Dear Michele, This thank you letter is a long time coming.
First of all, I’d like to say that not all marriages can be saved. The reason I say this is because some of the posters place a great deal of pressure on themselves for being "failures" in the contest of saving the marriage. Although one person can make huge strides to change the dynamics of the relationship, (and I'm living proof of it) if the walk away partner is completely dead set against reconciling, it sometimes doesn’t happen. I believe that the best strategy one can possibly have is Divorce Busting, but even then when implementing the techniques carefully, it might not succeed. I know some of the posters have become a bit discouraged that they didn’t win, but I have also seen those same posters develop into much more well-developed characters, so I guess it really depends on how you define win. If it means you can hold your head up high and be a confidant, functioning, loving adult, in spite of losing your marriage, then you have won.
That being said, I think DB is about the only way you have a hope of saving your marriage, especially in the state that most of them seem to be in once the walked-from spouse gets to this website. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t used the techniques (which by the way did as much to my head as it did to my h;s) described in your book, I would most likely be in the divorce courts by now. In addition to your book, and the KLA tapes, which are fantastic once a bit of headway has been made with the walk-away spouse. The other thing that was an absolute lifesaver during my most defeated moments was the bb and the wonderful community of caring people you have attracted. There’s something inherently positive about a group of people who will talk to strangers about their hopes of restoring their marriages; might I say that in this age of negativity and apathy about the state of the marital union, it is uplifting to say the least. On the other hand, I would also caution newcomers to visit the bb only once a day, and spend more time reading your book. Especially around holidays, the mood is often one of being down. This is understandable, but it’s also contagious. Stick with people who have positive concrete suggestions. I tended to ask a lot of why questions and while it satisfied my analytical urges, it was sometimes detrimental to getting my marriage back on track. However, the chance to explore the whys and wherefores was a welcome one, and certainly less harmful here than if I had analyzed to my h, my family, or my poor beleaguered friends (who after a while got a bit sick of hearing about the whole thing).
My h never left home, but continued to pour his teenage-like rebellion and angst on me. I suffered the Bomb and being told I was not loved, possibly never was, was incompatible, we were incapable of communicating, and that there was just no passion, no mutual interests, and on and on. I was told that he had never been committed, didn’t look forward to coming home from business trips (no wonder, since OW was usually on them with him!). I was told by my h that he was in love with someone else, that she was his soulmate, I even found letters he’d written her, but he swore that it wasn’t a PA. The mistrust and suspicions that I went through can be imagined very well by most here on the bb, especially since he traveled with her. I have never fully established whether it was an intense EA or a PA. There were also other infidelities, internet relationships, two of whom he met in person, and a few other women that he worked with and got close to. He still swears that these were never physical. I guess the reason I am saying this is that finally I am over anguishing over whether they ever got physical. The fact of the matter is, my h was not committed to the marriage, and was in fact, just looking for the right moment to jump ship. In spite of all his protestations and such, he never left home. On the bb, there are frequently discussions as to whether it’s better to have them leave or stay. This is always a question best left answered by the individual. All I can say was it was hell at times and I desperately wanted him out, but at the same token I also was able to appreciate that he was going through hell (though not always at the time was I so sympathetic). I now have been able to scrounge up a bit of respect for the fact that he struggled with what he was going through and didn’t want to leave because of the family. So perhaps in the respect I was lucky.
Now as to techniques. And first of all, let me clear up a misunderstanding; many people on the bb believe that a really effective technique is to go dark. This can only work if you were the pursuer in the marriage and always doing things for your spouse. Otherwise, if you were the one who didn’t show affection, etc. you need to do the opposite. This is one of your most effective techniques, Michele; doing the opposite of what comes naturally. For me, this was a) speaking up when I didn’t like something, but doing it in a calm and reasoned voice, instead of holding everything in for months and then losing it, which was my normal way of relating; b) being more openly affectionate c) praising my h for things he did, both small and large; the positive results of this were seen most when I continuously praised him for being such a wonderful father; he became an even better dad; d) becoming much more proud of my own career and involved in my own things rather than focusing so much on him; and last but not least, e) being much more sexually open, both in terms of frequency and style for lack of a better word.
Variations on doing the opposite were 1) acting as if;. It didn’t bother me that he was being so awful to me, and thus not reacting. If only I had used this before, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation. I blamed my h for many things, but especially for not helping me. So I nagged and nagged, then got fed up and grew distant. You know the dance.
I should also add here that we went through three or four reconciliations, and every time we slid into the mlc black hole, it followed my haranguing about my h’s continued contact with ow. He was not ready to stop seeing her altogether and he was certainly not ready to submit what he perceived as my tyranny on the matter. Once I changed my approach ; dropping all talk of ow, as well as distancing ; my h started to come around. (Now I know that sounds like I‘ve contradicted myself ; first pursuing again, and then having to distance. But I see it as being very much aware of what’s going on, and changing the dance where you see fit. At the beginning, pursuing my h yielded the most positive results, but after two years of an interminable dance around his mlc, what worked was doing the opposite and starting to distance.) Another variation on doing the opposite was actions speak louder than words. I tend to be very wordy (could you have guessed if I hadn’t told you that????) and so I stopped talking altogether. I used to engage my h in conversations on why we were suitable and how we DID communicate, but he would only take the opposite stance, so I stopped talking about it, and I started to NOT communicate at all. He started to seek me out a bit more. The truth of the matter is we communicate a whole lot, but he was missing the soulmate material he thought he had with ow. But when he no longer had me to talk to, then he realized he missed it. The other action I developed was to be resolute without being hard, and soft without being wishy-washy ; and this was an approach I realized I lacked when reading Barbara Colorosa;s book Kids are Worth It.
Another thing I did was changing the medium. At first, I was probably not a great communicator about my own needs or dissatisfactions in the marriage, and any communication would have been through writing. I was always much more comfortable writing down my deep emotions. At the beginning, I really worked hard to change that. I started to be much better at talking, not just about easy topics but also hard ones. But at the end of the two years, I stopped talking especially about OR, and at one crucial point emailed my h when he was on business overseas. It really got his attention. I had asked him to seriously consider moving out when he returned. It took two emails, but I got a seriously heartfelt apology from him for putting me through such heartache, though still no indication that he would do anything to remedy that. That was a year ago. In February, I had finally heard the we don’t communicate story for the last time I could stand it, and became very uncommunicative!, even to the point of getting up and leaving the room when he walked in. I wasn’t unpleasant, no more emotional reactions, just cool, calm and collected. But please understand that took two years to get like that. This wasn’t something I could have done overnight ; it took a lot of work. I’m happy to say I have been able to use it in several situations to my advantage.
In closing, once I discovered the ways I was positively affecting the outcome I tried to continue them. In retrospect, I can also see that my marriage was starting to heal a long time before I realized it ; Dr. Harley has a theory about an antagonistic period being necessary before intimacy can be restored, and I would have to say we went through quite a bit of that. Think of it as a process ; as you say Michele it’s approximately one month of hardship for each year of marriage. Mine took a bit longer because my h was going through mlc, and because I insisted on asking too many whys and not taking enough action. I like to think of it as boot camp, however, and I’m in training for when my two children hit the teen years.
It has taken easily nine months of hard work on my h’s part, where he has reassured me, listened to me, let me get upset, ask probing questions, and he has been consistently kind and gentle, as well as affectionate. I finally trust that we are well on the way to healing. But that came after three years of my learning a lot about myself ; both good and bad ; and my h going through his turmoil too.
I want to thank you again, Michele, for first the insight into marriage relationships, and secondly having the courage to make a stand that not everyone agrees with (a lot of people thought, and still do think, that I’m nuts). And also for providing us this wonderful forum. As well, I wanted to say a work of thanks to Arnold, whom I spoke with and who gave me very solid advice.