Stella’s Success Story: Attracting Him Back when He Wanted Out
Stella’s Success Story: Attracting Him Back when He Wanted Out
By Stella McBride
I’d been married to the man of my dreams for 22 years. Our marriage seemed idyllic to others, but the cumulative pain of having the same arguments again and again was overwhelming us both.
On the worst days, when I most wanted him to comfort me, he would avoid me. I would sob in my bed for hours. I was so lonely in my happy-looking home, and so sure he was to blame.
Then, one summer day I found affectionate notes between him and an old girlfriend on a messaging app on our home computer.
I was devastated, he was sorry, and we started counseling.
After a couple of months, it was abundantly clear that verbally bashing each other and bringing up hurt feelings for an hour every other week was doing more harm than good, so we quit.
At Thanksgiving that year, gathered in his mother’s kitchen, I overheard him talking to his brother, discussing wife frustrations. Then his brother grinned and said, “Yeah, but you still love her, right?”
They didn’t know I was nearby. I saw my husband merely shrug.
Now, not only was I devastated, I was desperate. Surfing the net night and day for solutions, I found the first chapter of The Surrendered Wife, and my mind was blown.
I felt like Laura Doyle had microphones in my house, as I’d been the perfect shrew for at least 10 years. My husband had been pleading with me to listen, to understand how deeply he was hurting, all the while trying desperately to please me while I criticized him for it.
I had believed my friends and pop culture, which told me he just needed to put on his big boy pants and do it my way. But I had misunderstood: “Bitchy” and “strong” were not synonymous. It was my actions, my words, that were the slow poison killing my marriage, so only I had the power to change it.
I enrolled with a Laura Doyle coach with hope in my heart, and things soon got much, much worse.
In January of the following year, alone in my bathroom, I found texts that showed he was in love with another ex-girlfriend, and they’d been seeing each other some weekends. She was recently divorced, full of advice, and gave him the respect and understanding I had not. When that happens to a man, he usually can’t help but fall head over heels.
Sitting side by side on our bed on a cold, rainy day, he asked me for a divorce.
I kissed him on the cheek and told him lovingly this was not what I wanted but I understood. By then I’d had enough coaching to know, as Carl Jung said, “What you resist persists,” and I promised I would not stand in his way.
I also decided that I would not pave his way.
In other words, if he asked me for a specific action or piece of information for the divorce proceedings, I cooperatively provided it, but I did not volunteer anything, nor make any legal arrangements myself.
In the meantime, I dove into the pleasures of my self-care.
In my kitchen, two playlists were constantly on: music to lift me up and music to make me scream and cry. Most of the time, it was the “I <3 Me” playlist, which got me dancing around the room and banging air drums with wooden spoons. But when it was safe, l let the anger and grief fly, screaming along with bitter classic rock lyrics.
The waves of emotion engulfed me in the safety of my empty home or car, but I now had the self-care skills to come up for air. This way, my emotional waves didn’t crash uncontrollably all over my husband, my kids or my coworkers at awkward times.
I found my inner goddess of fun and light! I wrote, colored, lit candles, took dance classes, went to art galleries with coworkers and enjoyed a few Bollywood movies–things I’d never done before! Daily scented baths were a must do. I smiled nearly all the time.
As our teenage kids and I made our weekly plans around the kitchen island one spring Saturday, our 18-year-old son said to me, “Mom, you’re a lot more interesting since Dad moved out.”
I just smiled.
As my husband continued his weekends away, living outside our main home in the garage bonus room, it was simultaneously the most joyous and most painful year of my life.
My emotions did not cancel each other out but coexisted. As the poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “Your joy can fill you only as deeply as your sorrow has carved you.” I was living both.
And I flirted like crazy!
I lit up when he walked into the room. I flaunted new lingerie in the kitchen. I touched his hand in conversation. I referenced all kinds of shared happy memories, inside jokes, and lines from books and movies we both loved, like Star Wars.
I also chose faith over fear. I knew I had skills and his other did not. I believed she would become the typical controlling harpy I had been, while I continued to soften, let go of expectations, discover more of my own life, and grow in gratitude for his loving actions.
Never had I appreciated more him just showing up and taking out the trash! It meant that he was there, in my house, helping me.
It took a long time. It was fall before I saw any positive attention from him. Slowly, slowly, the scales had to tip from his association with me as a source of pain, through more neutral territory, wobbling back and forth for several months, and eventually into flirtation.
We started dating! He would invite me upstairs to watch TV or suggest lunch out on the weekend. I received graciously!
He was testing the waters to see if he could trust the changes in me.
On a bright October afternoon, after sharing drinks on the patio with coworkers, he wandered into the kitchen and planted a big fat kiss on my lips, with a suggestive look in his eyes. I responded in kind, and things got steamy!
We started to share physical intimacy often. By then, my ability to experience pleasure had grown so strong through self-care, I was enjoying it more than ever! I was staying in the moment, with no future expectations.
By Christmas, there were dinners and movies and flowers and cards. The compliments flowed. I don’t know if the other was still in the picture or not, but I knew what I had: my man in my arms, hanging out with me and enjoying every minute of it.
It wasn’t until May–nearly two years after the initial crisis–that he finally felt comfortable enough to move back into our bedroom.
On a lovely spring day, in the intimately mundane setting of our bathroom as we rinsed our toothbrushes, he looked at me and said, “I love you.”
I gave him my best Han Solo sly grin and said, “I know.”
He grinned back and his eyes shone with deeply renewed love for me.
What to do next…
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