Meredith Baxter is 2-2 when it comes to Today show appearances and massive personal revelations.
The 63-year-old former Family Ties star was married to Birney, her Bridget Loves Birney costar and father of three of her children, for 15 years, ending in divorce in 1989. But she revealed on the Today show this morning, and indeed in her new memoir Untied, that their marriage was one of emotional and physical abuse.
The 71-year-old Birney, Lauer noted during the interview, denies all the allegations.
"What I got out of it eventually was I had to change my thinking," Baxter said. "I had to look, if I did not want to be a victim—and I'd been committed to being a victim for a long time because it felt really warm and comfortable and familiar—but it was a disastrous position to be in. So I had to change my thinking. I had to look at, what was my part? What was in my thinking that told me it was okay to be in this relationship?"
The question, as always, is why would she stay in a 17-year relationship (they were together for two years before swapping vows) if it was abusive?
"That's what everyone would want to know," she said. "I didn't know I had a choice. I didn't know I could go."
"It wasn't an accident that we were together," the actress added. "He's not going to pick someone who's on top of themselves and confident and aggressive, no, he needs to pick someone for him to be who he needed to be, it needed to be someone who was mousy and quiet and retiring, and that's what I was."
Her work helped a bit, providing relief, but Baxter said she didn't open up to her famous costars about her plight.
"You learn to compartmentalize. When I got to the studio, my home life was not happening. Nobody knew anything. I didn't have a social life. I did my work, I went home."
Still, Baxter has now put the past behind her, while taking care to be informed by her past mistakes.
"I was so un-self-examined as a child. I was always trying to keep my head above water. I had no sense of who I was, I was just trying to save my life on a daily basis," she said, going on to explain that her head-in-the-sand style of living was responsible for her remaining closeted (albeit unbeknownst to her) for so many years.
"People say, 'You had to have known know you were gay.' I realized, I was so un-self-examined, I could have been a Republican, but no, I'm just gay. That's much better, don't you think?"