Laura Munson’s memoir This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, which I reviewed yesterday, wasn’t the story I thought it would be – or the one I hoped for, to be honest. I haven’t exactly been in Laura Munson’s shoes, but about eleven years ago, mine were a very similar style and size. I have to admit that that even now, I was looking to find some validation from shoes that had walked in the same direction.
Like Laura, I was informed seemingly out of the blue by my husband of fifteen years that he no longer loved me…but unlike her, it was something I had feared and half-expected for quite some time. I think my husband may have been more blindsided by it than I was…but at the same time, he seemed almost as blindsided to realize he was involved with another woman, and it’s still hard to say even now which precipitated the other. But I’d always believed my husband was the sort who could only devote himself to one person at a time, so it wasn’t hard to imagine he must be somehow done with me if he now felt that way about someone else. Oh, it was hard to ACCEPT, even more than a year after our divorce – but it wasn’t hard to IMAGINE.
Like Laura and her husband, my husband and I embarked on a strange and ambivalent separation – one in which he came to our home nearly every day, for the stated purpose of seeing our fifteen-year-old son. Our son didn’t have much interest in spending time with his father under the circumstances, however, and so my husband and I spent an unusual amount of time with one another, talking quite a bit more than I suspect most separated couples do. Six months later, he moved back in. A few months after that, we were coming to the conclusion that we had genuinely irreconcilable differences, although we remained in the same house and didn’t begin divorce proceedings for another year.
And like Laura, amid the challenges of an unwanted marital separation I found a bit of “unlikely happiness” myself. I didn’t feel the need to walk on eggshells or feel like I didn’t belong in my own home. I explored my own interests – reading, writing, cooking – without worrying about others’ reactions to how I was spending my time, and felt free to be a little self-indulgent (in both good ways and bad). I made my own house rules. I made more social overtures. I spent some time getting to know myself better. Many of the steps I took were small, and plenty of them were in the wrong direction, but there were breaks in the clouds.
However, Laura and I are very different people, and she was probably a lot better prepared to face a marriage crisis than I was. She was a more forceful personality (and probably still is). She was much more able to see that what was happening really wasn’t about her, and more effective at managing and deflecting the blame both she and her husband directed at her. Despite those strengths, it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns, of course – but unless you’ve been through something similar and can bring that perspective, I’m not sure her book will give you a strong sense of emotionally difficult it most likely was. However, it did seem to be, as the book’s subtitle says, “a season of unlikely happiness.” My own period of separation from my first husband had its elements of that too, along with the many moments of confusion and lack of clarity.
This post is part of an online book-club discussion of Laura Munson‘s memoir, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, hosted yesterday (I goofed – thought it was today, and posted accordingly) at From Left to Write Book Club.