In her long-standing role of Angie on "All My Children," actress Debbi Morgan became well known as one half of a popular love-struck couple, together with Jesse (Darnell Williams). Though these characters experienced a lot of wild ups and downs in true soap-opera fashion, their powerful love always brought them back together. Especially to fans of the show, Angie and Jesse represented the quintessential super-relationship, one where passion played a strong part and true love really did conquer all.
In Morgan's real life, however, relationships weren't idyllic. As she tells Oprah in a sit-down for "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", the 59-year-old grew up witnessing domestic violence between her parents, including some truly horrifying acts. Seeing the abuse had a long-lasting impact on Morgan, who later realized how deep the cycle of abuse was in her family, among her grandmother, mother and aunts.
"There were nine siblings. Four of the five sisters married abusive men. And all of the brothers turned out to be abusive husbands, except for one," Morgan says.
As for her own relationships, Morgan, too, had a pattern of falling for dangerous men, even though she didn't exactly realize it at the time.
"When I kept attracting the same kind of men into my life, I'm not consciously thinking that that's what I'm doing," she says.
Morgan even recalls this subconscious attraction dating back to preschool, when she developed her first crush.
"My first love of my life was this little boy named Butch, who I just adored," Morgan says. "One day, my father walked me to nursery school -- it was the first time he ever had. So, we get to the nursery school and I hear somebody saying, 'Debbi! Debbi!'"
It was Butch. Morgan was downright giddy to see her young crush.
"I'm like, 'Daddy! Daddy! Here comes Butch!'" she recalls. "It's like in a movie, in slow motion, I'm running towards Butch and he's running towards me."
However, Butch didn't give Morgan the greeting she had expected.
"He gets up to me and he goes pow," Morgan says, mimicking a punch. "Punches me in the stomach. Knocked the wind out of me."
Butch then ran off. Morgan took a moment to catch her breath, but soon followed.
"I go chasing after him, 'Butch! Butch! Wait for me!'" she says.
Looking back on the incident, Morgan sees how frighteningly early these patterns can develop.
"Even though he had hit me, I looked at him as my protector. And anybody that I thought was going to be my protector and keep me safe, that's what I was drawn to," she says. "Ultimately, I would find out that they were the person that I needed to be protected from."
Morgan opens up more about her past relationships, her rock bottom and her current marriage on this weekend's episode of "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", airing Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. For more from "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", visit wherearetheynow.buzz.
<em>Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the <a href="http://www.thehotline.org/">National Domestic Violence Hotline</a>.</em>
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