PQ 12.3 — What do I believe will happen if I ask a partner to end another relationship, and he or she says no? Why will that thing happen?

a black fountain pen splattering red ink all over a white sheet of paper
Image by Simeon Berg / CC BY

PQ 12.3 — What do I believe will happen if I ask a partner to end another relationship, and he or she says no? Why will that thing happen?


Veto power† is a funny thing.

Ostensibly, it’s adopted to give a sense of security to both partners. “If anything happens that scares us or threatens our underlying relationship, we can hit the brakes at any time.”

It’s quite a comforting thought for many couples opening up their relationship, unsure of how any of this ethical non-monogamy business will play out.

Except in my experience, veto power rarely does what it’s supposed to.

If Your Partner Would Honor Your Veto, You Probably Don’t Need to Issue One

Collaboration and discussion are beautiful things, a mainstay of healthy relationships. One-sided demands (other than as part of a consensual kink dynamic) are a bad sign.

In a healthy relationship, if you have practical concerns about a metamour‘s behavior, you can raise those with your shared partner. And even beneath the NRE googly eyes of lurve, the shared partner will hear those concerns out and try to make things better (whether that’s through more time, more reassurance, or some other method). If the trouble isn’t metamour behavior but personal insecurity, that, too, can be worked on.

If Your Partner Wouldn’t Listen to Anything Less Than a Veto, Your Partner Is Unlikely to Honor One

But perhaps even more compellingly: If a situation has escalated to the point where someone feels they need to be unilateral and issue a veto, then many times the veto is completely disregarded.

As I said in the last question in this series:

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.

If your partner wouldn’t listen to anything less than a veto, your partner is unlikely to honor one.

When it comes to veto power, those who need it don’t really have it.


†the unilateral ability to end that your partner’s relationship with their other partner


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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