Memoir tackles the signs of unhealthy relationships

In “So Much For Love,” a graphic memoir, French illustrator Sophie Lambda speaks personally about the mentally and emotionally abusive relationship she was trapped in. The first two-thirds of the book chart the evolution of this relationship from a blissful storybook romance to a nightmarish horror story from which Lambda only fully extricated herself with the help of a psychiatrist.

Her account of this relationship is so honest and open that it can be a bit difficult to read, especially for those who have a history with a narcissistic manipulator. When she met Marcus, a French C-list TV actor, she was a successful independent career woman. By the time she found the strength to end their relationship, she was an emotionally decimated wreck of herself who doubted her own sense of reality.

In the final third of the book, Lambda reflects on her relationship with Marcus and helpfully dissects and labels the techniques he used to manipulate her. She does this in a humorous, easy-to-understand way that just might help others avoid falling for their own manipulator, or even recognize if they’re in such a relationship now.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to tangle with a narcissist like Marcus will quickly recognize the familiar patterns of behavior described by Lambda. It begins with idealization, or the romance phase of the storybook, where the victim is showered with gifts and attention and everything seems perfect.

Next comes devaluation, where the manipulator begins to undermine their partner, at first in subtle ways, but eventually moving on to more outrageous and blatant tactics. For example, blaming your partner for their own inexcusable behavior: “I cheated on you because your jealousy made me lonely!” This constant gaslighting takes away the victim’s self-esteem, causing them to doubt themselves and possibly even reality.

The final phase is rejection but not a complete breakup because the manipulator is still playing with his victim. They might make heartfelt promises to change or plan a date only to abruptly end the relationship, then – a slap in the face – a quick makeup with flowers and more promises of change. This cycle can repeat itself many, many times, leaving their partner an emotional shell of themselves.

With the help of his psychiatrist and several good friends, Lambda emerges from this horrific ordeal even stronger. As she notes, “Once all of this is behind you, you’ll be unstoppable. You’ll be a lion.” I highly recommend this book to anyone hoping for a healthy relationship.

Lisa Sanning is the Adult Services Librarian at the Missouri River Regional Library.

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