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The Difference Between Concerns and Demands

If you’ve been in a local polyamorous community for any length of time, you’ll have noted there are a few concepts that there’s some general consensus against, and they all share a core feature: limiting autonomy or attempting to control relationships you aren’t in.

If you’ve read this blog long, you might have noticed I tend to find the grey areas and nuances in applications of ideas. This isn’t an exception. To simplify, let’s use the most dramatic example possible - veto power. Veto power is a demand you make of your partner, insisting they entirely jettison another relationship that you aren’t in because you say so. It’s the quintessential manipulative control move in the name of boundaries. But there are many shades of grey between “perfect autonomy, say nothing to your partner(s) ever about their partner choices” and “veto power forever and ever, including years deep into relationships.”

Today I’d like to talk about some of those, and particularly about the ones that I think make the most sense with the ways we’ve talked about engaging in open and honest relationships in general. Some people apply the traditional veto but just time-limited - they can “shut down” or demand the end of a relationship, regardless of its progress or entanglement, up to y months or a year or some other arbitrary time frame. Others apply the traditional veto up until some level of entanglement, and (hopefully) define amongst their polycule how those levels of entanglement work and are rated such that there isn’t disagreement over whether or not a particular new relationship has exceeded a level of entanglement where the veto is still permitted.

The “grey area” I like and tend to land in instead is what I call concerns instead of demands. It’s not vetos at all. It happens before there’s a relationship at all, usually, and often before there’s been a date. It’s a conversation where one or more people have information or concerns about the other partner’s potential partner, either before or after the first or second date, that the person who’s considering dating someone new doesn’t have and should consider. They present their information and concerns and then the partner considering seeing a new person gets to make their decision independently, but with these new facts and opinions available. As an example of this, I’ve been told, when I’ve moved to a new place a couple years after a partner, that someone I’m considering seeing actually has a bit of a reputation for being an NRE chaser, and if I’m looking for something that lasts more than four or six months I might want to see someone else. That’s not “You can’t see that person, they’re shitty at polyamory from my point of view,” it’s “I’m worried that based on what you want you might get hurt because of a way this person does this, did you know they do that? Just keep it in mind before you get involved.” Details like this are actually a huge difference in tone and communication style.

You are all adults who can enter into whatever agreements you’d like, of course, whether they include whatever degree of veto, over whatever duration of time or entanglement you’d like. Just, no matter what you do, communicate. Make sure you understand what you’ve agreed to or not. I’d advocate for taking into account the concerns of your partners and for keeping everyone in the loop when you’re entering into something new, in case they know something you don’t, but it’s always up to you in your relationships - remember, this is a choose your own adventure story.

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