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The Journal Of The InnKeeper
Ranty Lessons by Joreth
Analogies, Metaphors, And Outrage 
29th-Dec-2011 01:54 am
Bad Computer!, anger
I'm going to rant. I mean really rant. If you hold the opposing viewpoint, I don't want to hear it because this is not a place for a reasoned discussion or rational exchange of ideas. This is me being angry and blowing off steam because it's not physically possible for me to slap sense into people, and I would get arrested if I tried, so I need to vent by pouring all my anger into my words and out of my head in order to get on with the rest of my day. I'm going to rant about veto power.

I've heard all the excuses, all the justifications, all the defenses of veto in poly relationships, so I don't need to hear them again because I guarantee that nothing you can come up with will be something I haven't heard already. And every time I hear another excuse, it doesn't make me more sympathetic or win me over to your side, it only makes me even angrier at the fucking audacity of some people. You don't have to read my rant any more than I have to listen to your excuses, but I am going to rant.  You can go bitch about how mean I am elsewhere and justify your behaviour to people who are as equally deluded as you.

First of all, a veto will be defined here as one person having the power to end a relationship that he is not in. That's it, final word on the subject, no discussion, no compromise - when a person says "I'm uncomfortable, I want you to break up with him", you do it. Period. Veto does not mean "I'm uncomfortable about your new relationship, so let's start the discussion about what to do about it." That is not a veto by any reasonable definition of the word and if that's how you use it, you're using it wrong. And anyway, that is not what I am ranting about here, so if that is how you use it, then I'm not fucking talking about you so don't fucking leave a comment about how you defend veto because your definition is the fucked up one I'm not talking about.

Second, let's assume that the person being vetoed is not harmful or abusive or otherwise dangerous to himself or others. He's just a guy you don't like fucking your wife (or whatever pronouns you want to use - I'll be switching around liberally, try to keep up), or maybe you don't get what she sees in him so if you don't like him, then neither should she.

Third, let's also assume that the veto is being used for a relationship that has already started. I am not talking about people who say "that girl is bad news and I don't want you getting involved with her". No, I am talking about when someone has the power to tell two other people currently in a relationship that they stop dating each other after the relationship has begun.

I am fucking pissed off at the arrogance and selfishness of people who defend vetos. Let me tell you what your veto is saying about you. When you veto your partner's relationships, you sound like this to everyone else around you:

"Honey, you having a sexual relationship with him makes me feel uncomfortable feelings. I don't like feeling uncomfortable feelings. But I don't want to do the difficult and arduous work on myself to reach a point where I do not feel uncomfortable even if you do have a sexual relationship with him. Instead, I am going to allow you both the opportunity to get to know each other, to develop an emotional connection to each other, and to explore each other physically, and then yank it all away from you to make me feel better. I do not believe that you can make appropriate choices in partners, so I will evaluate your relationships and decide which ones you can keep and which ones you must give up. I am going to break your heart, and his, in order to make myself feel better."

And fuck all ya'll who say a person can use veto and not have it have anything to do with jealousy or insecurity. Bullshit. Veto is about power and control. It's the desire to control the outcome of other people's lives and about the desire to control the uncontrollable in your own life. That kind of grasp for control is all about insecurity.

It is also one of the most amazingly selfish, self-centered, arrogant, myopic views of life I can imagine. It is the belief that your icky feelings automatically trump the feelings and rights of two other people, who are autonomous human beings who deserve the right to make their own choices in life. We have fucktards in power right now who think that. Remember Prop 8 anyone? Your relationship that I'm not in makes me feel icky, so I'm going to enact rules that prohibit you from having the kind of relationship that makes me feel icky. But it's really because I love you that I won't let you have a relationship that makes you happy.؟

I was actually told today that honoring a veto from your pre-existing partner about your new partner was an act of being "respectful and ethical" for following the rules. Bullshit. It is not respectful or ethical to follow bullshit unethical and disrespectful rules. Those rules are the height of disrespect to both the incoming new partner and the half of the couple he is about to be involved with. Rules that seek to control the behaviour of other people, to dismiss their wishes and rights as being less important than your own, rob people of dignity. That's how you treat children who don't know any better, or prisoners who have had their rights removed, or any class of person who is not deemed an equal person.

Can you imagine what your spouse would have said on your first date if you opened with:

"look, I like you and I'd like to see where this can go, but before we get started, you should know that my sister can decide if I have to break up with you at any point in our relationship. That's just the way it goes. She's been my sister for decades and I love her and I want to protect our family from outsiders. So if she doesn't like you, you're out the door. If she stops liking you sometime in the future, you're history. Them's the rules and if you want to date me, you have to agree to that. This way, when she has a particularly bad PMS day in about 6 months and decides I have to break up with you, even though neither you nor I want to break up, I can feel better about dumping you by reminding us that you signed up for this relationship knowing that my sister holds a Sword of Damocles over your head. If you try to protest, it will be all your fault since you knew the stakes and agreed to them coming in."

Your rock-solid relationship that is so solid and strong that it needs to be protected against all these threatening new relationships would probably never have gotten to the rock-solid status it is now if the two of you had started out under the conditions you are now imposing on others. Which means that you are denying both the person you profess to love and anyone else special enough for him to love the opportunity for their relationship to grow and flourish into a relationship that could be as rock-solid as you claim yours is. But that's really what this is about. People who hold veto power as I've defined it here don't typically want their lovers to have any other relationship as strong or as special as they think their own relationship is. Because, in this mindset, whether they acknowledge it or not, if it is as special, then they themselves can't be "special". In other words, you can't really love two people at the same time - someone has to come first and, goddamnit, that person should be ME!؟ Fuck that.

Veto power is a weapon with which to hold other people hostage by their own emotions. First, you tug at their initial attraction, using their NRE or limerance or attraction to you to cloud their better judgement. There's a reason why they say not to make any decisions involving contracts or suitcases in the first 6 months of a relationship. We can often agree to even the most outrageous demands at the beginning (or at the promise of a beginning) of a new relationship because our brains are wired to get us laid and start bonding. And, generally speaking, these demands don't usually start out so outrageous at first either. But you use this initial loss of sanity to get people to agree to, what amounts to, giving up the right to have a say in their own relationship.

Then, after they have fallen in love, you use their love to control their behaviour. "Look, you knew the arrangement, if you don't like it, you are always free to leave". This also gives you the ability to act like a smug, sanctimonious asshat by claiming that you're not really trying to control them - after all, you just said the newcomer is free to leave, so how can that be controlling their behaviour? Well, by the time she's in love, the thought of leaving is the scariest thing ever, so the human rights violations continue because they are not, in fact, free to leave - their love is chaining them to a person who does not think their feelings really matter and that certain people's feelings are more valuable and worthwhile than other people's.

And finally, when the wielder of the Veto Sword decides that his discomfort is more important than the emotional connection and the shared history and the commitments between two other people who are not him, he can cut loose the newcomer, leaving her adrift with her emotions. The newcomer is now stranded, alone, to deal with a breakup she did not want, with no power or control to steer her course because her voice and her choices and her wishes are held as irrelevant ... or at least as less worthy of consideration.

What these couples don't seem to realize is that, while they're moaning and wailing about how fragile their relationship is that it needs to be "protected", they sound like a king and queen behind a fortress wall, demanding that everyone around them bow to their wishes and protect the castle against the interloper standing at their gates with no armor, no army, and only a ceremonial dagger called NRE.

NRE is the biggest potential threat to a pre-existing relationship. But it's the only potential weapon an incoming person has against the citadel that is the pre-existing relationship. NRE can be managed (but only by the willingness and compassion of the people feeling the NRE, not the overbearing SO looking at it from the outside) and NRE will eventually fade.

But the original couple has history. They have shared memories. They have commitments. They have that comfort that only comes from deep and lasting intimacy, in-jokes, past fights, past make-ups, the intermingling of lives, and time. There is nothing that NRE can do to put a dent in all that armor without someone from the inside sabotaging the defenses. And if that's the problem, vetoing the new guy won't solve it, because the saboteur is still within the castle walls.

All that history, the shared memories, the commitments, the in-jokes, all of that can be used as much more formidable weapons than NRE. The incoming person starts out with a massive disadvantage. Adding veto to that is like adding a final-strike nuke on top of a first world army behind those impenetrable walls, then cracking open the portcullis and saying to the bushman standing outside "you can come in, but only as far as the gatehouse. You're carrying a dagger, so we need to keep an eye on you before you come any closer. If you do anything the king doesn't like, he's going to push the red button. Walking through these gates relieves us of liability should the King decide to push the button, because you knew the deal when you agreed to enter."

My anger here is not only directed at those halves of couples that wield veto. My anger is equally directed at the other halves, the ones who choose to enter into relationships with other human beings, but who defend the "right" of their SO to dismiss those other human beings as less worthy of consideration and as less important in making decisions in their own relationships than someone who is not even a part of those relationships.

I see those halves - the ones who get into relationships but who gleefully tell everyone around them that the newcomer is a threat to the existing partner & that their pre-existing relationship is so weak and flawed that it needs to be protected - I see those people as users. I see those people as engaging in relationships for their own selfish interests - and I mean "selfish", as in "of or pertaining to oneself to the detriment of others". They are not interested in what they bring to the new relationship, they are not interested in the happiness and emotional well-being of others, they are not interested in treating people with compassion and dignity. They are interested only in what they get out of that new relationship, as long as it doesn't impact their lives in any meaningful way.  

My definition of "love" includes "his happiness is integral to my own".  From where I sit, what these people are doing to newcomers is not loving, because the newcomer's happiness is not integral to their own.  Only their own comfort is.

I think it's pretty obvious how the ones wielding the veto are behaving selfishly, and disregarding and dismissing other human beings. As I said in a recent post, though, if you don't get it, then I, with all my words and outrage, lack the ability to explain empathy to someone who has none. But I don't think I've said much about, or said explicitly, how I think the person in the middle is as complicit in the lack of empathy and the apalling treatment of another human being. Claiming to be "respectful and ethical" by following the rules...


Even soldiers, who are trained to follow orders and to give up their lives for the cause, philosophically have the duty and obligation to refuse to follow illegal or unethical orders, even if they don't seem to know how to use that duty. The rule, the agreement to veto, is unethical and disrespectful at its heart. Following it does not make you "ethical and respectful" for adhering to an agreement you shouldn't have made in the first place. You don't get brownie points for being obedient when the order was to maim another human being - one you professed to care for and who has not done anything wrong other than having the misfortune to have fallen in love with someone who doesn't value them. Following it makes you just as selfish and lacking in empathy and compassion as the asshole who got you to agree to it. Since veto power usually works as a two-way street, in which each half of the couple has the power to veto the other, that isn't surprising to me at all.
29th-Dec-2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
And now that I have read more than just a few tweets, I agree with you completely. In fact, I've refused veto power in both directions myself. There will ALWAYS be discussion with all involved, no exceptions to that. Feelings are just feelings, what one does with them is what counts. I trust my partners, they trust me, we make mistakes, we figure out how to do the best by everybody.

You wrote:
"But that's really what this is about. People who hold veto power as I've defined it here don't typically want their lovers to have any other relationship as strong or as special as they think their own relationship is."

I too see that as the heart of my problem with veto as you've defined it. There are some other rules that are just as cockeyed, such as a new lover must love both of us equally. I'm sorry, but this is not your fairy tale land, and that is impossible. New person could fake it, or rules could give equal time or whatever, but in reality land, where I live, "equal" and "love" don't belong in the same statement if one wants honesty.
30th-Dec-2011 03:06 am (UTC)
As I keep saying, Twitter is not the place for discussion - it's the place for soundbites to people who already agree with you and sharing links. There is far too much nuance and context that is missing from complex topics for anyone to really get the full picture unless it's just a rehash of a conversation you've already had with that person.

Even here it took me 3 paragraphs to define what I meant by "veto" before I even got to what was pissing me off about it. I'm quite certain that a small but significant percentage of the people who get offended at my stance on veto, get offended because they use a different definition, and on Twitter, they can't tell what I'm actually ranting about.

Of course, the majority are just people living with cognitive dissonance about their idea of themselves as "good people" while simultaneously treating others as disposable, so their offense is their brains justifying their actions.

You're right, there are other rules that are just as cockeyed, including and especially that "must love us both equally" bullshit. Pretty much "rules" in general are all bullshit ("rules" being "edicts", as opposed to "agreements" or "personal boundaries") As tacit keeps telling people, if the person you're dating is a compassionate and decent person, a rule making them behave is unnecessary. If they aren't a compassionate and decent person, a rule won't be able to make them behave. But that's a whole 'nother rant!
29th-Dec-2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
I agree completely, and, probably inappropriately, some parts of this rant really made me laugh even as I agreed with you.
31st-Dec-2011 08:13 am (UTC)
It's frightening how many poly people do not agree with me, completely or in part. I am glad the humor diffused some of the anger, though.
29th-Dec-2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, this is so true. And I speak as someone who absolutely in no uncertain terms told a partner they either had to stop seeing someone or I was gone once, not because I was jealous but because she kept actively (even to my face on occasion) trying to undermine our already existing relationship.
30th-Dec-2011 02:51 am (UTC)
I, too, have flat out told a partner "if you don't stop seeing her, I am out of here". I also believe it was not about jealousy but because she actively tried to undermine our pre-existing relationship. But I also understand just how good our brains are at justifying our actions to ourselves and I also understand that my problem was ultimately not with her, but with him - a guy who thought it was acceptable to date a woman who actively undermined her lover's pre-existing relationships. Getting him to dump her would not have solved the problem because the problem was between me and him.

I asked him to dump her because I called his bluff - he said they were "just having fun" and "she doesn't mean anything" and he could leave at any time and would if she proved too problematic. So I told him to do it to show him what I was seeing. He didn't break up with her. I left him. I realized that, unless he understood what the problem was and decided on his own to break up with her, I would only go through it again with the next girl, and the next.

Years later, he is still with her. Neither of them have any other partners, and have not since I left. Incidentally, his third girlfriend at the time left him for the same reason about 3 months before I did.
29th-Dec-2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
This is the best and most thorough break down of what a veto *really* is that I've yet to read.

I will be saving this and referring back to it frequently every time that god damned argument arises (which is all too often).
30th-Dec-2011 02:56 am (UTC)
That fucking argument just pisses me right the fuck off. As I said in the intro, I seem to get angrier every single time I hear it. In many topics, I have been swayed to the opposing side when the opposing side had rationality and facts and evidence on their side. I have been talked out of religion and out of other woo, and even switched politics.

But I've heard all the arguments for veto power, and not only are they not convincing me, I grow less tolerant of those who hold that position the more I hear their arguments for it. Defending veto will only make me feel disgusted and contemptuous towards the defender now, and furious with myself at not being able to make them see just how big of an asshole they are being.
4th-Jan-2012 02:52 am (UTC)
Wow, people actually do that? I mean, not just having the veto in theory, but using it--according to the definition you specified--and having it be followed? How does their relationship not get tainted with resentment after that?
4th-Jan-2012 07:15 am (UTC)
Yes they do. Two of my current partners were once in relationships that used a veto - one of whom remained married to his vetoing spouse for 18 years (I was not dating either at the time or I would have gotten vetoed too, but I was friends with them and witnessed the breakups). The only relationships I've personally seen that go through a veto and don't get tainted with resentment are those who stop using veto because they realize what a douchey thing it is to do.

The ones I see online that seem to avoid the resentment are the types I mentioned here, where the partner in the middle is using the new partner for selfish reasons, so there's less of a problem dumping the new partner since the new partner doesn't actually mean all that much to the partner in the middle anyway and they have to go along with it in order to keep that same power over their spouse when it's the spouse's turn to date.

My partner who was married for years and had his wife veto all his girlfriends ultimately got divorced because he finally could not dump another girlfriend and his wife had broken his heart too many times to salvage the marriage. The veto power was really just a symptom that she wasn't poly and never would be - that they wanted different things out of their relationship. He wanted to love whom he loved and she wanted to control her husband's behaviour to protect her position as primary. They are both much happier now that they have partners who want the same things out of their relationships.

This is frighteningly more common that many people realize, which is why I get into so many fights online about it. I am so angry at this kind of behaviour, that people who don't realize it plays out this way think I'm being unreasonable and unjustifiably angry and try to defend the use of the word "veto" when they don't actually mean "veto" - they mean "we have a conversation and come to a mutual agreement with everyone involved".

Of course, the others I get into flamewars with are exactly those people I'm ranting about, who are trying to justify being assholes to someone who will call them an asshole to their face.
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