“Lauren’s” Relationship Testimony With Franklin Veaux
The first-person relationship testimony of “Lauren” with Franklin Veaux, as told to Louisa Leontiades by email. Read Louisa’s notes and supporting analysis here.
We got together when we both lived in Atlanta, around Oct/Nov 2006 (I think my partner and I had Thanksgiving with him and Amber that year). We were local until May 2007 when I moved to NJ to live with my partner. During that time, I think his care taking was sort of spread between me and Amber and Paula and Amy and maybe his roommate? I had forgotten that aspect but yeah, he was pretty (willingly) helpless. I refuse to believe that someone that intelligent cannot figure out how to make macaroni & cheese.
There was a fair amount of conflict about us getting sexually involved, which he entirely blamed on Amber and now I’m wondering how much of that was true. They had very strict HPV boundary rules and they always seemed a bit more about who was “in” the circle or not rather than actually being about sexual health. We didn’t have intercourse for several years, which in retrospect seems like a blessing. I think that protected me from the whole attachment-pain-relief cycle to some degree.
Anyway, we continued LD for a few years and visited on occasion. I think we were mostly not talking by 2010 though we were still together on paper. I visited Portland in May 2011 and we reconnected kinda intensely; that was when he made all the promises about how it was gonna be different after that. They of course were not. I think he visited Boston later that year by coincidence and stayed with me and my now husband for a few days. After that we just kind of stopped, I don’t remember if we formally broke up that time or if I just stopped trying. I am pretty sure the last time I saw him was when he came to Boston in late-ish 2011.
I agree that he seems to have very different perceptions of his relationships than his partners do. That was often one of our points of contention, I would see him again after many months of silence and he would be like super in love with me and I’m like who are you? By the time I familiarized myself with him again, the visit would be over and we’d be back to square one.
I would also frequently be upset to find out he was dating someone intensely that I had no idea about until he mentioned it off-hand or I heard it somewhere else and he was like “oh yeah I forgot you didn’t know.” At the same time as preaching all this transparency. I’m afraid my memory is vague on details, but to the best I remember, he was “talking to” Paula for several weeks before I knew of her existence, and by that time he was super into her and they were having phone sex, etc. He and Vera were practically living together before she was on my radar (I’ve since found out that they apparently were a thing the whole time we were together, which is *bizarre*). I think it was similar with Sylvia and Melanie.
Basically anyone he started dating after me, I found out randomly about them, he never came to me and said “Hey, I’ve met this new person and wanted you to know about it.” It wasn’t secrecy, per se, he was very open about it whenever the topic happened to come up, but he never seemed to think it necessary to inform me of other partners or statuses of other relationships. He seemed to think that if he knew about it, so did I. And maybe that is what a lot of this is about, that he doesn’t have proper theory of mind, or something.
I never felt very relevant to him or to his other partners, except maybe for Paula. Amber and I didn’t really connect beyond the surface level until after all that was pretty much over. I remember I always found it so mystifying that he could write with such clarity and passion about poly and how to do relationships, and be so colossally bad at it. He was kind of a mentor for me before we met, a lot of my early reading about poly was his LJ. Then when we started dating, he was shockingly passive, like he just never seemed to want anything? And he would express loving me and wanting to be in the relationship, but there was not much evidence of that in the actual dynamic. Particularly after we went long-distance, I would just never hear from him. Ever.
And then I would be like WTF how come you never call me and he’d say some vague shit about how he wasn’t good at distance and make no effort to correct the problem. He adopted my cat when left Atlanta, and I think maybe the only time he initiated contact with me was to tell me he was sick one time.
It was immensely frustrating, because he just seemed not to care. Like, he wouldn’t fight, or disagree with what I thought was appropriate behavior, or anything, he would just be like “Oh, I’m sorry you feel sad, sweetie!”
No matter how many times I communicated what I needed (which was literally like for him to initiate contact with me in any way at all ever), he seemed mystified each time I brought it up, like we’d never discussed it before and he was pleasantly curious about my alien ways. I kept trying for way longer than I should have because I was like…but you UNDERSTAND this! You write about it all the time! You just wrote a blog yesterday telling people to do what you NEVER DO.
Eventually I gave up. I think we broke up and got back together a few times, because I did love him and I felt like he was always just a step away from evolving into someone who could have relationships with other humans, but he just never made it. The last time I saw him he made me all these passionate promises about how he was going to make it work this time because he missed having me in his life. And I’m pretty sure I never heard from him again. I had been through enough Rational Poly Dudes at that point that I was in the habit of invalidating all of my own needs so I don’t think I was particularly clingy with him, actually. I reduced and reduced my requests throughout our relationship until I asked him to call me one time per month, which I think is EXTREMELY reasonable for an LD relationship, and he couldn’t even do that. And maybe he didn’t like phone calls, but
a) he sure seemed to make a lot of them to other people, and
b) he never offered any other sort of compromise.
I just mean that I assumed a general goodness about him and that a lot of the way he behaved was an aberration or just because he’s incompetent, rather than malicious. I don’t actually know one way or the other now, whether he’s “just” kind of delusional or whether any of this was intentional. Though I suppose it doesn’t matter overly, you have be somewhat willful about your ignorance if you’ve had this many people tell you a thing.
I didn’t have much of a relationship with Vera. I remember that she went out of her way to ensure that F and I could have sex (intercourse) for the first (and only) time on that Portland trip in 2011, which I was very appreciative of – it still kind of boggles my mind that we hadn’t prior to that, that was like 4+ years after we started dating. And they say poly people aren’t virtuous.
There was also a bit of threesome that went on that weekend, though it was entirely she and I cooperating rather than interacting with each other. I remember it was hard for her, and that she had some emotional storms, like she was struggling to allow the sex and F was very stone faced about that. There was just this way he would go blank when things got intense emotionally. Like poker faced. Actually in retrospect I kind of wonder if he was dissociating, knowing what I know now from my psych training. It certainly wouldn’t be the only signifier of trauma here. But from the outside at the time, it seemed like he just closed off completely and he would nod and kind of vaguely say things but it was like there was no *there* there. No person.
I think it often had the effect of making the emotions more intense because his partner would amp it up trying to get his attention back, which made him shut down further, etc. I don’t really remember too many more details about the rest of it, just a general sense that Vera was trying very hard to make it okay with herself for me to be there but she really wasn’t. And at the time I didn’t super care about that, which makes me sad now.
At the time, I read it as him being unwilling to sacrifice the sex with me, which felt like a step forward for us as he had never prioritized me before – that’s pretty gross in retrospect, that I read it that way. I never really spoke to her much outside of that.
As far as how it affected me… well. He was one of several men that I could never quite get the attention of, and so he felt like part of a pattern.
He made me feel like I wasn’t quite good enough, that I wasn’t one of the “real” poly people because I wanted dumb shit like intimacy and connection and couldn’t be happy with occasional play parties as my sole source of sexual connection.
He held up his other partners as examples of how “secure” people behaved. His commitment to “rationality” led to a lot of development in my thoughts about how rationality sucks as a sole decision-making mechanism, without being informed by emotion and intuition and other things. I always felt I had to justify every need with a purely logical argument, and any failure to get my needs met was basically bc I was too hysterical to argue my position properly.
Luckily I had people to support me and to point out that he was a jackass, so I think I healed from it all pretty well and managed to put it behind me.