Dark Side of Domestic Life

Domestic violence is too often a secret, dark side of marriage—even in affluent communities like ours.

Michele Weldon, Assistant Professor of Journalism at the Medill School at Northwestern University—who had three young sons at the time—had the courage to leave her abusive marriage and write about it. Her book, “I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman” (HCI Press, 1999), was an award-winning bestseller. It also launched her career into many other exciting directions. Here’s my conversation with her.

Tell me about your marriage and how it ended.
I married a man I knew my entire life, the son of my parents’ good friends. All my friends were envious of me; he was the perfect boyfriend—smart, athletic, attentive, ambitious, polite, attractive. The first violence was four months after we were married and I was completely stunned and ashamed. He pushed me hard on my chest on New Year’s Eve of 1986, knocking me to the ground, leaving a bruise.

The incidents of abuse were about annual, more frequent in the final years of our marriage. In the peaceful eras, the in-betweens, we had three marvelous boys. He went to law school at 30 after working as a journalist and was hired by a top Chicago firm when our children were small. We continued to seek marriage counseling, nine years in all. The last incident over the July 4 weekend in 1995 at his parents’ home was the final straw.

It took great courage almost 17 years ago to admit that my life was not as it seemed in all the holiday cards. Women like me are not victims. Women like me—who are successful, intelligent, confident and come from loving homes—are not victims. Men who are batterers are not litigating attorneys. They must be drug addicts or alcoholics, losers. Neither one of us fit the stereotype.

And your life now?
Of course I wanted to live happily ever after in my marriage. But now I live happily ever after with myself, my sons, my family, friends, and an exciting and varied career. I am able to be productive and confident, to do everything necessary for the boys’ well-being and to also enjoy myself without wondering how anyone else will act. Living with someone unpredictable makes you wary to trust and relax. I have long since recovered from that and am able to have thriving, healthy, loving relationships.

And your sons?
I believe with the love and support they have from me and my extended family, as well as coaches and friends, they see that they have a choice, never ever to behave that way. I know that they won’t.

Food for thought for others?
I love that my life is what it appears to be, and there are no secrets. I learned that when you stand up to tell the truth, you will be supported and you will move forward. The choice then becomes how fast and how far you care to fly.

To learn more about Michele Weldon, visit micheleweldon.com

If you or anyone you know has suffered from domestic violence, they can help others by anonymously participating in a research project.