Crazy Love

Deborah A. Kelly writes: Crazy Love, a memoir by Leslie Morgan Steiner, is a stark reminder that domestic violence is not the exclusive purview of the poor or of immigrant cultures. Steiner reminds us that violence within romantic relationships can happen to anyone and anywhere, even trust-fund Harvard grads with promising careers. The physical and emotionally abusive love that Steiner shares with her readers is astounding in its simplicity and complexity. It is simple because the violence is clear and brutal: silver photo frame smashed over her head, clenched fists punched into face, cold gun held to her head. Complex because the emotional manipulation perpetrated by her husband is subtle and crafty. He isolated her from friends, made her quit her job, moved her to another state, nicknamed her Retard. Under the guise of conducting research, Steiner tracked down an assistant professor pursing a Ph.D. on the behavioral psychology of batterers. Primed with interview questions, Steiner learned: 1) of primary importance is that the batterer accept responsibility for his actions, and 2) even upon those rare cases of acceptance, most batterers keep on battering those they love. “Men I work with,” said the assistant professor, “cannot separate intimacy from abuse.”

During a visit to a marriage counselor, Steiner’s husband told her to stop pushing his buttons. He said that the purpose of the counseling was to improve their communication, and handed Steiner a list of conversational subject matters she must avoid. Steiner, confused, thought they were seeking counseling so he would stop hitting her. It occurred to her that this was not a man who was accepting responsibility, rather one that still believed she was to blame for his violence. Later, Steiner opted for a restraining order and a divorce. Steiner recounts, “I will probably always flinch when a man, any man, raises his voice, whether it’s in a boardroom or my backyard.” The high price she paid for marrying an abusive man is less than most pay. She recognizes that by proclaiming profound luck to have, while in her twenties, learned to recognize, and stay away from, abusive men. Others should be so lucky.