Eve: I was rereading Why Does He Do That—the parts about the types of abusive men. Of the 10 types of abusive men that Bancroft writes about, he easily fits into five of the categories. Like he’s clearly “the player.” He’s clearly “Mr. Right.” He’s clearly “the victim,” and he is, above all other things, “the water torturer.” So maybe that’s four of them. I feel like there was one other category that he fit as well, but those are the four that came to mind. But the water torturer was definitely the one that fit the best of all of them. Although he has elements of all the rest.
But like just reading that, I was thinking back about actually how much damage he’s left behind. Like how damaged all of the women, including me, are.
I am, I am completely incapable of having a normal life right now. Like I cannot—this is something that’s been sort of alarming to me, as I’ve moved to a new city and realized like, I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t know how, to how to make friends with people. I don’t know how to be vulnerable with people. The only people I’m able to connect with are the people who have like, been with me on this whole ride, so they know what has happened, and they know what I’ve been through.
But like, you know, I have friends here who want to spend time with me, and I don’t know how to tell them what’s happened, and I don’t know how to tell them the effect that that’s had on me. And so I feel like I’m sort of living behind this really thick sheet of glass. You know, I can kind of see people on the other side of it, but sounds are muffled coming through it. And I don’t know how long that’s going to last.
And so looking at the damage and the extent of the deception. And then just how many different abusive tactics he uses, and how easily he uses them—like, holy shit, you know?
And yet, and yet, I, there are still times when I can still access empathy and compassion and, and love for him. I mean because we were so close—or at least it felt like we were, for so long. And my empathy was really, really, how he got to me—and how he got me.
And you know when I—the hardest times for me are when I think about his pain. Because I do believe that he has suffered this past year—whatever that means, and whatever reasons he suffered. I do believe that he was badly hurt in our breakup, and badly hurt when I cut off contact, and that he doesn’t understand why I had to do that. And of course he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t believe me. If he believed me, it would all make sense.
But you know, it would all make sense if, for all of us, if he believed us. You know, our stories actually make sense. There are very clear causes and responses, to the things that we have done and the reactions that we have had. And you know, they make sense if you actually believe what we’re saying. It’s only if you try to contort them into something they’re not that they stop making sense.
But when I, in any way have access to his suffering, that just devastates me. Like, you would think I would have more empathy for Celeste or Elaine or Amber. But their suffering doesn’t just like, send me into this well of like wanting to, you know like, hold him and fix it and take care of it and make it better, the way that seeing his suffering does.
And that’s—like that’s messed up. I am sure that some sort of cultural conditioning has me just reflexively, instinctively, centring men at all times. Like I get angry on behalf of the other women. I get angry on their behalf, but I don’t have this like, impulsive, visceral need to care for them the way I do for him.
So this was, it would have been February of 2015. So More Than Two had come out about six months before. Had become a phenomenon in a way that we had not expected. We had done the first book tour, which was amazing, incredibly well-received. It was an incredible bonding experience for he and I. We had had the experience of being, you know, essentially on our own together for six weeks, working together and living together. And we really really loved it. It was amazing.
And that was where he started with the narrative of like, “Oh, we live together really well; we do really well together, and really small spaces together.”
In retrospect. I have been thinking about that, and I realized that the reason the book tour worked so well is that we were outsourcing 95% of the labour. Like Alexis was back home handling all our logistics and coordinating with all of the event hosts, and you know, we were eating at restaurants almost every night. So there were never any dishes to do, or cooking to do. We were showering at people’s houses or you know at YMCA, so never any chores to do. I hated driving, and so he did all the driving, and I did everything else. So the labour that was left was pretty much split evenly.
So I mean, of course it was great, because we didn’t have to do a lot of the sort of negotiating around work and chores and things that a cohabitating couple would normally have to do. So, we weren’t really living together. We were just together.
But that had sort of—like we’d really really bonded and become used to being around each other all the time.
So he was invited—and this is I guess at around the time that we started wanting to talk about abuse. And part of that was uh, because you know, still because of what Amber had been through, and also because people had started talking to us about More Than Two as something that had helped them see abusive dynamics or leave abusive relationships. And so somehow we got this idea that that meant that we should talk about abuse.
Which in, again in retrospect, I’m like, why the fuck did we think we were qualified? We could have hosted discussions that were like, open discussions about abuse where we weren’t speaking as experts. But that’s not what we did.
So he was invited to keynote at Poly Living Philadelphia in February 2015. I will also mention that this was near the end of the writing process for The Game Changer. We were close to one of the last drafts at that point. And so at Poly Living we gave a workshop on abuse in polyamorous relationships—which I wrote. I wrote the workshop. I did the slides; he sat next to me—and I did go through the slides with him before we presented, and then he sat next to me and sort of, you know, told anecdotes and illustrations as I sort of gave the meat of the talk. And he also did his keynote, which a lot of people found very powerful, and it was about, ironically enough, the importance and power of telling your stories, and how that can, you know, change the world.
But the other thing that was, there are two things going on that weekend. One was that I was still in the process of writing our abuse talk. And two, I had a big job for a client that was due the following Monday that I hadn’t finished. So when we weren’t giving a talk, I was in our hotel room working—either working on this client project, or working on our presentation. So that meant that he was essentially attending the con and I wasn’t.
So after his keynote, I went back to our room to work. And he went to an after-party. And it was at the after-party that he met Rose. And um, I remember tweeting, he tweeted something about how, “Man it’s only been two hours, and you know, I already have a crush on someone. Man, I crush easily,” or something like that. And, and then he came back to the room at like, you know something past midnight, and he’s like, you know, “I met someone, and I have a crush!” And I was like, “Oh, cool.”
He gave me the impression that she was much older than she was.
So I met her the next day at our talk. And then you know, again, I was tucked away in the room for most of most of the weekend.
That was also right after the [redacted] thing had broken open, and people were talking about that. We had a suite that had a separate room with a fold-out bed and everything. So Sasha and Rose spent, guess it was Sunday night with us. And absolutely nothing happened that, that I saw.
Like, we hung out in the in the living room, the sitting room of the suite and we watched YouTube videos for awhile. And then Franklin and I went to bed and Rose and Sasha went to bed in their bed. I mean I didn’t even really see any chemistry between Franklin and Rose. I didn’t pick up on anything really serious between them, except sort of like friendly interaction that we were all engaging in.
And then Franklin flew home to Portland. And I had, think I had another two weeks of travelling ahead of me. It was because I had to go to Toronto and to Ottawa to visit clients. So I was largely distracted, very busy travelling. And you know, I got periodic messages from Franklin saying he and Rose had been talking, he and Rose were getting closer. How would I feel about taking mind-altering substances with them at Atlanta poly weekend? And I was like, “That sounds great!” How would I feel about them hooking up at Atlanta poly weekend? I was like, “Okay, I guess? You know, sure.”
And you know, this is happening really fast, over the course of like a week, and when I was distracted. So I didn’t really think about it very much because in my mind—like, one, I hadn’t seen a lot of chemistry or intense interaction between them at the con. Two, it didn’t sound like anything more than like, conversations and flirting, and like “hey, maybe we’ll hook up at another conference.”
So then I got home and he mentioned to me that he had a Skype call setup with Rose for Friday night. So that would have been the Friday two weeks after he met her at the party. I remember when I had left the house, which was, it like five o’clock in the afternoon, to meet this woman for coffee, Franklin had told me that he was just getting on the call with Rose. And when I got home, which was at like 11 o’clock at night, he told me he was still on the call with her. And so there was something that registered in my brain like, “Oh, he’s been on the call with her for like five, six hours. That’s a lot.” Like, that’s more than just “we’re chatting and maybe we’re going to hook up.”
But I like, I was in a place where I just couldn’t deal with it. I was like, I just need to fucking go to bed. Because I had this really long intense conversation about [redacted].
Um, And so, you know, Franklin said something to me like, “I want to talk to you about this.” And it didn’t even like register with me. But I had the impression from his message that the call was over, it was about to end, and so like in my mind it registered as like a 6-hour Skype call, right? And stayed that way for several years.
So then, the next morning I started to process this a bit more. And I started to realize like—and actually I think there were a couple other things he said, where I started to realize, “Oh, this is more serious than just a play partner he hooks up with at conferences sometimes. Like this is becoming potentially a lot more.” And of course I had just been through this year-long process of working with him on The Game Changer, which was all about how, you know, you can’t predict how people are gonna affect your life, right?
So I was like, well—and this is a situation where like, I had become a lot more bonded to him through the book tour and everything else. His nesting partner was extremely unhappy because she wasn’t getting enough of his time and attention. So he was already pulled between us in that way. His long-distance partners, Amy and Sylvia, were very clearly unhappy, very clearly wanting more of his time. And I was like, “You don’t have time for another relationship.”
And he’s like, “Well what if it’s just like me and Sylvia, where we see each other every year or two?”
And I’m like, “Well, first of all Sylvia’s not happy with that, and second of all, it’s very disruptive when you’re with Sylvia, even though it’s not that often, and three, you can’t make me that promise. Like, we just wrote a fucking book about how you can’t make that promise to people—that a relationship is gonna be small and not going to grow, and—like the whole Bella story is about how that relationship built and took root and didn’t have space to expand, and I’m like, “You don’t have space for any relationship to grow at this point, because your other relationships are starved.”
And this is not a conversation that we had in depth over text. This is like a little bit of back and forth, and then a lot of me thinking, and what I wanted to say, but I didn’t want to say it over text. So I told him over text, one, “I am opposed to you starting a relationship with Rose.” Two, “I want to wait till you’re here to talk about it.”
And at that point him being—he was coming—like this is either the Friday or the Saturday that I sent him that message. I think it was Saturday that I sent him the message, and he was due to arrive in Vancouver on Tuesday. So I was asking him to slow down for like three, four days, til we could talk in person and I could express some of this stuff to him. And I thought he would wait. Like I really, I really expected that it was—I thought it was not unreasonable for me to ask him to wait. And I had no concept that he may have made commitments or, or gotten into a relationship without talking. So I thought it was like a reasonable request for me to say, “Hey wait a few days before you pursue things with her even more, so that we can talk about it.”
And you know, the only response I got was “Okay.” Which is like what he does when you set a boundary or ask for something over text or whatever. It’s always “Okay,” nothing else.
So, so then you know, I started getting a little bit more interested in who she was, because I like, hadn’t realized that she might be someone who became important in our lives. And so I went and I, you know, checked out her Facebook profile. And on her profile was her age, or her birthday or some year or something. And I did the math and I’m like, “She’s 26.” And that really clicked something—I was like, “That’s really not okay.” Because at that time he was 49. He was almost twice her age. And I just realized like the whole weird creepy dynamic of like, she had been a fan, and she met him at a conference when he’d given this big talk that was so moving for everyone, and then immediately after he like, you know, sort of picked her out of the crowd. And, you know, to start flirting with—and like there’s a huge power dynamic there. And this is kind of messed up.
So I messaged him, and I said, “So do you know how old she is?” And he messaged back and he said no. And I said, “I think you should go to her Facebook profile and see how old she is.” And that was Sunday, I think.
And then that’s kind of the last I remember us talking about it until he got into town on Tuesday. And you know, I picked him up at the train station, and we got back to my house, and we started talking about it.
And he was like, “Yeah, as soon as I figured out how old she was, I completely lost interest. And I need to cut this off.”
And then he started to cry. And I was like, “Okay, wait a minute. Like this is way more serious than I thought.” Like the emotional response that he was having to the idea of just dialling it back with her to like a friendship level was a lot more intense than I had expected. And so like over the course of that conversation, I realized, like what was going on was way bigger than what I had understood based on what had been communicated to me. And you know, there were a number of reasons for that. One was that I was kind of checked out for that two weeks—but also, it had only been two weeks, right? Like I had no reason to expect that he would have gotten into a place where he felt like, commitments to her in two weeks.
And it was clear that the framing around this was not like, “Oh, we’ve been flirting and I need to dial it back.” It was like “I need to break up with her.” Like, how did we get in two weeks from a place where you know, “I met this woman at a conference,” to “Oh my gosh, I need to break up with her”?
So that was like a huge blow to me, because it was just like—I felt totally blindsided. It was so fast, it was so intense, and he hadn’t consulted with me at all. Like he hadn’t checked in with me to see how I felt about it. He hadn’t given thought to how it would affect his other relationships, how it would affect his relationship with me. He had charged ahead on this premise that, you know, he could keep this relationship small—just like we’ve been saying you can’t use as a premise. And now suddenly, we’re in this situation where like he has to break up with someone.
And he said that this was his decision, that he lost interest the minute he saw how old she was. But he was extremely, extremely nervous about about having this conversation with her. It was a heavy few days, between when he scheduled that Skype call with her to quote-unquote “break up” with her, and when he actually had it. Like he was dreading and anticipating and like, really really processing a lot of like intense emotions and fear around it.
And I was trying to deal with all that, like still processing how this all happened and I didn’t know about it. And he didn’t seem to understand why I was upset. Like it felt like a betrayal to me, like the fact that he would pursue a relationship with someone without even having a conversation with me about how I felt about it or how it might affect our relationship, felt like a very serious betrayal.
I’ve never seen him the way he was the day he had that conversation with her. Like he, he usually has no—like doesn’t really seem to care about privacy that much? Like we talked about that about how like he didn’t seem to think it was necessary to tell me when Vera was in the room when we were Skyping. But in this case, he went into my room with the door shut and then he asked me to put headphones on with music on, just so I would not hear any of their conversation. Like, he was very very concerned that I not hear that conversation and that it be completely private. Which is fine, it was just very unusual for him. I never saw him like that before or since.
And then you know afterwards he—I can’t remember actually what he said afterwards. He felt really awful about it, I remember, or he said he did—who knows what he felt. But he seemed to feel really awful about it. And this is another thing that I was having a hard time parsing was this guilt that he clearly felt about it. Because it wasn’t matching up with what he was telling me. Like he was telling me, still, “Oh we were just flirting.” He was telling me that there wasn’t any more to it than what he told me. But then he was showing all of this intensity around, one, his feelings about having to break it off, and two, his feelings of guilt about what he had “done to” her, and I’m like how—like, these stories don’t match up.
So I started asking him more questions about what had transpired between them. I asked him about what had happened on that Skype call. He was very very vague in all of his answers.
For me, it was like, one, the stories just weren’t matching up. Like he would say things but the things he was doing weren’t in line with the things he was saying. And he wouldn’t even acknowledge that the stories weren’t matching up, let alone like, explain to me why they weren’t. Two, I had experienced it as a betrayal, and he was unwilling to acknowledge that that was like a reasonable possible response to the situation.
And you know, that was a point at which I realized like, you know, More Than Two doesn’t have anything in it about broken agreements, or like, how to deal with broken trust. I need to find something about this. And the only thing that I could find was about cheating in monogamous relationships, which like, the advice doesn’t perfectly map. But some of it does. And so I like, shared with him some of the advice that I read. But then he, like, didn’t like that I was comparing this to cheating, because there wasn’t an explicit agreement that was broken.
And I’m like, “You’re right. We didn’t have explicit agreements about like, exactly when we would inform each other along the process of getting into a new relationship. But I also feel like this was a reasonable baseline expectation for me to have—that, you know, given the importance of your relationship with me, that you would want to make the effort to communicate with me about how a new relationship might affect us before you go into that new relationship.”
And then he was like, “But you’re expecting me to mind read about what you want and need.”
And I was like, “I don’t think that’s true. I think this is baseline poly skills.”
So we would have arguments over that, like were my expectations reasonable, were…and never any like, just empathy for like, that experience of like, having this just like, fully fledged relationship, apparently, dropped into the middle of our lives without prior discussion or negotiation.
And I shared with you a letter that I wrote him during all of that, and what’s really striking to me about it is like, like, the effort that I was going to try to elicit empathy? Like to try to explain my feelings—and I just realized I went to that kind of effort so often in our relationship, of like trying to explain in detail like, why I was feeling a thing just to get that thing acknowledged as real, you know?
There was something that was a problem [for me] during all of this, which was that he was continuing to talk to Rose. Because I didn’t feel like I had clarity on what had happened between them. I didn’t feel like I had clarity on what, what she felt, what their relationship was now. I think fundamentally, I didn’t trust his boundaries? And so I was really uncomfortable with the fact that they were still talking.
And all of the monogamous cheating advice is like, “Your partner has to cut ties with the person they cheated with.” And I’m like, “I don’t think that’s necessarily reasonable in a poly context, or in this context. But I also feel like, you know, maybe it wouldn’t hurt if you two like, took a break, so that I can recover from this, and you know, you can recover from this, and we can figure out what the hell is going on.” But that, that never really landed with him? But I remember about two months later, she told him that she needed to cut contact for awhile. And I remember being just so incredibly relieved when that happened—that like, “Oh finally, like finally she’s not going to be in our lives,” you know?
And there’s another thing that she and I discovered later was, like, a lie that he told, which is, he had told me that the soonest he would consider being in a relationship with her would be in 10 years. So when she was 36, and he was 59. But he had told her that the soonest he would consider being in a relationship with her was when she turned 30. So he had just straight-up told us both completely different things about that, about when he would be open to a relationship with her—four years versus ten years.
The other thing that I found out later from her was that Skype call that I had thought had ended had actually continued on through the night, so they had had a 12-hour Skype call and not a six-hour Skype call. Again like, minor—well it’s not a minor distortion. It’s a distortion, and there is a big difference between you know, a 6-hour Skype call that goes through the evening and a 12-hour Skype call that goes through the night.
And so, you know, what happened in the process of all this for me was that I slowly started to bend the story to make him innocent. I needed him to be innocent. I needed us to be okay. I needed it to not be a situation where maybe he just didn’t care all that much how I was affected, or think about it. I needed the betrayal to not be as severe as it was. And so I created a story that made Rose to blame. And so in my story, she was a fan, and she had been incredibly moved by this keynote talk that he gave, and then you know, they met at the party and he said, “I have a crush on you” and to her, that was just like, you know, this feeling of being chosen—like he like came down off the podium and was like “You.” And then over the course of what to him was just flirtation and getting to know each other, to her was the development of a serious relationship. Because she had had this experience of feeling like she knew him already from having read More Than Two.
Now, of course a lot of this maps onto what my actual experience was at the beginning of my relationship with him, as well. But that the reason for this disconnect—because another thing that, like, he continued to express this guilt and remorse, and I could not figure out what it was that he thought he’d done wrong, because he wouldn’t name it, and so finally I sort of explained that away by saying that she had imagined a relationship existing where none had, and had taken his words and actions as being far more serious than they were and then projected that onto him, so that he had to deal with it. And so that he had to, you know, essentially break up with someone he’d never consented to be in a relationship with to begin with.
And so I told this story to him, and he was like, “Yep, sounds about right.” And that became the story, and, you know, it even became like well, “she gaslighted him into a relationship with her.” And that was, you know—I can’t remember whether it was him or I came up with that framing at first, but he certainly agreed with it and adopted it as his framing—that she had gaslit him into being in a relationship with her that he had never consented to.
But it’s just like to me, now, it is an example of the extent to which I was distorting everything around us, including other people, in order to fit within this framework that was required for our relationship to survive.
I will say, though, that there was a point—because I felt so guilty that I couldn’t let It go, like I felt like there was something wrong with me for needing to reprocess this over and over? And I understand now that that was happening because, like, the stories just weren’t matching up, and I couldn’t just accept that they weren’t. I had no resolution to that, which is why I kept bringing it up and kept wanting to talk about it again. And I started to fear that my behaviour was abusive. That I was, basically, torturing him and gaslighting him with my jealousy. And that I should just be okay with this, and why can’t I let it go? And I even said, like, I think I did put in text somewhere, you know that, that I was concerned that I might be abusing him. And he responded and said, “I don’t think you’re abusing me.” And um yeah, I don’t know what else to say about that, just that I felt like, through the whole thing, like there was something wrong with me, that I was so affected by it and couldn’t let it go.
I mean I can talk about reaching out to Rose, I guess three years after all that happened, and you know, learning her perspective. And of course it makes sense hearing her perspective because—you know and especially after talking with Amber about it and realizing, you know, as Amber said in her messages, that you know this extremely rapid relationship start is an MO for him. That this is how he does it. You can see that in his LiveJournal when he’s starting the relationship with Amber, how it develops over the course of like weeks into something that is life-changing.
And the same thing happened with me and with Amber. That you know, our relationship developed very very quickly. We moved very quickly from you know, first date, to deep emotional bonding to you know, having sex and fluid bonding to like, “We’re writing a book together”—you know. It was six months before he first said he wanted to move in with me.
And so, you know, of course like he did the same thing with Rose. Because I think what it comes down to is just sort of he doesn’t really have any checks or boundaries? And so what she told me, and I believe her, is that she let him set the pace based on what he seemed to think he was available for. And he is very, very intense at the start of a relationship, and if a woman is not putting the brakes on, he sure won’t.
So I learned her perspective, and, and it made sense at that time.
This was, it would have been, end of May last year, end of May 2018, that I first talked with her.
And you know, we pinned down some of his lies. Like the lie about telling me that he would consider dating her in ten years and telling her that he would consider dating her in four years. And you know, it makes sense that this disconnect between his behaviour and what he was telling me was simply because, you know, yes, in fact, he had allowed himself—or I say “allowed himself” again, that’s like ascribing passivity to him that—and making him not an actor.
He had gotten into a relationship with a woman who was young and vulnerable and had been sort of groomed before she met him by his work. He’d gotten into a relationship with her very very quickly, without being totally forthcoming with me, and without considering the ramifications on his other relationships or the rest of his life. And then he had to get out of it, but never fully owned his role in what had happened. And it’s kind of sad, really, because if he’d just owned, months of conflict wouldn’t have had to have happened. Because the months of conflict was me feeling gaslit, because the things he was telling me weren’t matching up to the things I was seeing.