Leslie Morgan Steiner has a video about, “Crazy Love”. I enjoyed it because she approached the subject of domestic violence in a some what different manner than most. Keep in mind the video is only 15 minutes long, and she can’t touch on everything. You can see by the comments on the TED website that some found her short approach refreshing, and others felt she left to much out.
I wanted to take parts of what she said, and maybe glance at why some just don’t see (victims and non victims) the ‘crazy love’ as she put for what it is. Victims no matter whom they are – male, female, child – should be able to identify with parts or all of it.
I was 22. I had just graduated from Harvard College. I had moved to New York City for my first job as a writer and editor at Seventeen magazine. I had my first apartment, my first little green American Express card, and I had a very big secret. My secret was that I had this gun loaded with hollow-point bullets pointed at my head by the man who I thought was my soulmate, many, many times. The man who I loved more than anybody on Earth held a gun to my head and threatened to kill me more times than I can even remember. I'm here to tell you the story of crazy love, a psychological trap disguised as love, one that millions of women and even a few men fall into every year. It may even be your story.
Let’s stop to think about the words, ‘crazy love’ just for a moment. I realize that isn’t a biblical term, but it is a good definition of the type of love you see in relationships with domestic violence. You have abusers that tell their victims they are the worse type of person, and that is why they abuse. Then you have the victim that feels the need to fix, and views the abuser as a soul mate type of individual.
Keep in mind I don’t wish to place those descriptions into a box, and that I’m generalizing here! Abusers have all kinds of reasons as to WHY they do what they do. Victims may not feel the ‘soul mate’ part, but do feel love for them.
The problem I see is most don’t recognize the word ‘crazy’ in front of the word love, and the reason it was placed there. Its not just the victims or abusers that don’t clue into the concept, but also general society as well. All we have to do is look at how to many in society – within the church or out – respond to domestic violence.
One of the smartest things Conor did, from the very beginning, was to create the illusion that I was the dominant partner in the relationship. He did this especially at the beginning by idolizing me. We started dating, and he loved everything about me, that I was smart, that I'd gone to Harvard, that I was passionate about helping teenage girls, and my job. He wanted to know everything about my family and my childhood and my hopes and dreams. Conor believed in me, as a writer and a woman, in a way that no one else ever had. And he also created a magical atmosphere of trust between us by confessing his secret, which was that, as a very young boy starting at age four, he had been savagely and repeatedly physically abused by his stepfather, and the abuse had gotten so bad that he had had to drop out of school in eighth grade, even though he was very smart, and he'd spent almost 20 years rebuilding his life. Which is why that Ivy League degree and the Wall Street job and his bright shiny future meant so much to him. If you had told me that this smart, funny, sensitive man who adored me would one day dictate whether or not I wore makeup, how short my skirts were, where I lived, what jobs I took, who my friends were and where I spent Christmas, I would have laughed at you, because there was not a hint of violence or control or anger in Conor at the beginning. I didn't know that the first stage in any domestic violence relationship is to seduce and charm the victim.
What abusers tend to do is make this person feel very special, and I never thought about the part of creating them to be the ‘dominant’ partner in the relationship. Keep in mind it isn’t the type of dominant we normally hear about. Remember the word “CRAZY” here!
What is the crazy part? Remember in her story he idolized all that she was and did. Abusive personalities then concentrate on breaking down the ‘dominant’ traits they felt so lovely before. I guess they feel that is what makes them dominant, and yet all that they loved about that person to begin with is gone. They end up frustrated, and the victim completely destroyed. No one wins, and everyone loses.
Its all part of the dance. We can all look back at abusive relationships, and recognize the idolizing part afterwards. It’s not so easy to see at the time, because the early stages of falling in love tends to be described as: sweep them off their feet. In healthy relationships the ‘adoring’ part stays, but you aren’t so easily sweep up in the moment anymore. You move on to the next stage of working on the whole of your relationship, and you grow to love the person more and more in different ways. It’s different, but still awesome. Your firm foundation is present, and now its time to build up and out from there.
Before I go on lets picture a group of small children, and one of the children just received a new toy that they love. Their whole world at that point revolves around this new possession that is all theirs! This type of thinking is normal for a young child, and at times they can get very possessive of it. They don’t want to share it, and no one can touch or play with it. They might do something to it, or break it, or change it in a way that they don’t like! Along comes their friend to see what all the excitement is about, and they aggressively pushed away. “It’s MINE!” you hear screamed. We have all seen this scene played out at one time or another. Then you have caregiver or parent come and attempt to teach the child the what's, whys, and how's of sharing, and learning to be better friend.
In abusive relationships you see similar dynamics. What may seem like early stages of being swept off you feet now turns into a reality of YOU being their possession. Think of a young child with a favorite NEW toy in which they refuse to share with others. The difference is you no longer have a caregiver or parent to enforce how their behavior and attitude is wrong. After all, they are an adult at this point.
In healthy relationships you can point this out, but in abusive relationships such statements are returned with violence. It’s similar to the dynamic of the young child being told by another child that they need to share their new toy, and they refuse to. You don’t have someone helping them realize this is a immature trait that leads to selfishness. You are ‘theirs’ and they will do what they will with you. A young child can be taught, but abusive person will remind you they will do what they want, when they want, and how they want. If you don’t like it? Tough!
Most people will attempt to ‘reason’ with such a circumstance, and sadly that is when the abuse escalates to very scary levels. Since you are no more than a possession to them they do not realize the irrational nature of their behavior. What they do realize once they have calmed down there is the distance between them and their victim. Their response to that distance isn’t rational either.
They will then use your ‘dominant’ position within the relationship against you, and then manipulative the past to make them look like the ‘true’ victim. They need your help since they were the abused child of the stepfather, and they FOUGHT all their life to get where they are now. YOU are their partner, and if you love them enough you will help them evolve. You will help them to get your level of ‘dominance’. Yes, it’s a crazy type of dominance as well. It’s a brand new definition that Webster’s dictionary hasn’t even considered yet.
They will pick one trait at a time (most of the time anyway) that they ‘loved’ in the past, and demand that it be altered or stopped all together. This trait is the cause of all the tension within the relationship. They will point out that you look ‘stuck up’ or ‘better than everyone else’ when this trait is present. That mysteriously turns into how the world sees it the same way they do, but they were brave enough to finally point it out to you. How you were lucky that they were gracious enough to live with it up until this point, and they had every right to finally SNAP! YOU are just to uppity to admit it.
This is also the time they start to use all those secrets that were revealed in that ‘magically atmosphere’ of trust in the beginning of the relationship. After all, they were not the only ones that were sharing during that time of excitement. Those secrets between the two of you at one time were received with empathy, compassion, and love. It now is being used against you, and to make you feel badly about yourself.
I will use an example in this case. As I have written about myself in the past I wasn’t given much guidance in certain areas growing up. Lets pretend for now it was in the area of cleaning up the house. Now in the beginning of the relationship I might have shared that I felt inadequate because I didn’t know how to do something in regards to cleaning the house. How I try my hardest now – because under the surface it makes me feel better.
In response your new partner makes you feel so much better about this aspect of your past, and they will love you EVEN if it were true – which of course they believe its not. They see you as one of the tidiest people they know in so many areas, and they will be there to remind you about those – and always make you feel better. I know silly example, but lets use to get view the principal here! The basic point is everyone has tender spots, and insecurities in some areas.
In a healthy relationship you realize the lines in the sand with your spouse or partner that you do not cross. You don’t cross them, and you realize your spouse wouldn’t either. I’m not saying in times of tension humans aren’t tempted to, because we are all capable of this. If we value the relationship on any level? We realize the trust that would be destroyed on some level if we crossed that line during the uproar. It’s basic respect of any relationship. That’s not to say you might not say something else hurtful or stupid, but you also know where the lines are drawn.
The abusive person sees no line in the sand, except when it comes to them. You are the child’s toy in our story above, and as their possession there is no need for boundaries. So there is nothing wrong with reminding you that since you grew up NOT knowing how to clean a house that lets just face facts here – you a slob when it comes to 98% of things you do in life! It’s the truth, and they shouldn’t have to hide it! Notice they don’t just use the ‘house’ only, but makes sure to include that 98%. It will be useful for them in the future. Why? You were defined as a slob, and they will use it in most areas of disagreement the future as well. Your secrets are now turned into ammunition.
At the same time? As we see with most con men in life they also have learned the art of manipulation. The whole entire conversation will again turn to them, and their woes in life. Some abusive personalities will turn on the water works (tears) at this point, but others use different tactics. Remember con men have a way of turning their ugly actions around, and make it about the injustices towards them.
That aspect isn’t all that uncommon, and YES there are different ways of doing it. For example, when Jack Schaap was arrested and jailed within the last year for fooling around with a child. The parties that he had wrapped around his little finger were the first to say he was one of the most Godly men they knew, and how everyone makes mistakes.
We have one small grain of truth there (everyone makes mistakes), but the overall principal of the sin is completely lost on them. No doubt it took time and effort for Jack Schaap (or certain circles of the IFB in general) to mold these people to think this way. Abusive partners do the same thing in some ways. They have a way of warping reality, and their campaigns of minimizing the abuse is very successful.
I think in some ways people in church or in general society have a hard time realizing just about anyone can get taught up in something very ugly and dangerous. It’s easier to think of others as either totally naïve or stupid then to realize its happened in history to many times to count. It’s easier to think you are immune, and can’t be manipulated. In reality its just the opposite.
I guess it was interesting to me Leslie’s prospective on being made the dominate person in the relationship. In reality, she was only speaking of qualities or characteristics of her that were thought to be positive. Gifts, if you will. Instead of appreciating those gifts, and realizing its an asset to the relationship? They are turned into threats of the abuser’s need for dominance and control. Yes, indeed doing your best to destroy what you claimed you love is a crazy love for sure. It certainly isn’t the type that Jesus would have us portray towards others.