ultimatum. You must now choose.”

I wonder how many would be so quick to invoke the right of ultimatum? For one – the concept of ultimatum is tinged with some negative connotation of manipulation. One might be more hesitant to brand themselves a “manipulator” vs invoke the far more powerful connotation of a “presidential” veto.

By stating, “I am stating my position, but the choice is ultimately yours,” one’s partner would retain agency to make a decision about their own relationship rather than be able to pass off the blame for the ending of a courtship on someone else.

Instead of “I can’t continue to date you because my husband/wife/partner has vetoed you,” it would be “I am choosing not to pursue this relationship for the sake of my existing one.”

The cause and effect are the same, but the responsibility for the decision is transferred to the appropriate party.

And of course, some people react to ultimatums differently. By giving the choice back to their partner, the established partner runs the risk they might choose to forego their existing relationship for someone new.

I think that’s where shit gets tricky. It’s a bit of a fallacy to believe that choice doesn’t exist every single day. Most days when we’re in a relationship, we just take them for granted. Perhaps it would be a trifle scary to actually remind each other that this choice exists in both directions.

“We can both choose to stay or walk away.”

I still think that feels more responsible than “I’m going to let someone else choose for me.”

(Oh, by the way – that friend? The “limited veto” turned out to be more of a set of boundaries – like “don’t date my family members or exes”. Not a “I don’t like the cut of their jib, I object to this union,” situation.)

P.S: As scary as it might be to remind your partner that every day you’re together is a choice, it’s fucking delightful when you remind yourself and let them know you don’t take them for granted. Send ’em a hug or a lovey text or something. Happy Friday!

This thought exercise is based on my personal preference that there be no unnegotiotated or nonconsensual power exchange between metamours. I get that’s not how everyone does polyamory. Do whatever works for you.

2 thoughts on “I Choo Choo Choose You!”

  1. “Veto” gets a bad rap, and unfairly so, in my opinion. Usually it’s *actually* a matter of one partner saying to the other, “We agreed on a specific set of boundaries. What you are doing/choosing/proposing does not fall within those boundaries.” In my experience, a discussion ensues, and decisions are made by each party, *respecting* the other party/ies. Sometimes boundaries are re-negotiated. Sometimes relationships end when a respectful agreement cannot be reached.

    I *do* have ultimate veto power in my marriage. I *can* say, “I don’t want you to be involved with that person.” I never have though, even in somewhat extreme circumstances, because there’s never been a need. We just talk about our boundaries and maintain our individual rights to autonomy. We both know the consequences of certain actions, and that is enough.

    People get their hackles up about veto. Really, it’s about negotiation and respect. At least from where I stand.

    My husband, who has just listened to my 9,000 word essay response, adds: “It depends on the relationship. If someone is constantly invoking veto power, something else is wrong. Respectfully discussing new partners starts with respect. You don’t give veto power to someone who is just going to see it as ‘power’- they’ll abuse it.”


    1. Totally agree with everything you said. As I mentioned, it’s just a rebranding. The cause and effect is the same – and it’s all semantics. But for the types of people who get off on the “power” of having a “veto,” it might make them think twice if what they say they are doing is invoking an ultimatum.

      It’s really all just words.


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