The launch of Runaway Husbands took place on March 4, 2010. Click here to read what Vikki said.
To read the story of one SWAP participant, whom we'll call "Brave Heart", click here.
The Seven Steps for Moving Forward
1. Recognize that the chaos will not last forever
2. Accept that it is really over
3. Integrate the fact that your husband has changed irrevocably and is beyond caring for your welfare
4. Understand why he needs to justify his actions in any way possible – including rewriting history, lying or attacking you
5. Give up trying to get the acknowledgement and apology that you deserve
6. Turn your focus from the past to the future
7. Celebrate your freedom as a single person
Give Your Overworked Mind a Rest!
Every woman who is subjected to Wife Abandonment Syndrome becomes deeply destabilized for some period of time. Many are tormented by relentless thoughts as they struggle to make sense of what happened. Those thoughts are of several varieties:
1. Obsessing about how this happened – what you did wrong in the marriage, whether your husband said anything in the past to hint about the devastation to come, where he really was that time he said he was on a business trip, etc.
2. Obsessing about how to hurt him back – fantasies of revenge, the perfect withering remark you would like to say to him or his girlfriend, ways to hurt him in court, etc.
3. Obsessing about insecurities in the future – how to afford to stay in the house, what if he doesn't contribute to a child's medical bills, how to face old age when you'd always expected to finance it through his future inheritance, etc.
These obsessive thoughts can steal away nights and nights of sleep and torment you every waking moment. Try as you might, in the early days you can't escape them. Here are some ways to sweep your mind clean of those disturbing thoughts:
Theme Songs that Helped Us Make it Through
- Keep your mind occupied with other things as much as possible. Talk on the phone, keep the radio on, drag yourself out to a movie, fill up long lonely Saturday nights doing a jigsaw puzzle (you'll spend hours looking for the man with the blue hat!). You just need to survive until the passage of time can heal.
- Schedule a dedicated worry-time every day. This will take some discipline but it works for some people. Decide that you will do intensive worrying from 6pm to 9pm every day (or any other time slot that works for you) and try to limit your obsessing to those times. You need to give your mind a rest after 9pm anyhow.
- Sweep your mind clean – literally! Imagine that your mind is a dusty room, but you've just hired a perky tiny cleaning lady who is armed with a miniature broom. When you realize that you are obsessing, close your eyes and tell her, "Sweep, sweep, sweep!" and imagine her hopping up from her stool and getting to work, sweeping your mind clean of those debilitating thoughts. Throw those thoughts out with the trash – you don't need them!
One day when I was hauling my reluctant self off to the gym shortly after my husband left, my daughter offered me some of her music to put on my IPod to inspire me on the treadmill. As soon as I heard Christina Aguilera's song, "Fighter", I knew that it would became the anthem of my recovery!
In the song, a woman is telling the man who betrayed her that instead of resenting him, she wants to thank him. Rather than bring her down, all he put her through made her stronger, made her work harder and made her wiser. The "punch" line is, "Thanks for making me a fight-er!"
During that painful first year, if you'd seen me running hard on the treadmill, you might have wondered why that crazy woman would, from time to time, assume a "Rocky" stance and jab the air with a 'one-two' punch. Had you been plugged into my IPod, you'd know that it was every time the song got to the word – fight-er! That song spurred me on to be tougher, made my skin thicker and helped me deal with things smarter. I'd never before thought of myself as a fighter but the song strengthened my resolve to stand up for what was right, not only for me, but also for all the other women who'd been so unjustly hurt.
When I asked S.W.A.P. participants if they had a song that helped them through, several said that initially they couldn't listen to music at all – it was too painful. One wrote that now she's into country music for the first time in her life because she can sing along really loud and it makes her smile! And many were happy to have the chance to share that special song that either gave them courage to go on, helped express their anger or put words to their grief.
|Here's the list of the other songs that helped:
|"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor was mentioned over and over.
"Why" by Annie Lennox
"Change" by Tracy Chapman
"Off the Hook" by Barenaked Ladies
"Water of Love" by Dire Straits
"On My Own" by Whitney Houston
"Right Now" by Carrie Underwood
"You Learn" and "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette
"Morphine" by The Rolling Stones
"Smile" by Lily Allen
"Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
"Monkey Wrench" by Foo Fighters
"White Flag" by Dido
"Never Again" by Pink
"Pictures" by Sheryl Crow
"Over You" by Chris Daughtry
"You've Got a Friend" by Carole King
"Closer to Fine" album by The Indigo Girls
"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen
"Wild Women Don't Get the Blues" by Lyle Lovett
"Only a Memory" by Garth Brooks
"Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood
"2 the Left" by Beyoncé
||"Gone, Gone, Gone" by Robert Plant and Allison Klauss
"Life is Sweet", "Not In This Life" and "Just Can't Last" by Natalie Merchant
"Me" by Paula Cole
"Billy" and "Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt
"I'm Still Standing" by Elton John
"Better Things" by The Kinks
"Your Love is a Lie" by Simple Plan
"Hit 'Em Up Style" by Blu Cantrell
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie
"My Happy Ending" by Avril Lavigne
"Leave (Get Out)" by Jojo
"Karma" by Alicia Keys
"My Immortal" by Evanescence
"Last Day of Our Acquaintance" by Sinéad O'Connor
"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison
"Far Away" by Nickelback
"On My Own" by Patti LaBelle
"You Were Meant for Me" by Jewel
"Taking the Long Way", "Not Ready to Make Nice" and "Landslide" by The Dixie Chicks
"Question" by The Moody Blues
"Strength, Courage and Wisdom" by India Arie
S.W.A.P. participants had lots of advice for other women who are currently going through the pain of abandonment. They really know because they've walked a mile in your shoes! Here, in their own words, are some of their wise suggestions:
Hold on. DO NOT let go of life! Hold on. Remember… it feels like a tsunami now but you WILL survive….and one day you might even walk the same beach and bless the waters for making you stronger.
Even though people will tell you that you will recover and you'll think, "You're full of crap, please leave me alone, I want to wallow in my pain", you will get better and you'll be stronger for it. There is a better life for you in your future.
It will take time. Even 2 years isn’t enough time, but you will start slowly to recover and to find pleasure in your new life.
Fasten your seatbelt because it’s going to be a rough ride for at least the first year. Don’t expect a linear progression in terms of things “getting better.” The sense of loss and disorientation continues for a long time and disappears slowly.
Most importantly, your time clock is your own. There were all kinds of people who told me what my anger was doing to me, when I should have moved on, how I needed to forgive. This feeling of inadequacy ate me up almost as much as the marriage breakdown did – I WANTED to be that forgiving un-angry person and felt like a big failure every time the anger and hurt got the better of me. Well there came a day when I realized I had passed the hump and found a way to love my history with my husband again, if not my husband himself anymore. And the most interesting thing about that day was, nothing anyone else said had any effect on that moment or making it come quicker.
Words of Wisdom
Your revenge is living the best of lives. And please DO NOT FEEL SORRY for YOURSELF. GET A LIFE!
Take the high road. It makes everything simpler.
Try not to sink into despair, but work towards making a better life for yourself.
Try to believe in light and love instead of becoming bitter—this is the most important one.
Every breath you take, congratulate yourself for. No death ever hurt so much as losing your lifelong love AND his love for you, all at the same unexpected instant. Every bad day, every bad minute, tell yourself your job is just to get through that moment, and you will have a better one later. When the grief hits like a truck, remind yourself that it comes in waves and that this wave will last about an hour or two and then there will be another reprieve before the next one hits.
It is a horrible, dark and scary tunnel but go through the tunnel, feel it all fully and totally. There is light at the end. I promise. Meet your new, emerging self out as you go. You will be amazed at what you will become. Be extra kind and loving and generous to your self.
If you have children, wrap them up in your love. Be strong for them but also let them be strong for you. You will all benefit. I am now known as the She-Bear to my kids, their protector and nurturer (thus my tattoo!). They make me stronger.
Take time for yourself and when your friends try to set you up with a “great guy” don’t do it. Take your time. Be happy alone before you worry about adding a new relationship to your life.
Allow yourself to grieve.
Get a good lawyer, even if you only go for one or two sessions for advice. It will be money well spent.
Definitely get some help so you don’t have to go through this long and painful process on your own. Find someone who feels comfortable but also pushes you a bit. If necessary, keep trying till you find the right therapist.
Get counseling. This will allow you to see things from a different perspective. I’ve shared some things with my counselor and she’ll say “Didn’t you think that was odd?” or “Did that strike you as strange?” And I’ll say, “No, to me that was normal.”
Help from Friends
Spend as much time with friends and family as you can.
Gee, find yourself a half-dozen friends who will be there for you - let you rant and rave, curse and cry, hug you and love up on you when you need it and accept you as you are without any demands.
Tell your friends specifically what you need from them (to listen, to go for a walk, see a movie, etc.) People are willing to help but often they don’t know how.
I think the most important thing is to trust what you're feeling about what is happening because he may be trying very hard to keep the rug pulled out from under you. Trusting yourself is the first step back towards solid ground. Let yourself feel the pain because it is cathartic. There's no way around it – you have to go through it. And it can be the pain of a re-birth.
Know that you may never figure it out no matter how hard you try and that doesn’t make you incompetent. If it were possible to figure it out, you would have done so. Remember you remain a loveable being despite what has happened. This is more about him than you.
If you don’t already volunteer with a worthwhile organization, find one! Preferably where there are people that really need help – there are a lot of them that are worse off than you. Go to places you’ve never been before, even if it’s just bird-watching in the nearest tree. Don’t tell everyone you meet what a louse your husband/partner was.
Join a gym!!! Hug your kids. Write, write, write. Don’t look for answers at the bottom of a wine bottle, they are never there. Go for walks. Get a dog (a cheap and very loving security system for a single woman).
A martial arts class for certain. It gives you an outlet for the anger, plus physical activity really does make you feel better. And it got me out of the house and meeting new people.
Journaling is very helpful as we tend to forget things when we're stressed. It also helps us clear our thinking.
One suggestion I would most want to share with people is to have a mantra.
During the first 6 months, I was obsessed with figuring out a way to get him back at any cost. I couldn't believe he really meant to do what he had so brutally done. I couldn't believe he didn't love me, like me or even respect me. After about 6 months, cruel reality began to set in and I tentatively began to take the first steps toward accepting that I had to find a way to go on with my life alone. I wrote "LET IT GO" on index cards and placed them everywhere I was likely to look. I put one on my bathroom mirror. I put one on my nightstand. I put one on the fridge door. I taped one to the dashboard of my car. I put one on my desk at school. I tucked one inside my lesson plan book. I put one in my purse. I whispered it to myself even as I lie in the dark, crying myself to sleep night after night. I said it over and over in my mind while walking through the Mall or shopping for groceries, etc. That constant reaffirmation of doing the only thing I really could do, was a great help to me.
Plusses and Minuses
You need to recognize that there are plusses and minuses in everything, even something as devastating as the unanticipated loss of your marriage and all that went with it. Many women who participated in the SWAP report that, after they moved beyond the pain, they realized that there were benefits to being out of the marriage and good things about being single. Here's what a couple of them had to say:
From Tiffany in Houston
I had always fantasized about being independent and not have to compromise about everything I did. Learned to enjoy just taking off and doing things alone. I found scheduled things to do once a week to be with others and did things I had never done to feel accomplished – cut firewood, fixed my car, did carpentry on my house.
From Abigail in Calgary
I am much stronger than I have ever been in my life, much more independent. I don’t know if I could be at this place if I hadn’t gone through the fire of my divorce.