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BOOK REVIEW: The Wise Lesbian’s Guide to Getting Free from Crazy-Making Relationships

Wise Lesbian GuideExploiters are everywhere. Personality disordered individuals can be found in all demographic groups — male, female, rich, poor, all races, all religions, all nationalities and all sexual orientations.

Amber Ault, Ph.D. is s clinical sociologist and a psychotherapist, and also a member of the Lovefraud Continuing Education team. She’s written a book called The Wise Lesbian’s Guide to Getting Free from Crazy-Making Relationships and Getting On with Your Life.

Reading the book, I was struck by how much exploitative behavior is the same, no matter what community is involved. There are some dimensions to the experience of becoming involved with a sociopath that are specific to the gay community, which I’ll discuss later in this article. But for the most part, the games, deceit and manipulation are exactly the same as among heterosexuals.

So anyone can benefit from Ault’s explanations, like this one: “A personality disorder is a psychological problem that makes *other people* crazy.”

Ault also offers a concise explanation of the difference between personality disorders and mental illness. Mental illnesses, she says, parallel physical illnesses, in that before the people who have them became sick, they likely were healthy and functioning well, at least for a period of time. On the other hand, personality disorders are longstanding patterns of behavior, usually going back to when the disordered person was young. For these individuals, their behavior, perceptions and responses make it difficult for them to function well, especially in relationships.

Cluster B disorders

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Edition) identifies three clusters of personality disorders. Cluster B includes antisocial, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. Ault says that these three are the disorders “most likely to be present in relationships that are crazy-making or devastating for reasonably healthy people.”

Ault then provides the best explanation that I’ve ever seen about how people who have these three disorders are similar, and how they are different.

First she lists traits and behaviors that all exploitative personalities have in common, such as “deficits in empathy” and “skill at manipulating others for personal gain or power within relationships.”

Then, Ault describes the traits and behaviors of borderline, narcissistic and antisocial girlfriends, so that it’s easy to see the differences among the disorders. Here are some examples:

Borderline: An inability to be comfortable being single, being alone, and keeping her own company, paired with frantic efforts to prevent herself from being abandoned, even when others do not intend to abandon her.

Narcissistic: Because she believes herself to be special, she believes she deserves special favors, special possessions, special doctors and special deals. Whatever she has or decides to do, she’s confident that it’s the best or the most or the greatest. She lives for the superlatives.

Antisocial: “Right and wrong” don’t really register with her, and are not standards by which she makes decisions.

Ault also says this about the antisocials:

Because of her impaired and limited sense of self, she may not relate to the standard terms of male and female, straight and gay, but instead defines her sexuality in terms of conquest and dominance; her lovers and partners come from a fluid set of possibilities across genders, sexual identities, and races; she may especially be interested in sexual sadomasochism.

I’ve heard plenty of stories about the sexual escapades of both males and females with antisocial personality or psychopathy, and I came to the conclusion that they were neither straight nor gay, but viewed sex as just another tool for manipulating others. That’s essentially what Ault has described, in a more sophisticated fashion.

Focus on yourself

After defining the disordered personalities, with plenty of examples, Ault offers advice on what you should do if you realize you are in a relationship with one of these these individuals: Focus on yourself.

Ault offers advice on how to figure out what made you vulnerable to the exploiter, how to escape the person and how to move on.

But while you’re suffering from profound disappointment and betrayal, struggling to put your life back together, your personality-disturbed ex will change relationships like changing clothes. Ault writes:

Whether your girlfriend is borderline or narcissistic or sociopathic, she will move on from your relationship largely unscathed. Because these personality disorders all fundamentally reflect difficulties in connecting with and caring for other human beings, this girlfriend is likely only connected with you in superficial ways, no matter the intensity she initially showed up with or the ways she has learned to mimic what less disordered people do to give the impression of intimacy.

Small pond

Most of what Ault has written in this excellent guidebook applies to anyone involved with an exploiter, either gay or straight. But there is one area in which gay women are at a serious disadvantage, which Ault calls “lesbian population pressure.”

What this means is that lesbian women are fishing for romance in a very small pond. Ault cites statistics indicating that less than 1% of the U.S. population is lesbian. So there aren’t many potential partners to choose from. For this reason, some women stay in dysfunctional relationships, reasoning that a bad relationship is better than no relationship.

Except it isn’t. Ault says that the only way to recover a sense of well-being is to end the relationship and have No Contact with the disordered individual. Which is exactly the advice that anyone caught in an exploiter’s web should follow.

This book is an excellent resource for identifying and escaping a dysfunctional involvement. Lesbian women will find great comfort and understanding in Amber Ault’s words.

For that matter, so will anyone who is trying to understand and escape a crazy-making partner.

The Wise Lesbian’s Guide to Getting Free from Crazy-Making Relationships and Getting on with Your Life is available on Amazon.com.



5 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: The Wise Lesbian’s Guide to Getting Free from Crazy-Making Relationships"

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  1. BeckyR says:

    This article is wonderfully concise and exemplary in its approach to the situation of sociopaths/psychopaths in all demographics.

    Although six years out of my own male-female relationship from the bowels of the Twilight Zone, I will get this book. I find I am finally focusing on my own being and am much more a fighter for personal rights.

    As an oldster, I look around – and even with uplifting movies like “Tomorrowland,” – and see a lack of courtesy and civility in so many places. It is more than a sense of entitlement, but one of being obliviious to others…the very relationship values that make us a viable society.



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  2. awakeningeagle says:

    WHERE WAS THIS BOOK 5 MONTHS AGO? I need this.



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  3. slimone says:

    Thanks for this Donna. I just ordered the book, kindle version. If the excerpts are any indication, this looks like a very knowledgeable author, and a great resource.



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  4. Amber Ault says:

    As a long-time follower and fan of Lovefraud, I am thrilled to see such a positive review of my book here. Thank you very much!

    It’s especially wonderful for this to happen during Pride month, and as we await the Supereme Court’s ruling on marriage. The activists at Stonewall could not have foreseen that less than 50 years later, the federal government would be on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage(indeed, most would have been shocked that this has become a goal of the movement!). As we enter into the era of marriage equality, it’s especially crucial that people entering same-sex relationships have the skills necessary to cultivate happy, healthy partnerships. I hope my book contributes to that — whether by helping people get free of toxic relationships so they can be open for happy ones, or by avoiding entanglements with narcissists in the first place. I’m so pleased that while the book was written with a lesbian audience in mind, both women and men in opposite-sex relationships find it helpful. Like Donna, I observe that exploitive relationships have very common dynamics across relationship structures.

    I would like to make a note of clarification on one of the quotes from my book in the review. We live in a very interesting time of openness and exploration around sex, gender, and sexuality. For many of us, this is liberating — and a relief. And: many folks whose sex, gender, sexual identities, sexual practices, and relationship styles and agreements don’t conform to conventional expectations have both finely-tuned ethics and exquisite communication skills; if your relationship is unconventional, it needs these to be healthy. So, I want to be clear that my position isn’t that gender-nonconformity, identity fluidity, poly-amory, etc., are themselves signs of psychopathology or disordered personality. The problem is that people with anti-social, narcissistic, and borderline personality traits will often exploit the openness, freedoms, and ambiguities created by these possibilties just as they exploit other opportunities: for their own gain and gratification. Bottom line: how a person treats you and others, whatever their gender identity, sexual practices, or relationship style or structure, will tell you a lot about their trustworthiness, ethics, and capacity to enhance your well-being and happiness.

    Thanks again to Donna Andersen and Lovefraud for the work you do with survivors, and for raising awareness of the similarities and differences in toxic relationship patterns across populations. May everyone use the tools and wisdom on this site to find and create relationship lives centered in respect, love, and delight.

    Best wishes.

    Amber Ault



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  5. lifeisgood2013 says:

    I’m going to order this book right away! As a gay male formerly in a relationship with a spath for over 13 years, I’ve always wondered how the dynamics of my gay relationship involving a disordered partner actually made it more difficult for me to “see the light” than people in heterosexual relationships where the male was the disordered partner.

    What I mean by that is, in my male-male relationship, I was the dominant partner (or so I thought). That is the typical structure of a gay male relationship (one partner more dominant and one more submissive than the other) and while I’m not really referring to sex, it is part of it. As the alpha (not in reality of course but in my mind) in the relationship, the abuse from my disordered partner was SO covert (he was physically much weaker than I and I believe he would have been scared to be caught abusing me) that I can honestly say I was extremely happy in the relationship until the last year and a half when his long-term crystal meth addiction eventually broke down his ability to operate so covertly. My “happiness” until the very end of the relationship has always been a disconnect for me when reading some of the stories posted on this site and others about behaviors experienced from and by their disordered husbands. I never saw anything wrong with the person I was with and felt he treated me well until that last year and half which is quite an odd feeling I know!

    Glad to see someone in the gay community has written a book that could help others and I look forward to reading it.



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