PQ 12.2 — Who do I think should have the final say in whether a relationship ends? Why?

a caution yellow sign that reads "dead end no turnaround" with arrows pointing to both the left and right
Image by Alan Levine / CC BY

PQ 12.2 – Who do I think should have the final say in whether a relationship ends? Why?

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“I just want to say I’m sorry,” he says.

It stops me in my tracks. What? What’s he talking about? “Sorry about what?” I ask.

“I didn’t take your advice, and it backfired,” he says.

“Oh no, you didn’t…”

“I did,” he says. “I vetoed.”

We’d been talking a bit earlier, about the difficulties he’s experienced adjusting to being on the other side of things. He’s dated multiple partners for years, but this was the first time his anchor partner had pursued someone else, and he’s been scared shitless.

“But it seemed like you were making so much progress,” I say, sighing.

“I was,” he says. “It was a weak moment. I told her she had to call it off. That watching her date him is tearing me apart. I thought it would make me feel better.”

“But it didn’t?”

“No,” he says. “And worse than that, it didn’t work. She’s pissed at me. If anything, the veto made her want to be with him more.”

“So they’re still dating?” I ask.

“Well, not exactly,” he says. “But she says that she wants to stay friends with him and that I can’t tell her who she can and can’t be friends with. It sounds so bad when she says it that way… but how am I supposed to think they’re ‘just friends’ when they were just a helluva lot more? How do I know this new friendship isn’t just a front for an illicit affair?”

“You don’t,” I say. “You’re back to having to trust her.”

“Which is what I should have done in the first place,” he says.

You can’t escape trust as a challenge, whether your relationship is monogamous, polyamorous, or somewhere in between.

I tell him I’m sorry, too. “I’ve never seen vetoes work out well. I’m not saying that they can’t, but they have a pretty poor track record from all the people I’ve known personally. It’s an important lesson, but I’m sorry you learned it the hard way.”

The Final Say in Whether a Relationship Ends Comes From the People in It

On a certain level, it doesn’t matter who should have the final say in whether a relationship ends. Barring major life events (death, grave disability, etc), the final decision always comes down to the people in it whether it ends or not.

Much like a strict parent can forbid their child from seeing someone and many still find a way to carry on a relationship, issuing a relationship veto†  is no guarantee that the other relationship will end.

And even if the veto is observed, and the other relationship ends, there’s even less of a guarantee that your partner won’t resent you for intervening. If the resentment is great enough, issuing that veto might make your relationship less secure in the long term than the other relationship ever would have.

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†a unilateral demand that your partner end their relationship with their other partner

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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