This article examines two widely held beliefs concerning the nature of “careers” of wife assault. Most researchers and members of the public believe that assaultive behavior in marriage, once begun, tends to continue for the life of the marriage. It is also commonly believed that minor violence (e.g., slapping, shoving, throwing things at a spouse) is unrelated to severe assaults (e.g., punching, kicking, using a weapon). These beliefs are based on the most severe cases of wife battering, as described by the media and by women in shelters. Despite these beliefs, we suggest that wife assault is similar to other forms of deviance and crime, in that desistance is common and engaging in minor forms of deviance is a risk factor for engaging in major forms of deviance and crime. The article reports a study using data on a sample of 380 married respondents who reported some violence in their marriage in 1985 and were reinterviewed in 1986. The findings indicate that most marital violence is transient, but even minor violence by a wife poses a risk of escalation to more dangerous assaults by a husband. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.