February 05, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner: "Domestic Abuse Happens To Everyone!"

Leslie Morgan Steiner writes on her website: 

"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." 

(Louise Steiner's TED talk video embedded below)

I watched Leslie Steiner's presentation last night and realized why I'm sitting behind my computer and she's on stage. If you saw me right now, you'd understand why, too. Some people are meant for anonymity and some for publicity and it takes both types of women to do the work that can finally hopefully maybe be done. My first thought when Steiner revealed the intimate details of her life on a TED stage was:

Thank GOD that's NOT ME up there!

I started craving Xanax but methodically tapped my way back to peace, love and the joy in my warm kitchen where beef bones were melting in a bubbling stew pot, the base of something homemade and delectable for dinner. I never take not even a carrot for granted anymore---not when so many hungry souls have touched my heart and the only thing I could offer was a listening ear. And sometimes I gave them an earful, as many can attest. I am not known for succinction. (red, squiggly underlining suggests succinction is not a word. O well. This is not a book).

I have listened to, held in my arms, and read hundreds of stories like Leslie's, but the majority of my cyber-soul-sisters wouldn't be given the time of day, even if they begged for five minutes on a TED stage. The gaps in their smiles aren't charming. They're missing teeth. They barely have enough money to buy groceries (some gathering sticks to warm their hands to fix dinner in a kitchen with no heat).  I remember my best friend's mother opening a can of green beans, the only thing she had to serve five kids after her violent husbaNd had left their family for a "funner" woman. He beat the shit out of my best friend, too; and I'll never forget her crying about it to me. My relationship with her (and another childhood friend whose father was physically violent) is a big part of why I've tried to do something...short of public speaking...to help women and as a consequence, their children. It's traumatic being hit by the maN you love but children are changed by it. their friends, too.

Anyone who fell for a narcissist, will relate to the steps Leslie Steiner outlines in her speech. Step One: Charm the woman; Step Two: Isolate her. Make her believe she's the dominant partner in the relationship. Make sure she has more pity for his suffering, than the people he makes suffer. Her pain is less important than his. If you loved a narcissist, you'll identify with her experience even if you weren't physically abused.  

The truth is, people listen to Fortune 500, blonde-haired women and that's not sour grapes my friends, it's life. I hope Leslie Morgan Steiner's presentation will inform people about women's normal reactions to abnormal behavior: crazy love. It's easier for society to ignore the emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted woman who can't afford to go to school or get therapy because no-fault divorce left her broken and broke.  Which means the disenfranchised have little hope of credibility on a world wide stage; and so we wait for a woman like Leslie Morgan Steiner and then we climb the dais with her in spirit (not in our pajamas!!).

P.S. I'll be featuring a dear friend's TED talk and her book later this week. I couldn't help but think of Louise when Steiener's publicity claimed to be the only TED talk on domestic violence. The difference is that Louise's story is about the psychopathic relationship, not the graphic details of physical violence Steiner talks about. Louise Gallagher has also gone on to write, speak, and educate people about abusive relationships, too. I'm so proud of her.


  1. Dear CZBZ,
    This is a such an important post, I don't think we can do enough to share this sort of information with every woman alive.

    "Anyone who fell for a narcissist, will relate to the steps Leslie Steiner outlines in her speech. Step One: Charm the woman; Step Two: Isolate her. Make her believe she's the dominant partner in the relationship. Make sure she has more pity for his suffering, than the people he makes suffer. Her pain is less important than his. If you loved a narcissist, you'll identify with her experience even if you weren't physically abused. "

    When I read this I felt sick to my stomach. This is exactly what my BIL is doing to my sister. The one other thing they do is that they make it look like us (relatives) :"have got it in for them" or -the one I got- "we haven't given them a chance", so that if when we try to point out the red flags, they've already "groomed" the victim to believe that we'd say these things without reason simply because we "don't like" them. It is so painful to see and not be able to do anything about it.

    Love and hugs,


    1. I got sick to my stomach, too, Kara. It's hard to imagine the way I used to live, always worried about helping my husbaNd who never figured out what I did: if you need help, go to the PROFESSIONALS.

      Women though, we are trained to be their psychologists. The listening ear, the sensitive heart, the ONE person in the world who cares. I felt loyal to and responsible for my X. That is what their Pity Ploys do to a trusting person's heart. You honestly believe you are the only person in the world who can help. Narcissists are especially good at triggering our heart strings.

      There really isn't much you can do, Kara, except to be supportive if and when she comes to you for advice or help. I think something that might have helped me would have been a clearer understanding of my boundaries. Just knowing we aren't supposed to be a troubled man's therapist would be a relief...society teaches women extremely dysfunctional and messy boundaries. If we're partnered with a normal guy, we'll learn overtime what's appropriate and what isn't. With a narcissist, he'll reinforce our gender lessons well because it serves him best!

      I have never found it useful to point out Red Flags to a woman in an abusive relationship. NEVER. It only increases her defenses and her desire to PROTECT him. We are viewed as his persecutors, you see and she rushes in to the Rescue. If she picks up the information on her own, she might compartmentalize it, but it'll be there when she needs it. Family members though---our hands are tied. Damned if we do and damned if we don't. It's a terrible situation to be in.


    2. Thank you for the encouragement and the advice CZ.
      I did try to point out some red flags to her before they got married and we ended up having a massive argument. After that I have left it. I can see that bringing up any more issues (like the fact she looks absolutely terrible since she got married) would only, like you say, make her view me as his "persecutor".
      As I watched the video I thought it was amazing how the blueprint of the abuser is so similar (even if the abuse is not physical), both her husbands had stories about being abused, both tried to "tone down" her appearance, (I cringed when Leslie Steiner said about being told not to wear make-up and to wear longer skirts, I have not seen make up on my sister since she got married and come to think of it when I have seen her in a skirt it has been a really long one). It is so heartbreaking to see.


    3. One thing we learn with 'abusive personalities', they're better at persuasion than we are! And because she wants to believe he's as good as he promises to be, we don't have a hope-in-heck of getting through to her. I have been (humm...what's the word? Gobsmacked?) that this man I knew could READ my blog and NOT see his WIFE in my writings! That he would still see her as a sweet thing who was so sad about people's reactions to her Verbally Abusive behavior!
      If my blog didn't open his eyes, there was no point in opening my mouth.

      I don't think people (even like myself) are deluded or in denial so much as the abuser is persuasive and manipulative. When you see those puppy-dog eyes staring at you like you're the only person in the world who can understand their pain, well....it's pretty darn hard to walk away.

      Women can be really cruel to family members when an abusive partner has "fed" on any residual wounds or unresolved issues she might have. If she lashes out and takes a stand with her family, that makes it even harder for her to turn to them when she needs help.

      Love to you, Kara. You are a good person to even try to help your sister. It's horrible witnessing relationships like that, knowing you can't do anything. It's so painful that people back away just because it's too hard to watch. That only isolates her even more. Women in abusive relationships need "MORE love" extended to them...the kind of love that makes no demands, just acceptance of her CHOICE to stay with him. Somehow, she needs to feel empowered to walk out and it doesn't help if people are constantly telling her what to do. It has to be her choice.


    4. " 'abusive personalities', they're better at persuasion than we are" Yes! I agree, it's like a form of "brainwashing". I don't know if my sister would ever walk away, she never did with her first husband and I think what complicates this equation even more is that she is a N herself (or has a very bad N fleas, I haven't been able to decide yet), and we've never had a great relationship even when we were kids. I didn't back away from her during her first marriage but I have now. I "buffered" a lot of the 1st husband (psychological) abuse so when she got married to husband N2 -who, quite frankly, makes husband N1 look like a holy man- I had an "amygdala hijack". Since getting married and being that we hardly see them, he has already been verbally abusive to me and she just made excuses for him. I don't hold it against her, I understand that at the end of the day, how do you go back home to such a man unless you can find some excuse for his behaviour? On the other hand, I'm not prepared to be a receiver of his abuse like I was with her first husband for 10 years. Hard choices, aren't they? How much can one take for the sake of helping someone else? I don't know, I did when I could but this second husband is too much for me. I did recently offer to have coffee with her (just the two of us) but she didn't accept. It really is a very sad situation.
      I really appreciate your support and your compassion CZ, it makes it all so much more bearable than the first time round when I was facing it all on my own without even having a clue of what I was dealing with.
      Lots of love,

  2. I recognize those steps. NM used them, too. Then you add society's idealizing mothers. I love the TED videos. They're amazing. Thanks for sharing, CZ.

    1. Hi Judy!

      How lovely to see your comment today. Those TED videos are addictive---great ideas in twenty minutes or less. Inspirational and motivational, too.

      Your comment about your mother is heart-breaking. I can't think of anything worse than an abusive mother who hits (beats) her little children. It's a betrayal of their trust that is unspeakable. She's the person who's supposed to be safe and trustworthy. The other issue I can think of is that abusive mothers have more 'time' with their kids if she isn't working outside the home. so a child never gets away from her reign of terror unless she's in school or away from home.

      I would imagine the abused child is disbelieved by other people even if she tried to speak up. I am so sorry, Judy, for anyone whose mother abused them...it sickens my heart. I think another reason why abusive mothers have been ignored is because of the fact that it's so hard on other people to hear about the abuse. They react with feelings of helplessness simply because they empathize and they don't want ot hear it and so they don't.

      It's another level of isolation, isn't it? I hope our open discussions about narcissistic mothers is allaying some of your pain and helping you work through the injustices of childhood.


  3. Hi CZ,
    I was finally able to watch this video today. Been there, done that. I grew up with this. I didn't see the early stages of my parents' marriage of course but by the time I came along my mother was completely isolated from her family. My father could go off for hours about how horrible her mother and sisters were. If I didn't know the truth of what she's saying I'd be embarrassed to say that I had a few of these relationships myself along the way, and she is right on about those steps. Including the final one.

    Maybe it's because I spent so much time hanging around people in recovery, but for a long time, these types of relationships seemed to be the norm in my world, not the exception. I went through a phase of extreme cynicism about relationships because not only had I been through this but I had witnessed friends and acquaintances go through it as well. I've helped three women get restraining orders, gone to family court with two more, drove yet another to court-appointed, supervised visits for the ex w/her children, had others stay with me while they worked up the courage to "make it permanent." And encouraged many others, unsuccessfully, to take similar steps. Gosh, these memories just break my heart.

    I still know women who, although not being physically abused, are kept down psychologically and even financially by selfish, domineering husbands. And they will never leave because they both believe he's the best thing that ever happened to her, that she would "die" without him. Like my father always told my mother. But she (my mother) was always so much happier when he wasn't around...I could never figure out how she didn't notice that.

    I don't like to admit to the cynicism, but I'm kinda glad I went through it because it was what enabled me to believe that not only could I live without a man, but that life was actually better without a man! And not just a little better, waaaaaaay better! For me, at that point in my life, anyway, because I didn't seem to know how to make good choices. It wasn't until I had fully embraced singlehood that a healthy, loving, equal partnership became possible for me. Go figure.

    And applying this dynamic to N parents and their kids is very interesting. I'll have to think about that. Certainly, secrecy and learned helplessness dominate that relationship too, don't they.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...