One evening, we were supposed to go out as a couple to see a movie, and he came to
the house to pick me up. He arrived early to say goodnight to the girls and then flopped
onto the couch to flip channels and watch a television show. “Are you about ready to
leave, Charles?” I asked. With narrowed eyes and pinched lips, he threw me a look of
fierce irritation and then hurled the remote control at me with all his strength. I dodged
just in time and cringed as it hit the living room wall with a resounding smack, leaving a
visible pock mark. Smothering my gasp of fear, so the girls and their sitter wouldn’t hear
me, I pointed at the door. ”Leave. Now. The evening is over.”
Every time Charles resorted to such violent impulses, I was glad we were separated
and he wasn’t living fulltime in the house. He was totally unlike the person I had come to
love before marriage. How could I live with him when I never knew what would set him
off? What if he lost control with the girls? They had heard his uncontrollable anger many
times but not seen the physical abuse that kept me in long sleeves and up-to-the-neck
Still, I couldn’t make a decision on what to do. Was the problem me? Did I provoke
him? Were there some magic words I could use to halt or even prevent episodes?
Then came the occasion when Jenny wandered into the living room at the very
moment Charles wrapped his hands around my neck in a chokehold, his face red with
seething rage. Frightened by the looks on our faces, she wailed her protest. That did it. I
would not have our daughters exposed to any more verbal explosions or physical abuse of
their mother. I was raised in a calm environment, and Jenny was already suffering from
the early signs of a panic disorder.
Gagging from the pressure of Charles’ thumbs on my throat, I uttered a guttural order.
“Stop!” It was enough to break through some invisible wall blocking his consciousness.
He heard Jenny’s cries and saw the terror in my eyes and backed away, covering his face
with trembling hands.
“You’re sick, Charles,” I said in a voice that sounded amazingly calm under the
circumstances. “You must see a doctor. You’re a danger to yourself and to all of us. Go
now, so I can comfort Jenny.”
I started divorce proceedings that week.
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