Runaway Husbands Bolt Without Warning

Recently, she even got an e-mail from a man in Australia who said he was worried because his mother was abandoned.

Though there are few signs, Stark said the women who do survive have a "world of their own" -- careers, volunteer jobs or personal interests while married.

An annual marital check-up can also sometimes give a bit of warning.

'I look back on my marriage and we were pretty easy going and congenial and there wasn't much fighting," said Stark. "One of the things we didn't do so well was I never said to him,' How are we doing?'"

Still, she urges women not to blame themselves or even regret that they once "loved with your whole heart."

Some women even say they have grown through the experience.

"After they've recovered, many women who were seared to the bone have rebuilt their lives on a new platform," according to Stark. "Many of these women started doing things they could never have imagined."

One middle-aged woman took up canoeing and kayaking and stroked her way –- physically and metaphorically –- to the finish line. Six years after being abandoned by her husband, she had a world record-breaking time and had, "washed that man out of my hair."

"There's no magic formula, but the sadness will lift," she told Stark. "You will get there, one paddle at a time."

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