My Own Story of Anger and Violence
My father had been gone since I was six and my mother did various jobs in order to support us. One of her jobs was watching other people's children. One of the kids she watched was a little girl who was four or five years younger than me. Occasionally when my Mom was busy, she'd ask me to keep an eye on the girl. I dreaded those times because that little girl terrorized me.
Whenever we were alone she would pinch me so hard I'd nearly cry. At other times she would punch or kick me. She would laugh at my tears. I didn't know what to do. I was taught never to hit a girl, never to hit anyone smaller than you, and resolve all disputes with words. I was immobilized. She'd hurt me and I would take it, holding my feelings inside and praying that my mother would come back soon. Even by then I had learned that big boys don't cry, if you run away from trouble you are a coward, and no one likes a tattletale. I would get through those times by acting like I was made of stone.
As I got older I would generally keep my feelings buried as deeply as I could and spent very little time around other kids. But school being what it was and kids being what they were and me being short and slightly built, I was picked on often. Usually I would joke and talk my way out of danger or walk away from those situations I couldn't talk my way out of. But if I felt cornered and the taunting, teasing, or attacks didn't stop I would come unglued. I would launch myself like a mad-man and the other kid would usually end up bleeding.
When I grew up I was always attracted to feisty, fiery women. There was an excitement and passion that would spark when we were together. But the same thrills that made our relationship interesting also created a lot of conflict. I remember an incident during my first marriage when I flew into a rage and broke a glass on the floor at the feet of my barefoot wife. I blamed her for causing me to lose my temper and demanded that she walk over to me and make up.
She looked at me, looked at the glass all over the floor, and refused. Her refusal felt like an attack and I wanted to strangle her. I held my feelings inside and later we made up. I apologized, swore it would never happen again. And it never did...until the next time. It seemed our relationship was on a rollercoaster.
There were wonderful highs and plunging lows. I alternated between out-of-control anger and being the most loving, responsive husband a woman could ever want. Our friends, even those who were the closest to us, never knew about the anger. All they saw was the "perfect" couple whose lives they admired. But like an addiction, the anger got worse and the love was overshadowed. We stayed married for ten years.
It didn't take long until I met another woman who generated even more sparks than the first. I should have been forewarned when she told me about her recent experience in Mexico. It seemed she was walking back to her hotel late at night when a car full of young men drove by. They ran through a puddle and splashed some water on her. She became enraged. She screamed a curse, and as they say, extended to them the finger. The effect was instantaneous. They swung their truck around, floored the accelerator and ran her over. Only the fact that she'd been smashed into the side of a parked car saved her life. She was in the hospital for three months.
Our relationship was not nearly as violent. Neither of us ever spent time in the hospital, but we both nearly killed each other. She slept with a gun under her pillow, to protect herself from men, she told me. Not surprisingly, it didn't make me feel safe. I hated guns. During a period when I was very depressed I was afraid I might use the gun on myself. She agreed to get rid of it. I felt relieved not to be with a woman who carried lethal weapons, until she began to carry knives.
During one of our fights, which lasted many hours, I was exhausted and wanted to rest. I knew she was still angry, but there didn't seem to be any reason to keep trying to resolve the problem. Clearly we weren't getting anywhere. When I went off to bed, she smiled slightly and said, "You better not fall asleep." The threat was chilling. It was very real, yet it was vague enough to make it difficult to talk about.
I really understood how frustrated women become when they try and tell someone about their terror. I pictured myself telling a judge about my situation. Did she ever hit you or harm you in any physical way?" he might ask. I would have to say "no." "Did she ever threaten your?" I'd have to say, "Well, not exactly." By then, I would feel like a fool. I might even believe that it was not as serious as I was making it out to be. But it was serious and violence, even cover violence, can easily explode.
The last big fight could easily have killed one of us and put the other one on trial for murder. We had been in one of our long-running arguments. I kept trying to stop things before they got even worse. "Let's give it a rest. I'm tired of fighting," I screamed.
She wouldn't turn it lose. She wanted to keep talking. "You always want to avoid getting down to what's really going on" she screamed back. I had prided myself on never having hit a woman and this woman had pushed me to my limits on more than one occasion. One of the things that kept us from going over the edge was an agreement that if either of us felt like we were going to become violent, we could call a "time out" and we would go into separate rooms for a cooling off period.
I knew I badly needed to cool down. I could feel the heat coming up into my face, the volcanic activity beginning to shake my insides. I called a time-out and walked into my room and shut the door. The violent panic began to recede. I wasn't in the room three seconds when the door flew open and my wife was standing in the doorway yelling.
"You're always running away, you coward. Why don't you stay and work things out?" I was instantly on high alert. I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I tried to breathe slowly and talk calmly. "Get out of here. We have an agreement about taking our own space. Leave now, we can talk about this later." I felt the panic rising inside me.
She turned to leave, but wheeled on her feet, and came back at me. She came right up in my face and started to poke me in the chest with her index finger. Once, twice, three times she poked me. I lost all sense of control. The red rage took me over. I grabbed her by the hair, pushed her up against the wall and brought my fist back. I knew when I hit her I wouldn't stop, I couldn't stop. I didn't care. Nothing mattered but making the rage and terror I felt inside go away. My fist came forward and it truly was like in slow motion. I could see the hair and blood and bone. At that moment I had another sight. It was of my fist going through the wall and coming out the other side of the house.
When I hit the stud in the wall my fist stopped cold. I could hear bones break and I felt I was about to pass out. We were on our way to the emergency room before the red rage drained out of me and the pain enveloped me. I felt very grateful that I hadn't killed my wife, happy I was going to the hospital instead of to prison, and determined to rid myself of violence in my life.
What's been your experience with violence?
Does this sound familiar? Drop me a line and let me know what you have experienced.
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This article first appeared on Gordon Clay's MenStuff Web site, http://www.menstuff.org/