The Healthiest Example of Dealing with a Potential Divorce I’ve Ever Seen

She ducked.  She waited.  And it worked.

In an August 13, 2009 article published in The New York Times, Laura Munson described how her husband came home one day and said he wanted out of their marriage – that he didn’t love her any more.

Ms. Munson was stunned.  They’d had a good marriage and partnership, they’d achieved many of their goals, and life seemed happy and fulfilling.  This pronouncement – that he didn’t love her any more – seemed to come out of the blue.

Like countless others in her position, Laura Munson had to make an instantaneous decision on how to proceed at a time when she’d been sucker-punched.   Her very next words, her next actions, would determine not only the course of the frightening conversation at hand, but of her very life.

Unlike the vast majority of others in her position, Laura made an amazing decision.  She chose not to believe him.

Oh, she knew he thought he meant it.  She knew he was hurting, that he’d had some disappointments of late, that – she hoped – he believed he needed a fresh start, to assuage some wounds his ego and his sense of self as a man had borne.

But she chose to believe that he was saying hurtful things to her in the same way that an unhappy child will; that he was striking out the only way he knew how at the time, pushing against the perceived barriers to his happiness.

What happens next is the healthiest example of dealing with a potential divorce I’ve ever seen. In her writing, Laura Munson shows great class, courage and dignity… and ultimately saved her marriage.

We’ve all heard stories of those wounded spouses (partners/whatevers) who viciously retaliate when their partner wants out. They cry, they scream, they rage, they destroy property, they run up credit cards in the other spouse’s name, they trash the one who’s leaving the marriage to anyone who will listen, they manipulate the kids, family and friends into taking sides…

They show no class, no courage and no dignity.  And they destroy any chance of saving that relationship.  It’s as if they’re saying to the world, “I love him and I’m going to prove it by showing the gods how wounded I am.  I really really love him, but give me more nails to drive into this coffin dammit”.

Laura Munson proved that she loved him by first understanding that he was in pain, and second by making the situation about his pain, not about her.  She gave him the time he needed to work through his pain in a classy, dignified and courageous fashion.

And it worked.

Brava, Ms. Munson.  Brava!

To read the article, go here:

How Could She Be Surprised? Part Two.

My August 2nd blog described how stunned a male friend was by his wife’s over-the-top reaction when he told her he was filing for divorce.

The marriage had been distant and uncommunicative for more than a decade, and he figured she’d be as relieved as he was to finally just get it over with.

 Instead, she was furious. How could he do this to her? She’d been left alone with the house and the children, week after week for years, while he’d been off on his never-ending work-related sales trips. She’d raised those kids practically single handedly, and had dealt with the household problems and vehicle breakdowns all by herself.

Where was he when the children had chicken pox and were whiny and feverish? Where was he when a blizzard dropped 26 inches of snow and the power was out for three days? Where was he when she didn’t get that promotion she desperately wanted?

And now that the kids were grown and out of the house, he wanted out too? How dare he?

From his perspective, her anger was completely unfair—this was the first time he’d heard any of this from her. They’d agreed years before that he would take the sales job, because it would provide them with a better living than he could otherwise manage. He’d always thought it was a mutual decision, and her actions and attitudes seemed to reinforce that she preferred it when he was gone.

Wondering what signals he’d missed, he thought back over all the homecomings when she’d barely acknowledged him as he came through the door after being away for two or more weeks.

He cringed over the times when he had realized once again that he’d missed out on an important milestone in his kids’ lives… the grade school graduations, school plays, birthday parties, first boyfriend (it came and went while he was on an extended trip).

And he sighed as he remembered how she had made it clear that this was HER house, and his suggestions were unwelcome… after all, she handled it all just fine while he was gone, didn’t she?

So why was she so angry with him? How could she believe they had a marriage when they didn’t sleep together, talk or even eat their meals together?

And what about him? Did she really think it had been all fun and games? He’d spent half of his life on the road, living out of suitcases and in so many hotel rooms in so many cities that often he’d wake up in the middle of the night completely disoriented—he wouldn’t even know which state he was in, let alone what town or hotel.

He’d spent night after night either entertaining clients and drinking too much, or sitting alone in yet another boring room, watching bad television. This was a life? Hadn’t he done this for her and for the kids? And what did he get for it? A family that didn’t know him and didn’t seem to want him.

Sadly, this couple, like too many others, never communicated their relationship wants and needs in an open and honest fashion. Had they, it’s possible there might have been a different outcome to this marriage.

We’ll continue to explore this relationship in future blogs.

Coming soon, Part Three.  

Soul-Mate Marriages is saddened by the high rate of divorce in the U.S., with even fewer second marriages succeeding.  We recognize the reasons are complicated but believe the trend can be reversed with trust and hard work. 

Neither of us is a relationship saint, but our marriage, the 2nd for both of us, has brought more joy, satisfaction, and peace than we could have imagined.

We hope our insights will be helpful.

How Could She Be Surprised? Part One.

Recently a male acquaintance told his wife of more than 2o years he wanted a divorce.  

Since they hadn’t slept together more than a couple of dozen times in the previous decade (and if you know men, you know he was very aware of this) and in fact hadn’t even shared a bed for the preceding year, they seldom did anything together, they barely spoke and they even ate their meals separately, he figured she’d shrug her shoulders and say, “Whatever”.  

Instead, her response knocked his socks off.  She screamed at him, told him to get out of the house RIGHT THAT VERY MINUTE, and made it clear that she didn’t want to ever speak to him again.  

He was stunned.  After all, as a salesman with a very large territory he was often on the road for weeks on end; he’d frequently invited her to travel with him.  She’d always refused, even after their kids grew up and moved away from home.  In fact, within days of returning home from yet another assignment, she’d be sniping at him, “Isn’t it time for you to go out on another sales trip?”.  

As far as he was concerned, the marriage had been over for years.  A decade or so before, he’d asked her to go to marriage counseling with him, but she’d refused.  She didn’t want to talk about it.  

 The divorce was difficult.  The wife was very angry and hurt, and made it clear to the family that her heart was broken by the horrible person she’d married so many years ago, with the full expectation that it would last forever.  

What happened?  How could two people have such a different understanding of what was going on between them?  How could any woman who was still fairly young – after all, she was only in her mid 40s – believe that her similarly-aged husband was happy to be in a relationship with no sex, no mutual interests, and no conversation? 

Sounds completely irrational, doesn’t it?  

It happens with far more frequency than most people realize, and the reason is both very simple and extremely complicated at the same time.   The simple explanation is “People see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe”.   

What my friend’s ex-wife wanted to see and believe is that her marriage was fine, that as long as they weren’t battling it out every day and were living a reasonably harmonious existence, that there was nothing to worry about. 

She apparently valued a relationship where she didn’t have to “feel”, where she could be emotionally distant and there were no expectations placed on her – other than those she felt competent to handle, such as her job, housework, mothering, and so forth.  

She was probably panicked when he asked for marriage counseling those many years before, and likely did everything she could to dissuade him from pursuing that line of thought… and she most likely pushed all the right buttons – those buttons that any spouse knows how to push – to make it clear that this was a bad idea on his part, and that even bringing it up was both foolish and indicative that he had some serious personality failings.  

So my friend gave up.  He stopped asking for counseling, he stopped trying to find a way to make the marriage work, and he was rewarded for it… the air cleared, the household became calm again, and sadly, he was left alone. 

Married, but quite alone.  

Coming soon, Part Two.

Soul-Mate Marriages is saddened by the high rate of divorce in the U.S., with even fewer second marriages succeeding.  We recognize the reasons are complicated but believe the trend can be reversed with trust and hard work. 

Neither of us is a relationship saint, but our marriage, the 2nd for both of us, has brought more joy, satisfaction, and peace than we could have imagined. 

We hope our insights will be helpful.

Equipment vs Marriage Failure Rates

The other day I asked my 52 year old husband to research some statistics for a personal risk workshop I’m writing.  A while later he came to me, hard-copy download in hand, and a worried look on his face.

“It says here that 67% of second marriages end in divorce”, he sputtered.  Puzzled, I just sort of looked at him quizzically.  “Uh, yeah… that’s pretty common knowledge.”

“But… that’s worse than first marriages!  How can that be?  Are we doomed?”

John is an engineer by training; he’s spent most of his life in manufacturing plants and traveling the world troubleshooting mechanical & other systems on Navy ships.  His experiences are in what he calls the “hard” sciences; mine are in business and the social sciences.  The statistics he’d just researched for me were confirmation of the exact numbers… I had a good general idea of the trends and patterns, but couldn’t remember specifically what the percentages are.

Reading those numbers worried him.  His engineer’s brain fastened onto that 67% figure – 2/3rds – like it was some kind of statistical failure rate of a piece of equipment.  A two-thirds failure rate in a machine is, of course, disastrous.  The machine itself is likely a complete failure.  Did that mean that marriage itself is a complete failure?

“No sweetie, we’re fine”.  As I’ve tried to explain to him before, with equipment there are only so many variables to address.  Whether he’s troubleshooting a dechlorination system, an anti-fouling unit, a boiler, or even a lawnmower, there are only so many moving parts and so many types of errors or failures that can occur.  The equipment can either be fixed, cobbled together or junked.

But with people, the number of behavioral, genetic and environmental variables are nearly endless. And so, the reasons leading up to failed relationships and marriages are nearly endless as well.  The difference is that people can learn and adapt and decide whether to let all of our many errors and minor failures turn into a large one or not.

John and I are fine.  We will always be fine.

But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded every now and then of the need for a little preventative maintenance.

Soul-Mate Marriages is saddened by the high rate of divorce in the U.S., with even fewer second marriages succeeding.  We recognize the reasons are complicated but believe the trend can be reversed with trust and hard work. 

Neither of us is a relationship saint, but our marriage, the 2nd for both of us, has brought more joy, satisfaction, and peace than we could have imagined. 

We hope our insights will be helpful.