elaine: notes & material

notes and supporting material

Note: these notes have been approved by Elaine as the truth about her experience. Read Elaine's complete testimony here. Listen to it here.

in a story which happened almost twenty years ago, we can’t always rely on memory. That’s because the mind creates narratives, and sometimes we buy into them if we prefer them, for any reason, to the truth. My job is to uncover the truth. Honesty matters, not only as a concept in itself, but also because the modern polyamory movement prides itself on being consensual. And consent is compromised, if decisions are made on a false premise.

Franklin Veaux often wrote stories about his lovers, past and present. He considered several of his relationships with them to be the catalyst for valuable lessons. And the lesson he took from the relationship with Elaine has persisted in his narrative to this day. It is the lesson that the veto––where a primary partner has the right to end a partner's secondary relationship––is inherently unethical. The first evolution I've found of Veaux's thinking regarding the ethics of the veto, is documented in a long LiveJournal post in 2005:

"To some outside observers, it seems like the breaking point in my relationship with my ex-wife came about when I started dating [AMBER]. Some of the people who've known me well for a long time recognize that the seeds for the end of my our relationship were planted much earlier, when she arbitrarily vetoed a relationship between me and another partner, [ELAINE], I'd been seeing for about two or three years."

In More than Two and The Game Changer, Veaux calls his ex-wife "Celeste." His blogs and books are peppered with references to Celeste, her monogamous nature and her unreasonable insecurities which, Franklin suspected, prompted her to exercise a veto over his relationship with Elaine in 2002. But whether the veto is unethical or not, it is also unethical to contort the truth, revise history and erase someone else's experience.

And this is how Elaine feels:

My story with him has been accounted for, but it didn't really reflect my experience, and I don't even think it reflected his. I think I was used as an example of what he wanted to illustrate, and not really of the relationship we actually had.

Elaine's audio testimony

In Veaux's memoir, Elaine's story begins like this:

"In late 1998 I started a long distance relationship with Elaine. She lived in California and we had met online a couple of years earlier when she answered a call I'd put out on the Xero Web site for new beta testers for Onyx. She had a boundless sexual creativity that was equal parts breathtaking, aspiring and scary..."

And ends like this:

"It didn't last. On September 18 2002, Celeste vetoed Elaine. Even today I do not understand what led to the veto [...] There was no negotiation, no room for discussion none of our theoretical, academic discussions about veto prepared me for the reality. That veto when it came was gut wrenching. I was heartbroken..."

Although the veto as described here used to be a common practice within hierarchical polyamory, and one which was supported by many, from an egalitarian perspective, the veto is considered unethical because it takes away someone’s right to make their own decisions about their own relationship. This seems to make sense.

But Elaine's testimony prompted me to ask myself some uncomfortable questions:

  • If I had the power to end an unhealthy relationship, one where boundaries were violated and needs weren’t met, would I?
  • What if the person violating those boundaries and not meeting those needs refused to end the relationship themselves?
  • At what point, if at all, would acting to prevent harm or abuse override the agency of those in the relationship?

This is a link to an archived version of Veaux’s "What, like two girlfriends?" polyamory pages circa 2002. I have included it here for your information, and reference it below several times, because it demonstrates Veaux's public persona in his own words, which are a good basis of comparison to his private behaviours at that time.

harmful behaviours & red flags

in her audio testimony, Elaine describes an obvious consent violation within the first few minutes of our conversation:

And then I started realizing: if Franklin wanted something in the relationship, he would just sort of have that thing, and then, expect Celeste to be OK with it. And he started doing that to me as well.

And we had, because I was on birth control we had unprotected sex. And this is something he did not speak to Celeste about prior. And she was livid, because that was a boundary they had that I was not in any way shape or form, aware of… you know what I mean? [...] I was feeling really disgusted and, and a little bit used, because he didn't tell me.

Elaine's audio testimony

And this cannot be construed as ignorance on Veaux's part. In fact, he had publicly declared on his polyamory pages in 2002––at a time he was becoming known for his principled, ethical stance on polyamory:

“Cheating is breaking the rules. If you aren't breaking the rules of your relationship, you are not cheating, by definition.

The rules need not be explicit; even breaking the tacit rules of a relationship is cheating. If you do anything you cannot feel comfortable telling your mate about, or if you do anything which you know would make your mate unhappy if he or she knew about it, you are cheating, plain and simple."

And then Elaine detailed another morally difficult area:

...there was a point when we were together, when he said to me and this has, this has always bothered me, because it wasn't something I asked him, it was something he told me unsolicited—that if he had met me first he wasn't sure that he would have been poly.

I know that might have been in the heat of the moment. He maybe didn't mean what he said, but the fact is that he'd said it on more than one occasion to me: that our relationship was so intense, he didn't know if he would be able to even entertain the idea of having another relationship, had he met me first. And that's where the idea of me being a second primary started...

Elaine's audio testimony

According Samantha Manewitz, the licensed therapist working within the survivor pod:

"This sounds like a form of isolation and triangulation. That level of intensity in a new relationship and strong sexual chemistry can be intoxicating, especially when your partner puts you on such a high pedestal.

The line about not being poly had he met her first: this serves to underscore the intensity of connection to him while simultaneously isolating her from his other partners. After all, how could she communicate with metamours openly with this information in mind?"

New relationship energy can sweep all other considerations aside; yet this doesn't negate the impact of Veaux's behaviours. Elaine felt special but isolated, because she was in on a secret that no one else knew. And she couldn’t talk to any of his other partners about it. She also felt confused. It was as if public Franklin and private Franklin were two different people.

On his public polyamory pages, Veaux had written:

“In a poly relationship, it is vital--perhaps even more vital than in a monogamous relationship--for everyone involved to know and understand the rules of the relationship, and abide by them.”

But in private, Veaux was changing the relationship rules. He was offering Elaine co-primary status without Celeste's consent. From Elaine's audio:

"...he wanted me to have certain powers and controls in the relationship, and started to talk about having a second primary.

And this was a boundary of Celeste’s, and not something, not something I was really pushing for because again, I'm not versed in polyamory.

Elaine's audio testimony

"This also sounds to me like another way he used the power differential in the relationship (in this case, her relative inexperience) as a way to exert undue influence. By reinforcing her relative ignorance, he can effectively handwave away his bad behavior as her just not understanding poly. It’s a subtle form of gaslighting."––Samantha Manewitz, LICSW, CST

Then there was the sexual coercion Elaine mentioned, where he was trying to persuade her to engage in group sex:

"...another boundary he kept pushing with me, was to have it involve other people or to have me think about including other people. And that was not something I was comfortable with. It was not something I ever—I'm not bisexual, and it's not something that I wanted, but it was something that pleased him.

And in a relationship with Franklin, you're rewarded. You know, when you do things that are pleasing to him, you're rewarded by his good behavior, good nature and good mood. [...] So I think it's a softer form of manipulation, but it still felt like a manipulation."

Elaine's audio testimony

And the veto Veaux offered and promised to Elaine, but didn't act upon, while sidestepping the issue when confronted about it:

"He had another relationship. It was with Maryann, and she was more of like a cuddle buddy. They weren't as intense, or more like friends, but he counted her as a relationship. And he offered to end his relationship with Maryann if it made me feel more secure. [...]

Then when we brought it up to him it was like, he did the blinking-eyes-wide, I don't know what you're talking about thing. And it's like but you're the one that brought it up!"

Elaine's audio testimony

Veaux wrote extensively in LiveJournal during this time. Much of his writing propounded methodologies he used himself, which appear to be derived from his life experiences in real time. In this way they can also be considered as implicit communication to his lovers––especially, as in the case of Elaine, a long distance relationship meant they found various unorthodox ways of keeping contact and he knew she read his journal.

In one entry in January 2001, three months after Veaux and Elaine had begun their romantic relationship, he stipulates that: the veto was "a necessary and vital part of [his] relationship" with Celeste. Offline, he was offering Elaine this same power which would make her a "primary."

Figure 3: Veaux writes about Veto arrangement with Celeste in LJ, January 23, 2002

But even though he offered Elaine veto power over Maryann and she accepted it, he didn't break up with Maryann. And the next time Elaine visited him in Tampa, she told me that he even brought Maryann with him to their date, unannounced. Which is a disastrous way to help your partner feel more secure. Especially since, according to Elaine, the reason for her insecurity was that:

"Franklin had a way of not spending enough time with any of his partners."

Elaine's audio testimony

Yet Veaux's polyamory pages re-iterate:

"A poly relationship works only if everyone involved is happy. While you can't expect someone to be everything for you... there is absolutely no dishonour in telling your lover point-blank "Look, I don't think you're spending enough time with me. You need to pay more attention to me."

Near the end of their relationship in September 2002, Elaine wrote about this problem in the polyamory LiveJournal forum:

"He is probably one of the busiest people I know. He not only has a full time live with, spend day in and day out with, wife but an occasional spend the weekend with girlfriend, he's the GM for a role-playing campaign he runs out of his house every Saturday that lasts most of the day (most of his day). He also requires more sleep than anyone I've ever met. He is the owner of his own graphics and computer consulting firm, PLUS the inventor of several computer and Internet toys, he maintains several web sites, answers technical questions on several Mac forums, he maintains a live journal and is an amateur photographer and owns a small press magazine with his best friend that he also runs out of his house. He is starting up the hobby of flying remote controlled planes and he attends monthly meetings of his local poly group! 

It seems Veaux had turned himself into a scarce resource.

inconsistent stories

not only was his private behaviour inconsistent with his public persona, but also, the factual accounts of events differ substantially. For example, Veaux's description in his memoir of how Celeste and Elaine reacted when Franklin met his new friend Tina in San Francisco, makes both women seem paranoid:

"Celeste and Elaine were both livid. Tina and I were not sexual or romantic partners, but that didn't matter. They had somehow managed to convince themselves and each other that I was ready to run off with Tina and leave both of them behind.[…] I did not see Tina beyond that first day, Celeste and Elaine were inconsolable."

Whereas Elaine's recollection is wholly different:

There is a part in the book that was disturbing. He talked about how Celeste and I were thinking that he was going to cheat when he was in San Francisco, and that he was going to have sex with somebody there and of course that wasn't the nature of the relationship. That's not at all what happened. He told us that she threw herself at him and we were floored. We didn't expect that.

So I mean, even his narrative is from the innocent standpoint and he's a wide-eyed innocent child and these partners kind of just wove their their insecurities and their, their needs on him and he was just simply reacting to that.

Elaine's audio testimony

Additionally, the story written by Veaux on his LiveJournal at the time is different. In a 2002 entry, he writes about his time with Tina: “The second day I spent with her, she took me to Sutro Baths, the ruins of an old nineteenth-century bathhouse on Ocean Beach.”

Figure x: Spending two days with Tina

Figure 4: Spending two days with Tina, LJ Entry 2002

[Note: I reached out to "Tina" but she hasn’t replied.]

One or two days may be unimportant, but the inconsistency is important. It's concrete proof, by his own words, that he revised history in his memoir... from the insignificant to the impactful. Starting in 2005, Veaux wrote that his relationship with Elaine had lasted '2 or 3 years', and he repeats this in his memoir––that his relationship with Elaine lasted 'more than three years':

"...at this point Elaine and I had been together for more than three years."

And in an interview I conducted with him in 2014:

At just about the same time I had started dating AMBER I was in another relationship which had been going for about three years. My ex-wife decided to veto this other relationship for no clear reason that I can understand even to this day. So as I learned that my life could look some other way, I also had this 3 year relationship ripped out from under me and when you put these two things together, they were completely devastating. It became impossible for me to stay in my relationship with my ex-wife.

Yet Elaine states point blank:

"He said we had a three year long relationship, our relationship was one year."

Elaine's audio testimony

Three years instead of one year, would be a mammoth falsehood. By association, Celeste's apparently arbitrary veto seems more cruel, Veaux's heartbreak is amplified, and the level of commitment he offered Elaine, better justified. Yet the LiveJournal entries from all three parties––Celeste, Elaine and Franklin––show irrefutably that the romantic relationship only started in December 2001 and lasted until September 2002.

Figure 5: The beginning of the romantic relationship between Veaux & Elaine, LJ Entry 2001-12-03

It lasted for less than one year.

Which means that in the space of ten months, he offered Elaine co-primary status and a veto power over another relationship, and told her that if he’d met her first, he didn’t think he’d be polyamorous.

the veto

Veaux had also made another unsolicited offer to make Elaine feel more secure. Instead of promising actively to spend more time with her, he'd offered not to add any more partners. But then Elaine says in her audio:

...he did the thing to me that he did to Celeste with, you know the condoms which was he just went ahead and started speaking with somebody else and then expected me to accept it and I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't because that was my hard boundary.

Elaine's audio testimony

The 'somebody else' was Amber, who turned out to be "The Game Changer." By the time Celeste exercised her veto, Amber was already a partner. In More Than Two, Veaux writes:

"The day Celeste exercised her veto, I was driving to work with my partner Amber, who worked from the same office."

So from what I have found, it seems that Celeste did veto the relationship because she saw that Elaine needed to be a primary partner, which was impossible within the current hierarchical structure of her relationship with Veaux. But also––and mainly––because Elaine was so monogamous, so much in love with Franklin, and he was treating her so badly, that Celeste was miserable and couldn't sit by and watch him hurt a friend of hers. Elaine says:

But I really feel it was Franklin that ended it because he wasn't calling me and I'd call her crying and she got sick of me calling her crying and she's like "That's it." I can't take it anymore if you're not going to be in a relationship with Elaine you need to put an end to it. So that's what the veto was. It was her calling. Enough, enough. And that's how it went down.

Elaine's audio testimony

Does this mean that there are two 'truths'?

Not in my opinion. Because although the comments section under one post at the time on LiveJournal documents Elaine's complaint that she followed all the rules but still got veto'd, the reason she wrote that (and confirmed this to me on email) is because Veaux told Elaine that he did not understand why Celeste had exercised a veto. This is the narrative he maintains today in his memoir:

"Even today I do not understand what led to the veto."

And I believe this is either not true, or it is wilfully ignorant.

Celeste and Elaine continued to communicate after the break-up and reached a full understanding of why Celeste initiated the veto. Not only has Celeste testified on recorded audio that she sat her husband down and explained to him in great detail why he had to break up with Elaine, but seventeen years later I easily found a long and detailed post written by Celeste on August 29th, 2002, enumerating the reasons and still documented on LiveJournal. In Celeste's own words from this entry:

"I can't stand by knowing she is crying herself to sleep at night because she does not feel loved, or he is not keeping in touch as he had promised. He is then hurting a close and personal friend of mine, and that is not acceptable. The responsibility is not all his, she also has to see she deserves a more attentive boy friend, IF that is what THEY WANT."

Elaine's story seems to have been used, as she suspects, to illustrate a principle.

"One of the blog posts written in the wake of our call out letter talks about how people can weaponize the principles of ethical non monogamy… just as people can weaponize the principles of nonviolent communication. The issue is not whether vetos are good or bad, but that the concept of a veto was used to shame and silence."––-Samantha Manewitz, LICSW, CST

The blanket generalisation Veaux makes regarding the veto, doesn't take into account any of the power dynamics in a relationship. More importantly, Veaux's account of this veto, doesn't consider that he took no accountability for effectively ghosting Elaine, that he twisted reality and he felt entitled to be thought of as an ethical ally in public, regardless of how he acted towards his partners, in private. At the end of my research, I also found I could answer the questions I had asked myself at the beginning:

Although I have no explicit veto in any of my own relationships, if I had the power, for some reason, to prevent harm and abuse towards a friend of mine, I would use it.