Why I Believe in Partner Veto in Choosing a Lover
By Cougar
July 08, 2005

Partner veto power is very clearly accepted as part of the poly lifestyle by many people, including various existing poly families in the Bay Area and the now-defunct Kerista tribe.

Part of the reason for this is that the partner who doesn't have NRE is the one with the more objective perspective. My personal experience is that when my wife has red flags about someone who I'm feeling loving towards, she's usually right. In our family, it's not a power-over thing, but an expression of deep respect and equal power.

This is moderated by love. If I'm head over heels in love with someone that I just met and Tana feels concerned about this new person, she will hold back on her veto if she sees that my new lover is someone who really gets me on multiple levels or that my feelings are on a different plane than the way it was for girlfriends had dated previously.

For this reason, Tana is generally willing to do the interpersonal work of clearing any reservations she has through direct communication. I have absolute faith in Tana that she's totally on my side in this, no matter how things work out.

In our case, partner veto is vital because I have a lifelong commitment to Tana. If I develop a lifelong commitment to someone else, and if we can't work out a safe, comfortable, loving, and honest way to be together as a group, then it will lead to heartbreak--or at least, great inconvenience for all.

Partner veto is absolutely vital for serious polyamory among people who are seeking to create a poly family with multiple primary relationships.

What About Having Only One Primary, Along With One or More Secondaries? Let's face reality, there is no legitimate way that you can create an agreement with your primary partner that your other relationships will all stay at a secondary relationship level. The heart chakra just doesn't work that way.

In addition, I do not consider people who believe they can have one primary and one or more additional secondaries to be truly poly. They may act poly, but on an emotional level, they are still operating from a monogamous point of view. Emotional poly is even more important than sexual poly for those of us committed to living in integrity.

I spent a lot of time studying the Kerista Commune, both before and after it broke up. I recognize that there were power expression problems and lack of authenticity problems that led to the break up. However, I also respect what they have contributed to the poly culture by their experience.

Kerista is the group that invented the words "compersion" and "polyfidelity," among other things. Without the word "compersion," the polyamory movement would be far less able to express basic elements of the experience.

Kerista created an agreement at one point for the sake of protection against AIDS. It was called "transitional celibacy." However, once it was part of the mix, the members of the commune referred to the practice as "a gift from the goddess."

The way it worked was, after a person who wanted to join had established that they were sufficiently in alignment with the values of the group, they moved in and begin being part of the sleeping schedule--but just without sex. During this three-month period, all of the relationships that the person had with other members are truly enhanced by pillow talk and other night-time sharing, which were opportunities for one-to-one bonding that didn't happen as easily in the larger group (which grew to be several poly families in a tribe of 28 at one point).

At the end of the transitional celibacy period, if the new member was still copasetic with everyone, they had a handfasting ritual which involved the pagan custom of "leaping over the broom," and which was a statement of intention for life-long growing closer. Basically, it was a nonlegal marriage.

So for Kerista, transitional celibacy was a very intricate method of partner veto. It is also a valuable concept. During periods when I'm in love with someone else IF we're engaged in some variation of transitional celibacy, I'm blessed with the time to work out all of the emotional issues that the new relationship invokes between Tana and me. In reality, however, transitional celibacy doesn't seem to be necessary, most of the time, but when it is, it does contain its own rewards.

Partner veto can create an excruciating inner conflict, especially if I'm jazzed about the new person.

However, I want to build a poly family that lasts forever, and partner veto seems to be the most intelligent way to do that. Creating our future with partner veto means that I won't destroy my life if things don't work out because of actions that I took too quickly.