Family Ties' Star Meredith Baxter Once Drank Heavily to Cope with Ex-Husband's Misconduct

Junie Sihlangu
Nov 15, 2021
06:40 P.M.
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“Family Ties” actress Meredith Baxter spent 15 years in a tumultuous relationship with her husband, David Birney. However, she eventually left him and later came out as a lesbian.

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Meredith Baxter opened up about her more than a decade-long marriage to her husband, David Birney, in her memoir “Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering.” The couple was together for 15 years.

Baxter and Birney, parents of three children, worked as co-stars on the 1970s sitcom “Bridget Loves Birney.” Although they seemed perfectly happy on the romantic show, in reality, things were much more complicated.

Meredith Baxter as Elyse Keaton on season 3 of "Family Ties" on March 3, 2012 | Photo: Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

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THE PHYSICAL ABUSE

After staying with Birney from man and wife from 1974 until 1989, Baxter finally found the strength, to tell the truth about their relationship in her book. In the 2011 book, she confessed how Birney struck her on several occasions.

The actor denied the claims on the Today show, but Baxter even went into detail in her book about one incident she recalled. She said the violence happened suddenly and unexpectedly, stating:

“I couldn’t tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard. I do recall thinking, ‘I’d better not get up because he’s going to hit me again.’”

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Meredith Baxter Birney and her husband David Birney in New York City circa 1985 | Photo: Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

ALCOHOL ABUSE

The star, well-known as Elyse Keaton on the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties,” ended up finding a toxic way to cope with the alleged abuse. She said she would drink a tumbler full of wine driving home from the studio daily.

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Speaking at Union Square’s Barnes & Noble, Baxter admitted that she didn’t stop drinking until her marriage was over. She drank because she was unhappy and didn’t know what to do with that feeling.

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TAKING BACK HER POWER

The actress confessed that it took her a long time to leave the toxic relationship because she first needed to change her perspective. Baxter said she asked herself if she wanted to be a victim.

She realized she’d committed to the notion for a long time because it felt familiar, warm, and comfortable. However, she also realized it had been a disastrous position to be in, and she needed to tune into her thinking.

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The star challenged herself about what part she was playing in her relationship. She questioned what she had thought that told her it was okay to stay in the toxic relationship.

Showing how the relationship really was the reason why Baxter abused alcohol; in 1990, she became sober and has remained so. Ultimately, the star was married three times before finding her happy place.

Meredith Baxter and her partner actress Nancy Locke at "Outfest VIP Women's Soiree" at Gallery Lofts on June 24, 2012, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Beck Starr/WireImage/Getty Images

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COMING OUT

Baxter never anticipated coming out as a lesbian or being with a woman. Speaking about her sexual orientation, she confessed that she’d never felt comfortable with herself but wasn’t questioning things.

She eventually came out as a lesbian in 2009 in an interview with the Today show. Baxter and Nancy Locke started dating in 2006 and tied the knot a few years later in 2013.

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The actress revealed that she knew she’d find herself with a woman. She explained that with Locke, she discovered and felt “a safety and a music” in a way that she hadn’t before.

The star compared finding her actual sexual orientation to discovering the right religion. Even her children have been supportive with her son, Peter, stating he couldn’t stop smiling when his mother finally figured it out.

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MEREDITH’S CANCER BATTLE

While healing from the abuse and going in and out of marriages, Baxter also faced and overcame another foe – breast cancer. She first battled and won against the disease in 1998.

However, because she was living an isolated life, the story never made the news. Sadly, she also didn’t get much support from her then-husband because he was more focused on him not losing Baxter’s breast.

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His stance made the actress realize she wasn’t her breasts. Then a friend asked her to talk about her fight against the disease, and when Baxter made the speech, that’s when she realized the healing power of opening up.

She was initially diagnosed with stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ, breast cancer, in 1998. Thirteen years later, she got an invasive DCIS stage 2 diagnosis that required what doctor's called a “major excavation.”

Meredith Baxter-Birney and her husband David Birney pose for a portrait session at home in circa 1982, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Maureen Donaldson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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HER DISLIKE OF HER BREASTS

The star had always had large breasts, which she found annoying and never liked; her diagnosis led her to get matching breasts that were much more manageable. She created the Meredith Baxter Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

The organization helps fund the research and prevention of breast cancer and also provides free mammograms for low-income women. Last November, she opened up more about her dislike of her breasts.

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She told Page Six that her huge breasts made it difficult for her to work as an actress. Baxter found herself being lusted after, which she didn’t appreciate while trying to find serious acting roles.

[Meredith] Baxter has since had the pleasure of starring in the season 4 finale episode of “Glee.”

The actress claimed television executives constantly ogled her chest and made lewd comments. The star confessed that the unwarranted hyper-sexualization led her to possess great contempt.

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SELLING HER HOME

In 2016, Baxter initiated the process to sell her Santa Monica Canyon redwood-clad mansion. The $5.5 million architectural home boasted a massive 4,500-square-feet and was first listed in August for $6 million.

It looked like a cross between a wood cabin and a treehouse. According to the actress, the Alisal Lane two-story home she lived with Locke, which was built in the 1970s, was set to be taken over by a young family.

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BONUS INFO

Baxter has since had the pleasure of starring in the season 4 finale episode of “Glee.” She played the role of Patty Duke’s lesbian partner and was set to reprise the character in the next season.

The star has been an advocate for the LGBTIQ+ community for a long time. She also advocates for victims of domestic violence and women’s rights and speaks about substance abuse as well.

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