Terrence Howard

*Terrence Howard opened up to PEOPLE in an effort to clean up his reputation of being an abuser of white and Asian women (we know he’s not into black women, and if he is, none have come forward with claims about their face meeting with his fist).

“I’ve made terrible mistakes throughout my life,” the “Empire” star says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I was dragging baggage with me that was crippling me mentally and physically. But I finally feel I can put that to rest. I can breathe again.”

Howard says he’s been exposed to violence since he was a kid. At the age of 2, he saw his father, Tyrone, fatally stab a man while their families waited in line to see Santa Claus at a mall in Cleveland.

Tyrone served 11 months in prison for taking another man’s life, and Howard’s mother, Anita, filed for divorce after his release. But Terrence says that his father remained a force in their lives.

“My dad whooped me every day until I was 14,” says the actor, who grew up poor with three brothers. “Then he said, ‘The street will whoop you from now on.’”

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Terrence Howard

In his adult life, Howard picked up where his daddy left off and became the one that was physically violent.

In 2001 he admitted to hitting his first wife, and in 2013 his second wife Michelle Ghent was granted a restraining order against him on the grounds that he beat her up.

However, following the death of his mother in 2008, Howard claims that he has spent the last few years self-reflecting.

“I was raised believing the man is in charge, but I’ve realized marriage should be an equal partnership,” says the actor.

He met his third wife, Mira, in 2013. Two weeks after meeting her, “I gathered up things associated with my past and found a nice hill and buried them all there,” he says. A week later, he proposed. “Mira settled me,” Howard says of his wife.

“Our marriage is effortless,” Mira adds. “Relationships are hard work, but we really don’t fight.”

Rumor has it that they don’t fight because she’s the submissive type that does everything Howard demands of her, including participating in threesomes when she’s really not into it.

You may recall earlier this year while on the red carpet for some awards show, Mira confirmed that Howard is a bigger “asshole” that his “Empire” character, Lucious Lyon.

Terrence says that stress is still a factor in his life, but he’s found a unique way of managing it.

“I’ll just watch a tree’s limbs sway back and forth or take my shoes off and put my hands on a tree,” he says. “It makes me feel part of the whole.”

“Empire” has returned for its Spring season Wednesday nights at 9/8c on Fox.