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Inspired Relationships

How to Save a Marriage

Laura Munson’s new book This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness
has just been published, containing the account of the time her husband walked in the door one night, after 20 happy years of marriage and two children, and told her it was over. “I don’t love you. I don’t know if I ever did.”

Instead of throwing him out, setting her lawyers on him or sobbing hysterically, Laura called bullshit.

What ensued was her husband going through a mid-life crisis and Laura giving him the space to do that in his own home. By letting him have his solitude, he worked through his issues in his own mind and came back to his family.

Laura’s initial article on the ordeal was published in the New York Times last year, causing great controversy along the way. Here is an excerpt:

“Here’s a visual: Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t “reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally because, after all, it’s not about her.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying my husband was throwing a child’s tantrum. No. He was in the grip of something else — a profound and far more troubling meltdown that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did. But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.”

Since then, the article has evolved into a book. Here is Laura talking about it on ABC News last week:

Is this method a revelation? Could more marriages have been saved with the same attitude? After all, in just about every argument there can come a point where you know you’ve gone too far, said too much, to ever reverse the situation. Could the same ring true with divorces?

Of course, every marriage and every break up is different, but what I love is that Laura believed in her husband enough to know that he was just freaking out. He got through it, but I wager that if she’d reacted – yelled, screamed, fought back – that we would be looking at just another divorce statistic rather than this book.

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Author |

Writer, dating columnist, wife, coffee addict, foodie, fashionista... Melburnian through and through. Muser, dancer, blogger, tweeter. Likes to get her head on telly now and again. Sleeper, dreamer, a sucker for romance. And of course... a cheap date.


3 comments for “How to Save a Marriage”

  1. Posted by Anne | April 20, 2010, 7:00 am

    I believe it takes a strong woman to take that stand. I hope her husband appreciates how fortunate he is to have such a woman.

  2. Posted by Family Matters | April 24, 2010, 6:20 pm

    This method may not be new, but it is oh, so difficult to actually do, so well done Laura!

    Byron Katie’s “The Work” is very similar to this, as is a lot of Wayne Dyer writes, if anyone wants additional angles.

    If you live around Brisbane, I teach a marriage course based on communication styles and love languages, which also helps a lot, even if only one person comes, but better if both.

  3. Posted by Surviving an Affair | April 5, 2011, 12:13 am

    [...] story reminded me of that of Laura Munson, who refused to let her husband divorce her even though he wanted to leave the [...]

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