Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in our society that has only recently come to be acknowledged in public discussion. Though many see it as a social and political problem grounded in unequal gender roles, this level of analysis fails to explain adequately why many battered women return to their abusers despite intense suffering and the certainty of more physical violence.
The Illusion of Love challenges the prevailing model, which views the victim of abuse as a normal woman who is unable to escape from her batterer due to the effects of terror and psychological collapse. Instead, David Celani offers a new answer-that women who are battered have a fundamental attraction to partners who are abusive.
Based on his years of clinical experience treating battered women, Celani applies object relations theory and case examples from his own practice to show that many women-and indeed some men-are unconsciously drawn to abusive partners because of personality disorders caused by childhood abuse and neglect. He argues that any effective treatment for battered women must help unravel futile and self-defeating patterns, such as ones that spring from fears of abandonment and fascination with men who produce exaggerated promises of love followed by extreme rejecting behaviors.
The Illusion of Love examines the personalities of abusers as well, many of whom suffer from narcissism, a disorder that is also often associated with childhood abuse and neglect. Narcissistic men lash out violently in an attempt to control their own fears or abandonment and to compensate for unsatisfied emotional needs.
Celani concludes that domestic violence is often the tragic result of a union between individuals with complementary personality disorders. His findings fly in the face of the politically correct refusal to examine the behavior of the victim of abuse, a strategy that has led to a severe misunderstanding of the dynamics of the battering scenario. The Illusion of Love calls for primary prevention of neglectful parenting to stem the tide of abuse in the future, offering tangible hope for the treatment of victims of abuse as they attempt to extricate themselves from unhealthy, damaging relationships.