Washington Post columnist Steiner (editor: Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families, 2006) shares the painful story of her abusive marriage.
With a degree from Harvard, a job at Seventeen and an apartment in Manhattan, 22-year-old Steiner was ready to start her life anew after overcoming her substance-abuse problems from her teen years. When she met handsome, charming Conor, a 31-year-old investment banker, she fell hard. On a trip home to an affluent Washington, D.C., suburb to meet her divorcing parents, Conor picked a fight, furious that Steiner grew up in such a “perfect” place while he was beaten by his stepfather in working-class Boston. Although she was wary of his temper, Steiner was too in love and too sympathetic about Conor’s past to be anything but relieved when they made up days later. When he half-choked her during sex and whispered “I own you,” she was frightened but chalked it up to kinkiness. Days before their wedding, Conor slapped her when she swore at their malfunctioning laptop, but Steiner’s fear and doubts were silenced by the avalanche of seemingly irreversible wedding preparations. In steady, intimate prose punctuated by surprising, refreshing streaks of humor, the author describes how the violence escalated, including an incident in which Conor pressed a gun to her temple. Especially enlightening is Steiner’s discussion with a professor whose focus is abusive men. After a summer apart for business-school internships, Conor kept his promise not to hit her again—until one violent night when he smashed a picture frame over her head, kicked her in the ribs and strangled her until she lost consciousness. Steiner finally left, even though “leaving meant abandoning…the best part of me, that part that was not afraid to love unconditionally.”
This courageous, empowering survival story brings the phrase “battered woman” into terrifying focus.