ruby: notes & material

my work is about setting the record straight. To give voice to those who were harmed by Franklin Veaux and center the people who have been erased in and by his stories. And I have a loose end to tie up.

One voice we know is missing from this time is that of the one woman Veaux actually admits harming: Ruby. Her story happened in 1992.

Veaux paints his relationship with Ruby as part of his redemption arc, and the story spans around 40 pages of his 200-page memoir. The relationships with Ruby, Elaine, Amber and Celeste all serve as lessons upon which he grounds his part of the More Than Two philosophy. To cut a long story short, he was attracted to Ruby, and she needed a place to stay after a bad breakup, so he invited her to share a home with Celeste and him. Then, according to him, they fell in love. But then she fell in love with someone who became her primary partner. And Veaux was furious.

In The Game Changer, he wrote:

Ruby started talking about moving out. I was creating a toxic environment for her, and she, being a generally reasonable person who had her head on straight about most things, wanted no part of it. She sat down with Celeste and me one evening. “I’m leaving,” she said. “I can give you a month’s notice, because I know you’re counting on me to help pay the bills.” I felt punched in the gut. I could barely breathe. “How can she do this to me?” I thought. Not “I’m treating her badly, so of course she wants to leave,” not “I’m not talking to her about my feelings or my expectations, what did I expect?” but rather “How can she do this to me?” It’s surprising how often the people who are most destructive in a relationship are the ones who feel the most victimized.

Pain and entitlement make for a toxic mix. I made her a counteroffer: “Move out now,” I said, “and I won’t make you pay next month’s rent.” The one thing I most wanted in all the world was for her to stay, so naturally the one thing I did was to tell her to leave.

Here's Veaux's abbreviated version of events taken from a 2018 entry on Quora:

Ruby. You love her. She loves you. Here’s the thing: you’re about to start treating her really badly for a really stupid reason. It’s surprising how quickly treating someone badly can tear even the most loving relationship with the most committed partner to pieces. You know how you think you’re immune to jealousy? Yeah, about that. You’re about to get a life lesson. She’s going to start dating someone else, someone who can give her things you can’t. You’re going to lose your mind.

What couldn’t he give her? An astute Amazon reviewer of The Game Changer noted,

“I quickly realized in the early stages of dating and being married to Celeste, Veaux always had other partners that were single-ish, and he himself was never a secondary. He only lightly touches on the fact that he wanted to be a primary to all his loves, and he was jealous when other men were able to give something he could not as a primary partner. Instead of facing that jealousy or insecurity and allowing himself to see from his partner's perspective, he blamed his wife for her limitations and he ran away from his other relationship when his option could have been to stay, even as a secondary.”

2015 Amazon Review The Game Changer

Figure 11: 2015 Amazon Review, The Game Changer "Take with A Grain of Salt"

Veaux continues on Quora:

You’re going to blame her for your bad feelings. You’re going to lie awake at night searching and searching for ways that you can make your feelings her fault. You’re going to accuse her of hypocrisy and gaslighting. You’re going to insist that the feelings you’re experiencing must be someone else’s fault, not yours. You’re going to externalize responsibility for your emotions. Eventually, you will kick her out of the home you share with her.

Veaux’s narrative of every other significant relationship in his memoir—the one with Elaine, the one with Amber, and the one with Celeste—has been refuted by these women. So even though Veaux paints himself in a crappy light, I’ve reason to doubt that his version is the same as Ruby’s version.

After investigation, I’ve come to believe that he used this story to underscore an ethical principle which he would later weaponize to avoid accountability for his partners’ pain. Here’s why.

#1 Just because you feel bad does not mean someone did something wrong.

Based on available public accounts, in 2006 Veaux was learning that it was extraordinarily comfortable to have a partner who assumes responsibility for the pain he causes in a relationship.

“Well, for me, the solution was to attempt to build a skillset that would allow me to manage and take responsibility for the pain and stress that I was experiencing as a direct result of my relationship with him.”email from Amber to Eve Rickert, March 13, 2018

Maybe this is why, in his narrative, he attributes the responsibility for his pain to Celeste, the character, after the fact. Amber is different: she assumes the responsibility in real time. Here’s an entry on Veaux’s LiveJournal from July 2006.

Just because I feel bad doesn't mean somebody else did something wrong.
Just because I feel good doesn't mean I'm doing the right thing.

These two things, taken together, would do much to alleviate about seventy-five percent of the angst, pain, and suffering afflicting the human species today, were they more universally understood and appreciated. 

Veaux found these words to another user’s post in the LiveJournal community poly-relations. But by the end of a very long post, he’s already altered these words to:

Just because you feel bad does not mean someone did something wrong.
Just because you feel good does not mean what you are doing is right.

But in Amber’s words:

I believe that the way that Franklin is able to tolerate his partner's pain over long periods of time is that he never, fundamentally believes it is coming from him. No matter how bad it is, actually, especially when it is so bad that you, as his partner become hysterical, 'irrational' or otherwise crazy, he will continue to see it as essentially something that is coming from you. And, this being the case, he will be a kind and calm and loving friend, helping you through this thing that you alone are experiencing.

In this way, do you see how the very construct of the relationship will gaslight anyone who is emotionally invested in him and then suffers for it? email from Amber to Eve Rickert, March 13, 2018

In further comments under his 2006 LiveJournal post, Veaux formulates another belief in response to a now deleted comment:

"Just because you feel bad doesn't mean you did something wrong."

Oooh, good one. Yes, that's absolutely right. In fact, I think I might go one step farther and say "Even if you did something wrong yesterday, that does not mean you need to feel bad about it today." Past a certain point, continuing to carry around guilt or remorse doesn't serve any function except to make you feel more guilty or remorseful.

...just because you feel bad doesn't mean you did something wrong. Emotions can and will try to perpetuate themselves, even far past the point where they're useful."

This belief would also eventually enter the realm of his published work in 2012 on a poster, "Principles for Good Relationships... I Wish I Had Learned in Kindergarten". He expounds on it further:

Ultimately, that's what it comes down to, I think—the ability to pull back from your emotions enough to say "Are the things I'm doing making my life better?”

Well the things he was doing were, it seems. Making his life better. Just at the expense of everyone else.

Ruby & Celeste

Ruby has not come forward during this process, but she is an important part of Celeste’s story. In The Game Changer, Veaux used passive negative framing to imply that Celeste had imposed controls arbitrarily:

I really wanted to believe it wasn’t arbitrary on Celeste’s part. Celeste was not someone who tended to be mean-spirited or capricious.

Celeste did not want to live with one of Veaux's other partners. She did not want to live with Amber. But she did not put her foot down on a whim, she'd seen what happened when Veaux shared their home with someone else he loved. This is Celeste’s experience of the relationship with Ruby:

And then he was curling up with her every night and spending as much time with her during the day as he could, and he would stay in her room until she decided she wanted to sleep. And then she would tell him to go away. And I—and then she eventually met and fell in love with Todd and rejected Franklin. And I think he was very upset about this. But then that brought him, then he came back to me, sort of.

But it was it was to the point where I was like, "You know, what are you doing? You know she's in the bedroom next door to us." And he's over there until she tells him to go away. And then I'm by myself, and I'm like, you know, what is this. I don't want this kind of a life. This isn't what I want. And I actually pulled suitcases out of the closet. I was going to pack up and go home. And he broke down into tears because he didn't want me to leave. And I said, "Well this is the part where you need to make a decision, you know."Celeste's audio testimony

When Ruby moved in, it was because she needed a place to stay after a breakup—she was in an intensely vulnerable place. The Game Changer paints a deeply romantic and committed relationship between Veaux and Ruby.  Yet Celeste believed it was platonic.

Louisa: So there was no there was no discussion beforehand that he would be in, well—it was a platonic relationship?

Celeste: It was. And. And he of course wanted more from her, but she wasn't willing to go there. And that was a real blow to him. And then she—and he turned around, and, I'm not even sure exactly all what how badly he treated her. I know he treated her badly. […] And it was enough for her never to want to have him in any way in her life again. So. He never really got over her, I don't think.Celeste's audio testimony

Veaux's earlier Quora entry supports Celeste's assessment. Ruby is the "a mark on [his] heart that will never, ever heal."

But this also means that there's a further discrepancy. According to Celeste, Ruby rejected Veaux, and Celeste believes this is why he turned nasty. Which means his reaction wasn't only about jealousy. Veaux does not take rejection well.

At the end of Veaux and Celeste's relationship, Celeste served Veaux divorce papers. And according to her testimony, he was apoplectic with rage, even though he had been the one to first suggest divorce. At this point in time, it occurred to Celeste  that she might be seeing the side of Veaux that Ruby had seen twelve years before. She wrote in her LiveJournal on July 14, 2004:

"I could not understand what he could do that could make him say he was mean to someone. I could never imagine him treating someone he said he loved like that. Surly it must have been something she did.

Well now I see. Now I have seen a side of him I never ever saw in our 18 years together. I was shocked, sad, in a state of disbelief. With the way we conducted our relationship, and our mutual respect for each other I never believed this would ever happen."

Figure 12: Celeste reflects on Veaux's treatment of Ruby

original framing

i have uncovered a much older version of Veaux's story about Ruby, written circa 1999 under the slug "A True Story." I have not included a link to it, in the interests of Ruby's privacy. But what Veaux wrote at that time is revealing:

"Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, race, or creed. The past changed; she didn't want to talk to me, my friend said. Why? I'm not going to tell you. Go see if somebody else will.

Then the call came in at 11:33 P.M., according to the log on my caller ID box. Five years of bitter silence, broken while I slept.

"I want you to do something," she said. Her first words in many years; they started with "I want." We learn from history that we do not learn anything from history. "Remove my name and all references to me from your Web page." The link she took care of herself, taking down her entire site. The headstone on its ashes: a sermon about the evil of editorializing about people on the World Wide Web.

I wonder sometimes how she can still feel this way. When you let a thing control you, you give that thing power over you. But hate is easy; forgiveness is what costs."—Franklin Veaux

I'm just going to break that down the way I see it.

Twenty years on, Veaux admits being abusive to Ruby—but from this account, the abuse did not end when the relationship ended. After Ruby fled their home—according to his account—she went no-contact. She asked another man to tell him she didn't want any communication. Still, Veaux continued to reference her by name on his webpage over these five “bitter” years, linking her to him.

She called to directly and explicitly ask him to stop. He did not. Instead, in response he wrote this “true” story—under her full legal name—about her phone call asking him to stop. He linked it by her name, to her personal website. She eventually went so far as to completely disable and delete her own online presence. Veaux’s post was removed in November 2000: eight years after the relationship ended.

He’s continued to use her story, recounting his abuse of her—and building a redemption arc from it—in his memoir and on the question-and-answer website Quora, where he has 124,000 followers. In his own words, and written as a response to this process:

"That's one of the hallmarks of abuse: when the victim leaves, the abuser pursues."

Figue 13: Hallmarks of an Abuser, Veaux 2019

He refused to take no for an answer. Just as he would continue to do with Amber, and with another woman, whose story will be told later in these narratives.

It is awful and scary and creepy that he created this whole mythology about who I was to him, and it is even more awful and scary and creepy that he used that mythology to generate a whole bunch of feelings of expectation and entitlement, that has now turned into hurt and betrayal, directed towards me. This is the fucking core of why women aren't safe in the world.Email from Amber to Eve Rickert, April 7, 2018

I reached out to Ruby via snail mail, because even today, she remains offline. Eve Rickert says she tried to reach Ruby, too, in the summer of 2018, as she was trying to unravel the truth of the man she’d spent six years of her life with. Neither of us received a response, and we will not try again.

So we may never hear Ruby’s experience, but it is my hope that I have done right by her in presenting the harm she experienced from Veaux over the years, even after severing ties. And just as Veaux continues to exploit Elaine, Celeste, and Amber to create the public persona he now occupies, so too does he continue to use Ruby—albeit mercifully now under the pseudonym that he gave her in his memoir, and which I have chosen to use, as I do many other partners of his, to ensure they can make space from the time in their lives when they knew him.

I don't think he should be able to continue to profit from the mischaracterization of the women who were once in his life. Or at least, if The Game Changer must remain in circulation as a piece of history, it should be with a caveat, as per another Amazon reviewer:

The book is one-sided, and (to put it charitably) full of revisionism and half-truths, and it has to be that way. Otherwise Mr. Veaux would not effectively come across as a sadly-mistaken-but-essentially-good person, which is the actual point of the book.

I'm sure he believes most of his own stories at this point, but this is not mere poetic license. He's no James Frey in his lack of truth-telling, but he's not that far off.

Caveat Emptor.

Veaux's tendency to revise history has already been extensively documented, but there is more to follow.