Conditional Consent – aka “the Veto”

Over the years I have helped one friend after another deal with the aftermath of being devastated by the concept of consent, with a series of conditions, that some call “the Veto.”

Partner ‘A’ and partner ‘B’ decide to open up their relationship, and agree to the provision that either one can veto a potential third person. This all sounds equitable and fair at the time, but ignores the very real risk for that third person, and I have needed to help several friends deal with the aftermath of accepting this risk.

Here’s what happens: a third person ‘C’ comes into their lives, and they are lucky enough that both ‘A’ and ‘B’ are attracted to that person, and ‘C’ is also attracted to both ‘A’ and ‘B.’ The relationship deepens over time… maybe months go by… and in a tender moment, ‘B’ turns to ‘A’ and says, “I have fallen in love with ‘C.’”

‘A’ chooses that moment to exercise their veto. According to their agreement, the relationship with ‘C’ must end immediately. ‘A’ and ‘B’ now must deal with the aftermath of this choice, but they can comfort each other, meanwhile ‘C’ is left abandoned and alone.

To give your partner consent to see others and build relationships, but placing conditions on that consent, does not seem fair to me. Is it even consent, if there is an ongoing threat to arbitrarily withdraw that consent at any time?

It’s been my experience that we don’t choose who we fall in love with, it’s often something that happens when we aren’t looking. Love isn’t rational or logical, and it’s unfair to expect it to be either.

After seeing this happen so often, it is my opinion that once you have agreed that your relationship is open to something beyond the traditional binary couple, it’s either consent – meaning that each partner is free to enter into a relationship with a person they are attracted to, on their own terms – or, to my way of thinking, it’s not consent at all. I really don’t see that there is a middle ground here.

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