March 7, 2011
Bestselling author Laura Munson thought she had it all; a great husband, two amazing kids, a house on acres of land. And then one day her husband came home and told her he didn't love her anymore.
"I felt like I was hit in the gut," she says. "The two worst things someone can say to you are 'You will die of terminal cancer' and 'I don't love you anymore.' "
Rather than kicking her husband out of the house, she said she decided to give him space.
"I said to him, 'What can we do to give you the distance you need without hurting your family? How can we have a responsible distance?' He wasn't expecting that," she says. "I had spent half my life with this man. He said he didn't love me anymore, and I didn't buy it."
While her husband chose not to come home, Munson chose to write. She took her grief and transformed it into a memoir about her experience.
So what triggered the "I don't love you anymore" incident? Munson insists there was no evidence her husband was having an affair, but career disappointments and self-doubt caused the rift.
"We've been bad together and we've been good together and we know how to do both," she says. "Isn't it interesting that when I let go of my marriage — that's when things started falling into place."
Eventually, her husband starting spending more time at home. Outings with the kids followed. Nights at the dinner table. And then on Thanksgiving, after months of being unreliable, her husband of 15 years bowed his head and said, "I'm thankful for my family."
She knew he was back.
"This isn't a 'how to keep your man' story," Munson insists. "I felt that it was so important to keep the family stable and keep traditions alive in the midst of the chaos. To keep friends and regular activities intact. Create things with my kids. We hiked, spent time in the garden, made tomato sauce. I chose not to take it personally that my husband said he didn't love me anymore because I didn't buy it. And that's hard to do."
Her book, "This Is Not The Story You Think It Is" (Amy Einhorn books/Putnam, $24.95), has just been released in paperback. And her once apathetic husband is by her side—as he has been since they were seniors in college.
"Our life hasn't changed, but what has changed is our perspective," she says. "Our kids get to see that crisis doesn't have to mean it's an end to a marriage."
Munson says her biggest lesson in all of this was that nothing outside of ourselves can make us happy—not even a great man.
"When you disengage, it's very powerful," she says. "Does letting go mean your dreams have to die or your hopes have to die? Not at all. It means, 'I'm having a crisis and I can't breathe,' but just take one breath. Whether I'm dealing with my teenager or I'm going on television for an interview, I let go of the internal dialogue. All those self-doubts and worry that come into your mind. Once you start doing it, it gets easier and feels great."
And while things have worked out in her favor, Munson admits, she's still human.
"I'm not trying to pretend I'm always good at it. But it's choosing the world of 'yes' instead of the world of 'no'. Emotions are our choice. The truth really does set you free."
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