Love Among the Ruins
With Dominic increasingly absent, Laverne came around even more often. She would ask Marilyn or her mother to have him call her for one reason or another, but when they passed along the messages, he would explode: "Stay away from Laverne! She's using the both of you!"
"I felt so trapped," Marilyn says about her relationship with Laverne. "You start to have heart palpitations—'How do I handle this? I don't want to be mean and nasty to her. I don't have all the facts, but I feel like I'm betraying my husband.'"
And the more betrayed Dominic felt, the more angry and remote he became. Rage seemed to gnaw away at him. "He was extremely moody," Marilyn says. "There was all this erratic behavior that was turned inward." She would find him sitting alone in the kitchen, chewing absently on his knuckles till they bled.
Marilyn concedes she didn't handle her frustrations in the wisest manner. Too frequently she defaulted to sarcasm. "Do you want hot sauce for those knuckles?" she'd ask derisively. She never once suspected his childhood experiences had anything to do with the way he was acting. Besides, it was hard for her to accept that the entertaining woman who showed up at her door—a woman she'd come to love—could have done anything remotely like what her husband had once intimated. "She was always put together very nicely, not a hair out of place, and would talk, talk, talk—very funny, very comical sometimes. So in your mind you say, 'This didn't happen.'"
It wasn't a doubt she voiced to her husband. But he sensed it nonetheless. "She didn't want to believe what happened," Dominic, 44, says now. When he once confided Laverne's crimes to Marilyn's mother, she was just as skeptical. "This is so deep," he says, "the natural instinct is to not believe it."
Instead of investing in his homelife, Dominic devoted more and more time to his career, which took off like a rocket—going from a reporter for WLIB, a New York–area radio station geared to the African-American community, to senior political reporter for NY1News, where he has raked in awards and interviewed world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Bill Clinton.
Today he is one of New York's best-known local political journalists and a frequent guest on national programs like Hardball with Chris Matthews. "He was always on the go, nonstop," says Marilyn, 51, a senior administrator at Manhattan College. But as the years wore on, she realized he was running not only toward a high-flying career but away from her and their children—away from any intimacy whatsoever.
Finally, after a decade of tumultuous marriage, she'd had enough. "I said, 'Dominic, we have got to deal with this. You just can't keep running and running and running.'" They enrolled in couples therapy. Each also saw a counselor privately. Week in and week out, they talked about their problems and frustrations. She worked to modulate her sarcasm, while he tried opening up more—but their relationship was still rocky. She faulted him for not participating fully in therapy and felt excluded from his interior life. During all these sessions, Dominic never once mentioned his history of abuse. Not wanting to betray a confidence, Marilyn didn't bring it up either. At this point, she just wanted him to be a better husband, and she was losing hope. "It got to be too much," she says. "It was like we were both locked in the same room with no exit."
About eight years ago, she confronted him one last time. "If you don't want to talk to me, if you don't want to talk to your therapist, write it down," she remembers saying. "You have got to do something. I hate to use the old cliché, but set yourself free."