08/31/2012 03:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Abuse Didn't End This Woman's Marriage

Excerpted from You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce. Copyright © 2012 Dana Adam Shapiro. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

NAME (or alias): Sharon
OCCUPATION: In between jobs
HOW LONG YOU DATED BEFORE YOU WERE MARRIED: We dated for a few years ages seventeen to nineteen off and on, then dated for about five months

This is so bad, but my mom would always say: "All men are exactly the same, they all want the same thing, so you might as well marry a rich one." And I was like, "Good job, mom -- you're on doctor number two!"

I grew up in a really nice three-story house with an indoor swimming pool in Idaho. Very religious -- Episcopalian. Youth group and all that. I hated it. My mom took anything in our house that had a devil on it, or a dragon, or anything associated with magic or the mythical, and she burned it all because she thought it was evil. My dad had an affair when my mom was pregnant with me and they divorced when I was six months old. It always seemed so hypocritical -- he was singing in the church choir and having an affair. I'm like, "Hello? What are we doing here?"

When I met Billy, I remember thinking that he was so different from the guys that I'd grown up with. He definitely wasn't conventionally attractive. An Abercrombie model -- most people are like, "That is a sexy man." But to me, that's like eating at Applebee's. I mean, yeah, it's good, but it's so generic. I'd rather eat some kind of fusion food or at a backdoor mom-and-pop restaurant, y'know?

He proposed over Christmas. I was going to school and he had joined the Marines. We were married in October, he deployed in January. I was very naïve about the whole thing. We talked about it before he left: "If you come back and you need help or you need therapy, you'll get it, right?" And he said, "Yeah, if I need it, I'll get it."

His unit -- a unit is 13 guys -- was sent to this crazy part of Afghanistan where nobody had been. They were the first guys to push into it. I think they were hit for the first time in early March. That's when it became real to me.

They lost three guys. I knew these guys, I knew their girlfriends, I knew their wives. I'm going to get emotional talking about it... [She tears up.] By the end of the tour, out of 13 guys, they were down to five.

Billy came home in September and we were so happy to see each other. But it's crazy, the Marine Corps -- they bring these guys back from this war zone and they're just like, "See ya, back to your real life." There's no therapy. And there's no encouragement to seek it out -- it's actually the opposite. Because if you do, you won't be promoted. Even among the guys, it's looked down on. One of the guys in Billy's unit went to talk to a therapist and they were all like, "That's so weak." Even the wives were like, "What's wrong with him?" And it's like, what? Go look up post-traumatic stress disorder -- there's nothing "wrong" with him -- these guys need help!

Billy was totally freaked out, like if someone closed a car door, he would immediately hit the ground. It was like a bomb went off. Fourth of July was crazy, all the explosions. Because his body was still operating on extreme distress mode. Where's it coming from? What's the situation? Where's my gun? He needed to have his gun with him at all times, which was terrifying. We went on a trip to San Francisco and he had his gun in the side of the door and I was like: "Really? A .38 Special in the side of the door? On our way to the gayest, friendliest city ever?"

Things just kept getting worse and worse. One time, we had a Saturday off together, so I was like, "Let's go on a picnic in the National Park." I love doing little romantic things like that. We were supposed to go at 2:00, and I came into the kitchen at 1:00 to start making the food and he was eating. And I was like, "I thought we were going on a picnic." And he was like, "I f***ing work and I f***ing make money and I fill this fridge with food and I'll eat when I want. What, you're gonna tell me when I can eat now?" And I was just like, "What? No. I thought we were going on a picnic. What is your problem?" Then he would turn it into this whole: "What the f*** is your problem? I'm just eating! I'm just eating some lunch!" He had all this pent-up rage -- it's almost like he would want to argue. He would yell right in my face and I was just like, "What are you doing? People don't just yell in people's faces!"

Everything came to a head for us at the big Marine Corps Ball in Vegas. That's where all the guys put on their dress blues and you put on a ball gown and it's this big fancy thing. We were trying to make it a really good time for us, it was gonna be this fresh start.

When we got there, the hotel was like, "You have to put down a two hundred dollar holding deposit." So we ended up with less money to play with -- and Billy got pissed. So he leaves -- says he's going to have a beer. He doesn't come back until 2 am. At that point I was like, "I'm done, give me the keys, I'm leaving. I don't want to go to the stupid Marine Ball." And he starts yelling in my face, just being really crazy: "F*** you! I've got the keys!" He shut the hotel room door. "You're not going anywhere!"

Now I'm like, "I will call the police." He rips the hotel phone out of the wall, throws it across the room. Throws my cell phone across the room. Like, "Bitch, you're not calling anybody!" Just psycho. He had been a little violent with me before, like pushed me down and that kind of thing. So I'm like, "F*** you, I will start screaming!" And he, um... He just choked me until I lost consciousness.

I woke up and I was like, "What just happened? Did I just have a seizure?" And I looked at him, he was standing over me, and he just went stone cold. No emotion. Nothing. He just walked over and sat in the chair.

And I was just like, "You just choked the shit out of me and almost killed me and now you're sitting there as calm as day? Oh my God." I'm really scared now, thinking I'm gonna be found between some mattresses in Vegas. Like, this is not how I want to go out, y'know?

He called his buddy Drew: "Sharon and I are in a fight, you wanna get a drink or something?" Just calm as can be. So Drew and his wife came up and they're all drunk and having a blast, like, "Hey!" And I was like, "He just choked me. He just f***ing choked me." And they were like, "What?" And Billy was like, "What are you talking about? What are you saying?" And I was like, "Are you kidding? You just attacked me!"

I started bawling. I looked insane and he looked completely calm, when in reality it was so the opposite. He's like, "You're just pissed that I was out having a good time all night and you're in the room. I can't believe you would say this to my friends -- what are you trying to do?" And I was just like, "Oh f***, you are beyond crazy." Like it's one thing to freak out but then to be emotionless and pretend that I was making it up? This is a whole other level.

How do you know when it's time to leave? When it gets violent. I mean, if it happens once, okay, get some therapy, get some help. But if it happens more than once, get out. Go. There's no place for violence in a marriage. In any relationship.

For me, when my husband choked me, that's not when I realized. I mean, it was definitely a huge eye-opener, like, I probably shouldn't be in this marriage, but it wasn't the moment. It was later, when we got into another argument, and he said something like: "You're such a f***ing bitch all the time. See, that's why you got choked." And I was like: "Oh, hell no!" That's when I was like, "You are not sorry. In your mind, you completely justified what you did."

I did have a lot of guilt when I decided to leave him because I do believe that when you marry someone you've made that commitment, and I'm fiercely loyal about things like that. But I honestly felt like I had no choice, like he was going to end up seriously hurting me.

Looking back, yeah, I think that there's a little more I could have done. When his anger/rage things got worse, I should have reported that. I should have gone to his command and said, "Look, he's not okay, this is what's happening." Because if I'd done that, he would have been forced to have mandatory therapy. But I didn't. I was like, "Oh, he just got back from a war, and if I say something then it's going to hurt him. He's a very good marine. He worked very hard, he's been promoted with honors several times, and if this comes out, there's going to be this mark on his record." So I didn't want to do that. But looking back, had I done that, it might have saved our marriage.

You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce hits shelves September 4.