review by Kathy Labriola
(First, full disclosure: Rachel consulted with many counselors, psychologists, researchers, and authors while writing this book, some of whom are quoted throughout the book. I am one such counselor and author, and a few or our conversations appear in the book.)
Run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore (or to your nearest digital device) to buy Rachel Krantz' fearless, brutally honest, and riveting memoir of her explorations into non-monogamy. Her book is addictively readable in her blow-by-blow telling of the exhilarating highs and the excruciatingly painful lows of her three-year relationship with a very dominant man. Her attempts to cope with her partner's version of polyamory led to intense jealousy and insecurities, doubting her own reality and sanity, and escalating eating disorders and substance abuse.
This book will speak to every woman, who reads it, and probably many men as well. It will resonate with some woman as a cautionary tale, reminding them to assert their own needs and desires, and never to let a man convince them that they should agree to live by his rules and accept his version of reality. Millions of other women will experience the shock of recognition from the very first page, because each of these women have been in just such a relationship, where they somehow found themselves controlled, confused, and terrified by a man who believed he was always right and convinced them that he always knew better than they did how to run their lives.
Rachel lays out so clearly how easy it is for a woman to fall into this trap. Most women crave love, and (if they're straight or bisexual) are probably seeking a strong, smart, charming, employed, and handsome man as a life partner. When Rachel is swept off her feet by just such a man, she revels in being "lovebombed," as he lavishes romantic and sexual attention on her at first.
However, there is a dark side to the relationship from the start. While her partner was upfront from the start about wanting a non-monogamous relationship, he gives her such mixed messages that she is constantly off-balance. He tells her there is no rush, and that she is free to sleep with other people, but that he will wait until she is ready and "consents" for him to sleep with other women. However, there is always a threat that he will leave her if she "restricts" him or puts any constraints on his freedom to pursue relationships with other women. Rachel is open to trying non-monogamy because she likes having more romantic and sexual freedom and not being tied down for life to just one person. However, she doesn't feel safe because her partner ridicules her feelings and gets angry if she asks for any boundaries or agreements.
As soon as she is hooked on this relationship and feels she can't live without his love, he starts a serious relationship with another woman. From that point on, he continues to have numerous sexual and love relationships with women, despite Rachel's worsening depression, anxiety, and substance use. As soon as he starts sleeping with other women, he withdraws emotionally and begins to with hold affection and sex, making her more desperate to do anything to win back his love. He can argue circles around her, and while most of his gaslighting and debate points don't really make sense, she begins to doubt her own reality. While Rachel dated other men, and a few women, in an attempt to feel empowered and make things seem more equal, she just feels more trapped and miserable with every passing day.
Many women will relate to this tale of woe, as they have first-hand experience with getting in over their heads in a relationship where they have become too dependent on a man's love, acceptance, and approval. They accept being powerless in a relationship that they know is unhealthy for them, where.their needs are not being met and they are being mistreated. Rachel so brilliantly dissects every aspect of this very painful experience, including her own feelings of guilt and shame for accepting her partner's increasingly abusive behavior. She tries to justify his actions to herself (and to her friends and family) by trying to believe that this is all about deep personal growth which is healthy for her and will make her a better person, and that if she just tries harder, she will learn to love him fully according to his rules, without putting any restrictions of any kind on him.
Rachel uses her expertise as a professional journalist to understand her relationship by interviewing many different experts on polyamory, abusive relationships, gaslighting, Dominant/submissive relationships, and more. She attends swinger's resorts and sex parties to interview people in various types of open relationships to try to learn how they can manage this lifestyle. Her book is not only a memoir but is overflowing with insights from experts, citations from academic research, and both data and wisdom from so many sources. She clearly has taken (Native American scholar and best-selling author) Ward Churchill''s famous advice: "If you're writing about something controversial or unpopular, footnote it like a motherfucker." Anyone reading this book will learn more than they ever imagined, both from Rachel's experience or from the many people she quotes. At the same time, it is an absolute page-turner that will keep the reader guessing about what will happen next!