When Laura Munson’s husband of 15 years (together for 20) tells her he doesn’t think he loves her anymore, that he doesn’t know whether he ever did, Munson’s reaction is unusual. She tells him she doesn’t buy it. Say what? Having been in a similar position myself, I applaud her position. And it is a position, one that she defends over the course of one long, hot Montana summer. She loves her husband, David. They have built a life together away from their priviledged backgrounds. They have children together. Their finances are a tangled marital web. But what Munson sees are all the positives and decides to take her happiness into her own hands and hopefully rechart her marital course.
I wonder if This Is Not The Story You Think It Is might have helped me in those early days after my husband left me? If I had adopted Munson’s ‘honey, you need to find your own truth and happiness, but do not make me the fall guy’ stance, would it have made any difference? I sincerely doubt it. I certainly see the similarities between my life and Munson’s. Like her husband, mine was/is clearly trying to relive the glory days (my God, mid-life crises are predictable!). Unlike Munson, though, I didn’t have a plan; I had fetal position grief, disbelief, anger. In fact, I was the poster child for the five stages of grief. Thankfully, I have amazing kids and thus a reason to at least attempt business-as-usual. And I have supportive friends and family. And, thankfully, the worst of the grief has passed.
Munson’s tact was proactive rather than reactive – amazing considering she didn’t see her husband’s confession coming. Somehow she found the quiet centre of her heart, the place where she was able to take a breath and consider her options. The few people she told offered their own sage advice – much of it reduced to “kick the asshole to the curb.” And she would have been within her rights, of course. Her husband was certainly acting like an ass: he went out and didn’t come home and he didn’t call, and when he did come home he was usually drunk and slept the day away, he broke promises to his kids. He went dirt biking and fishing and golfing with ‘the boys’. Except, Mr. Munson wasn’t a boy – he was a barely employed 40-something with a mortgage and two kids. Through it all, Munson bit her tongue because “the definitive truth I know for sure is this: my husband is in crisis, whether or not he is having an affair. Whether or not he loves me. And I love him.”
In this day and age of replacing the broken stuff with newer, cheaper stuff, Munson’s attitude is laudable. She’d invested a lifetime in her marriage. She and her husband had built a life together, had children together, wanted the same things for their futures. Munson wasn’t just going to walk away without a fight. Except, even more admirably, she wasn’t fighting. Instead, Munson says this:
I’m not going to try to justify his behavior, because I know it’s not justifiable. I simply want to understand instead of freak out. It’s not behavior I’m willing to put up with for too long. Whatever “too long” will come to mean. But in the meantime, am I to react to the part of society that wants us to lie about our marriages being somehow perfect? Until they’re not. Black and white. One false move and you’re out.
But I’m opting for a different strategy, and I’m going to believe it will work in a way that fighting, persuading, and demanding never have. Because whether or not he comes back to me, I will be ultimately empowered by my committment not to suffer. It’s a way of life. A way to life.
This Is Not the Story You Think It Is is remarkable in its honesty, its humour and its hope. I wish my marriage had had a different ending; I wish it with all my heart. But I can’t change what has happened. I can, however, follow Munson’s advice and take responsibility for my own happiness. Like her, I choose not to suffer.