Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal
Author: Vikki Stark
No, I wasn’t married to either of the guys who slam-dumped me and left me, but I have been on that side of the aisle. I have also been on the other side of the aisle; that of the scarlet-lettered Other Woman one of these guys left his wife for.
Since that guy dumped me to go back into his marriage, leaving me as shell-shocked as his wife was when he moved out, I have devoted my life to reading, studying, and soaking up absolutely everything I possibly can about this phenomenon in relationships. It didn’t take me as long as it might have taken some, since I was raised by a parent with borderline personality disorder and my bookshelves were already lined with tomes on mental illness, codependency, pursuing and distancing in relationships, and how to have a healthy marriage, long before this abrupt triangle/dump situation arose in my life.
After my latest and most painful dump, I really put my research into overdrive; I even studied astrology. So, I have encountered Runaway Husbands last, not first, and it’s affected my perspective on this book quite a bit.
Specifically, although I see that the book is well-written, contains truth, and will comfort most any woman whose husband has bolted without warning and turned inexplicably hostile overnight, I also see that the book is incomplete. It has two rather large holes in it.
1.) The Huge Hole in this book is that it does not tie either the behavior of the husband or the wife (or the mistress, for that matter) back to their childhood. I discovered the work of the wonderful therapist Mark Smith, of Family Tree Counseling and Family Tree Brand Life Coaches, shortly after my guy dumped me to go back to a disastrous marriage, and his perspective has made all the difference to me. I see not a trace of it, however, in Stark’s book, although she is a therapist herself.
Mark Smith argues that everything we attract and choose for our adult life has its roots in any needs we had in childhood that went unmet, and, as the child of a mother with borderline personality disorder himself, he knows whereof he speaks. Follow Dr. Smith’s video series online. In it he will tell you the journey of his own life, in which he himself bolted in his mid-forties from a marriage to a good woman, in search of crazy narcissists who would abandon him as his borderline mother had. Dr. Smith solidly makes the case that anything we experience in relationship now, we experienced at the hands of our mothers and fathers growing up, and we’re going back to it now in adulthood to experience it in consciousness this time and heal.
And it’s the truth! Looking back at how I couldn’t count on parents and family in my childhood…Wow, now I attract this guy I can’t count on, either. Looking back on how my borderline mother cried and complained, constantly implying that if other people around her just treated her right, then she could feel right, and then she would be able to treat us kids right: Well, there’s the origin of my need to find a more successful man who can take care of me, and whom I can “fix.” Lessons I needed to learn: I can take adequate care of myself, and it’s wrong to try to strongarm someone else into doing it for me. And I cannot fix the emotional problems of anyone else. That person has to do the fixing, together with a good therapist and a shitload of emotional elbow grease.
Dr. Smith contends that even if you believe your childhood was just like the Waltons on TV…if your husband has had a total meltdown, cheated, or left, it ain’t the case. You are in denial. Because I knew so much about dysfunctional families and codependency when I entered my relationship triangle, I knew what to ask…and in my case, Smith’s argument is one hundred percent the truth, for the husband, for the wife, and for me. I guarantee it’s true in your case, too, and you ignore or deny it at your peril, because it’s going to show up again in your next relationship. This crucial fact shows up nowhere in Stark’s book. It isn’t that all Stark’s advice is bad, it’s just that this is LEFT OUT. Therefore, the book encourages the abruptly-left wife to put all the blame on the husband, when problems in a marriage, no matter how quietly they festered or how adroitly they were hidden, are never, ever the fault of only one person. Never, ever, ever.
2.) Stark does nothing to encourage women to look at their own contribution to the difficulties that ultimately drove their husband from their marriage. Now, I am aware and completely concede that there ARE those marriages in which the husband truly has willfully displayed nothing. Ohhh, but before you read this book and JUMP to the conclusion that this is you and your ex, you need to go over that with a super-fine-toothed comb.
Look at my situation. In my triangle, the husband has tried to reach the wife for a long, long time. The wife is a classic distancer and has been pooh-poohing the husband’s distress signals for twenty-five years now. NOT a good move, ladies. As examples, if you truly weren’t warned and your husband really did leave you with no prior clues that anything was wrong, you should be able to honestly answer no to all of the following questions:
Has there been a long “dry spell?” Months or even years with no sexual contact between you?
Have you responded to that difference of your husband’s opinion with sharp words or a harsh tone? Once he backed down, did you sail happily on, convinced things were just fine? Um…did that happen a lot, at any time in the past?
Do/did you hear things like, “You’re always attacking me. Everything’s always my fault with you.”?
Do/did you hear things like, “You just don’t/won’t listen to me.”?
Do/did your husband start to isolate, stuck in another room doing things on his own? Did you? How much time are/were you spending on Facebook?
What do/did you guys talk about? If there hasn’t been any significant sharing about feelings, about any part of your lives, for a long period, that’s a big danger sign.
Were you feeling sort of glad you didn’t have to be bothered?
At any time, did you respond to any odd change in your husband’s behavior by exerting pressure on him to go back to the way things always were, instead of listening to what you were told and compassionately trying to understand how he was feeling and why? We grow in life, ladies, and people are supposed to change. Nobody owes you anything just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Cling to this in a miasma of bad temper, and you may find yourself alone.
At any time, did you exert this pressure by talking negatively about him to family or friends, using public opinion to try to scare him back into the way you feel secure and think things are “supposed” to be?
Has he moved out in the past? Requested marriage counseling?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, no fair using this book to call yourself the wronged wife and blame the sudden departure all on him. In our case, all of these things were true, and not only had the husband given up trying to reach the wife, he believed she was treating him this way because there was something repulsive and unlovable about him!
Ladies, having your wife treat you like this is searingly painful, and no one can live like this for very long. He’s going to say SOMEthing to SOMEone, and in this case that someone was me. I had an opportunity to reestablish the relationship a year and a half ago. This wife was lucky I didn’t take it. You might not be. Yet I’m quite sure that, if he left again and she read this book, she’d be waving it all over the place, talking about how she was the wronged, model wife, and he’s crazy, and ganging all his friends and family up against him.
Is this you? Really? Be honest, now…
That said, other than these two holes in this book, the advice it gives about what was probably going on in the marriage and how to manage the hardest, most distressing time in your entire life is spot on. I’ve found, however, that it’s good to spend some time delving into childhood and family of origin issues and how they affect your adult relationships. Obey, at least in this respect, that need to mull over what happened. Just be sure you follow the advice in the book about emails, revenge, and things to do each day to help and support your mood!
Lastly, I want to say that astrology has been astounding in my situation. Not only did it warn me about the time a year and a half ago when I’d have an opportunity to reestablish the relationship, it also reflected everything I’ve said here, along with some dire warnings about what will happen if the parties involved here don’t learn these lessons and get their shit together. I don’t doubt a bit of what I’ve been shown, and that was part of my decision not to renew the relationship a year and a half ago.