Episode 2

Eve’s Relationship Testimony With Franklin Veaux

Interviewed by Louisa Leontiades on January 4, 2019, with supplemental material recorded November 18, 2019. Scroll down for audio. 

Eve:  By the way, we were talking about my anger, and the conversations I’ve had with my therapist1 about not being able to find it. And one of the things that she has pointed out many times is that I’ll laugh at sort of inappropriate places—like I’ll talk about something really painful or observe some really crappy behaviour, and then I’ll laugh about it. And she’ll be like “What’s going on there when you laugh? Because you know, sometimes laughter is a way of covering up uncomfortable or painful emotions.”

And I was thinking about that yesterday, because a lot of the tone of these conversations, I think someone listening to it, it might sound kind of light-hearted, because I am laughing, and I am making jokes. There’s this “trauma voice” that women are supposed to write in, that’s sort of soft and serious and compassionate towards their abusers, but also like, revealing their damage, but also revealing their strength and resilience—and all the stuff that like, is the way you’re supposed to write, to be believed and taken seriously. And I worry that if I’m not like crying, or soft-spoken, or whatever, I’m not gonna come across as believable.

I mean I’ve obviously developed a million defense strategies around my anger. I do feel it coming back, but I still feel sorry for him? It’s awful. But I still—you know, his pain and his vulnerability and his damage is all still so real to me, and all the times that I felt like he was really open with me and really vulnerable to me—like those are still real. And I still see that person in my head, and it’s really hard for me to square that with this idea of someone who is moving through life in essentially a predatory way. 

The patterns are there, the patterns are clearly predatory. And they match these patterns of all these other men who have exploited women in the same way. But then I, when I drill it back down into it into my feelings and my experiences, it’s like, no, but that guy is also still there—that guy that I loved and cared about. And I know that he’s really hurting. And it’s like to square—like the amount of anger. Seeing the kind of damage that has been done to me, and that has been done collectively to this group of women over years, versus the person who I had those intimate moments with—I can’t, I can’t square those. It’s almost like they’re different people. You know, it’s almost like I’ve created two people in my head, like there’s Franklin who I was in love with, and there’s the guy who abused me and all of these women. And I know they’re the same person.

I mean, you know, this is something that Lundy Bancroft and a number of other writers about abuse talk about, is the reason that abusive people are so offended by their partners’ anger, and why that specifically is a target of abusers, is that anger is our response to injustice. And so if you’re committing injustice, the first thing you need to do is take away the ability of the person you’re doing that to to respond to it. And that means taking away their anger.

Like actually, Bancroft talked about this. I was rereading some sections of Why Does He Do That? And he talks about how abusive men from different cultural backgrounds will deem different kinds of behaviours acceptable in women. And middle-class white men tend to specifically police expressions of anger. Like they do not like loud, or emotive expressions of anger. When I read that, I was like, “Oh of course, that makes sense”—he comes from this very, very WASP, conventional, middle-class family in Nebraska. He’s very much internalized this idea that conflict needs to be quiet. And so of course, if he has abusive beliefs, they’re going to externalize through that sort of control, that sort of policing, as opposed to like, trying to control my sexuality—which is not something that is a cultural belief [for him]. And he thinks he’s this enlightened dude because he doesn’t police his partners’ sexuality. But he polices all this other stuff.

I internalized this little version of him that would suppress my feelings before he even had to, outside of me. And that was—this thing that would happen, is like, I would be feeling just awful about something, and I wouldn’t understand why. And I would be convinced that it was something to do with me, that I had to work on. And I’d get into this just, awful spiral of like, “I’m really upset about this thing. And I don’t know why, and it means there’s something wrong with me.” And that would turn it back into shame, and I’d be trying to identify the thing in me, the belief or the insecurity or whatever it was that I needed to address that I could then deal with so that I could articulate—I felt like I needed to deal with this before I could articulate it to him. And it would go into this awful shame spiral, because I couldn’t make the thing that he did go away. I couldn’t make the injustice go away, and I couldn’t really get to a place where I could fully take responsibility for it, because it was an injustice.

I mean our conflicts were terrible. I have never had conflicts that just felt that awful to me. Because they always ended up for me in this horrible shame spiral, where I was taking myself apart, and chasing things around in my head. And I just felt so confused, and so crazy, you know? Like I couldn’t even make sense of my thoughts—especially in the last year or so.

And so I would deal with that by trying to withdraw from the situation until I could address those feelings. And he would not allow me to do that. He would come and get me and make me sit down, and confront me about whatever. Because he would sense that I was upset about something and couldn’t deal with just letting me be upset.

But I wouldn’t have empathy; he’d be like, cold. He’d go to that cold, hard place again. He’d be demanding that I explain myself, and I’m like, “My brain is a mess and running in circles and I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t say anything to you that makes sense, ‘cause it doesn’t make sense to me.” And then he’d be demanding these explanations, or arguing with me, or if I tried to say what I was feeling, he’d immediately push it back on me—especially if it was like anger, or me being upset about something he did. And it just got worse and worse. And of course I seemed completely crazy to him, I’m sure, because I wasn’t making any sense, because of this awful dynamic.

Now with almost a year’s perspective, I can look back and be like, “Actually, some of those things that he did were just genuinely really shitty. Like they were just not nice things to do.” And it would have been fine if he’d been like, “Oh yeah, wow, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” And then not done it again. But it was always like, no, I needed to explain why this was a problem. And then it tied back to something that I needed to deal with, and then maybe it was linked to a threat about something that I would lose.

But I was convinced it was all me, right? I was convinced that it was just that I was the problem, and that I was just—first, that I was like, unreasonable and insecure and difficult, and then that I was…crazy.

 

There was an incident that happened in, I think it was in early 2013 sometime. I had just been to this scientific conference. And I had seen Franz de Waal give a talk on the monkey fairness experiments with the cucumbers and the grapes.

And I had a date with Franklin shortly after that. And I told him about that experiment and about the talk, and told him that I wanted to write a blog post about how that whole thing applied to polyamory. He thought that was pretty cool, and we talked about it for a while. So we were together for a couple of days on our date, and then I went home. And then just a day or two later, he posts a blog post that’s about the Franz de Waal monkey and cucumber-grape experiments and ideas of fairness. And he doesn’t mention me. And I was completely blindsided, and completely shocked and gutted.

And I called him up, and I was like, “Why did you do that?” And he was like, “Oh, I thought it was an interesting idea.” And I was like, “I—I told you that I was going to blog about that.”

And he’s like, “No, you didn’t.”

And I’m like, “No, I—I’m pretty sure I did.”

And now in my recollection, this is actually like the first time that I can remember him actually trying to gaslight me. And so this actually became a pretty big argument, because he just didn’t understand what he had done wrong. And he was like, “Well, you can still write your own blog post.” And I’m like, “You have a platform with thousands of followers, and I have nothing, and you’ve already put the idea out there.”

And he’s like, “Well, it won’t be the same when you do it.”

And I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s gonna to look derivative now.”

So we had this big argument over it. And finally he agreed to revise the blog post so that it would actually credit me with the idea. And then he also agreed to let me do my own guest blog post on something else on his blog. And I left that conversation thinking that it wasn’t going to happen again.

But he did sort of do this weird like, “Oh, well you can’t own ideas.” And I’m like, “No, you can’t. But you can still be a decent person about it.” But like he just really, really didn’t get it, why this was a problem, or why I might have a right to be upset about this.

The next time something like that happened, which is also the next time I actually really remember him attempting to gaslight me—successfully, this time—was later that summer [2013]. There was a Polycon Canada being held up in Vancouver, and he was attending, and his partner Sylvia was attending. And he and I had been invited to be on a panel together.

And so the morning of our panel, I remember a couple of other friends of ours who were in town for the con had come over, and we all had breakfast together or something, and we were all chatting. And we ended up in this whole conversation about ethics in polyamory and how there wasn’t sort of a widely accepted standard of ethics, and all the stuff that we ended up talking about a whole bunch. And I started talking about, “Well I think I would like to see the poly community develop like, a code of ethics that we all sort of agreed on and tried to follow.”

And so then somebody asked us, “Okay, when you do your panel today, what’s one main idea that you want to get across or talk about?” And I said, “Well, I want to talk about a poly code of ethics.”

And then we’re on our panel, and [it’s] close to the end of the panel, and somebody says, “What are your last words? What do you want us to take away from this?” And on the panel, I actually hadn’t had the opportunity to bring up my idea of a poly code of ethics, ‘cause that wasn’t where the conversation went, or where the questions led us. And so it was like, okay, this is my opportunity to say the thing that I haven’t gotten to say yet. So I opened my mouth to say this, and Franklin opens his mouth and says, “Well, I think the poly community needs a code of ethics.”

And I just froze. Like, “What the fuck just happened?” Cause I had said that morning, I wanted to talk about that at the panel. And then, you know, he starts holding forth on—the way he does.

I was stunned, like the blood drained from my body. I went cold, and I was just like, “I can’t believe that he just did that.” And so when it came to me—I don’t even remember what I said. I was frozen. I think I managed to stammer out, like “I, I don’t think I have anything more to say,” because I was just so, in complete shock.

And so we went home, and like the whole way back—and you know, Sylvia was going back with us, and I was just silent. I remember I was just in such shock, and I was so angry.

And so we get back to the house, and I’m like, “We need to go talk.” And so we went for a walk. And I remember we walked to the park, and we sat by the lake that was near my house. And I told him what had just happened. I was like, “I told you this morning that I wanted to talk about a poly code of ethics, and when it finally got to be my chance to actually talk about that, you just opened your mouth and talked right over me with the same idea.”

And he was like, “Well, you know, you, you can’t”—I can’t even remember, but it, like, he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. And he thought that there was something wrong with me for thinking that there was anything wrong with what he’d done. 

And again, it was sort of like, “Well, we were all talking about that, and you can’t lay claim to that idea.”

And I was like, “But I said I was gonna talk about it.”

And he’s like, “I’ve been writing on my blog for years about a poly code of ethics.”

And I was like, “No…you..actually haven’t.” He hadn’t been—like I was the one who came up with that language.

But he just like, looked me in the face and lied. And he just said, “I have been writing about that for years. You can’t take that.” And I was just like, I was so confused.

And it’s hard for me now to put myself into the headspace that I was in, because now, talking about it, it seems so absolutely egregious, and so obvious that he was just lying. But I trusted him, and I believed in him, and I loved him, and I couldn’t imagine that he would be doing this on purpose, or that he would just lie. Like that was not something that I could even conceive of.

And so it was just like—I was so confused. And I think it was a moment of, just…my critical thinking stopped. Because I couldn’t parse this fact that he was telling me something that I knew not to be true. I couldn’t parse what he was sitting there saying to me, and what I knew to be true.

But it was so strange, because he was just such a brick wall. Like I couldn’t get across to him the concept that there might have been anything at all wrong with what he’d done.

And somehow I ended up on a defensive footing. And this is I think the earliest example of this that I can remember in our relationship.

And I do remember—by this time, we had already agreed to write More Than Two together. And we had been working on it for a couple of months. And I looked at him, and I said something like, “What are you thinking?” And he said, “Well, I’m worried.” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean?” And he says, “Well, if we’re gonna collaborate together, you need to not have such, you know, ownership of your ideas. I can’t always be worrying about stepping on your toes if I take something that you think is yours.” And I was like, “Oh.”

And so of course, suddenly I’m afraid that he’s gonna pull out of the project. Because of my silly issues about feeling attached to, you know, credit for my ideas.

And so, I think that I somehow walked it back, like said, “Oh, that wasn’t”—you know, “Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was,” or—I don’t even remember. It was so confusing. And somehow my takeaway from that ended up being that I needed to have less ownership of my ideas. I needed to feel less sort of, you know, possessive of my ideas, or whatever.

And that was when this whole idea of us sort of like creating this merged creative identity happened. Where it was like, well, if we just create things together that are ours, and we don’t worry about who contributed what, or who owns an idea, then we don’t have to worry about this problem.

Which is really weird when I say it. Really weird. But that was kind of where my head went with it, because I had to make this thing okay, that really wasn’t okay.

 

Like I remember, he did this thing a lot, where we’d be working on something, and he would go off to do a thing with another partner. But he’d say to me, “Well, I’ll continue to work while I’m with the other partner.” But it didn’t matter who it was, how often he saw them or anything; he’d always make this promise.

And so I’d take him at his word and assume that he’d be doing the things he said he would. And then sometimes he would do a little bit, and sometimes he wouldn’t. And then I’d be like, “Dude, I was relying on you to do this thing. Where are you, what’s going on?” And who knows what he was saying to his partners at the time. I can imagine him telling them how needy and insecure and demanding I was, that I was insisting that he do this stuff for me while he was in on their one week with them, or whatever. Which, it was coming from him, that he would say “I will do this.” And then I just expected him to do what he said.

And when we first started working on More Than Two, we were meeting once a week on Skype for two hours, and we’d write together for that two hours. We always met on Sundays.  And he was going to Florida with Vera to go to this big family reunion that his parents were having. And Amber and Amy were meeting him down there, and they were all going to this together. And I sort of figured that he would just be there with them, and that I wouldn’t hear from him that week. But he said, “No, no. Our book times are important to me. I’ll meet you for our book time.”

And so I showed up for our book time at the appointed time, and he never showed up. And I was just there, waiting for him, right? And then of course it turned out that he’d done something with one of one of the other women, and he just hadn’t thought to tell me, like, “Oh, I’m not coming to our book time.” And I was upset about it. And you know, I wasn’t upset that he was doing something with his other partners, or not paying attention to me while he was off there with them. I was upset because he had told me he’d be someplace, and he wasn’t, and he didn’t tell me. And so I showed up and waited for him.

But somehow he managed to turn it all around, as it being about me not wanting him to spend time with them, or me wanting his attention while he’s with them. Which wasn’t the case at all. But this was a really common element of these gaslighting exchanges that we’d have—is like, him not keeping a promise, or him not being in a place he’d said he’d be or doing a thing that he said he’d do because he was doing something with or for another partner. And then instead of accepting what I was saying about how I’m upset cause you didn’t do the thing you said you’d do, it always became about me being jealous, or me not wanting him to have that time, or me having unreasonable expectations about what he would do when he was with them.

It’s like, “Dude you have your own boundaries, you have the right to say where you’re going to be and not, but not to lie to me about it”—you know? Not to have me show up for you and not be there.

So I actually found this message that I wrote to him after that. ‘Cause I guess what happened was, I was trying to explain to him why it was important that he be where he said he’d be or communicate to me otherwise—like that’s the thing. It’s like, plans change, but fucking tell me.

And he just didn’t get it. He just didn’t get it. And so I had this like two-page letter that I was trying to explain why I was upset about this. Already, it was less than a year that we’d been together, but it was already a pattern of him just not setting boundaries—with me or with anybody else.

I wanted him to set boundaries with me, because if he would tell me, just tell me, “No, I’m not available for the next five days. Don’t message me. I’m with Amber and Amy.” You know, it’d be fine. But that’s not what would happen. I was trying to explain why these boundaries were important.

But then at the end of it, I still flipped responsibility back onto me. I was like, “I’m sorry I’m such a difficult partner, and I’m so grateful for your love.” Like, I was the one with these difficult, unreasonable expectations, and he was just putting up with me.

Like it never occurred to me, for a really long time, that he might not be a good partner. So if I wasn’t feeling good about the relationship, then it was my fault. There was something wrong with me.

And there’s this other thing that he does. There’s something in the way he talks about his partners, where it’s like on the surface, “Oh she’s great, she’s so wonderful, I love her.” But underneath, it’s like, this subtle undermining—and it’s so slippery and hard to identify. It’s sort of like, “Oh, she’s really insecure, or mentally ill, or you know, has whatever…things.” It’s like he’ll sort of subtly name these flaws, while also like making them a part of this pedestalized image that he has of you. But in a way that makes him look good. And so when he talks about you like this, and about his other partners like this, it creates this image of him as like, this really great guy who just sees the best in everyone and loves all these fundamentally unlovable women, right? Like, he sees all the good in us.

And I remember having a conversation with Amy the first time I met her, about Vera. And she said, “Yeah, Franklin is really special because he sees all of his partner’s flaws, but he doesn’t even see them as flaws. He just sees them as part of you, and loves all of you.”

And I thought about that years later, after the relationship ended, and I’m like, “That’s actually a little bit weird.” Because in a situation where we’re all in different states and barely know each other and see each other for a week at a time, how are we to know what the other’s flaws are, unless he’s the one framing it? Right? Like he is the one who is actually subtly conveying these messages about all these things that are wrong with us. Oh, oh, but they’re not really wrong…you know…but they are.

It’s really, really slippery. And hard to put your finger on. But especially looking back at conversations I had with Amy about his other partners and his other exes. 

There’s an ex of his [Lauren] who was with him when he was in Atlanta. They were local for a very brief period of time and then were long distance for the rest of the relationship, and they ended up fading out. I asked Amy about her, and Amy was like “Oh yeah, she’s really anxious and insecure, and a lot of people tried to warn him about issues with her, and he would never listen.”

But then I mentioned that to Lauren, and Lauren was like, “I barely know Amy, I have barely met her. We never spent time together. He and I were long distance, and they were long distance for the entirety of our relationship. How does she know anything about me?”

But of course she knows all of these things because Franklin has told her. Right? Because Franklin over the years was feeding Amy all these stories about the things that Lauren was saying and doing, and dressing it up in how much he loved her and how great she was, but still subtly undermining Amy’s belief in Lauren as a good partner for him. And he did that with every one of his other partners when he was with me, and of course he was doing that with me to them.

But there was even this point where I developed this model where like, “Franklin is someone who loves broken women,” right? Because I began to view all of his other partners—I started to see them through this lens of people who were really really broken, who only Franklin could love. You know, only someone as good and big-hearted as him. And that meant—what did that say about me?

And so by the end, I started to feel like he was the only person who could love me. And that if I couldn’t make this work with him, if I screwed this up and drove him away, then that just meant that I was no good as a partner, and I was, I was worthless. Nobody could love me.

And he never said that to me—directly. And yet there is a pattern of women ending up feeling this way. And women ending up suicidal with him. I don’t know what the specific narrative behind that ideation was for each of the others. But that’s what it was for me.

I just felt like I had this wonderful partner and this wonderful relationship, and I couldn’t stop fucking it up. And I was just going to fuck everything up, and I just, I didn’t want to live anymore. I…yeah. I felt like I destroyed everything I touched.

You know at that point, we had been working on More Than Two for six or eight months. There had already been multiple issues around him not turning up for our book times. Finally, because he was—partly because he had been so unreliable, and partly because I realized that we were just never gonna get this thing done, I made arrangements for us to go off and stay in the cabin for six weeks.

So I knew these folks who I had housesat for in the past. And I got in touch with them and I was like, “I’m writing a book, and I was wondering if you need a housesitter anytime soon? And they were like “Yes, we do!” So we went there, I don’t know, six or seven weeks in the fall of 2013. It was after the crowdfunding had closed.

And the first week was…rocky. Like there was something else that happened that I’ll talk about later, but around boundaries. But we were not writing. He was spending all of his time in Facebook groups answering questions and arguing with people. We weren’t getting anything done. And…I mean it was nice being in the cabin, but I was feeling frustrated that we weren’t making progress on the book.

And there was also like—it is very very hard for me to find my flow in writing. It takes me a long time, and when I’m in it, it’s very easily broken. And if it’s broken, it’s very hard for me to get back. And he does not have that problem. Like, he can sit there and punch out 6,000 words in two hours, and doesn’t have to spend that time sort of finding that flow. And so that was just a tricky thing to navigate, our different styles. And there were a number of times when we would write in different rooms, because I couldn’t find my flow when he was sitting there going [makes speedy typing sound].

I was working on a particularly challenging section of the book—so I did the early chapters: your self, your relationships, boundaries, those chapters—and I was working on the self chapter, which was particularly difficult for me. And I said, “Can we take a chunk of time, like two or three hours, where we turn our phones off, and we don’t do social media, and we just focus on writing?” And he agreed to that.

And so we went up into the tower in the cabin, and we had our computers. And what I would have done in that situation, if I had a partner who expected to communicate with me, is say, “I’m going dark for a few hours while I write, I’ll be back in a few hours.” Right?

He didn’t do that. He would never, ever do that. Like it was exceptionally rare that he would ever say to a partner, “I’m on a date. I’m working.” Whatever, “I’m unavailable. I’ll be back in a few hours.” So he didn’t do that.

And I don’t even remember if he had his ringer on or off. But what I remember is that he was having a text conversation with Vera, during this time that we had agreed would be our focus time. And I remember saying, like, “Hey, we agreed that we’d have our phones off.”

And he—I can’t remember, like this is that slippery-slidey, like what happened? Like he deflected in some way—like I don’t remember if he said like, “Oh yeah, yeah, I will,” or “My phone is off,” because the ringer was off, even though they were texting each other—but he was clearly continuing to have a conversation with her, even as he was deflecting.

And he could have said to her, “I’m working, I’ll be back in a few hours.” Or he could have said to me, “This is really important. Can we start our flow time in an hour?” He didn’t do either of those things. He just kept having the conversation and deflected with me when I was like “What’s going on? We’d agreed to this time.”

So I’m upset, because, one, he’s breaking an agreement. Two, I’m frustrated about the slow progress that we’re making generally. And three, he’s gaslighting me in front of me about what he’s doing with his phone, you know?

But I was like, “Why am I so upset about this? I don’t understand. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just relax about a few text messages? Obviously this is something I need to work on”—you know?

But I’m getting more angry as he’s doing this. And yet telling myself that I shouldn’t be angry. And of course I can’t write anything. I’m completely now in my head about this thing that’s going on, so I’m not writing. He’s not writing.

And so I got up and I left the room. I was like, “I can’t—I need to go figure this out.” Like sort out what’s going on in my head. Because I felt, already by then, that it was not okay for me to just get angry at him. Like I wanted to just say, “Could you turn your phone off? You know, we agreed this. Would you please—” but I couldn’t even find it. I didn’t feel like I could say it in a way that sounded angry, and I couldn’t find it in myself to find a way to just set that boundary with him calmly.

So I just got up and I left. And I went downstairs. And—so the tower is on the fourth floor, and downstairs is on the first floor. So I was a long way away. I went into the bedroom and I shut the door. So I know that he couldn’t hear anything. And I lay down on the bed, and I screamed into a pillow. And I found out years and years later, in my anger management course, that actually screaming into a pillow is a perfectly acceptable way of expressing your anger, and is an anger management technique that they teach. I didn’t know that at the time. At the time I was embarrassed that I was so upset that I had to scream into a pillow.

And I cried. And I felt like, the whole time feeling like there was something wrong with me for being so upset about this.

And after a while I calmed myself down, and I went into the bathroom to wash my face and clean myself up. And he had this soft-sided toiletry case that Vera had given him, and it had this like, cartoon alien on it. And the cartoon alien has these little speech bubbles coming from it saying “live so-so happy” and “hug it out,” and you know, it’s just this totally silly—and I just, I looked at the case, and I just got angry. And I punched it.

And I thought it was empty, right? Like, I thought this thing was empty. And I just brought my fist down on the damn case. And then I was embarrassed that I’d done that. Again, I’ve learned later that doing things like punching pillows—again, alone—is also considered an acceptable anger management technique. But I didn’t know that. But as it turned out, the thing was not empty.

It had a blue plastic hard-sided Q-tip case inside it. And when I punched the toiletry case, I shattered the blue plastic Q-tip case. And so I felt this when I did that, and I opened it up, and I was like, “Oh shit, I’ve broken his things. This is something that abusive people do.” Right? “Abusive people break their partners’ things. What have I done? Oh my God.”

So I cleaned it up, and I threw it away. And I went upstairs. And I went up to the second floor. He had come down, and he met me in the kitchen.

And he looked so small—he looked like a little boy. He looked just like, small and hurt, and crushed. And like, almost like a puppy that I’d kicked. And he, he came up to me, and he said, “I don’t like the way you treat me when you’re upset with me.” And I just, I just completely crumpled. I was like, “Oh my God, what have I done?” You know.

When I know that like, what happened was, I left the room—like, that was what he saw. But I was crushed that I’d hurt him, that I’d made him feel the way he was clearly feeling, and that I—but also I felt again, confused. Because I didn’t know what else I could have done. Right? Like I felt like I had done the most responsible thing that I could do by leaving the situation to go take care of myself until I was calm enough to engage. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. And that wasn’t right for him. That wasn’t good enough for him. And I didn’t know what else to do. So it was just this feeling of like, there’s nothing I can do that is right. Except not feel these things. Figure out how not to feel upset or angry.

Louisa: You’d have to become a person who accepts the unacceptable.

Eve: Mm-hmm. So I started to cry. And I was like, “But I did what I thought I should do, which was leave to go take care of myself. And I don’t know how else to deal with that.”

And he was like, “Oh my God, I’ve put you in a terrible situation.”

And I was like, okay. He recognizes that it’s okay for me to do this. And then I thought, it’ll be okay for me to do that in the future. He understands that me leaving is a way to deal with this, and it’s going to be okay.

It was never okay—it was never okay for me to leave. It always led to conflict. 

So I cried, and we hugged. But of course it ended—we never dealt with the original issue, which was him not setting the boundaries, or honouring the boundaries. And it all became about me, and my response, and whether my response was acceptable, and how I can appropriately deal with things or not.

And then at some point later—I don’t remember if it was then, or if it was a few hours later, I told him about the Q-tip case. And I was like, “So…I kinda broke your Q-tip case, and I’m really sorry, and I’ll get you a new one.”

And then there was one other thing that I said that I would get to.

So we’re in the cabin, and Amber and her girlfriend at the time—now her wife—were coming out to Portland to adopt two of Franklin and Vera’s cats—oh, sorry. They weren’t gonna adopt them. Franklin’s parents were adopting them, but Amber and her girlfriend were coming to get them and bring them back to Florida for Franklin’s parents.

So during their visit, Franklin told me that they were going to come up to the cabin to visit us and spend the night. And I was like, “Cool. I like Amber.” I haven’t met her girlfriend.

So you know, for several days it was like, “Oh yeah, Amber and her girlfriend are coming up.”

And then like, the day before, somehow Franklin lets slip that, “Oh, Vera’s coming too.” And I was like, he didn’t ask me about that, and he never mentioned that, and all of this time he’s been talking about it like it’s just Amber and her girlfriend.

And so I was like, “When were you gonna tell me that Vera was coming up?”

Because at this point I had told Franklin that I wanted to be zero-sum with Vera, and now he’s suddenly bringing her into my space to spend the night, and hadn’t talked to me.

And so I was both upset that it was happening, but I was upset that it was being presented to me as a done deal that had already been arranged. He’d already made this commitment to Vera. She was already planning to come up, and now suddenly if I say I don’t want this to happen, then I’m being the bad guy. I’m being the bad girlfriend, or the bad poly person. And it was like, I have no opportunity to set a boundary.

This of course was a long-recurring pattern that never resolved in the relationship. 

So I wrote to Amber, and I told Amber what was going on. And I was like, “I don’t know what to do. Franklin has promised Vera that she can come up. And he never asked me, and now I’m being asked to deal with it.”

And Amber was like, “Oh, I’ll get a hotel room. And we’ll stay at the hotel. If we stay at a hotel, is it fine that Vera comes up and like, hangs out with us?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s cool.”

And Amber was like, you know, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know that violating boundaries is never the right approach to solving conflict. So we’ll just make sure that your boundaries are honoured.”

And so she kinda solved that. And they came up, and they stayed at the hotel, and Franklin stayed with them there. And then the next morning I made them all brunch at the cabin. And so that was fine.

But that happened, I believe, before—I can’t remember the exact timing. I think that actually what may have happened is that the conflict and stuff about him inviting her up without asking me happened before the incident with the text message conversation. But then they came for their visit after that incident. So that incident sort of happened in that space in between when we’d had that conflict and while I was waiting to see them.

So, but there had already been issues about boundaries before that conflict over the text messages even came up.

 

1. While it shouldn’t need to be said, this is not the same therapist who worked with me and Franklin as a couple.

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