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A television documentary of this name was aired on Lifetime on November 6, 2000. There were tragic stories told. In explaining them, the documentary made several points which were very meaningful to me because of what they brought up from my past.
My mom shares remembering being hit by my dad. My dad shares remembering my mom trying to push him out a second story window. Neither of them share memories of attacking the other. I remember yelling and things being thrown, generally when we kids were not in the room. I remember I was spanked as a child. But my mom also shares remembering beating me twice after the separation before we moved away from that house, something I don't recall. She is very sorry now for that. I forgave her, first because I know she was a victim herself and didn't know how to cope with the feelings, second because she turned away from that behavior after we moved.
I remember having uncontrolled rage growing up. I beat up my sister once -- maybe I was 12 or 14, it was on my paper route in Coon Rapids, Iowa, where I also remember being beaten up by kids at school -- and I remember hitting my first girlfriend at around age 23. My rage and what I did made me sick at the time, and each time I think about it it still makes me sick. When I come to the step of making amends to people I have hurt, they will be high on my list. I was lucky that we had relatively mild violence in our home, and that I was largely insulated from it -- lucky because my rage was not so huge that I couldn't learn from what I did that I had to renounce violence and learn to control it. Maybe bottle it up but certainly control it. At any rate I was never violent after that. I learned to be a very peaceful man. Yet I am still afraid after fifteen years, that the rage is still in me, and I guess I maintain so much control in my life partly out of fear that rage will come out. I know I still get very rigid, defensive and argumentative whenever I feel I am being unjustly characterized or treated unfairly, and I know that is connected to rage, so I don't think I am totally wrong to fear it.
One thing that threatened me terribly was Erin's hostility -- verbal attacks, and then rage. More than once she yelled and screamed at the top of her voice, her face just inches from mine. Looking back on it now is like seeing my parents' and my own rage in a mirror. At the time I only knew I felt like I was taking blows from her. My whole body tightened up just like I was being beaten. It was intensely painful but I could not deal with it except by tightening up to endure it. That's all I could do, endure it and try to stay peaceful. Before we married I knew she was supercritical and negative, and she admitted she already knew she was hard to get along with, but that was not aimed at me until after we married. I imagined it wouldn't be as long as I could be a good husband. And so when I made mistakes and it did get aimed at me, it fed my blame and my fear.I did not feel safe but I blamed myself. I froze up and became a totally rigid, ineffective person. She didn't understand, I think, how much worse it made things for her to attack. She sees my ineffectiveness, but not her part in it.
Erin had to learn somehow that hostility was the appropriate response to a problem. I wonder if she connects violence to love. I know her father describes a bad temper as his greatest problem. I know she was afraid of him sometimes -- I think when she was young the whole family was. And I know her brother has emotional problems. I am not saying there was violence in their home, but maybe the possibility of violence hung over the family. Her dad shared with me that his brothers had the same bad temper. She told me that being verbally critical and cutting, yelling about things, was something she learned from her dad. And I know her last relationship before me was with a man who sexually abused her and she let that go on for a year. She became a victim. Then in our marriage I think she leaned towards being more of an abuser. And I wonder if I still connect violence to love, because I chose someone with the willingness to hurt me and I endured it, taking the role of victim for a change.
I am grateful I did not have as bad a childhood as the kids in the documentary who had to see their parents maimed or killed, kids who wanted to die or kill their parents. I am grateful that I am facing my past and healing myself -- before I get into another relationship, have kids and pass the family pain on to them. I am grateful to myself for letting go of my marriage.