notes and supporting material
a worrying aspect of the discussions I've seen circulating the internet is the normalization of "shitty relationships," in a sense of "if it isn't abuse, well, then that's just par for the course." This is not okay. I don't think we should be looking up to or listening to leaders who barely scrape the bar of being "not abusive," and as such, be satisfied if we attain the same level. This should not be our benchmark as a community. As I've said in several posts, the harm, trauma or abuse that each woman experienced in their relationships with Veaux falls on a scale—
but none of it is okay.
Especially because polyamory appears to be the specific tool Veaux used to facilitate his mistreatment of women.
Essentially, polyamory in this case was just one of the specific tools for kind of a generic ‘using up of women,’ (and in particular, preying on women who are young enough to not have been burned yet, and smart enough to think they can manage and fix themselves or the situation for way too long). I think many many women, polyamorous and not, could relate to this.Amber, email to Eve, July 12, 2018
Until now, I haven't looked specifically at any power imbalance inherent in age differential. Celeste and Elaine were more or less the same age as Veaux; their vulnerability was more a consequence of experience and circumstance. Celeste, who was more or less the same age as Veaux, told me on IM:
"I'd just turned 21. Only in Ft Myers for a few months. I did not really know anyone. He became my best friend and then we became friends with people together."Celeste, IM chat May, 13, 2019
Amber was the first one to note that the age differential was also a problem:
"[Franklin] is 12 years my senior. I started dating him when I was 24-ish, in a period of incredible instability…so the type of bond I formed with him, was very child like and worship-y."Amber Email Testimony
Whilst Lauren didn't think to mention an age difference in her written testimony, I followed this angle up in an IM conversation with her. She said,
"He's 12 years older, and I had been doing poly for maybe 4 years, LARGELY based around his advice."Lauren, IM Chat, July4, 2019
So when they met, Lauren was 28 years old, to Veaux's 40 years. That's two data points. Then, I also checked with the woman who submitted the unpublished testimony, who was seven years younger. Above all, Lauren also looked up to Veaux, having followed his work and copied it as a newcomer to polyamory.
Survivor pod member and licensed clinical social worker Samanatha Manewitz says of this:
There’s an aspect which sticks out to me with Lauren as well as some of the others, about how much Franklin relies on the ignorance or newness of partners to explain or justify his choices and behavior.
neglect of non-player characters
but the most striking aspect of Lauren's testimony is her feeling of being apparently absent from Veaux's life, even though in her words and from the last time they saw each other:
"...he made me all these passionate promises about how he was going to make it work this time because he missed having me in his life."Lauren's written testimony
Her sentiments are echoed in an essay recently published by trauma scholar Kali Tal in an analysis of Veaux's work:
"Metaphors matter, and designating certain woman as 'game changers' (while other women are what? non-player characters?) is troubling, prima facie. Games are what Pick-Up Artists (PUA) play; games have score-cards: you win or you lose. Designating some women as 'game changers' and others as… not… creates a hierarchy of importance, just as in the primary and secondary relationships that Franklin decries."
—“My Life Belongs to Me”: Reading the Polyamory Narratives of Franklin Veaux Against the Relationship Testimony of Two of His Ex-Nesting Partners, Kali Tal, June 12, 2019, Medium
Lauren feels that she was a "non-player character" in Veaux's life, and her feeling is borne out by the lack of her presence in Veaux's livejournal, especially in juxtaposition with other partners who dated Veaux around the same time. Lauren, who wanted to be linked to the man she loved, was mentioned thirteen times in six years, and often only briefly in passing.
In this post, "Some Thoughts on Sex & Relationship," written November 2007, Veaux states––for the record as it were––that he is not good at long-distance relationships, and why.
"Shortly after we [Lauren and ı] connected, she moved to New Jersey. Our relationship seemed to falter after that, in part because I'm not really good at long-distance relationships.
Cue the irony here; all of my relationships are currently long distance, some more long distance than others. Yeah, I know. Polyamorous and multi-partnered and all of my partners are a ways away. I'm doing it wrong.
Part of the problem is that I'm very unstructured in my life--so unstructured that accidentally clicking on a link to Google Calendars has been known to cause me fourteen points of aggravated damage. I Just Don't Do Structure. She [Lauren] and I communicate differently, and for whatever reason, the things she needed to feel valued felt to me like obligations, which made it difficult for me to provide them. In the end, I think she did not feel valued by me, and we sort of called the whole thing off."
What did Lauren value? Communication.
"I reduced and reduced my requests throughout our relationship until I asked him to call me one time per month, [...] and he couldn’t even do that."Lauren's written testimony
Here's the thing. As all parents know, neglect is also considered an abusive behaviour, just a covert one. It can result from indifference, carelessness, or unwillingness. Elsewhere, I've referred to this as "resource starvation." Even in adult relationships, neglect results in some concrete impacts, which have been noted or alluded to by Lauren in her testimony:
- Feeling unseen and unheard
- Feeling uncared for and irrelevant
- Feeling unloved
All of which have knock-impacts on a person's sense of self-worth.
According to Samanatha Manewitz,
"Counterintuitively, the way Franklin broke promises with Lauren, actually strengthens and creates the trauma bond between the target and the perpetrator. The kind of psychological manipulation here involved a cultivation of cognitive dissonance. And you can see that, in the way Lauren was trying to square Franklin's words with Franklin's actions and resolve the disparity between the two.
Our brains don't like 'open loops', our brains like things to be nice and neat, and tied into a bow. So when a relationship gives you a puzzle to solve there's going to be a part of you that's going to want to stay in that relationship to figure out how these pieces fit together. And to me, it seems like this entire dynamic with Lauren and Franklin was her attempt to solve an unsolvable puzzle. This is a common theme across these stories, and again one of Franklin’s MOs."
It was immensely frustrating, because he just seemed not to care. Like, he wouldn’t fight, or disagree with what I thought was appropriate behavior, or anything, he would just be like “Oh, I’m sorry you feel sad, sweetie!”Lauren's written testimony
Lauren does not consider herself abused by Veaux––thank goodness! Yet it's worth considering that this type of covert harmful behaviour can creep into any polyamorous relationships, even without malicious intent, especially where parties have different expectations of what a relationship means to them. In 2007 Veaux seems not to have any relationship definition, or to even to care who might consider themselves to be in a relationship with him or not:
"In the past, I have generally tended to stabilize at about three relationships. Today, I have somewhere between four and six, depending on how one defines the word "relationship." - Some Thoughts on Sex & Relationship
Note the passivity. It is others, not him, who define what a relationship means. Two people at this time might or might not have been in a relationship with him.
Yet in the beginning, Lauren and he did explicitly define their relationship as a relationship verbally, even if Veaux didn't act like it. However, from 2010 onwards, the status becomes somewhat murky.
Whilst I acknowledge that relationship labels aren't necessarily always needed by everyone, there are needs in a relationship, and calling something a "relationship" at least helps to establish that the participants in that relationship have a right to express their needs and that they warrant attention. Lauren, who was in an ambiguous relationship with Veaux, was impeded from asking for her needs to be met because of a lack of definition about the connection between them.
"So, you might initially try to express your needs, but then you will notice that in this way, he isn't really a passive participant, and how your needs are interpreted (controlling, unreasonable, reasonable) is directly informed by how convenient meeting those needs are for him."Amber's written testimony
harmful behaviours & red flags
an ambiguous ending
Lauren says that the relationship existed on paper in 2010. And that despite the passionate rekindling of their relationship in Portland 2011, nothing ever happened. The last time she saw him was when he visited Boston and swung by to visit Lauren and her husband. Yet in 2012, Lauren was still in Veaux's "sweetie" count as a relationship. Eve Rickert's testimony on this matter is below:
When I met him in July 2012, he told me he had five partners, including Lauren. It was weird because he would never talk about her and clearly never thought about her. At one point she came to Portland, and it didn't even seem to occur to him that they should see each other until I pointed it out. He claimed he messaged her (at my suggestion) and she never replied, but now I'm not sure that ever happened. At some point he just stopped talking about her as a partner. I don't think he ever even mentioned it as a decision, just at one point she was and then she wasn't.
When I asked to be introduced to all my metamours, he didn't include her in that. I remember when I first went to visit Amy in early 2013, she said she wanted to update the Squiggle diagram, and asked if Lauren was still on it. I had to ask him, and he said no. So I guess that was the point at which it was official.
That Veaux is a often a passive actor in his relationships has been mentioned before. That he does little work to maintain them, also. Why then would he believe that women would be happy in their relationships with him?
I believe it comes down to a philosophy which has evolved into "More Than Two" lore and is present throughout Veaux's writing, as propounded, for example, in this post from April 12, 2010, called Some Thoughts About Choosing Relationships:
“But I do believe that holding an abundance model of relationship tends to make it true. I think that people who hold a starvation model of relationship often seem to be always searching for a partner, and that can really be off-putting; whereas in an abundance model, if you simply live your life with enthusiasm and joy and instead of seeking partners you seek to develop in yourself the qualities that you desire in a partner, then other people will tend to be drawn to you and relationships will be abundant.”
Like many of Veaux's other posts, this has the potential to be considered beautiful, aspirational even. So Veaux doesn't go "seeking" partners; instead he pursues development of qualities in himself which will "draw" people to him—without, it seems, investing in the work needed to maintain those relationships once he has them.
Women simply float into his universe... and then float back out again.
"I believe he has tried to master the art of having multiple relationships without really having any relationships to be responsible for. They last as long as they do... because he is not present."Celeste commentary via IM, July 27, 2019