Meredith Baxter Tells All
In 2009, after more than 40 years of acting, three failed marriages and five children, Meredith went on the Today show and revealed that she is a lesbian. Now, Meredith has an explosive tell-all memoir called Untied. It goes beyond coming out and reveals all the shocking secrets of her famous life.
Read an excerpt of Untied by Meredith Baxter
While in her acting roles Meredith always came across as a strong woman, she writes in Untied about how different her life was off-camera. Meredith alleges that David was an abusive and controlling husband, and delves into her own struggles with alcoholism. "I felt [like] a fraud in my own life," she says. "But it wasn't in terms about any public persona. I didn't live in any public persona. I didn't think about my fans or anything like that. It was just such a little dark little place I lived."
Meredith claims David's abuse was more often mental and emotional than physical. "The truth is, you don't have to be abused physically too many times. A couple times and you know that's always on the back burner," she says. "It's the continuing corrosive effect of being belittled, denigrated in front of children, second-guessed, called down so that I have no voice. I had no voice for so long, which is probably, ultimately, why I felt I had to say something at some point."
Watch Meredith share the worst moments of her marriage
Meredith says the negatives of her relationship with David mirrored the ones she had with her parents. "Not many other women would stay in a relationship like that. It's because [of] the belief system that I developed for myself as a child given the relationship I had with my mother and my parents. I came from a place where I had decided I was unloved and unlovable and not capable of love," she says. "I kind of was attracted to and found someone who thought of me the same way. ... There was a familiarity. It was like, 'Okay, I know how to be in this relationship.'"
Ted, Meredith's son from a previous marriage, says his stepfather rarely made physical contact with him. Instead, he claims David was more emotionally abusive with him. "Constant denigration, belittling. 'Your opinions don't matter. You're not worthy. You're not responsible enough,'" Ted says. "He said to me one day, 'I'll let you learn how to drive when I think you're ready. And that will probably be when you're about 45.'"
Because she was always so private about herself and her family, Meredith says no one at Family Ties knew anything about her troubled marriage or alcohol issues.
Then, while rehearsing a scene with Michael Gross—the actor who played Steven Keaton, the father on Family Ties—Meredith broke down. "David was in Europe doing a film and he was due to come back in a couple of days. He'd been out of town for, I think, six weeks and it had been six weeks of peace and heaven," she says. "[Michael and I] were talking and he said, 'David comes home soon, doesn't he?' And I burst into tears. I totally lost it. I couldn't talk because nobody knew. There was no context because I'd kept it all to myself for so long."
Watch Michael Gross's surprise for his former TV wife
Michael says while he never suspected Meredith was in such a bad marriage, he did notice something odd about her relationship. "I could count on one hand the number of times David came to a taping," he says. "Everybody's spouses and children came. For nothing else, it was a free meal. ... But David was never there."
Michael says he was surprised to hear Meredith's story. "She and David were the poster children of a marriage that was going well. All through the first years of Family Ties it was, 'Here's the Hollywood marriage that works,'" he says. "I didn't know it was because you kept your mouth shut."
Eva says it was at that moment she asked her mother, "What are you waiting for?"
"And I didn't have an answer," Meredith says. "I didn't know what I was waiting for. But those were the words that somehow empowered me to say, 'There's not going to be a next time.' I don't know what I meant, I don't know where it came from, and I had no great groundswell of courage that accompanied those words. But that's what led to the eventual divorce."
Meredith and David were divorced in 1989. We reached out to David for a statement about Meredith's claims in the book and he had no comment.
After her mother died and her youngest children went off to college, Meredith says she rented a room in the garage behind her house to a young lesbian woman named Paula. "I just started to notice where she was all the time," Meredith says. "We started spending time together going on walks or movies and things."
Though her relationship with Paula eventually ended because of their 25-year age difference, Meredith says it changed her life forever. "I felt alive in a way that I had not experienced," she says. "Life was rife with possibilities."
Watch Nancy and Meredith's life together
Meredith later came out to friends and family, but not her fans. "I never really saw the need to make any kind of announcement because, like, what do you announce?" she says. "I'm dating somebody? I mean, who cares? It's not what defined me."
As she grew more open about her sexuality, Nancy says she knew Meredith's change was complete when she suggested they go on a lesbian cruise together. "I was like, 'Really? You want to do this?'" Nancy says. "I did say to her, 'People are going to see you and people are going to know that you are a lesbian woman. You can't hide on a lesbian cruise.'"
After learning a national tabloid was going to publish a story about about the vacation, Meredith realized it was time to go public. She told her story on the Today show before the story hit newsstands. "It was the only way to control the story and make it my own instead of some fiction that was going to be sleazy," Meredith says. "I didn't want that."
"You can't keep secrets too long, you know," Meredith says. "It's corrosive."
While Michael says he would cut loose and party after taping wrapped on Fridays, he thought Meredith drank for different reasons. "There was a sadness underneath it. You could tell that something was troubling her," he says. "It was a symptom as much as it was a problem. It was a red flag."
Michael says he's happy his former TV mom has found someone to share her life with. "If anyone deserves a big plate of happiness, it's Meredith," he says. "I wish I could be there with you. I love you. I'm so happy for you. And I wish you luck on your book and love."
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