“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
What would you say to your husband of 20 years if he came home with that announcement?
Panic, hysteria, threats. All expected. But what about a calm, “I don’t buy it.”
That was Laura Munson’s response when her husband, who was in a rough career stretch, came home and said those words to her.
“I used to base my happiness on things that were out of my control,” Munson says when talking about her new book, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness ” which she wrote about the summer of her husband’s discontent. The Lake Forest native says she deliberately chose to stay calm, breathe and give her husband the space he needed to work out his crisis.
I’d already let 20 years of rejection by the publishing industry get to me, Munson says, talking about her own professional disappointments. To deal with her career doubts and the death of her father, Munson began therapy to help heal herself, not knowing she would need it to help her marriage.
“When my husband had his crisis, I was able to give him some distance and not play the victim,” she says. “I chose to not engage in the drama.”
What happened next is the stuff of publishing legend. Munson kept a journal of their summer together. It was less “how to not get divorced” and more a “how to survive a personal crisis.” She wrote about their summer for “Modern Love” in The New York Times titled, “Those aren’t Fighting Words, Dear.” The column got so much attention (if it didn’t make its way to your email inbox, you can read it here) that Munson had her long-awaited publishing contract within 48 hours.
The essay and her book not only look at what it’s like to weather a severe marital crisis, but also what happens when the promises of an affluent childhood aren’t fulfilled. Munson writes, “We dreamed big in those early days … We’d travel the world. And somehow, we’d be rich. Wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t the money just magically follow all that intentional living? In fact, didn’t the world reward brave adventurers who left the comfort of money behind? Of course it did.”
And it seems like the dream will finally come true for Munson, with her funny, wry voice.
“It’s really about letting go,” she says. “The power of surrender is you don’t let yourself engage in that hope.”
By letting her husband go, but staying loving; and letting her writing career go, but continuing to write—Munson achieved what all the struggling and fighting never would have achieved: A happy, intact family and her first published book.
Fascinated? Meet Laura Munson at these events:
FRIDAY, APRIL 9 –7:30 PM
Barnes & Noble – Skokie
55 Old Orchard Center
Skokie, IL 60077
SATURDAY, APRIL 10 – 10:30 AM
Lake Forest College Chapel
555 N. Sheridan Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045