April 5, 2010 -- When Laura Munson's husband came home one summer day and told her, "I don't love you anymore. I'm not sure I ever did. I'm moving out," Munson remained calm. "I don't buy it," she simply said.
The author of the new memoir "This Isn't the Story You Think It Is" said she maintained emotional control because she knew it was not about her, their marriage or their family. It was about him.
"I believed in this man and I knew this man," Munson said on "Good Morning America" today. "We had been together for 20 years. And I really saw this as a crisis of his own self."
In her book, Munson writes that her husband's behavior was like "when teenagers scream, 'I hate you,' and slammed the door in their parents' face. Does that 'I hate you' have credibility?"
Instead of kicking him out, Munson, a writer from Whitefish, Mont., decided to give her husband space. Over the next four months, he came home late, if he came home at all, he gave her the silent treatment, and he ignored her birthday.
But she was patient, kept her anger to herself and gave him the room he needed to work through his issues on his own.
"It meant for him a lot of fishing, a lot of getting out in nature and a lot of working through his stuff in nature," Munson said.
The writer, who met her husband in college, said her job was to "get out of his way" so he could figure out his problems.
"We live in a very reactionary society, what about practicing a little bit of patience? I had my standards, I wasn't going to put up with his behavior forever," Munson said.
The two were honest with their children about their marital problems. Munson said she would not teach them "myths."
"We told them the truth, adults have hard times just like kids and it doesn't need to take you down," Munson said. "And I think, ultimately, the message that they are going to go into their adulthood with is that you can be powerful, even in crisis."
'You Can Be Powerful Even When You Feel Powerless'
She did have moments of doubt about her strategy, Munson said. But she worked hard at ridding her mind of the negative thoughts.
"After 20 years of not having my novels published, I had already been working hard at not engaging the drama in my life because it doesn't serve us. ... I was really working in the present moment," Munson said. "What can I create in this moment? What can I control? What can I own? And I had to let go of the rest."
Eventually she saw glimmers that her strategy was working. First, her husband started mowing the lawn. Then he ordered more satellite TV channels, which, she wrote, struck her as unlikely for a man about to leave his family.
But it was after her husband spent time with his dying sister that she felt he had fully returned to the family.
"It really helped to set his head straight [about] what matters in life," she said. "I think he realized that relationships are what mattered to him and he started to come back around."
Going Public With Her Private Marital Problems
Munson first went public with her marital problems in a popular column published in the New York Times entitled "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear."
Although she started writing the book for herself, Munson said she hopes it has the ability to help others.
"Ultimately, this isn't a strategy for staying together, it's a philosophy about taking care of yourself during a crisis," she said.
"You can be powerful even when you feel powerless, and it is a simple choice."