by Michael Love
Whether you’re someone coming into Ethical Non-monogamy as an established couple, or someone who is just starting out in a new relationship in non-monogamy, we are often very protective of our relationship. Many people create rules to help protect their core or primary relationship. What we often don’t realize is that those rules sometimes do more harm than good.
One such rule is what we call VETO POWER. (Cringe) Essentially what Veto Power means is that we are giving our primary partner control to arbitrarily play the veto card, anytime we want to engage someone whom for whatever reason that partner doesn’t like.
There can be good and valid reasons for having it and while I’m not a huge fan of Veto power, I can see situations where it could be a good thing if used responsibly. For example… I’m a huge love bug… I love everyone, and sometimes I get so caught up in NRE and giddiness, that I sometimes don’t see how my “new and shiny” might be being disrespectful toward my existing partners. Sometimes that disrespect crosses a line, and if I’m too caught up in my purple velvety cloud of NRE, I might not notice it. A Veto is a way of saying… “Stop everything… we need to re-group!” That said, I’m a much bigger fan of simply saying “Hey, I think we need to stop and regroup. I need you to pull your head out of the clouds and hear me for a minute.”
In one of the many groups I’m in, a woman wrote in looking for advice on how to handle a situation. I think she was looking for validation and quickly realized her perception was a little off and the people of the group (miraculously respectfully) gave her a slightly different perspective. I’ll give you the backstory.
This woman, we will call her Jane, and her husband Dick (because all husbands are dicks, right?) are in an open relationship. Her husband had been talking to someone online (we will call her Jill). Dick and Jill decided to make plans to spend an evening together. Jane gave Dick a “Hall Pass” for the evening with Jill.
Somehow, Jill got her wires crossed and sent Dick a few hot saucy messages, but they somehow ended up going to Jane’s number. Jane got to read about all of the things that Jill had fantasized about doing, sexy talk, and even some pictures… before she was able to communicate to Jill that she’d sent them to the wrong number.
Jane was upset by this, and was struggling to handle it, and so she employed her Veto power, forcing Dick to cancel his date with Jill because Jane had felt like she had been disrespected, and didn’t feel like she should be expected to sit through the date night at home with a play-by-play of what would be happening burned in her brain.
This on the surface might seem like a plausible reason to play a veto card, right? Actually… no… and I will explain why.
By Jane employing veto power, she has essentially sent both Dick and Jill a message that implies that their relationship is and shall remain “disposable.” Veto makes our non-primary, non-domicile partners feel like they are second class and the personal investment that they make into the relationship is somehow less significant. While this is an unstated standard in many relationships that are more casual in nature, having that second rate status shoved in your face is hurtful, and harmful to Jill’s relationship with Dick, but more importantly it is harmful to Jill’s relationship with Jane.
One could make the argument that Jill was disrespectful to Jane by sending her all of those messages, and so deserved whatever consequences she had coming… but the difference is, Jill’s actions were a mistake, unintentional. Does she really deserve to have the rug pulled out from under her?
More importantly–and this goes out to all of the Janes reading this column– Jane had the opportunity to be the bigger person. She missed the opportunity to engage in behavior that was supportive and empowering of Dick’s relationship with Jill, and at the same time make Jill feel like she was welcome in her capacity in their “tribe.” If it is important for Jane to be the “queen” of her tribe, she missed an opportunity to be the queen that people love and adore, in favor of being the bitch queen that people fear and dislike.
In my humble opinion, the best way for Jane to have handled the situation when she got the messages was to stop, and process her feelings before acting (this is absolutely THE most important step in the process), realize that Jill’s actions were unintentional, and then respond accordingly. “Hey Jill… you have mistakenly sent these messages to me (Jane). I would appreciate if you would direct these messages directly to Dick at 555-555-1212.”
Then, Jane should have messaged Dick and said in a teasing manner… “Hey… I just got some interesting messages from Jill by mistake. It looks like you’re in for a heck of a night!” and then taken a deep breath, and found something to do to keep her busy for the night. (Distraction is a great way to keep the demons at bay.) If Jane felt the need she could address it calmly with Dick and Jill later, after the date… and let them know how much it bothered her to get these messages… and that she would really rather not be involved in their message exchanges in the future.
By handling it in a calm, responsible, and respectful manner, she would have supported and empowered her husband, and his relationship with Jill. She would have demonstrated her dedication to their open Ethically Non-monogamous relationship, and she would have had an opportunity to grow herself, and learn to process her feelings of jealousy and insecurity, and to manage her feelings without having to limit her husband, and without making Jill feel like a stranger in her relationship. It would have taken something that could have ended up ending a relationship tragically and hurtfully, and made it a story they would joke about for years to come.
If this was your scenario, how would you rather it have ended? It is your responsibility to be the partner you want your partner to be. Always be impeccable with your word and your actions toward your partners, and their partners. You play your part in building the healthy future of your tribe/polycule/community (whatever you call it).
Follow up: Fortunately Jane was able to hear the advice that several people in the discussion forum gave her, she rescinded her veto, and her husband was able to have his date a couple of days later, and all ends well, if not a bit of smudge on the face of what the situation could have been.