how our polyamorous clients build thriving relationships

Vetoes in Polyamory

Veto power is a common agreement in polyamory. And most poly people are split into two moral camps: Vetoes are either a great way to protect your family or pure evil. 

But the real question is, do vetoes WORK? And the answer is an emphatic no. 

In this episode, we discuss how veto power undermines the very security you’re trying to create, and what you should do instead.


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Josh F 0:00
All right, everybody. So today we're gonna be talking about vetoes and polyamorous relationships. Do they work? Are they amazing? Are they the devil? We're gonna cover all of it today. So go ahead and stay tuned.

Cassie 0:12
Here at Touch of Flavor, we teach non-monogamous folks how to overcome their obstacles and build thriving relationships.

Josh F 0:37
This podcast is about answering one questio: How do you create loving, passionate, secure relationships outside the box? Even if nothing has ever worked before? If you want to know the answer, you're in the right place.

Cassie 0:50
All of this information is 100% free. So please subscribe to and review our podcasts.

Josh F 1:00
Alright, everybody. So we've been seeing a lot of discussion going on about vetoes. And we wanted to talk about it. First and foremost, Cassie, for anybody who doesn't know, you just want to spell out "What is a veto?"

Cassie 1:12
Yeah, a veto is the right to end your partner's other relationship or relationships. So basically, if I'm, you know, say with you, then I have the ability to end your other relationship for whatever reason.

Josh F 1:30
And so people are-- vetoes are one of those things that people are like really opinionated about. And you've been seeing a lot of questions like what-- I mean, other than, "Are they the devil? Are they amazing?" What other things have we been seeing?

Cassie 1:43
Like, "When is it justified for me to invoke a veto? When is it a good idea? What do I do in situations where I feel like I need a veto? When people are telling me it's not a good thing, what can I do when I'm in these situations?" And also, "Does this thing qualify as a veto? Or that thing? Is this a blurry line?" Like where does that line get crossed?

Josh F 2:08
So really, at the end of the day, folks, a veto-- just going back to what you said definition wise-- a veto is an agreement. And it's usually written-- well, usually stated, although I'll say sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's kind of unsaid that you can end one of your partner's other relationships. And I think we need to start with why people form vetoes in their relationship. And I guess we can start with kind of the symptoms and then talk about what it really is, though.

Josh F 2:42

Cassie 2:43
When you mean symptoms, you're talking about, like, the reasons that people do it. The reasons they say they do it. Okay. So there's a couple. So the first is, you know, I want to make sure that our relationship stays safe. So by doing this, by having a veto, I can ensure that we can keep our relationship safe. If there's a problem, I can stop it, right? Another thing might be that I'm concerned about the people that you're dating. Them being bad people or harming you or harming me. And this ensures that I can stop that.

Josh F 3:23
I will say that's usually where-- so just taking a step back with with agreements. Usually the unstated agreements, we see more with people who are new, who maybe just assume like that's the way it is. But agreements around this because of a concern around, "Well, you tend to pick bad partners." That's something we see a lot in people who have been doing this a bit, and maybe there has been some bad partner selection. So you said basically to stop my partner from dating people that I don't like, or who I don't get along with, or who I think are gonna be bad people or hurt our family.

Cassie 3:56
Or even hurt them.

Josh F 3:57
Yeah, hurt them. Yeah. And also, it could be, you know, this way I can stop this other relationship from growing too much, or, you know, if this person tries to come between us, I can stop them from coming between us. And I think it's funny, cuz you and I were talking about the best way to go through this. And I think kind of the easiest thing to talk about here is to go into coaching lingo for a second. And to talk about, like human needs, and vehicles. So we all have certain basic human needs. And there's different schools on this of what the needs are, and I'm not going to go through them all. But I'll just suffice it to say that the you know, in the system that we're taught, one of the basic human needs is certainty, which you might also call security. It's that and in our relationships, that certainty that our relationship is going to be there. Our partner is not going to leave. We're not going to be replaced. Somebody isn't gonna come between us. We aren't gonna be damaged.

Josh F 4:57
We have this need for certainty in our relationship with our partner, and what that looks like. That the future is going to be there, that our family is going to be safe. And that's a need that we all have. And it's a perfectly valid need. That's actually the whole trick with human needs is that they're all always valid. And we all have them to certain degrees. So that's a need. And then we use different vehicles to try and get those needs met. And a vehicle is just any way, any strategy, that we use to try and get a need met. So it might be helpful to take it actually out of this example, for a moment, to specify this or it's up to you.

Cassie 5:45
I think it's fine.

Josh F 5:46
Okay. So just as an example, we all also have a need for connection, and you know, a vehicle to do that might be time with our family, or time with our kids, or trying to get people to laugh and to like us, or all kinds of things. And, again, you have different vehicles for things and vehicles are either positive, negative, or neutral. I don't guess we need to go into all that. Right. But basically, they're either helpful or they're destructive, or they do nothing at all.

Cassie 6:16
I would say yeah. I think there's also-- it's kind of like a bell curve, because there's some that are really helpful. And some that are kind of helpful, pretty neutral-ish. And then there's things that are not great, and then bad.

Josh F 6:32
So really, at the end of the day, a veto is a vehicle to try and get this need for certainty met. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to get that certainty. The problem with a veto is it isn't a good vehicle. And it isn't a good vehicle, not because it's morally wrong, like we get this question a lot of, "Is it morally wrong for a veto?" And people will argue both of those sides intensely. And I could argue either side. I could argue that if you're making an agreement, and your partner is making an agreement, and anybody who's coming into it knows what's agreed. We're all adults, that's fine. I could argue it isn't morally right for you to have control over my relationship with somebody else.

Josh F 7:08
It also doesn't really matter. Because at the end of the day, right, wrong, good, bad, or indifferent. Vetoes are just absolutely awful vehicles to try and get that need for security met, because they wind up undermining and imploding that very certainty that you're trying to build. They just don't work. It really is like the mutually assured destruction option of polyamorous relationships. And do you want to talk about why?

Cassie 7:36
Yeah. Basically, at the end of the day, a veto really ends up creating sort of one of three scenarios. Is that a good way of going about kind of explaining it?

Josh F 7:48
Yeah, let's kind of play it out. I think that's the easiest thing to do is just play out-- to show why vetoes don't work, is to actually play out what happens when you invoke a veto.

Cassie 7:58
Okay. So you invoke a veto.

Josh F 8:01
Alright, so Cassie has a partner that I don't like, and I feel like they're coming between us and Cassie is spending too much time with them or whatever. And I go to Cassie, and I say, "Okay, listen, I'm invoking that veto." So I think what people think is going to happen is cool, Cassie is going to be like, "Alright, sure, I made an agreement that I would end this relationship."

Cassie 8:18
Everything is fine.

Josh F 8:20
"Everything is going to be fine." But let's talk about what actually happens. And let's kind of set a background, I think, let's say you have this person. You're in love with them. You've been with them for a year. Right? You really care about them deeply. And you feel like this is part of who you are. And I invoke a veto. Let's talk about what actually happens. And where do you want to start with that?

Josh F 8:40

Cassie 8:41
Let's just start with: what if it doesn't go the way you think it's going to? So you invoke a veto. You say this person's gotta go? And I say, No, go stick it. Right. I'm not going to do that. Like, I love this person. I've been with this person for a long time. Now what?

Josh F 9:00
Well, and here's what I want to say here. Because, look, listen. Again, this goes back to that whole good, bad thing. Sure. Should, in an ideal world, would Cassie keep an agreement that we made, and it not be a problem? Of course, but we're also talking about humans. And, you know, Cassie may have had every intention of keeping that agreement when she made it. But a year later, when this person is a part of her life, and she loves them and cares about them, and they've been working towards a future or whatever, she might just not be willing to do that anymore. And now you're really kind of screwed, because you go to your partner, and they say no, what do you do?

Josh F 9:40

Cassie 9:40
You threaten the relationship. Typically. Typically, it becomes an ultimatum. It's, "well, it's me or this other person." Right? And so sometimes, and this is the thing that we talk to a lot of people about, and they're just completely blindsided. They're like, "Oh, my gosh, I did this thing. I went to my partner. I invoked the veto. And they stayed with the other person."

Josh F 10:03
"I said them or me, and they said them."

Cassie 10:05
Yeah. "And now what? Now I'm stuck in this spot." And the truth is, it can be a couple of things. First of all, especially if your relationship is on rocky ground, which a lot of people who are invoking a veto, it's because there has been that loss of certainty and security, right. So there's a reason why there isn't certainty and security in the relationship. And there's been problems. Now you're saying, "Pick this relationship or mine." And you know, your relationship might be the less appealing one.

Cassie 10:37
And then on the other factor, there's folks who when you're in that position, and you're being made to choose between people you care about and this is-- really, at the end of the day, what this really comes down to, is, typically, this isn't ,"Oh, I'm invoking a veto of somebody that you've dated for a day." That usually isn't where you see that big of a blow up.

Josh F 10:58
Because you wouldn't have to invoke a veto, right? If it was somebody that this person wasn't involved with at all, and you had any kind of a reasonably healthy relationship, you could just be like, "Hey, this relationship's really killing me." And your partner be like, "Okay, I don't care that much about it." You only need a veto, when your partner really cares.

Cassie 11:18
When your partner cares enough to not get rid of a relationship, right? So what you're doing is you're basically saying, "Okay, I know you care about this relationship, but I'm asking you to choose me over this other person, this other relationship."

Josh F 11:33
Well, as you said, you may have the less appealing relationship. The other thing is, there's a certain percentage of people-- I don't even think it's a small one-- where if you're making them choose between people they love they're gonna give the boot to the person who's making them choose.

Cassie 11:48
Especially if they feel like it's unjustified.

Josh F 11:51
Which they will.

Cassie 11:51
Which most likely, if they're not dealing with that relationship on their own, and you're having to invoke a veto, they probably don't think that there's a problem.

Josh F 12:02
This is another really, really important point. I'm sorry, did you have something else? This is this is another really important point. Which is, this is the other problem with invoking a veto. You have to understand that if you're invoking a veto, your partner is pretty much always just going to think that you're being an asshole. Because again, in a situation where your partner was on the same page, and maybe this person was toxic, or this was damaging your relationship, or you were being reasonable here, you wouldn't need a veto. You're only having to invoke a veto, if your partner is not on the same page with you. So not only are you saying, "Hey, it's this person or me." You're saying, "It's this person, or me and I'm being an asshole." Really, with this actually gets really important, because let's say they do choose you. Let's play that one out. It's not just like, "Okay, I choose you. Yeah, that's totally fine. Bye person I love and care about. I'm cool."

Cassie 12:58
No, it typically is, "I love you. I care about you. I want to keep our family together. And because of that... Because of that, I'm gonna give this other relationship up that I really don't want to." And there's a big difference there. It's, "I love you. I care about you. I think that you're wrong. And I'm unhappy about making this decision. But I'm going to do it despite all of those things."

Josh F 13:23
And listen, and I know if you're sitting there right now, you're listening, and you may be like, "Alright, that's a victory, right?" Because then that veto worked. I still got--" but you're not taking into account the poison that that brings into your own relationship. Because when your partner is in a place of being like, "You forced me not to be with this person that I love and care about, and you ruined the future that I had, and you're keeping me from being myself." Folks, this is what resentment is. Resentment is, "I can't have the things that I want and need, because I'm with you." And that is poison in a relationship. And in a veto situation, it's aggravated, because again, if you had to invoke a veto, your partner also thinks you probably weren't justified to do it.

Josh F 14:14
So it's not only, "I'm resentful. I lost this person I love and care about because of you." It's, "I lost this person that love and care about because you're an asshole or you can't handle yourself." Right or whatever the case may be. "Because of this thing that's wrong with you." And a lot of times, folks, that just turns into a much longer ultimatum. I mean, really, like you might win the battle there. But the war over time as your partner is upset, and hurt and resentful, and that builds that creates distance. That creates arguments. It creates unhappiness. That resentment will poison a relationship and it's just a matter of how long it takes.

Cassie 14:53
Yeah, and seeing your partner resentful over that and unhappy over that. Also for the other partner that ends up-- that certainty, that security, and that desire to be loved gets lessened. Because you're seeing your partner be angry with you and upset with you and longing for this other relationship and then that's in your face.

Josh F 15:19
So anything else you would say about how this plays out? In reality?

Cassie 15:22
One more. There's one more scenario of how this plays out.

Josh F 15:26
Oh, I'm curious.

Cassie 15:26
Oh, yes. So, go ahead veto.

Josh F 15:31
Alright, Cassie. You can't see Steve. Steve's a dick. And I'm vetoing him.

Cassie 15:35
"Oh, okay." "Hey, Steve, we got to keep things on the downlow from now on." Because that happens quite often. Because here's the thing. I'm put in a spot where you're making a dilemma. Typically it'ss longer of a conversation. "I'm not okay with this. You're telling me that t's going to have to go that way." We get into an argument. And I say, "Fine, fine. You know what, I'm gonna break it off with Steve." Right. And what really ends up happening is, I don't break it off with Steve. And that ends up being this now broken trust and all these other things, because I didn't want to be forced to break it off with Steve. I was too scared to tell you that I wasn't going to because I didn't want to ruin our relationship. Right? So then it ends up in a situation where I'm cheating and lying. And with that, we all know where that goes eventually. So that's the third scenario that we see very often when there comes this place of there was a veto of a relationship for a long time. And that person being too scared to fight back on the veto, but also having this relationship that they care about. And I'm not justifying, and I don't ever believe in cheating. And I don't believe in lying to your partner. But it's really hard-- and this is the thing that I want to stress-- is that when you create a veto situation like this, it is very hard for everybody involved.

Josh F 17:02
Well, I think there's one more thing I want to throw in here about how a veto undermines that security that you're trying to create. Because when there's a veto in place, it serves as a crutch to prevent you from solving the things that would give you real security. Because here's the thing, at the end of the day. If your relationship was in ideal shape, you wouldn't need a veto. And we'll talk more about that in a minute. But I guess the point that I'm saying is, it prevents you from developing those traits that give you real security. And just an easy example of that is if I have a veto in place, and, you know, let's say that you have this other relationship, and I feel like it's growing too much. It's taking too much time away from us. And I'm not getting the things I want to need.

Josh F 17:47
Well now I instead of being like, "Hey, listen, you know, I'm not getting the things that I want to need here." And actually like having to have conversations or the communication skills to back that up, well, then I just go and say, "Well, then I mean, veto." So at the end of the day, folks, as I said, I'm not here to judge if vetoes are good, bad or indifferent from a moral end. But what I'll tell you is as a vehicle to meet that need for security, they are a horrendous self sabotaging end that you should never do, because they do not work. And they create far more problems than they solve. And the second that they are invoked, you are pretty much looking at some kind of like nuclear destructive option for the relationship of some kind, there really is no other option because as you said, vetoes only need to get invoked in the times where they absolutely are going to be the most destructive to be invoked. So I guess the conversation becomes that need for certainty is fine. What are better vehicles to get that met than vetoes? Because they are an awful vehicle.

Cassie 19:03
So first off, just having really good communication in your relationship where I can bring challenges or concerns to you, and know that you are receptive, not that you're necessarily going to do exactly what I want with it, but that you're going to be open enough to hear my concerns and things like that, and compassionate enough to take some sort of action in order to address those challenges or those needs. So that would be like the first thing that I would say.

Josh F 19:36
Well, yeah, because again, if you trusted that you were gonna be able to have a conversation with your-- I find an easy example for this is this person is a bad influence or having a bad impact. If you're really able to sit down with your partner and have the discussions about why you think this person is, you know, a really negative person.

Cassie 19:58
Yeah, a great example is, you know, we just had a conversation with a client a while ago. And her thing was that his partner was a bad influence on the kids. Like she was coming into the house and kind of partying and cussing and stuff like that in front of the kids. She was able to go to him and say, "Hey, this is my concern about your partner around the kids," etc, etc. And he was receptive to that. And they came up with a better way of handling that partner being around the kids, right? Especially like when they were going out and kind of partying and whatnot. So there's a conversation that's able to be had under that that situation.

Josh F 20:37
That's that piece, right? You know, if the conversation is if the worry is that you're going to be replaced, well, then you need to work on your relationships to where you have the connection, and certainty here that your relationship is so good, and your partner loves you so much, that nobody's going to replace you. Or if , you're worried that a person is going to come between you. Listen, that should be a warning sign in and of itself. Because nobody can come between you if your relationship is square. I really challenge you to picture the scenario. Like there is no possible scenario in which your relationship is solid and great, and your partner loves you and doesn't want to leave you and they think that you're fantastic and amazing. And they have no doubt they want to spend the rest of your life with you-- that somebody else comes and takes them away. Nobody has that much power.

Josh F 21:32
They can only take your partner away from you, when your partner is looking at that relationship going, "Yeah, this seems like a better option. Because of where we're at, and the arguing and the fighting. And we're like roommates, and we can't get along and you just grate on my nerves." Yeah, sure, then you know what, it looks more... But when you're in a place where you know that your relationship is solid, and secure and safe, then you don't have to worry about somebody coming and taking your partner away. So really, I think at the end of the day, under underneath everything, it's just creating that certainty by making your relationship strong enough that you don't have to be threatened-- using the word threaten, because that makes it sound so much tinier than it is-- I think the problem is a lot of people have really good reasons to be worried about these things. But that's the whole point. You can meet that need for certainty instead of trying to use this veto as a crutch; a horrible nuclear destructive crutch. By making sure that your relationship gets to a point where you have that communication, and that knowledge that nobody is going to take your partner away, and that they're going to take care of you and that you can trust them. And that basically, you get that need met by having a good, secure, amazing, thriving relationship.

Cassie 23:02
And a relationship that is built on trusting your partner, and yourself that in the case that there was a relationship that was causing problems that you or your partner would handle that. And I think that's a really important thing, as well aside for the security is that there is enough trust in the relationship and trust in each other and yourselves to handle those challenges that come up. Which comes back to that certainty, right? It's that we trust each other. And we trust each other so much that we know that we're not going to let anything happen to our relationship, that we're going to do what we need to do, and handle things the way they need to be handled, in order for us to have a healthy, thriving relationship.

Josh F 23:46
And folks, that's so much less stressful at the end of the day. It's so much less stressful to be in a place of knowing that your relationships gonna be solid, because it's solid. Because here's the truth. I think most people, maybe not when they make that agreement, but certainly I think getting up on the point where they're feeling the need to use it, they can see how hazardous that is, and that's stressful. It's stressful, that the only tool you have in your toolbox, you know, is going to explode everything that matters. But this is really, I think, the hidden opportunity in this, is this means that rather than as I said, this vehicle that trying to meet certainty with this vehicle that is disruptive, you get to meet that need for certainty by having an amazing relationship.

Josh F 24:38
And that really is an opportunity. Right? Because then that doesn't just become about how do you manage polyamory. That becomes about you having an awesome loving, connected, secure, thriving relationship with your partner, which, let's be honest, is what you really want anyways. So if you're in a place where you're looking at your relationship, and you're like, "Man like this isn't feeling as solid as I'd like. This doesn't feel solid, this doesn't feel secure, this doesn't feel safe, I don't like where I am." Or maybe you're even in a place where you're like, "I tried to invoke a veto, or I'm getting to the point of needing to invoke a veto, and I know how much damage it has caused, or how much it's going to." And you're staring at that, reach out, get some help. This is what we do. We help guide people through building their relationships in a way where they can have the confidence and the happiness and the security and really that certainty, and they can get those needs met in healthy ways, right, and even helping them undo the damage that may have been caused by having these agreements or having invoked these agreements in the past or the place of having given that ultimatum. And you'r-- I can't tell you how many times we talk to people who they're on the phone, because they've given that ultimatum, and their partners like, "It's going to be them just so you know."

Josh F 26:02
So if that's where you're at, reach out. We're happy to help you. You can go to You'll see a calendar. Grab up time with us or somebody on our team, and then it'll take you to a little form. Fill that out. Give us some details that we need. And then we'll get on with you at the time that you picked. It'll be the best hour you've spent on your relationships. We'll talk you through navigating through whatever you may have already gotten yourself into. And then getting to a place where you can have, again, that certainty based on having just a secure, loving, thriving relationship that nobody else is able to tear apart because you two are so happy and solid and loving together. So go ahead and like I said, Don't do vetoes. Just don't do it. I'm not saying you're wrong for wanting it. But again, it just is a self defeating thing to do. Anything else?

Cassie 26:58
No, that's it.

Josh F 26:59
All right, folks. It has been amazing seeing you then and we will see you all here again next week.

Josh F 27:10
Thanks for tuning into today's show. We release new episodes every week. So make sure to subscribe.

Cassie 27:16
If you're ready to transform your relationship and you'd like to see if you're a fit to work with us, here's what I want you to do next. Head over to and book an appointment to speak with our team. We'll get on the phone with you for about an hour. And we'll get you crystal clear on three things: what's really not working in your relationships, what your dream relationships would look like, and a step by step plan to close the gap and save your family even if nothing has worked before.

Josh F 27:43
We talk with hundreds of non-monogamous folks like you every year. And here's the truth: building loving, thriving relationships-- that doesn't happen on its own. You need expert guidance to make that happen. And unfortunately, when you are building relationships outside the box, that's impossible to find. And we get it but that's exactly what we do. We've helped clients all over the world save their families, get the passion back, and become best friends again.

Cassie 28:08
So if you want to see if we can help you do the same, head over to I'm Cassie

Josh F 28:15
And I'm Josh. Let's talk soon.