Runaway Husbands
The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal

Review Part II
Substance & Content

The book is lacking in substance. Stark filled it with anecdotes from abandoned wives, but failed to support such stories with the clinical perspective I expected from a therapist. Platitudes are often potentially great ideas in small packages, but to reach their potential of greatness they need expansion. Stark failed to expand upon the advice offered and she failed to explain the how of the advice—how do you live in the moment? It’s good advice only when supported, unsupported it’s empty. Give small teasers of stories and advice from forums and the survey, but save the bulk for the forums which can support a book. And not all of the borrowed content is advice, in her effort to help abandoned spouses feel as though they are not alone she also provides lists of what others have said such as what she calls a Cataglogue of Heartbreak1 2.5 pages long. Below are a few examples from that list to give an idea of the emptiness of their content.

  • I felt lost.
  • My life was shattered.
  • My heart dropped.
  • I wanted my life to end right there.
  • The bottom fell out of my being.
  • I felt like someone had stepped on my chest and emptied my lungs of air.
  • I was shattered.
  • I was very confused and numb.

By calling the content empty I am not trying to say it is not true and that giving this sort of information is a bad idea; I think it is great; but 2.5 pages of content that often repeats itself is a waste of space. I listed 8 and that seems sufficient to make the point. A few of the other lists of borrowed content included retribution fantasies, the uninspiring attributes of the other woman, how relatives and friends offered comfort, things not to say to someone who has been dumped, followed by things to say—I like those last 2 and they were concise.

I get it—I’ve been there. Abandoned spouses need hugs. But books don’t hug. Online communities where a person can respond back and where people get to know each other and build frinedships give hugs—well, cyber hugs. Let the book be the community’s main informational resource. For those who first read the book, it can point them to the community and for those who first discover the community, it can point them to the book. But the book cannot be the community.

Recovery Tools

Though Stark uses her initial lists—which by the way, I love—for the foundation of her book; the content they support, even the advice and recovery tools is often borrowed from other abandoned wives and provided in a various lists—often one-liners—similar to the Cataglogue of Heartbreak. Though spread throughout the book via her borrowed content, Stark is more direct about tools in Chapter 10 The Big Fridge. Stark’s goal in this chapter is to break through the obssessive thoughts and emotions that plague abandoned spouses. She provides an excellent list which though originated from the survey particpants, she distilled it to brief generalizations. From there she goes on to offer Quick’n Dirty Coping Tricks and Recovery Strategies followed by Life-Affirming Coping Tricks and Recovery Strategies.
Both sections contained good samples: visualize sweeping away the negative thoughts, name what you are doing: “I am obssessing,” in order to stop it, shake it off like a wet dog, think of your life as events as scenery that you are observing from the window of a train…2 But they are still too brief and lacking in sufficient substance Most are visualizations. I love visualizations, w hy not write specifically about the benefit of visualizing as the specific technique and then offering a few samples. Stark offered samples without defining visualization itself.

Chapter 15 is The SWAP Girls’ Bag of Tricks; it reviews the strategies used by the survey participants to get through the hard times. The list provided is a mixed bag of advice for early days after abandonment through later months and years in the recovery process. But as with her other lists, it is long, the advice is either specific to the indicidual—I renovated houses, a lot of it is general Getting A Life or doing something activities and not specific to recovery and the advice is unsopported by Stark; her main addition is to add her own list of things she did. Here is an example of items from the list. 3

  • I scuba dove.
  • To be honest, having a brief fling with the neighbor’s contractor helped me quite a bit.
  • I talked to my lapdog a lot.
  • I live in the present.
  • Fake it till you make it, keep positive, lots of other mantras from my online support group.
  • Accepted any invitation I received.
  • I learned to drive.

I love the advice about living in the present and faking it ‘til making it, but they need support. What are they and how do you do those things?

Sources

  1. Stark, Vikki. Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal. Montreal: Green Light Press. 2010. pp 48-49.
  2. —pp 93-97.
  3. —pp 141-144.

To be continued tomorrow.

Series NavigationRunaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and RenewalRunaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal, Part III

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