I have little memory of the first time I hit my husband. We were having a small argument (about what, I have no idea) that escalated in the usual way. We both took our stances, and proceeded to drag the other person over to our side.
His red face was near to mine. Our voices grew louder. Name calling began. I felt like lava had been poured into my bloodstream, and I was being propelled toward that unforgivable line of violence. “I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought, as my fist closed and I hurled it toward the side of his face. It wasn’t like I made a choice. It’s more like my foggy, overheated brain just let go and waited to see what happened.
As a kid, I was always losing my temper. My frustration catapulted to anger, skipping all the levels between slightly mad to churning with rage. I was like one of those dangerous Grand Prix racing cars that went from zero to one hundred in seconds.
By the time I was 12, I’d punched and thrown things at every wall in every room of our family’s house. I’d kicked in the sliding glass window because the dog wouldn’t stop barking. I’d hurled my record player into my model horse collection because my Jackson Five album kept skipping. I had not grown up in a household of violence, though my mother struggled with mental illness. The abuse I suffered was mostly emotional and verbal.
But it seemed I was at the mercy of my rage. It always began with that hot lava feeling, and before I knew it I’d thrown a plate of scrambled eggs against the wall, knowing that I was totally out of line but feeling a few seconds of absolute relief. And then debilitating shame.
My husband and I weren’t even married yet when I first hit him. Afterward, I tried to rationalize what happened. I told myself I hadn’t hurt him. How could my scrawny 5’4” self actually hurt his strapping 6’2” frame, right? I swore it wouldn’t happen. But it did anyway.
My anger became my biggest secret. Whenever I commiserated with my sister or best friend about our husbands, I would agree that, yes, men are maddening. But I would always leave out the the part about me hitting or slapping mine. I wasn’t lying exactly. Besides, I’d tell myself, it hardly ever happens.
But I knew it was wrong. Being a child who hits inanimate objects is one thing, but being a grown woman who directs her rages into her husband’s face is something else entirely. Each time it happened, I’d apologize profusely. Each time, my husband would forgive me, and I’d vow it would never happen again. But it always did.
– AMY SHOUSE