notes and supporting material
"With Celeste, I felt like I had won the relationship lottery. She was willing to let me take another lover without dumping me on the spot."–The Game Changer, Franklin Veaux, 2015
As of April 27, 2019 Franklin Veaux’s memoir, The Game Changer, had 241 ratings on Goodreads, and 71% of them were four or five stars. A few of the text reviews included readers' opinions about Celeste, his ex-wife:
"His wife Celeste, was a classic example of someone who had a lot of insecurities about herself. Later on in the book it pointed out that she never considered herself polyamorous but monogamous while having sexual relationships with men that she never loved."–Jai, March 24, 2017
"...it's really more a cautionary tale of the difficulties of a mono/poly relationship. [...] That, combined with his then-wife's increasingly arbitrary and dogmatic demands about his other relationships, leads him to divorce and pursue a more egalitarian poly lifestyle."–Sarah, July 10, 2015
"As he states himself multiple times in the book, he doesn't understand monogamy, which was painfully apparent to me as he described fears his secondary partners had or conditions they were living under as unfair without seeming to realize how Celeste was also living under those conditions/fears simply by being with someone who had other loves as a mono-amorous person."–Maya, October 27, 2015
The first two reviewers pass negative moral judgement on Celeste as a person. But it is the last review which is closer to Celeste's own truth. Celeste had always identified as a monogamous person in a polyamorous relationship. In her own words:
"I never, ever felt that I was polyamorous."
Celeste's audio testimony
Early on, Veaux had already tried to rewrite her story.
The archived version of Veaux’s polyamory pages, snapshotted on December 14, 2000, says:
“And just because someone doesn’t advertise that he or she is poly doesn’t necessarily mean that person is closed to the idea. My wife wasn’t poly when I first met her, but she is now..."
Celeste's story in her own words differs remarkably from the one Veaux recounts in his memoir. For one thing, Celeste represents the antagonist in The Game Changer, the person putting limits on Veaux living his preferred life. However, her audio testimony, supported by her LiveJournal entries and by witnesses, portray Celeste as a person who was deeply in love with Veaux, accommodating almost to a fault, and who maintained their lives together so that Veaux could spend his evenings developing other relationships, not to mention the online brand which he still benefits from today. Celeste says in the audio:
"I did everything that I could to to keep us happy. You know, as much as I could do with working my eight hours there, thirty-six-hour work week and then taking care of him in the evenings. And you know when he would just want to come home and eat dinner and then go up into his computer room and do whatever it was he wanted. You know? And that's all he wanted to do."
Celeste's audio testimony
In a LiveJournal post from June 23, 2002, Celeste describes a typical day in her life with Veaux.
When I talked to Celeste over Skype, she came across as a kind and highly competent woman, about ten or so years older than me. Cropped blonde hair, bright eyes, wide smile. So it took me a few weeks of reading through her LiveJournal entries to realize that back in 2002, Celeste had not only been looking after Franklin for years, but she'd also been doing so whilst ill.
The list of her ailments was long.
She had diabetes (which was diagnosed only a few months into Veaux's relationship with Amber), horrendously painful periods due to fibroids, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.
She was his financial manager and advisor, his cook, his cleaner, his party host for poly groups, his laundry maid, and his occasional secretary. According to her audio:
"...he had his own local computer business where he would set up networks and things like that. And I called myself 'hardware girl', because I would order all the hardware that he needed for him. And you know, I would do whatever he needed, and then I had it delivered."
Celeste's audio testimony
She got the oil in his car changed as well as being his valet. And holding down a full time job as the one out of the two of them, at that time, with a steady income.
Once when she forgot to pack his cables for a trip, she wrote in Live journal, "I should have been more on top of his electronics. Well that should teach me." She took responsibility and assumed guilt for tasks which could legitimately be construed as Veaux's own.
In an interview I conducted with Veaux in 2014 for my own polyamory blog, he said "I don't have any animosity at all for my ex-wife; for example, she and I still talk occasionally."
Celeste disagrees with this assessment.
"I think I called him when my my father died. And we had a cat in the neighborhood that always seeked him out. And when the cat died, I just, I emailed him to let him know the cat died, but pretty much other than that I really have almost no contact. Since he realized I wasn't going to give him any money. That was pretty much when, when he stopped wanting to talk to me so, when the when the book when The Game Changer came out, I think it was Eve, that sent me an email telling me that the book was out and that she would send me a free copy."
Celeste's audio testimony
I spoke Celeste on January 18, 2019 around two months into my research. By then, I was actively looking for and finding patterns. I have read and re-read The Game Changer with different eyes and there were some other things which jumped out at me personally.
"But I wanted to get to know her. From the start, many things about Celeste delighted me. She was smart and clever, always ready with a quick retort. I was undeterred by the fact that she didn’t much want to talk to me."
This sentence in particular jarred. Especially after the infamous story of Veaux going to the prom with two women, neither of whom knew beforehand that they were in for a double date. And then he had mentioned in his memoir that Amber was also wary of going out with him in the beginning:
“She was, quite reasonably, wary of the relationship structure Celeste and I had."
And Elaine had mentioned this to me, but I'd brushed it off.
"Just because of the way he presented it and knowing nothing at all about polyamory. Not being judgmental, but just not understanding. And the way he said it, I just thought what a creep. And so my initial reaction to him was not good. I didn't think well of him."
Elaine's audio testimony
Three odd little data points which might not mean much, but which nevertheless pointed to a pattern. A pattern about consent. In Veaux's own words:
“A key part of the skill to recognize abusers is to learn to spot boundary-pushing behaviour. If you way no, what does the other person do? If you tell someone not to touch you or not to do something else, how do they respond? Abusers often engage in repeated boundary-pushing at the start of a relationship—ignoring small “nos,” doing things you tell them not to do—because abusers seek out people who lack the ability to assert boundaries and won’t enforce a “no.”
––Does love mean giving someone the power to abuse you? Franklin Veaux's Journal, April 12, 2017
None of the three women had wanted to pursue a relationship with Veaux in the beginning. And during their marriage, Celeste certainly felt that her husband was trying again and again to push her boundaries. In a second conversation with me on March 14, 2019, she said:
"I think that he was really trying to push me into, really falling in love with somebody else, I felt–in order to prove his point. And I'm just not wired that way for one thing. It was either going to be all or nothing with Franklin in my world and we were either going to be together as a couple, or I was going to walk out of the whole relationship. And, I guess he was just trying to see if he could push my boundaries. At least that's what I felt at the time.
And I have received two anonymous witness accounts which appear to corroborate Veaux's tendency to ignore or dismiss other people's boundaries. The first, which I received via Facebook messenger, is below:
"He had a motto 'All models over 18' It meant something akin to a mix of Buyer Beware and simply the fact that someone is of age and consenting makes all action ethical [...]
We had discussions where I told him I disagreed. I said that when I love someone, there are certain things I don't want to be for them --like a source of their grief. It's not an anti-bdsm argument or one against poly. It simply means that if someone agrees to do something that you know is harmful to them, you don't do it. Example: convince a monogamous person to be poly when they are not cut out for it. Just because they agree, doesn't mean it's ok to coerce them. I'd argue the same in reverse. My argument was that if you want something from someone that they are not equipped to give you, be honest and move on."
In 2003, Celeste asserted her long-held hard boundary: she didn't want to live with Franklin's new primary partner, Amber.
Amber's relationship with Franklin had, like Elaine's, developed very quickly. It was only in September 2002 that he'd broken up with Elaine, and yet in less than a year, he had a new primary partner.
And just a few months later, Amber moved in, with Celeste's “agreement,” which she and those close to her, felt was coerced.
derailing & deflection on social media
This section focuses on demonstrating specific instances of derailing and deflection on social media. For that reason it's Samantha Manewitz who names the behaviours since she is qualified to do so.
In August of that year, Celeste felt as if she couldn't say no without being ganged up on, and she asked for advice regarding what she experienced as a boundary violation, in her post "Anyone Go Through This?" in the mono/poly forum.
"He effectively derails the thread. She was asking for support and guidance. He turned it into a primarily theoretical discussion about the nature of primaries.––Samantha Manewitz, LICSW, CST
Arguments raged back and forth under the mono/poly forum post with Veaux and Amber also weighing in.
"Celeste says that every time she brings up an issue, she feels ganged up on... which is exactly what happens in this comment section. Veaux and Amber effectively take over the thread... while insisting that's not what's happening."––Samantha Manewitz, LICSW, CST
Here's what happens when a commenter appearing to support Celeste responds:
"To me, being married means, among other things, that my spouse and I each judge the other's interests and happiness as equally important to her own when making decisions, because we're a team [...] I don't get the sense of that here."
Here's what Samantha Manewitz says about it:
"He casts doubt on the commenter's ability to effectively judge the situation, and sends her to a blog of someone who shares his perspective. By gaslighting this commenter, he indirectly gaslights Celeste, because he is knocking down someone who agrees with her.
Then he goes back to theorizing about primary partners.
What he didn't do was deny this claim.
Another of Veaux's responses states:
"Because I am married, any ethical relationship I engage in must be a relationship with is inclusive, not exclusive, of Celeste. I am not seeking to demote her, I am not attempting to exclude her in anyway from any part of my life."
Yet despite what he said, his actions again did not align with his words. Celeste says,
"I really never saw him. You know, I had to separate my week. I had to—she had to have her time then I had to have my time, and it didn't matter what was going on in my life, if it was my birthday or not, if it was his night to be with her then that's what she wanted.
Celeste's audio testimony
The crux of the matter, as Veaux saw it, was that romantic relationships could not be put in a box. You could choose to be in a relationship, but you could not choose the form of the relationship, because it just took it's natural course. And he and Amber's relationship had naturally become a primary relationship.
But one guy called out Franklin's words and actions, especially his passivity and helplessness as a form of dishonesty. I've called this guy John, since my research will include several entries by him in the future. He wrote,
"There's a lot of talk about Celeste's discomfort being part of some greater service of your relationship changing, and a lot of talk about it being something that "just happens", but there are a lot of choices to be made here, and not all of them are Celeste's. Many of them are yours, and I fear that this concept of passivity in change you're using is preventing these decisions from being made, and made honestly."
Elaine's recorded testimony also notes Veaux's curious inability to assert himself—when passivity was convenient for him. It suggests an inability to accept responsibility for his actions.
"…his narrative is from the innocent standpoint and he's a wide eyed innocent child and life just kind of you know that these partners kind of just wove their insecurities and their, their needs on him and he was just simply reacting to that."Elaine's audio testimony
But Celeste was actively being coerced into accepting a situation which was intolerable to her. And was told she had no valid reason for feeling that way.
Below is the second witness account which was submitted anonymously via the google form. The comment attached simply said "Please protect your sources. Franklin will attempt to destroy anyone and everyone he can identify."
In the summer of 2004, my partner and I were asked to help Celeste move out of the home she shared with Franklin. They had, for many months, come to a complete impasse with respect to the question of Franklin's other partner, Amber. Celeste was monogamous but had permitted Franklin to be polyamorous and have other partners provided that her needs and boundaries were also respected.
With Amber, there had been a steady progression of encroachment on Celeste's boundaries, ultimately leading to Amber co-habitating with Franklin and Celeste and an increasing expansion in the amount of focus dedicated to Amber.
In The Game Changer's 'drama triangle', Franklin is positioned as the victim, Amber is the rescuer and Celeste is the persecutor. For years now, Celeste has been vilified in Franklin's narrative by polarization and negative association. In my 2014 interview with Veaux, he said:
"I don't believe that she was wrong to want monogamy. I don't believe that she was wrong to want security. I believe that some of the ways she expressed those needs were destructive but that's a very different thing to saying that the needs are wrong.…
There’s this thing that people do, where they say I want to feel secure, so in order to feel secure, I want to control our relationship. In the way that my ex-wife and I were doing that, particularly the structures and rules that she was imposing on me, the person who, the people who were most strongly affected by them, were people close to me."
This––which I previously admired as generosity––I now recognize as a kind of underhanded tactic, since it creates an association in the reader’s mind between Celeste and negativity. So no matter how hard Franklin insists that he doesn't believe Celeste was wrong, the words he uses with Celeste are words like insecure, destructive, rules and controlling. She is unethical by inference. Versus the way Amber is depicted in his memoir:
"I remember being struck by her intelligence, but even more I was awed by her wisdom and her self-knowledge. Most of all, she seemed to be perhaps the most profoundly compassionate person I had ever met. Even in the midst of her separation I was struck by her sympathy for her husband's experiences."
Celeste's opinion on the women he chooses, stated in her audio, bears repeating, because it corroborates this description:
"I'm an empathetic human being, which is, I think, what he chooses, because all of the women that I have met, I think, are the same way. You know, we're caring, we’re nurturing, we're—well they're intelligent. They're, you know, amazing in their own right. And he likes to ride those coattails."
Celeste's audio testimony
There are more inconsistencies in their shared story which cannot be accounted for only by a different perspective. From the audio testimony, I've picked three. This is the story of how Franklin supported Celeste, by Franklin, in The Game Changer:
"Celeste had been working as a store manager for a chain of drugstores, until a new regional supervisor curtly told her that management was no place for a woman and that she could either go back to being a cashier or be fired. She chose the latter and decided to start a new career, returning to school to become a dental assistant.
The training was expensive, and her accelerated program, with its heavy course load, meant she couldn’t work and attend school at the same time. I ended up supporting both of us on the computer consulting, networking, design, and advertising work I could get."
This is the same story in Celeste's audio.
"...when I was going to dental assisting school, that was about six months and he was trying to start up a company, so he didn't really have an income. So his parents gave us maybe, you know four or five hundred dollars every other week to keep us going."
Celeste's audio testimony
This is the story of how Franklin didn't want any alimony, by Franklin in The Game Changer:
"From our first meeting, it was clear to me that my attorney was one of the most disagreeable human beings I had ever had the displeasure not to be able to avoid meeting. She was deeply perplexed about my approach to divorce. “Oh, this is marvelous!” she said after we’d talked about our relationship. “You supported her while she went to dental school? Fantastic! You’re entitled to part of her paycheck for as long as she works in the dental field!” “I don’t want her paycheck,” I said. My attorney looked at me like I’d just sprouted an extra appendage from an inexplicable part of my body. “What? Why not?” “She’s not my enemy,” I said. “I don’t want her money.” “But why? You can get it easily!” “Because I love her. I just can’t stay married to her.”
This is the same story, in Celeste's audio:
"And when we divorced he said he was going to sue me for alimony. I was like "Well, how are you going to do that?"
And he said "Well, I put you through dental assisting school and you're making a living doing it now. So you know I can get alimony."
I says, “You asshole!” I said, “Your parents supported us while we were going through dental assisting school, because you were trying to start Storm Graphics, and you weren't making any money. They were making money, and I'm pretty sure they're not going to sue me for alimony.”Celeste's audio testimony
The way Franklin tells it, he was sorrowful but self-aware. Resigned but respectful. Caring and composed. That's not the way Celeste remembers it.
"…the whole shouting thing was weird too. Up to when Amber came into our lives, we would sit and talk about our differences of opinions. We would talk through stuff. And when he, I think, when he was done, is when the shouting started. You know, almost, you know, like screaming at the top of his lungs kind of thing when, when he got the divorce papers.
And he called me and he was screaming at me because I did this and how could I do this to him, how could I let them, you know, come into his office and hand him divorce papers, and how could I be you know treating him so terribly after all these years?"
Celeste's audio testimony
For those who have a mind to, it's easy to pass this off as he said-she said talk. Who can verify what was said at the time?
Celeste can, fortunately for her.
"When he was texting me in the evenings, sure, he didn’t know that I copy and pasted the entire conversation 'as-is' into live journal because I wanted to have a copy of it in there so that I could remember how he was talking to me, and trying to bully me, and get me to say things that weren’t true, to agree with him, and all that other stuff, which I haven’t read in a long time. They were there in case I ever needed a reminder as to just how he can be. I’m not real good at remembering things verbatim, so I wanted to make sure that I had that record of it."
Celeste's audio testimony
A record of how Franklin tried hard to convince her that what she was experiencing, wasn't real. According to Samantha Manewitz, these transcripts reveal verbal abuse and gaslighting. However as they are a private conversation between Veaux and Celeste, I will only release them with both parties permission.
"Trying to tell me that I was being tricked, that I was believing what all these people were saying...while this texting was going on, I'm thinking that's what you're trying to do here!"
Celeste's audio testimony
LiveJournal also recorded many of these events more publicly as they rolled out, and these entries included flame wars between Franklin, Celeste and the polyamorous community represented by their friends list. Their relationship had reached breaking point. And the anonymous witness account corroborates it.
Franklin's writings on the "doomed nature" of primary/secondary relationships, his dim view of veto power, and even the "Secondary's Bill of Rights" all seemed to me at the time to be his way of making an ideological project out of pushing on Celeste's boundaries.
Celeste, at this time, also had many new health challenges and was on her own journey for health and wellness without support from Franklin…the final straw was Franklin's attempted move to Boston.
Celeste told us that Franklin had left Celeste with the option to move to Boston and follow them, but that she would be on her own to do so. It seems a motivating factor of the move was to move closer to Mary, someone Amber had been involved with; the broader implication was that they were attempting to form a new polycule with Mary.
Franklin and Amber had rented an apartment in Boston, without consulting Celeste.
"And then they got to the point even where they wanted to move to Boston. No plans of taking me. I mean we were married, you know, that's not what a marriage is! Not in my world anyway. And there were just lots and lots of long conversations, long nights of talking, you know trying to work something out and we just never got there."
Celeste's audio testimony
In Celeste's private text transcripts, the story is consistent. As is her LiveJournal entry in June 2004:
"They [Veaux and Amber] went to Boston after I got back [from vacation] and put a deposit down on an apartment without my knowledge at the time of doing it. Now it is my understanding that this is just rude to do to anyone, non the less to someone you have loved for 18 years."
Celeste's LiveJournal recap on June 09, 2004 documents her confusion and hurt. It contains a detailed perspective of how she watched her marriage final unravel:
"I think I believed that for a long time. That it was me who had to change. I tried. I tried to be nice. Try to make her feel welcome. I tried to do things that were not exclusive of only Franklin and I.
He said "I MUST live with [Amber]."
I said "ok. I will try IF it is that important to you."
Why? Well because I love him. It was important to him, he felt it was important to their relationship. It became not something he wanted but something he needed. I broke. I said OK.
I thought "Fine. We can work on our relationship ([Amber] and I)." I was wrong again. She moved in because she loved Franklin and she had a right to live with him. I was already shut out. The reasons I said OK were not good enough for her. She wanted more.
She said: "OK, I am here because if I am not you will lose your relationship with Franklin."
And then, as Franklin's behavior became increasingly erratic, Celeste fled their shared home in the middle of the night.
"I didn't even want him to know where I was. And then I came home that Monday night and did my laundry. And when he came home I asked him for my car key and he was going upstairs to where Amber was and I can't remember what I first said but he looked at me and said "You don't know what I'm capable of doing."
And, at that point I called a couple of friends. Because I wasn't sure if I should feel safe or not at that point. And both of them who had known him for more than 10 years said 'He probably won't do anything to hurt you, but how about be better safe than sorry. And just leave.'
So that was the night I left my house. I pulled everything all my clothes out of the dryer put them back in the suitcase. And grabbed a couple other little things and then left because I didn't know when I was going to be back."
Celeste's audio testimony
Veaux insists that he did not intend this as a threat. But given the context, it's difficult to know how else to interpret such a phrase. Especially as, according to a blog post written Feburary 2nd, 2017, he is a man with a violent past–something which Celeste would have been aware of:
“So I went into college with a whole new attitude about violence, one that a log of folks who know me now find difficult to believe. I was, for awhile, quite willing to resort to casual violence in the service of self-protection. I got into fistfights often, and learned yet another lesson: victory does not go to the biggest or the strongest person in the fight. Victory, nine times out of ten, goes to the person who escalates fastest, the one willing to do what the other person is not. I could get in a fight with opponents far larger and stronger than I was, and I almost always came out on top, because I escalated swiftly and aggressively.” - "The Lucifer Effect effect", Franklin Veaux's Journal, February 02, 2017
In her private notes on livejournal, Celeste wrote about experiencing panic attacks and being in debt. She shared these notes with me and with the survivor pod licensed therapist. I asked her about the status of both these things in an IM conversation, which with her permission, I'm sharing here.
"Well yes, I have slight panic attacks. Not as bad as when I first moved up here and he was trying to extort money from me.
I have a credit card that held a 4K balance from when I moved here from the last few years with him. I had kept that rolling 4K balance on it up until my last husband. I was not able to pay it down. But when I moved, I did not have a "fresh" start. I had many credit cards that were about 20K and then this one I was never able to pay down until after my last husband.
My mom and dad took out a 2nd mortgage on there house and I was able to put my surgery that was 20K and another 20K in credit card debt. I did get paid off during my last marriage. However I had this one card that was too large a balance to put on my parents mortgage and with having the revolving balance it made it difficult to financially move forward. About a year and a half ago my mom offered to help me with that and what I accumulated during my 2nd marriage on another debt consolidation and in the next 15 months I hope to not owe on any more credit cards or my vehicle.
It has taken some time but I feel I am clearly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally after all these years and these selfish men. I will be able to feel financial freedom."
The financial repercussions of their marriage have lasted nearly twenty years. The health impacts also.
Yet Celeste's history with Veaux has been rewritten making her the sinner, and him the saint. Many of the stories he tells and which involve her, have served to develop the cornerstone principles upon which he has built his ethical brand. But how valid are these principles, if they are developed on lies?
Louisa: Just a few information checks. You mentioned that Eve contacted you, to send you the story of the The Game Changer.
Louisa: And in the Quora forums Franklin has written. "Yes, I sent her both a copy of More Than Two and The Game Changer. And she liked them."
Louisa: Oh. [Laughing] What is your take on that?
Louisa: I mean, I think the snort says it all.
Celeste: Yeah. No, I did not like them. I thought that he remembered everything in the way he wanted to remember it, to prove a point.