Crazy Love

This is a memoir of love and violence, two life experiences that should never go together. Crazy Love was first published in 2009 and remains a compelling exploration of what it feels like to fall in love with a deeply troubled, abusive man — and then to leave him. Go deep inside the world of abuse and emerge victorious, wiser and stronger on the other side.

If you and I met at one of our children’s birthday parties, in the hallway at work, or at a neighbor’s barbecue, you’d never guess my secret: that as a young woman I fell in love with and married a man who beat me regularly and nearly killed me.

I don’t look the part. I have an MBA and an undergraduate degree from Ivy League schools. I live in a red brick house on a tree-lined street in one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Washington, DC. I’ve got 15 years of marketing experience at Fortune 500 companies and a best-selling book about motherhood to my name. A smart, loyal husband with a sexy gap in his front teeth, a softie who puts out food for the stray kittens in our alley. Three rambunctious, well-loved children. A dog and three cats of our own. Everyone in my family is blonde (the people, at least).

Ah, if only being well-educated and blonde and coming from a good family were enough to defang all life’s demons.

If I were brave enough the first time I met you, I’d try to share what torture it is to fall in love with a good man who cannot leave a violent past behind. I’d tell you why I stayed for years, and how I finally confronted someone whose love I valued almost more than my own life. Then maybe the next time you came across a woman in an abusive relationship, instead of asking why anyone stays with a man who beats her, you’d have the empathy and courage to help her on her way.

We all have secrets we don’t reveal the first time we cross paths with others. This is mine.

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“In this gripping, compulsively readable story of romantic love and its dreadful underside, Leslie Morgan Steiner has written a classic. What makes love turn to violence? How can a woman know she is at risk? These are some of the questions elegantly addressed in Steiner’s important book about how she survived a marriage which almost killed her. Her painful journey from love to fear to sanity is ultimately heartening and serves a profound lesson. This book should be required reading for all women.”

Susan Cheever

“Crazy Love reminds us that sometimes a marriage can go from being a mere skirmish in the battle of the sexes to becoming a full-on physical war. The book stands as a warning to all women to be vigilant when they pick their spouses, to always have an exit strategy in mind, to know where the money in the marriage is, to pick up as much education as possible – all for the possible day when they may find themselves battered, broke, terrified and alone. It can happen to anyone, and every woman should prepare herself for it.”

Carolyn See, Making a Literary Life

"A harrowing cautionary tale that should be read by every woman who thinks romantic love can overcome all. I read this book in one terrifying gulp and plan to have my daughter read it. Every mother should do the same.”

Elsa Walsh, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Divided Lives

"If you've ever read your daughter the story of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, you should make sure she knows the story Leslie Morgan Steiner tells in Crazy Love, too. This book is for every woman who's ever thought, "I can change him. He'll change for me"—and who hasn't thought that? Steiner's tale unfolds with all the harrowing inevitability of a horror movie, the kind where you watch the heroine start down the dark staircase to the basement with your heart pounding as you whisper, 'No! Don't do it! Don't!'That such a smart, kind, funny, vital woman could let herself be victimized this way seems almost unimaginable—and yet Steiner makes you understand how it came to pass, and even appreciate, with a sort of disgusted awe, how expertly her husband manipulates her aching insecurities and longing for that great big happily-ever-after love we learn about in fairy tales. That she comes out the other side is miraculous. That she's brave enough to tell this frank and brutal story is, too."

Sandy Hingston, “Loco Parentis” columnist for Philadelphia Magazine and author of The Affair

“After a few moments of disbelief—how could a nice girl from a nice family marry such a cruel and dangerous man?—I found myself cheering for this woman who gets off the floor—literally—and goes on to save her own life. Crazy Love is a deeply affecting account of cruelty and abuse in a marriage doomed from the start. It is a reminder that while bad behavior can be explained it can never be excused, and that while placing blame is rarely useful, letting go is. Leslie Morgan Steiner’s candor is wrenching and ultimately inspiring.”

Jane Juska, author of Unaccompanied Women and A Round-Heeled Woman

He held a gun to my head. I loved him.

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True Love, Crazy Love

I have read Crazy Love five, maybe six times now - I suppose it is therapeutic to read a story that feels like my own. It is uncanny how much Conor reminds me of my soon to be ex-husband, my college sweetheart and the man currently serving time for felony domestic violence against me.
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please do not go back to that man

When I was 19, I too was in an abusive relationship with the man I thought I would be with forever. It amazes me how stupid I was at 19, even though I thought I knew everything! He didn't hit me until we were 6 months into the relationship, but alienating me from my family and friends had already begun. So had the arguments.
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strength of abused women

I spent five years in an abusive relationship, all the while not believing I was a "battered" woman. I didn't get hit everyday, so I wrongly assumed that label didn't apply to me. No one knew in my life either - I went to work everyday and did a good job. I was 35 years old.
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emotional battering

I finished "Crazy Love" in one sitting, and wanted to thank you for having the courage to share your experience. I am currently getting divorced from a man who emotionally abused me. The day we returned from our honeymoon he left an email visible on our computer that indicated he had been cheating on me for months; the pattern of behavior continued for the next seven years.
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sweet sixteen

I am 16 years old. I have just finished reading your book "Crazy Love". I am emailing to tell you how much it touched me. I have had a lot of experiences with a few different types of abuse. When I was 13, I was raped by a man I didn't even know. And for almost two years, I was in a mentally abusive relationship.
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bruises on my wedding day

The similarities were uncanny. The poor cat he made me give away, the refusal to acknowledge what he had done,the gun to my head,the red marks around my neck, going unconscious, the isolation, the fear to tell anyone,the jealousy if I talked to anyone but him, what you went through five days before your wedding.
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a batterer's story

I am 25 years old.I am writing this to you with much difficulty because I really don't admit when I have been wrong.But I just have to tell you my story.
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if i had known then

I was married to an abusive man for 25 years. I have 3 children and that made leaving difficult. Not that I didn’t try several times.Unlike Conor, my husband would not leave our home and ultimately I did. In the process I lost access to my son for more than 10 years. I lost my house and personal belongings.
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emotional abuse can beat you too

Thank you for writing your book 'Crazy Love.' It was such a powerful read for me. I left an emotionally abusive husband last February. I did not endure the physical abuse that you did - he punched me one time and grabbed me and made physical threats when I decided to leave. But the covert emotional abuse is what beat me up over and over.
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my daughter, left for dead

In the early morning hours of October 14, 2006, my daughter’s car hit a tree head on at a high rate of speed after she had been pursued by her ex-husband, who in his speeding van rammed her car multiple times until it hit the tree and rolled over. He took off, leaving her for dead, not, I think, out of cowardice, but out of a desire for her to die.
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