Episode 7

Eve’s Relationship Testimony With Franklin Veaux

Interviewed by Kali Tal on September 14, October 19 and October 26, 2019. Scroll down for audio. 

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER 2017

Eve: And then shortly after that he got sick. And that spiralled into this whole chain reaction of things.1 He was treated with an antibiotic that he then had an allergic reaction to that he then had to have an adrenaline injection and then was on steroids for weeks and then was on a steroid taper for weeks after that, which meant that there were a couple of months where I was taking care of him. And so everything kind of got put on hold. Like, I was still doing everything in the business and everything at home, and I was taking care of him. And the steroids made him angry all the time. So I didn’t feel that I could have any processing conversations, or bring up to him problems that I was having, because I had to tiptoe around the fact that these steroids made him angry.

He would snap a lot more quickly—like, he had very little patience. I don’t think he ever yelled at me. He wasn’t a yelling person. His anger was always cold, not hot, right? So his anger was like, hardness and coldness and sharpness, and you know, words—like, mean words. Or like, contemptuous looks was another part of it.

I can’t even remember what the conflict was that caused him to like, lash out at me. But then I think he apologized, and he was like, “The steroids are making me very quick to anger.”

And so at that point I started just tiptoeing around him and taking care of everything, and not bringing up anything that might upset him, until he was tapered off the steroids. So there were a couple of months there where I just sort of had to hold everything together and not complain at all.

When he was finally off the steroids, I started to bring up some things again that were increasingly problems for me.

Like sometime in October, Amy blocked me on social media. ‘Cause she was so angry at me over whatever she thought I had done at the handfasting, and you know, over me not being at the wedding and me “melting down” at the handfasting. And then he was in a bad mood all weekend, so he didn’t get to enjoy their celebration. So she was hurt and angry over that.

I think it’s really important for me to mention that not a single person in my polycule actually reached out to me to find out if I was okay, or what my experience had been. Not a single person. And so, you know, everything that they knew, or thought they knew, came from Franklin, about what had happened there. Nobody in that polycule had ever had a conversation with me about what was going on with me. 

So Amy blocked me on Facebook. I was heartbroken—and I was scared. I was heartbroken, because I thought we had been friends. I thought that you know, she was like, the metamour that I had the best relationship with, the most collaborative relationship with. I had really been looking forward to her moving to Canada. And…I was scared, because she was moving to Canada. And I’m like, “What do I do if my life partner’s legal wife isn’t talking to me?” Right? 

JANUARY 2018

So around January, he was better, and I started trying to talk through some of these things again.

And another thing that was going on was that I had burnt out. And I’d stopped being able to run my companies. So I was doing things like, I was missing deadlines. I was forgetting to respond to emails, not sending estimates when I had said I would. Both Thorntree Press and Talk Science to Me were in dire financial straits. It was touch and go for several months—like whether I was even going to meet payroll from month to month, or whether I was going to be able to pay for reprints of More Than Two.

I was using all of the credit we had. And I kept saying to Franklin, I was like, “I need to sit down with you and show you what’s going on. I need to go through the numbers with you so you understand what our situation is.”

And he said that he would do it. So then every time I would bring up, I’d be like, “Can we do that now? Can we do that today?” He kept saying no. So he would never actually sit down with me. So I was carrying this other thing all alone.

Like I have never felt more alone in my life than when he lived with me. And I just felt more and more and more alone, because I was carrying more and more and more shit, and did not have a partner in that. Did not have someone who was sharing any of that burden with me.

And he was also—like, I found out that he was still giving financial support to his partner Vera, in Portland, and I hadn’t known that. And I was upset about him doing that. And I was upset about it, not because I didn’t think that he should support her, or that she should get support or that I didn’t support their relationship—but I was upset because he hadn’t been honest with me about it. Because I had been giving him all of this financial support. And he had not been holding up his end of our deal. And then I found out that he was still giving money to another partner, and I didn’t know about it. And I just felt like my support was sort of non-consensual.

But he then flipped it around to be like, “Oh, this is really about my relationship with Vera, isn’t it?”

Kali: So, let me clarify this? He was sending your money to Vera?

Eve: Well, it was his money, because it was his salary, right? It was his money from the work—the quote-unquote “work” that he wasn’t actually doing.

I felt like I had a tremendous amount of power in the situation. I had the power to fire him, and then he would lose his visa. And I was so scared of abusing that power, I never treated him like an employee. 

There were so many other things that I tried to—I don’t need to go into a lot of details, but like I would try to get him to pick up some aspect of running the company. Like managing print jobs. Literally part of his job description. But he wouldn’t do it. ‘Cause managing the print jobs meant checking his email by a certain time every day to respond to various emails from the printers. And he just wouldn’t do that. And so I always ended up having to step in to pick up the slack, ‘cause things were gonna be late. And then I just decided, it’s easier for me to just do it. 

Like, it was important to me that he had his own money. Because I thought that it would be abusive for me to try to dictate how he was spending his money. So he had his own money, his own bank account. And like, it was important to me that he has control over that. But what upset me was the lack of transparency around it. And this idea that I had thought in my head that he was really strapped, but actually he wasn’t. Like—and there had been this question in my mind, I’m like, “I know how much money he makes. Why does he never seem to have any money? Like, I’m paying for a lot of stuff. Like, where’s his money going? I know what he’s paying for rent. I know what his salary is, and he never seems to have money.”

 

But the thing about me keeping his secrets, and him making these incremental improvements—one of the sort of improvements and agreements that I’d thought we’d made as we were working through all this stuff was that he was starting to understand how harmful it was for me to have to keep all these secrets for him about his other partners. And that he was going to be honest with them and tell them the same things he’d told me, and tell them that he had told me those things. So that would create an opening, then, for me to try to repair those relationships, once they understood that he’d been telling me these things. So I thought we had that agreement and understanding, and I was just sort of waiting for him to have those necessary conversations. 

 

I’m describing what is obviously, in retrospect, a horribly toxic situation. And there was a question of like, why I didn’t leave, right? Like, why didn’t I see this? Like, there were all these exits, but I was just so focused on the next step ahead of me that that was all I could see. So that sort of tunnel vision was a part of it. But there, there was also this thing that I now understand as being part of the abuse and part of a long-term pattern, which was that I—first of all, he maintained this constant narrative of like, “We’re so phenomenally, phenomenally compatible. We’re so lucky to have each other. So few people find this in their lives. This is so unique. Our relationship is so awesome.” And so I heard this, and I believed this, and it was flattering.

But also, I wasn’t happy.

So I internalized this idea that I was in this amazing relationship, and that if I wasn’t happy, it meant there was something wrong with me. I looked at all of the bad things as aberrations and exceptions rather than the fabric of the relationship.

And I later read the book The Gaslight Effect, and she talks about “glamour gaslighting,” which is exactly this thing where you create this image, but it’s not real. But the person isn’t really allowed to, or able to challenge it. So you know, I internalized this idea that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t happy in this amazing relationship, where actually all these shitty things were being done to me. 

I also started to believe—like, he was feeding me these narratives about his other partners. About how broken or controlling or angry or even abusive they were, and how he couldn’t set boundaries with them, and all this stuff. And I started to feel like, “Why is he with these women who he’s not happy with, and who he doesn’t have agency in his relationship with? And if they’re like that, like, am I like that? Like, is this a pattern? Am I actually like them? And does, is Franklin someone who just loves broken women and sees the best in us, and loves us when no one can?”

I describe it now and it just sounds so like—WOW. But I started to believe that like, he loved me because he was special. And he could see things in me that other people couldn’t. And nobody else could love me the way he did. Like, other people loved me, but nobody could see me the way he did, or love me the way he did.

And so the worse I felt in the relationship, the more I felt like something was wrong with me, and the more I felt like the relationship was all I had—because only he could love me. And I think a lot of the suicidal ideation that I started having was internalizing this idea that I was nothing without him. Which of course would then be something that—someone will take that and use that as an example of  how codependent I was. Because we hold that up as this idea of like, toxic dependency in relationships, but actually this is something that abusive people deliberately invoke.

Kali: Yeah. It’s like stimulating the jealousy in order to prove that women are jealous.

Eve: Yeah. And then I kept focusing on the good parts of our relationship. Like when we were writing the book, or when we were on the first book tour. There were some really, really amazing parts of our relationship. And I just kept thinking, “This is just a rough patch. We just need to get through this.” And that helped maintain that tunnel vision of just like, just put one foot in front of the other. To get through this rough patch that we’re in right now. And that it’ll get better.

Franklin did have a previous history of sometimes listening to me and making big changes that I had asked for. Like learning to cook, for example, was a huge one. Previous things I mentioned in my testimony, like managing his own calendar, was a big one. So it was like, well, I know that he can listen to me, and I know that he can make improvements, so I just need to find the right words for him to hear what’s wrong with this situation, and he’ll wanna fix it, right? And he did make some very small, incremental improvements during that window of time, like after my handfasting meltdown and before the breakup. Like he did start to allow me space to express more dissent, he did start to try to work on the reactions that he had when I would get emotional.

And so I could see him making an effort. And I was like, “We’re in a rough patch. We’re working on it, we’re making incremental improvements. And so this will get better.” So as bad as things were, I really believed that we were both acting in good faith, and that we were just a couple struggling.

 

So we were in counselling. We were talking about how to have conflict. And this is also something I was talking with him privately about. I was like, “We have really unhealthy conflicts that are terrible for both of us. We need to learn a healthy way to have conflict, because you can’t have a relationship without conflict. So can we talk about ways that feel safe for you to have conflict, or ways that I can be angry that aren’t threatening to you?”

And it was a lot of me saying, like, “Hey, we need to talk about this. I want to talk about this.” And him sort of being like, “Yeah, we should talk about this, deflect deflect deflect.” So I never really felt like I got any information on how is it okay for me to express anger? So I was really struggling with that, and I was starting to feel like there’s no way—I’m not allowed to be angry. It’s just not a feeling I’m allowed to have.

And I’m like, I think I’m supposed to be able to be angry. Like I think that’s a feeling that’s supposed to be permitted to me. And yet I’m feeling like it’s not, and I have this really fucked-up relationship with it. And he says he doesn’t like how I express it, but I don’t know what a healthy way is.

So I saw this Facebook ad in my feed, and it was called “women’s healing anger.” And I was like, “Oh shit, that’s what I need! It’s for women and it’s about anger and it’s about healing.“ And I’m like, “I want to heal my anger.” So I signed up for this course. And it started in either late December, early January, and I think it was like six or eight sessions.

But there were a couple of interesting things about it for me.

Oh, and I did ask Franklin, I sent him the link and I was like, “Hey, do you think I should take this course?” And he was like, “Oh, it might be a good idea.”

So I signed up for it. About half of the women in the course were court-ordered to be there. So like, they were trying to get their kids back, usually. And there were clearly a couple of women who didn’t have anger problems, but who had been told by someone in their life that they had anger problems. There was one woman who was very clearly being abused by her husband, but she had been court-ordered—like her kid had been taken away because he was being abusive, and they’d both been put into anger management classes, right? And that became really clear. And so I think that started to—again, these little bells going off, like, “Oh, maybe we don’t all need to be here. We’ve just been told we do.”

But then there was also the fact that all of the anger management strategies we were being taught were things that I was already doing, and that Franklin didn’t think were okay. I mean, not all of them, but a lot of them. So things like, take a timeout. Like that was one of the first things. And I’m like, “I am specifically not allowed to take a timeout. He will come and get me and force a confrontation with me.” And you know, I had asked him multiple times to allow me to do that. And he had just never allowed that.

She mentioned screaming into a pillow. I’m like, “I’ve done that. He doesn’t like it if he knows that I have screamed anywhere, even if he can’t hear me.”

The teacher once gave this example of, she and her husband and some friends were driving in a car together, and they decided to just like, start letting out some frustration. And she was like, “Yeah, we were like driving along, like screaming.” And I was like, “I can’t even imagine doing that. Like, I can’t even imagine—like that would never be okay.” And I’m like, “You’re saying that’s okay?” She gave us all these tools about direct communication, and I’m like, “Yep, yep. Doing that, doing that. I wrote a book about that.”

I didn’t really learn any new skills….

Oh, and the other thing was that she talked about your baseline of arousal. And she did the anger curve, and like when you get to this point, you have to take a time out because you can’t solve problems at that point. She’s like, “How quickly you get up that curve depends on how high your baseline is. And so if you want to have better conflict and get angry less often, you need to do things to reduce your overall baseline in your life.” And I was looking at my life, and I’m like, “Holy shit, my baseline is constantly up here. So like, no wonder I’m feeling freaked out so easily, because I’m managing all of the things that I’m carrying, and all of the conflicts that are going on all the time. And Franklin just seems to have no concept of adding more, or how that affects me.” Like the fact that in the midst of all of the stuff going on around his wedding and handfasting, he also decided to start a new relationship then.

And so I actually had a conversation with him after that class. I was like, “You know, we talked about this idea of my baseline. And I realized my baseline is really high and I need to start doing some things to lower it. And I need your help with that. In terms of like the business and the house.” And like, just nonresponsive. Just like, you know, I don’t know, weird, fuzzy, slippery black-hole thing. Like nothing happened with that.

 

I remember one really unnerving episode that happened at the beginning of 2018, when we were getting ready to publish Black Iron, finally. And we were going to this reading by a scifi writer, and then there was going to be a party afterwards, and we were hoping to approach them about the possibility of endorsing our manuscript.

And so we were at the party later—and I mean for me, it was a professional event, right? Like I was with professional colleagues. And he was sitting next to me, and he just started groping me, like putting his hands all over me. And I was like, this is wildly inappropriate and uncomfortable. And like, he was so focused on me, and not on the social milieu around us. Like, he was acting like we were in the bedroom together. And I kept pushing his hands off of me. And I’d pull away, and he’d like move closer, and I’d push his hands off me and he’d put them back on. And I remember like, he actually put his hand between my legs, and I grabbed his hand and pushed it back. And he put it right back.

And it was weird. And also—he was really checked out when he was doing it. He seemed very distant. I felt very objectified. I mean, he was quite obviously not in any way responsive to me, or anything around him. So it was kind of—like the way he was checked out was sort of scary. And I thought, you know, “Maybe he’s having some social anxiety in this setting. And he’s sort of glomming onto me as reassurance.” But the way it played out was scary and creepy. And so finally, because he was not accepting any nonverbal cues, I leaned over to him, and I said, “Hey, you’re being really grabby tonight, and it’s making me really uncomfortable.” And he like scrunched up his face, like a little toddler about to throw a tantrum. But then he stopped.

But then that night, after we got home, I brought it up with him. And I was like, “What was going on with you tonight? Like, were you experiencing social anxiety? The way you were acting was really weird and upsetting. And here’s what you were doing.” And he was like, “Okay, well I won’t touch you that way anymore then.” And it was like, “That…wasn’t…what I was asking for. The situation made me really uncomfortable, and I want to talk about it, but I feel like I’m being punished now by you saying you’re withdrawing intimacy.” And so—I felt really stonewalled. Like, the conversation didn’t go anywhere. 

And so I brought it up again the next night, after I’d had a chance to process. And I was like, “I really need to talk to you about what happened last night. Because it really wasn’t okay.”

And he wouldn’t acknowledge my experience at all. And there was one point at which—he said something like, “I accepted it when you set a boundary.” And I was like, “I took your hand off of me and you put it back on me.” And he was like, “Well, I don’t remember doing that.”

And I was like, “Well,  I don’t think you did it intentionally. I don’t think you intentionally violated my boundaries. So I wouldn’t expect you to remember doing that. Because you remembering it would imply that you did it intentionally. But I’m telling you that it happened.” So he was basically denying that it had happened. And never acknowledged what my experience was, or that any of it wasn’t okay. It just sort of hung there unresolved.

But I do remember feeling like, he felt like I was harming him by bringing it up. Or making it up. And I’m like, “If we assume that your intentions were good, and you did not mean to violate my boundaries, what is more likely: that you unknowingly and unintentionally violated my boundaries, and therefore don’t remember it, and weren’t aware of it—which is what I’m trying to say—or that I’m making it up?” It just didn’t register at all with him. 

He had his own room when he moved in. He built his own room in my garage. It had a lock. I did not have a key to that door. It was his space. He controlled it. I came and visited him in it, but it was very clearly not my space. And he also lived in my bedroom. So his stuff was all over my room as well. So he had his own space. I did not have my own space. He had his space and shared space; I had shared space and that was it. And the way I justified that is, well, I have my office at my coworking space, so that’s like my space over there. But it also meant that I effectively didn’t have my own bed. His office had a bed in it, which is where he stayed with his crush when she was here. But he lived in my bed.

And there was an issue with our sleep schedules. I would sleep much earlier than he did, and he would come to bed in the wee hours of the morning and then sleep until late in the morning or early afternoon. And if he came to bed too late, like at four or five in the morning, it would wake me up, and I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep before my normal waking time. And so I would lose several hours of sleep. So finally I said, “Look, I need you to be in bed by three, and if you’re not in bed by three, you have to sleep in your room.”

This is like your classic, like what we wrote in More Than Two. Like, this is a boundary. It’s like “If you’re going to sleep in my bed, you have to be here by 3:00 a.m.”

And that lasted for maybe a week or two, where he made an effort to come to bed before three. And then he stopped. And he started just coming to bed whenever he wanted to. And I brought it up with him. I’m like, “Hey, we made this”—I said it was an agreement, he agreed to it, but I also had this boundary, “that you would sleep in your room if you were going to bed after three.” And he didn’t like sleeping in his room, because the bed wasn’t as comfortable, and he had to walk outside the house to go to the bathroom. And I’m like, “Okay, but then come to bed before three, like, that’s your choice.” But he just never did it. Like at some point he just like, pissed off with that. And just never.

FEBRUARY 2018

Within that last month or so, I did start keeping a diary. So I had a friend who had told me that her husband had gaslit her for like seven or eight years, and that he had finally stopped. And they were like now 12, 13 years into a relationship that was really good. And I was like, “How did you do that? How did you make that happen?” And she was like, “Well, I started keeping really detailed notes and journals about everything. And that helped me remember, and be confident in my recollections. And it also helped me show him how he was gaslighting me.” And I guess in their situation, once she confronted him with that, he was like, “Oh.” And he stopped.

I started doing the same thing. And I just started keeping a Google doc on my phone that I wrote everything down in that happened every day. And that became really useful, because I maintained that throughout the breakup and many months after that.

You know, during these six months, he had also been flirting constantly online with his crush, who he had connected with finally during the week of that road trip.2

And it was a very much a sort of will they/won’t they, are they gonna go ahead with this? Is this a good idea? It’s another long-distance relationship… And I was like, “Look, why don’t you invite her out to visit for a couple of weeks. So I can get to know her, she can get to know me—‘cause we don’t know each other at all. And you guys can figure out if this is something you want to go ahead with or not.” So he thought that was a splendid idea, and invited her out. And she came out for, you know, two or three weeks and stayed with us.

And I was actually really excited at the time. But of course, she had been fed—for how long, I don’t know—other stories about me. And so she was extremely guarded with me—as one would expect, probably. And I never really felt like I got a chance to sort of get to know her, or connect to her. I didn’t feel a sense of sort of curiosity. I felt more sort of wariness from her.

But the other thing that I felt really strongly was that I was treated like the hired help when the two of them were at the house together. They didn’t do chores, didn’t clean up after themselves, didn’t thank me when I did stuff for them, seemed oblivious to what was being done for them, were just sort of like in their little world together. And for some reason, when it was the two of them, it was so much more glaringly obvious that this was happening.3

 

The fact that during that time, after his illness and after that long period of sort of walking on eggshells and tiptoeing to keep from upsetting him, I finally was like, “Enough is enough.” And I started drawing lines in the sand. And you know, the situation where you’ve given up so much and let so much slide, when you finally start setting boundaries—like, wherever you set those boundaries is going to seem very arbitrary, because this is the thing that is too much for me now.

And for him, because he was taking everything out of context and had either not paid attention or not realized or not cared that I’d already given up this much ground, the fact that I was drawing the line here is like, “Oh, Eve’s angry about a frying pan,” you know?

That’s actually an example. Because I have a cast-iron pan that I got from my mother. And my morning routine is, I get up out of bed, flip the coffee maker on and heat up the pan to fry myself an egg for breakfast. And then after I eat, I wipe down the pan with a paper towel. It’s clean for the next time I use it.

I would get up usually around six or seven. And then he would get up around 11 or 12 or 1. He would make himself a fried-egg sandwich with cheese. And he would leave the cast-iron pan covered with fried egg and sticky cheese. And he wouldn’t clean it. And I started getting up every morning, and instead of having my nice clean frying pan to make my egg in, I had a mess from Franklin the day before to clean up before I could make my breakfast.

So after this happened for a couple of weeks, I sat him down and I was like, “Okay, look, the situation right now is that the first thing I do when I wake up every morning is clean up after you. And I don’t want to have to do that. And it is really easy for you to just, after you make your sandwich, wipe down the pan and put it back on the stove. Like, can you start doing that please? Like it takes 30 seconds.” And he—I don’t remember if he agreed or if he deflected, but he never started doing that.

And so there was this day when his crush was out staying with us, and he had spent the night out in his room with her. And I woke up, and I got up, and I went into the kitchen, and there was the pan all covered in fried egg. And I sent him a bunch of text messages. It was just like, “God damn it. Why didn’t you clean the pan? Don’t you understand like every morning I wake up and I feel disrespected because like you have just given me this chore that I have to do every morning?”

And so after he got those messages, he came out, and he was like, “Something’s not working here. Like, I’m starting to dread looking at my phone or reading your messages.” And I started feeling guilty. I don’t remember how that conversation went. it was so close to the end, but I do remember getting upset about that.

Yeah. That idea about lines in the sand.

 

He was telling me during that entire period of time [about his crush], “Oh, we’re not really connecting, we’re sort of circling around each other, but we’re not fitting together. Like, we’re sort of missing each other. It’s not really working.” Like, he was very clear that they were not going in the direction of a relationship.

And that for him, it wasn’t working. That was what he was telling me. And they were probably gonna stay, maybe “smoochy friends,” as he would call it. Although, I later talked to my husband, who of course was also there when they were there, and he was like, “No, they were definitely, definitely connecting.” So apparently like, anytime I wasn’t around, they were just like on each other. But it was very much happening when I wasn’t there. 

The plan was, like at the end of her visit, we were going to Toronto together for a conference where he was speaking. And then they were going to go back to the UK together, and they were gonna spend some time in the UK together. And then he was gonna go visit Sylvia for a couple of days. And he told me that the purpose of him going—and this had been my suggestion. ‘Cause he kept saying like, he needed to have this conversation with Sylvia and set boundaries with her, and make clear that they weren’t partners. But he kept not having that conversation. And I was like, “Why don’t you go out there and have it in person? You and your crush can go and spend some time together, and then you can go visit her, and you can like, have that define-the-relationship conversation that you need to have with Sylvia.” So that was the plan.

And he also was planning to see Melanie. Because I had conveyed to him some of what Melanie had told me about her experience. And he had—when he first heard it—expressed remorse over that. But then later seemed to not feel any remorse over that, and not feel that he had done anything wrong. But when he first heard it, he was like, “Do you think there’s any way that I can make it right with her?” And I was like, “Maybe? I can ask her. Like maybe if you just listen to her experience.” So he was supposed to see her and also have that conversation with her when he was in the UK. 

So we went to Toronto to this conference. And there was actually a situation very similar to the one two years prior, at the conference in Atlanta. We were renting an apartment a few blocks away from the conference hotel. And they decided to leave and go back to the apartment for an entire afternoon and didn’t tell me. And you know normally, when you’re travelling with someone—it’s not like I expect to know where you are all the time, or be with you all the time—there is some level of courtesy, like when you’re travelling with someone to be like, “Hey, we’re leaving the conference, going back to the apartment. We’ll be back tonight,” or whatever. So I was actually looking for them at the conference and couldn’t find them. And it wasn’t a source of major distress for me, but it was like, oh…I was with them. And suddenly I’m not with them.

And then the keynote was that evening. And when I didn’t see him around by the time of the keynote, I messaged them to be like, “Oh, hey, where are you?” And he was like, “Oh, we’re in the keynote. We went back to the apartment for the afternoon.” And I was like, huh. Okay. That kind of sucked. But then I was like, “Oh, can I come in and sit with you?” And he’s like, “Oh, well, there’s no empty seats around us.” I’m like, oh, so you didn’t…save me a seat? Like that kind of sucks, right?  Like—I just wasn’t a part of their group. And there was no thought of “Oh, there’s another person travelling with us who we should consider and think about,” the way a lot of people would consider and think about other people that they’re travelling with.

I found that really hurtful. And then after that, we went to dinner with some other friends of ours from the conference. He and his crush were flirting very obviously. And then she started teasing him about, “Oh, like, you say, you won’t get into a long distance”—something like, “Oh, how you said that, you would never get into another long-distance relationship.” And like the way she was teasing him, I don’t remember the exact words, but it was very clear that she was teasing him because they were getting into a relationship. And he had said that they wouldn’t. 

And I’m like, what she’s saying right now does not match any of the things he’s been saying to me for weeks. What’s going on? And so I started to feel that weird, like ground-dropping-out feeling again, of like, I don’t know what’s happening.

And on the walk back, he picked up that I was upset. And I tried to explain to him, “Well, she said this thing, and that’s not what you’ve been telling me, and I don’t know what’s going on.” And I don’t remember a whole lot of that exchange, but again, I remember him acting like he didn’t understand me, him bringing up my anxiety. He’s like, “Oh, I think your anxiety is just really spun up.” I think there was some implication that I was jealous over the possibility that they might be in a relationship. When it’s just like, “No, I just don’t feel like I know what’s going on.” You know, “I’m getting mixed signals.”

And then the next day he gave a talk. So his talk was on “what I’ve learned about polyamory since writing a book on polyamory.” And he had asked me if it was okay with me if he talked about the Challenger disaster. And by that time, I felt like we had processed it enough and gotten enough on the same page—I felt that we had, at that point, a shared story of what had happened, a shared narrative. And I trusted him to tell that narrative in a way that I felt that my experience was honoured and held and respected. And I kind of wanted him to, because I had been experiencing all of this shame, and I had been wanting the people who were there to be able to hear what had happened.

And so I said, “Sure, that’s fine.” Like maybe this could be part of our healing, right?

So I wasn’t at the talk. But it was recorded. And I watched it later that night. And he completely, completely mischaracterized the Challenger disaster. Like, he made it about him missing our anniversary date. He was like, “I broke this date and I didn’t—” it was like couched in this language of ownership. So to anyone listening, it would sound like, “Oh, he’s owning his mistakes.” Except that if you know the background, that there’s all this stuff going on, it was like, he was really, really minimizing it. And it made me sound like I had this huge, outsized reaction to him missing a date.

And then he didn’t—like, the reason we called it the Challenger disaster was because of the influence of all of these multiple things, compounding with each other. But he said, in his talk, that we called it that because it was so explosively bad. Right? So suddenly it was like, even the name, and how we were framing it, became about my giant meltdown caused by this one thing that he did.

And so when I saw that, I got very upset. And I was like, “Why did you say this? Like why—I don’t under…I don’t, I don’t”—again, I don’t remember the words in the conversation, but I remember being upset, confronting him about it, confronting him about the fact that it was not how he had been characterizing it in private with me. And he’s like, “Well you said I could talk about it.” And I’m like, “But I thought you were gonna say what you’ve been saying to me in private.”

And he kept wanting to like justify, like, what real harm was done by it? And I’m like, “Cause it’s not true!” And he’s like, “I just think your anxiety was really spun up this weekend, and there was nothing I could say that you would’ve been okay with. And I think it was just a mistake for me to talk about it at all. And I just won’t ever talk about our experiences in public again. Because I don’t think that you can handle that.”

And it just went on and on and, and ended up with me, you know…I think by that time I wasn’t fully internalizing it anymore. I was partly internalizing it, and I partly recognized that it was bullshit. And so I wasn’t sort of caving in the way that I used to. So I didn’t end up apologizing or like, admitting that I was in the wrong. ‘Cause I knew that I wasn’t, at that point. So I just remember that conversation sort of hanging unresolved.

But I do remember being upset about the possibility that Amy could see it, and that it would reinforce the narrative that she already held. And feeling like it was another sort of missed opportunity to correct the record. And him saying something like, “Why do you care so much what she thinks about you?” And I sort of realized, like, “Oh, why do I care so much what she thinks about me?” And I realized like, how much I had invested over that last year in how she felt about me, and her narrative about me, and those gaslighty blog posts that she posted, and how much I cared about those.

There was this moment of, “Oh, you have no power over me.” Like, I’ve been giving her all this power that she doesn’t have to have. So I did feel that moment of relief, of like suddenly not actually caring quite so much what she thought. Which probably was another one of the things sort of helping to set me free, eventually.

 

1. As Franklin has written about these events in fullon Quora, I do not believe that mentioning them here is a violation of his medical privacy.
2. It was also around this time that I learned his crush was (if I recall correctly) around 31 or 32 (similar in age to what Rosewould have been at the time, and about 20 years Franklin’s junior)—meaning she would have been in her mid-20s when they first connected at the French castle holiday. By that time, I was so ground down I didn’t object, except to say that I wished he’d found out her age sooner.
3. To clarify, I would not have expected his crush to do chores during her visit. But Franklin having a guest for three weeks while continuing to let me clean up after both of them made the inequity much more glaring and intolerable, as did being treated as invisible in my own home. 

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