This letter from someone who wanted to share his journey of the past three and a half years:
This is a simple note of thanks Ė for all the inspiration your book The Divorce Remedy provided during my recent separation with my wife of 17 years. During my time away from my wife and three kids, I felt absolute despair and hopelessness at times, and clueless about how to handle this most heart-breaking of times. I defined myself as a husband and father and suddenly, the thing that I cherished most was gone.
I donít think people realise how painful a separation is, because so much of your world is thrown upside-down. As a ďproviderĒ husband, I still had to keep it together for my kids whilst still funding the household, but live alone and manage a small, cheap rented apartment with 2nd hand furniture and kitchenware. My days had to start at 6am to ensure I did the time at the office and protect my job during an economic downturn, and still get time to have the kids every second weekend and have a life for them.
You are always tired. Early starts for work, getting home for dinner, cooking and cleaning for one, laundry runs to make sure youíve always got a clean shirt for work, and clean sheets for the kids, grocery shopping, bathroom/toilet, ironing, car maintenance, and so on. Thereís just no time for it all if youíre trying also hold down a full-time job. And, that also effects the time you have available for the children. I always felt so guilty if I missed calling them to discuss their day and to say good night. But always felt so exhausted and not much fun to be around.
Moreover, I never had any money. The salary I had was still going into a shared account with my wife to ensure the mortgage and bills were covered for the kids and the rent and expenses on my place, which left little to ďhave a lifeĒ with.
I recall the day I set up the bedroom that my kids would come and stay in. I wanted them to feel that it was as good a place as home, decorated with happy colours and Disney images, with football team bed-spreads, posters, books, and some toys. By God, she may have thrown me out of the house but I wasnít going to have my kids stay in a second class room when they were with me, and everything had to be perfect.
That first night when the kids came over, my 9 year old was stoic, my 6 year old was miserable, and my 3 year old just cried. I hated myself, that after so many years of toil, time, and energy going into my family that it had all come to this.
I sought to understand. I needed to know, what had I done to precipitate this situation and why didnít I see it coming? I totally blamed myself. But more importantly, what could I do fix things. For despite the pain and the sadness, I still loved my wife and wanted to be her husband again.
I couldnít rely on advice from friends. They either had their own axes to grind, or they would tell you what they think you wanted to hear. None of it was really very helpful, despite being well intended.
Then, I visited Borders one lunch time and came across your book. The front cover design and title really grabbed my attention because finally I felt, hereís something practical that is focused on the outcome I want. And, what I read in your introduction was so powerful, it articulated precisely what I felt at the time, and believed that I thought, finally I can get some advice that will actually help put me on a course to saving my marriage. The relief I felt and the hope was heartening. I consumed the whole book that night. Iíve used orange highlighters to underscore the gems of wisdom, and the practical advice that I could use in my recovery plan.
There are so many insights but I wanted to highlight a couple that really helped. The notion that somehow, love was an absolute that was always constant and enduring is just wrong. You said Love isnít just a feeling, itís a decision! People decide what to do to evoke feelings of love. This gave me the hope that a lack of love is a temporary thing, so after 20 years of being in love, it is unlikely to have died off.
To know that ĎThe Walkaway Wifeí syndrome wasnít just something Iíd experienced, meant that I should stop being so hard on myself.
The rules around re-engaging in dialogue with your wife, about not getting angry or needy, which just sets progress back. Trying to convince my partner to change was disrespecting her feelings around the situation and only pushing her away.
But the kicker for me was the 7 Steps.
Setting my goals and observing baby steps, stop chasing cheeseless tunnels, getting better personally so you become the person she wants to come back to, trying the odd 360 judiciously, and keeping the positive changes going, became my road-map and daily mantra. I became patient and my mindset changed dramatically.
I joined a boxing class for fitness. I competed in my first triathlon. I went out more with some single friends (mainly), and I took up meditation and explored spirituality, to help deal with stress and learn more about myself. I got better emotionally.
I started spending a little more time with my wife, with the odd family outing. We would talk a little more each week on the phone and at hand-over times. We became more interested in what one another had going on in their life. I took an interest again in her job and was there when asked about career decisions. We eventually started talking about what a life could be like in the future. Baby-steps, and donít get ahead of yourself, I kept saying.
I tried never to be cross or critical (of anything) when we were together. I tried always to be up. If this meant not seeing her because I was tired, or doing some meditation or a run beforehand to de-stress, then thatís what I would do. I didnít accept every invitation to dinner or an outing. Itís important that she realised that you are neither desperate nor willing to drop your interests at short notice, because thatís not good in a marriage either. Having and defending your own interests is saying that you expect her to have the same entitlements.
We did some counseling, and Iím not sure if that helped, other than to be a catalyst for further conversation, and time together. I think Michelleís advice on choosing a counselor is ďspot-onĒ. Donít be embarrassed to change your counselor if you feel itís not working, although this can be perceived to be a little precipitous by your partner, so be careful here. But, I was able to use much of Michelleís insights into the discussion to articulate my views.
I think our friends started seeing the change and were supportive in a very subtle way, respecting the delicacy of the issue. I guess I was lucky because neither my wife nor I were looking for another person or partner, and Iím only aware of one friend who tried to set my wife up with a single guy. So, I never had to compete with another suitor. Gradually, things began to change.
It was 18 months before we actually started talking about a future ďusĒ. Iíll never forget the joy I felt one day after a phone conversation where we agreed that if we do get back together, she would continue her lifeís interests and have her own time that sheís come to value, and that I would keep up my fitness and friendships Iíd made during that time. A life with solo pursuits to help create bonds in a marriage. I knew she was coming around.
It took another 6 months until I returned to the family home and the matrimonial bed. A two year separation. Itís now been 15 months since we got back together and I count myself as one of the luckiest men alive to be back with my beautiful wife and 3 kids. The house is crazy and alive and so much fun. My wife and I just celebrated my birthday and we had the night of our lives, and I just felt this is the time to say thanks, and acknowledge how important The Divorce Remedy was in saving our marriage. And, to highlight that marriage can be saved, despite the gloomy statistics and cynical perspectives you see in the media which just makes things harder on a marriage that is already under severe strain, and despite the pain you feel especially in those early few months.
My advice to any guy in this situation, is firstly, read the book, from cover to cover. It gives you such hope and the tools you need to get back on the road to recovery. Find a way to deal with your hurt, (avoid booze, itíll suck you in) such as sport, or meditation, or your local church. Even some psychological help might make you feel a little better about yourself. But mostly, be patient. Be patient. Every time you try and force things, you go backwards. You need to respect the hurt and guilt sheís going through and not blame her for the situation. In all likelihood, sheís feeling just as bad as you even though right now, you probably wonít believe that. I realised that I could not change her, only change myself, to become what she wants to come back to. Speak softly, never be a downer around her, surprise her with your self-assuredness. Be there for the kids and carry with you a sense of optimism for a positive outlook is so much more attractive. You have every reason to feel optimistic.
Be the best you can be, to yourself and you can save your marriage. "
Virginia Peeples Assistant to Michele Weiner-Davis The Divorce Busting Center