Tag Archives: marriage book

Can Marriages Survive Infidelity?

haltzman book coverFollowing up on my last post, Why do affairs happen?, I want to share some responses from psychiatrist, author and marital therapist, Scott Haltzman, M.D, to my questions. He recently released The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity, which has certainly shed light on some new areas.

The short answer to the question, “Can marriages survive infidelity?” is “Yes.” They can, and they do. He estimates half of all marriages stay together after infidelity.

Here are some questions I asked Dr. Haltzman related to the book:
Q: Can you briefly define flame addiction and explain why the brain chemistry affects reasonable decision making?
A: Flame addiction describes the psychological and chemical process by which a person become infatuated with another person who is not his or her spouse. This person is a “flame,” and, like a moth circling a candle, he or she provides an irresistible pull to the married individual. Flame addiction is based on the phenomenology of infatuation, in which excitatory brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine are elevated, just as they are when people are abusing drugs like cocaine. It’s further complicated by a dip in brain serotonin. When people have normal levels of serotonin, their brains get messages to relax, but when levels are low, a person can feel restless, unsettled, and have increases in obsessions.

Q: Why is breaking off all contact with the affair partner the hardest step for the offending spouse?
A: A very strong attraction develops between the spouse and the one he or she is having an affair with. This third person might be seen as source of enrichment or excitation for the spouse, there might be powerful feelings that the flame is a soul mate, and the possibility of losing him or her may feel like too great a loss. Or, the person having the affair may simply feel a duty or obligation to the paramour. Often the position of the unfaithful spouses is that the third party didn’t do anything wrong, so they can’t justify hurting feelings by breaking things off.

Q: How can you tell if you’re in a relationship with someone who made a serious—but one-time—mistake versus someone who will hurt you again? Or in other words, how often is “once a cheater, always a cheater” true?
A: There’s no surefire way of predicting who will end the affair, and who will continue to have trysts. Good predictive indicators include individuals who are willing to take a careful look at their behavior, minimize defensiveness and blame, and make sincere efforts to put energy back into the relationship once an affair has been discovered. Those that insist they still need to maintain all of their Facebook friends, or their own private cellphone, are simply asking to hold on to their old ways. That’s not good.

Q: Why do your odds of an affair go up each year you are together?
A: The best reason is that simply the longer you’re married, the more chances you have to cheat. In the first 10 minutes after your wedding vows, there’s about a zero percent chance you can fit an affair in, and in the first day, about the same. But each day you are married is another day you go out into the world and meet possible affair mates. Another reason that the chances may go up is that couples tend to get into ruts, and the excitement of infidelity seems particularly attractive if you are bored in your marriage.

Q: In your experience, you believe half of couples stay together after infidelity. Why is this fact helpful to others? And why do you believe that is the biggest secret for surviving infidelity?
A: Secrecy is the hallmark of infidelity, both during the affair and afterwards, so many people have no idea that their next store neighbors (or their parents even) have had to deal with infidelity. Knowing that you are not alone helps reduce the feelings of shame—and knowing that people can survive infidelity gives you options when the culture may be insisting that you should leave the marriage no matter what.

Q: Is there one piece of advice you have for couples to prevent affairs from occurring, particularly for couples who have been together for more than a decade?
A: Don’t take each other for granted. You should always be working on maintaining a good quality marriage, in which your partner feels like you are making his or her needs a priority. One of the advantages of being with someone more than a decade is you really get to know him or her. You can see that as a negative, as in, “Now that I know my partner, I realize what a pain in the butt he/she is.” But I believe this knowledge can be used to your advantage, as in, “I realize that my partner sees things differently than I do, and I have often assumed I know what he/she needed when I really didn’t know him/her. Now that I know my partner better, I can really see the ways I can improve the quality of our relationship.”

Thanks to Dr. Haltzman for these insights! Leave a comment if you wish to be included in the drawing for a free book.

I feel fortunate that infidelity has not impacted my marriage directly, however, the book is a reminder not to be complacent and to keep proper boundaries in place. I’ll have a followup on these prevention tips from Dr. Haltzman at a later date. For those who have been impacted, pick up a copy for yourself or a loved one.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Are You Focused on Productivity over Warmth in Your Family?

In today’s post, I’m continuing some thoughts on the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. You can read part I here: When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing.

In the last post, I shared several misconceptions about marriage that Runkel debunked. An interesting insight he writes about has to do with the family unit and our American culture’s desire to make our family life as efficient, productive and equitable as our work life. We want the wheels to run smoothly, and if there is a problem, we want to make the repair and get those wheels back on the track of life. So, here’s the problem, written so aptly by Runkel:

“You’re a family, not an office. You can’t operate on skill sets charted out and replace the person who doesn’t fit well. We are not simple machines and gears, working together toward a goal of increased efficiency and productivity. We are men and women, living together as a way to feed one another’s souls and create a warm home that is anything but mechanical and operational.”

I do think we need to be reminded of how our cultural desire toward productivity can get way out of hand. I’m often guilty of this. For instance, after my kids get home from school, the gears/tasks of homework, cooking and serving dinner, cleaning, making lunches and bedtime routines immediately begin. I’m often the productivity driver, constantly assessing progress on each task. When my husband is home, I delegate some of the tasks or supervision to him or he simply jumps in to help. Sharing warmth during the evening is often not a priority, at least until the above items are complete. Sometimes we carve out time for one-on-one discussion with each other or with each of the children, but often we are so concerned with completing tasks that the nurturing and loving feelings in the home can be hidden.

We need to refocus our energy and priority on the things that matter most, which should include accomplishing what we need to do in the midst of a loving home environment.

One couple dynamic which seems fairly common writes Runkel, is that one spouse is focused on productivity and is “over-responsible” to make up for the spouse who is “under-responsible” and does little to help. The overresponsible partner’s actions may help in the short-term by preventing some arguments, in the long term it creates a worse dynamic that pulls the couple apart. So, I appreciated Runkel’s examples and steps that help couples solve this sort of conflict not by changing their partner, but by changing their own actions and responses. (We can’t expect different results without changing our actions, right?) What I also very much appreciated was that these changed actions are done in a very loving, calm, mature, positive manner that doesn’t push the spouse away. No passive-aggressive behavior, no asking for “help” simply apologizing for contributing to the problem and acknowledging the co-responsibilities. Then, moving forward in a new way. (Check out the book for anecdotes.)

The next step is to grow in gratitude, which is something I preach here frequently. Expressing gratitude has been shown in research to be very effective at improving a couple’s bond. Thank your spouse for all the ways big and small that they help you in life. Do this instead of focusing on getting recognition for your own efforts. Waiting for your spouse to change only keeps you stuck. Be responsible for your own actions, and let your spouse be responsible for his/hers.

After focusing on yourself and experiencing personal growth, pursuing your partner with your truest self, then growing in gratitude for your spouse, we can learn to truly love one another.  That means we want the absolute best for that person. It means you will try to be the best spouse for them, even if you feel they won’t reciprocate in the same manner.

When you become a person of integrity, you become more attractive to your spouse, says Runkel. This replaces scorekeeping and resentment and helps you grow together.

Above all, this focus on the self means holding yourself to a higher standard, no matter what is going on around you.

What’s your take? Is it difficult to maintain integrity and commitment when you feel your spouse isn’t pulling his/her weight? Do you agree that changing your own attitude and actions can help transform the relationship?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by ddpavumba courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing

When I began to review the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT, I will admit to being turned off by the title. What could be worse marriage advice than to be self-centered? I think the author was attempting to provoke the reader into questioning commonly held preconceptions. Also, there’s a big difference between being self-centered in a negative way, and being focused on your own actions and reactions as a way to contribute to a better relationship. Thankfully, the latter seemed to be the intention of the book.

I won’t say I agreed with everything in the book, however. Runkel says the best thing you can do for your marriage is to become more self-centered, learning to focus less on your spouse and more on yourself…for the benefit of you both. However, there are some people I know—often myself included—who need to look outside their personal worlds a little more often. I believe some balance is needed here. However, I do agree with the author that by focusing on understanding yourself well, you can pursue your partner with your truest self.

Questioning commonly held misconceptions about marriage can be valuable, and realizing that you can’t change your partner, just your response to your partner, is also a useful insight. Another misconception Renkel shares is that a strong couple relies on common interests and compatibility. Not true, he says, as this is a foundation for a superficial friendship, whereas “reliance on personal integrity in the midst of constant change is the foundation for a deep, lasting marriage.” This is an excellent point, and one that couples would do well to remember when they feel they are drifting apart or losing touch. Integrity and commitment are much more critical than shared interests at a particular moment in time.

One more misconception is that conflict in a marriage is bad. I agree with the author that “in-your-face conflict is a better path to true intimacy than cold avoidance.” The key in conflict is to learn to keep your cool. Being emotionally reactive and immature doesn’t allow a positive outcome to the conflict. When we are angry and fearful, adrenaline flows. The blood supply to the problem-solving part of the brain is greatly reduced. Memory, concentration and rational thought are reduced. Runkel explains how to live with the “ScreamFree Approach” and pursue your deepest desires. Staying calm and connected can help you curtail arguments, identify and change dysfunctional patterns and improve your relationship.

One of the points I’ve written about frequently is that we can’t expect our spouse to “make us happy” and meet every need. Runkel tried to make this point by explaining that being self-focused rather than other-focused means you don’t expect your spouse to fulfill you and make you happy. Instead, he says each person must take full responsibility for his/her emotional needs. “It’s not your spouse’s job to validate you, to make you feel secure enough, sexy enough, respected enough, or loved enough for you to return the favor.”

That sounds controversial to me, and I question whether we aren’t there to help one another, particularly if we see there is a blind spot or self-esteem concern. However, he does speak of the need to serve one another, which I believe can and should include praising and verbalizing love and respect as well as desire for one another. It also includes acting in a generous way that you know will please your partner.

I’ll share more on this book and the need to focus on the self within marriage in tomorrow’s post.

What do you think? Does being more self-focused or self-centered help or hinder you in your marriage?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Best Posts of 2011

I encourage you to read Best Marriage Quotes of 2011 from Sheila Wray Gregoire of To Love, Honor & Vaccuum. She pulls insightful quotes and 50 of the best links on the topics of perspective, sex, commitment, acceptance, and marriage tips.  While you are there, you may want to check out her other articles. This site is very helpful, particularly for women who want to improve the intimacy and sexual quality in their marriage.

One of the quotes Sheila mentioned also struck me as very important: “What you do EVERY DAY matters much more than what do ONCE IN A WHILE.” This is from an interesting post at Simple Marriage offering The Secrets of Marriage.

For those of you inclined to set goals, make changes or resolutions for 2012, it’s great to keep this point in mind that it is daily actions that matter most to our marital happiness and our overall happiness. While it’s great to plan an annual family vacation or a monthly chat with a friend, these may not be enough of a stress reliever to deal with the everyday problems we face. On the other hand, if we can adopt (or increase in frequency) some behaviors that help us on a daily basis, we may have a happier year. Think of SMALL, DOABLE actions you can do daily to benefit your marriage this year.

Many of us don’t need to revamp our lives or change our entire lifestyle. But by finding small ways to improve our day, to encourage each other, to reduce stress and to show gratitude and joy, we can make a big difference in an entire year. For example, maybe you can discuss an ideal greeting for each other when you meet at the end of each day–making time for a real hug and kiss. Or perhaps you can share a cup of coffee in the morning or carve out a few minutes daily to connect.

The most popular blog post from Marriage Gems for 2011 was: Why are women less happy then men in marriage? This was an interesting discussion, and you can still add your opinion.

I want to wish you and your family a fabulous year ahead full of love and good health.

If one of your goals for 2012 is to give your relationship a shot of inspiration, I hope you will consider purchasing my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

The Real Secret to Marriage: Forgiveness

When I was first married I remember people saying “communication is the key to a happy marriage.” Or even, “the three keys to a strong marriage are communication, communication and communication.” At the time, I agreed.

I do not want to discount the importance of effective communication with your spouse. Organizations like PowerofTwoMarriage offer great skill building in this area, and I continue to try to improve my own communication skills. However, I don’t think it’s the most important skill or trait in marriage. After 16 years of being married, I think forgiveness is more important. I say that being blessed to never have had anything huge to forgive. But whether big or small things get under your skin, a lack of forgiveness in marriage has the power to destroy it and lead you closer to divorce.

I wrote of a wonderful couple’s ability to forgive the big stuff in this post for Simple Marriage recently. It’s called: Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Check it out, and then let me know if you agree that forgiveness is one of the keys to your happy relationship. I write about a very difficult thing to forgive, infidelity.  The article also includes tips from Dr. Scott Haltzman on how to effectively seek forgiveness. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

When we learn to seek and give forgiveness, we can have peace and love in our homes. We can be happy to come home and happy to spend time with our spouse. What do you think is the toughest fault to forgive?

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available–just in time for Christmas. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo courtesy of  freeditigalphotos.net by Savit Keaw Tavee.

New Inspirational Marriage Book Available

After three long years of preparation and work, I’m thrilled to announce that my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available!

Just in time for Christmas, the book is ideal for married couples of all ages and stages who want to achieve a blissful  marriage, but who understand life sometimes gets in the way.

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss features the real-life stories of couples across the U.S. Many of them used adversity to improve their marriages. Couples overcame drug addiction, infidelity, stranger rape, bankruptcy, raising a special needs child, infertility, loss of a child, military separation, opposing religions, differing races, unsupportive families, life-threatening injuries and illnesses, depression, brain injury, and MUCH more. These couples didn’t just survive, they became great love stories that can inspire us all. You will get to know the couples and their often difficult journeys, as well as the keys to their now-strong marriages.

In the book, I also share 12 overarching lessons that these couples taught me while writing the book. These lessons can inspire you to take your marriage to the next level.

The book is offered in print and e-book editions. The print version is $14.95, and e-books range from $7.99 to $9.99 depending on which format you choose. But no matter what format you choose, I’m happy to offer seven free marriage tools/products from other marriage educators and writers who are generously offering them to all those who purchase my book. Visit my web site for the awesome list (and thanks to all the contributors!) and the links to the different book formats. You can also find testimonials, the book introduction and interviews with me on my site www.LoriDLowe.comGo here if you would rather go straight to Amazon.com to buy the book. (You still get the freebies if you email me).

I’ve shared hundreds of research-based marriage tips here at Marriage Gems during the last three years. If you have found this blog helpful, I hope you will check out the book. Please consider sharing it with your friends or family who could use some encouragement.

I thank all of you for your support and for your interactions here, which keep me motivated to research and write about this important topic that has the potential to help so many families. I especially thank my family for their patience during this rather large undertaking.

I wish you bliss in your relationships!

LINKS:
I wrote this guest post for Engaged Marriage called “Love is Sacrificial.”

For Christian readers, check out this guest post for Journey to Surrender called “A Counter-Cultural Pathway to a Stronger Christian Marriage.”

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss Interview

Thanks to Mrs. Levine of Whispered Between Women for interviewing me about my upcoming book, FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS: Hope & Inspiration for Your  Marriage. You can visit her lovely site and read the full interview here. I am re-posting the highlights here at her suggestion, with a link to the full interview:

Mrs. Levine: I’ve been following Lori Lowe’s blog Marriage Gems for a couple of years and find her advice on marriage truly wonderful and inspiring. I took the opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions on how to help a marriage last a lifetime.

Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?

Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.

 
Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?

Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.

Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?

Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining?  Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.

If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.

Read More for the rest of the Q&A.

Receive book information at www.LoriDLowe.com, and check out the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be available Dec. 8, 2011.

For a Happier Marriage, Date Your Spouse

With the stress of daily life, work and family responsibilities weighing on you, Lindsey Rietzsch, author of How to Date Your Spouse, suggests changing your lifestyle will make your marriage more fulfilled.

Thinking back to before you married your spouse, there was a period of courtship. Each of you presented your best selves, groomed and dressed as attractively as you could muster. Chances are, you each listened more intently, tried to be funny, and in general were enjoyable to be around. Rietzsch says keeping these behaviors going is how you date your spouse. She breaks it down to seven factors:

  1. “E” for Effort—Arranging a special date night or focusing your attention fully on your partner shows effort. So does making sure the car is tidy, your legs are shaved, and you look your best.
  2. Earn Interest—Ask interesting questions; listen as if you are hearing your spouse for the first time. Look at things from his/her perspective. Appreciate your partner for who they are now. Be interested in your partner’s hobbies, job or interests.
  3. Ignite the Romance—Think about activities for your dates that allow you to be physically close, such as dancing, ice skating, swimming, taking a walk or getting a massage. A woman needs to be romanced and made to feel special. Hold hands, compliment your partner, and make time for intimacy.
  4. Dress to Impress—Make sure you smell good and look good, especially when you go out on dates. Maintain a healthy exercise regimen to give you self-confidence and energy. Wear something attractive to bed.
  5. Build Mystery—Plan some large or small surprises to keep your spouse wondering what’s next. Also, give yourself alone time, time for hobbies or friends, so you are rejuvenated and building interests.
  6. Fuel Excitement—Plan some new and exciting activities together to keep things from getting mundane. Take a trip, go kayaking, sailing, hot air ballooning or something that gets your adrenaline pumping. Even an amusement park or game of football can trigger youthful feelings.
  7. Flirt—Touch your partner throughout the day, say or text sexy things. Praise your spouse publicly and privately.

Rather than making date night a once a month or once a week ordeal, make dating your spouse a lifestyle decision.

What do you find most challenging about maintaining a dating lifestyle, versus getting caught up in the busyness of life and its challenges? For me, it’s making my marriage a priority and carving out regular time to invest in it.

Two Dozen Experts Share Keys to Lifelong Marriage

More than 15 relationship experts have teamed up to share their personal and professional advice for marriage in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love: Secrets for Building a Rich and Full Life Together. Some of the contributors, such as John Gray, PhD, are rather well known, and others have been researching marriage behind the scenes for decades to determine what works in real life. The book’s royalties will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping domestic violence victims.

With marriage failure rates between 45 and 50 percent, and when one out of every three children in this country can expect their parents to divorce, such compilations of best research and advice can be helpful to couples serious about success. The advice is presented in an easy-to-understand manner, along with personal illustrations, some from the researchers’ own marriages. Following are just a few nuggets I appreciated:

Terri Orbuch, PhD, writes about how today’s economy is forcing couples to spend more time making ends meet and concerned about jobs, health and children—and less time focused on each other. She followed 373 couples for 22 years and developed recommendations from her research.

Orbuch says it’s the small annoyances and irritations—rather than the big events and problems in life—that often lead to unhappiness and instability in a marriage. In fact, the larger events, such as unemployment or a death in the family, often cause a couple to rely on one another for support and love. Tough times can bring us closer together, while failure to listen to and acknowledge your spouse on a day-to-day basis can be deadly to a relationship.

She also offers the great advice for couples going through a rough patch to focus on what is working well in the marriage instead of dissecting what is wrong with the marriage and trying to fix it. “I have found that the most effective way to boost happiness, commitment, harmony, fun, and passion in a marriage that is basically sound is to add new elements to the marriage, and to focus on how to support and strengthen what’s already working well,” says Orbuch.

She adds that in her long-term study, loving couples shared four characteristics: having realistic expectations, regularly reconnecting with one’s spouse (i.e. taking a bike ride or sharing some laughs), sharing trust, and affirming and validating each other (especially important for men).

One piece of advice from Gray: “To fully open our hearts together and enjoy a lifetime of love, the most important skill of all is forgiveness.” This means forgiving your partner as well as yourself for not being perfect, allowing you to give and receive love again. Anyone who has been married more than a few years will acknowledge the importance of forgiveness in being able to reestablish true intimacy after a conflict.

Creating a Marriage You’ll Love offers many other studies and insights you may find valuable. (I receive no compensation for reviewing the book or for resulting sales.)

If you have a satisfying marriage, what do you think is the secret to your success? Or, if you struggle in your relationship, what is the one thing you desire most? Do you agree with the above advice from Orbuch and Gray?

How Would You React in a Crisis?

I’ve been thinking about this NYT article for months called “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear” by Laura Munson. It’s the story of a man in a midlife crisis who comes home and tells his wife he doesn’t love her anymore. That’s not so unusual, but her reaction is. They had two kids, a happy marriage and 15 years of history together. They had traveled, dreamed, and moved to a 20-acre plot of land to enjoy solitude. While she felt hurt and upset, she was steady. Her response to him was, “I’m not buying it.” When he told her he wanted to move out and get a divorce, she stood her ground and didn’t get angry. How many of us could respond so calmly, so rationally?  

She understood his career crisis, that he was feeling lost and needed to have time to work through his emotions.  She asked, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?” Of course, her husband was dumbfounded at her response, but it changed their future. Read the full story. It wasn’t easy, but he did take the time he needed, and they did eventually reconcile. She says the real lesson is not even that she saved her marriage, but about her philosophy of taking care of herself in a crisis.

Not surprisingly, publishers were clamoring for Munson to immediately write a book about her experience, which she did. The book This Is Not the Story You Think It Is has received great reviews, despite being written nearly in real time, as the events were unfolding. Munson has been hailed a hero by marriage advocates. She is being interviewed by every network and every magazine. Here’s a video explaining her philosophy.

Do I think she is worthy of this attention? Yes. Why? There will be times in our marriages when one of us will act inappropriately, maybe crazily, probably wrongly. (Read the post Outlast Your Marriage’s Stupid Phase.) It only takes one person to put on the brakes, to see the crisis for what it may be—an opportunity. Shed light on the situation. Allow time and space to permeate the heated discussions. Get help if you need it. Think about what the other person truly needs. Don’t take their words at face value. Don’t always take hurtful comments as they are intended.

As an example, I have many friends with teenagers who are experienced at hearing them say, “I hate you, Mom.” Do the moms believe them? No, they do not. Do they continue loving them? Yes, they do. And time passes, wounds are healed. Life goes on. The teens never hated their mothers. They hated the situation in which they felt trapped, or the rules that were imposed on them.

Munson did say her patience had limits. She wouldn’t wait forever for her husband to work through his problems. She wasn’t allowing him to cheat or abuse her. All she provided was time and distance, support, a lack of anger or demands, and a steadiness that was needed. Eventually, while staying with his ill sister, it struck him that relationships were the most important part of his life.

Whether it’s in a crisis situation, or just on a day when your spouse just had a bad day at work and reacted poorly, your reaction could indeed dictate your future. How will you respond?

What do you think of Munson’s story? Have you read the book? What does her reaction say to you?