How I Got My Ex Back: She Blinded Me with Science!

What happens when a science writer inspects her own divorce (Part 2)

Posted Feb 02, 2011

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.
~James Bryce

My ex, "Sam," has agreed to meet me at the local coffee shop, in the private conference room. We are both somber. This time I have brought books. So far, he's heard my voice and emotion, alone (See Part 1: The "Oh Sh*t" Moment...). My tears and regret filled those first few tentative meetings with him like a rip tide. He is still stunned, probably in shock at my about-face: I thought I had wanted our divorce and now I am brazenly cross-examining it. It's only been a couple of weeks since my new partner left town at my bidding. And I've heard from a friend that, as a result, Sam's new partner is "freaked out."

But now, here, the room is quiet, dark. Like a judge's chamber. Now

I can almost hear the gavel fall.

Gently I edge the books toward him.

You see, after that first book about affairs jumped-started my drive to understand my own divorce (see Part 1: The "Oh Sh*t" Moment...) I was on fire to learn everything I could. As a science writer and journalist that kind of research is just what I do. And as a scientist himself, I knew my ex-husband would want--indeed, would need--to know about the universal nature of what had happened to us. That our marital pain, disconnect, so-called "incompatibility," defensiveness, contempt, inability to understand and hear each other, lack of chemistry, and eventually, our hopelessness, were all common, predictable consequences of the way we had showed up in our relationship...the way we had been with each other.

Quietly I report to him how I'd found a growing body of work starkly hidden from many of us. How we have normalized divorce to the point, I said, that we wouldn't even be having this conversation if I hadn't hit upon a different suite of research and literature.

I am so grateful, to you, I say, for listening... Because this is so unusual, this examination we are doing. It would have been so easy not to ask any questions.

You are so brave, I whisper, to listen to me...

I gulp, looking down, as the emotion of what is happening threatens to overwhelm me again. Sam reaches across the table, and squeezes my hand. Once. Then he withdraws.

He remains graver than I've ever seen him.

Taking a deep breath, I go on. I share what I'd learned about how common it is to feel the urge to flee a marriage, and more important, the pioneering science of love that explains the biology of our attachment bond and how to honor it. How to change the brutally negative and destructive beliefs we'd held about our relationship by understanding that those harmful feelings had come from the elemental pain of not being emotionally connected. And that our emotional disconnection had come from the ways we had treated each other and ourselves. NOT, as we had thought, from lack of enduring love.

We had sacrificed an irreplaceable love bond because we had given up on ever finding this primal connection, and didn't even know it.

This was key information we didn't have, and didn't know about pre-divorce. It affected everything.

He grows quiet, dumbfounded. He'd seen, in the little I'd shared, that even as trained biologists we'd been absurdly uninformed about the psychology or even biology of human partnership ...

I know Sam so well that I can see what has happened inside him. His inner man has crumpled in grief and reprieve. The blinding truth of what I've told him has hit him with all the force of what we lost.

And now, what we stand to gain.



He reaches for my hands once more. This time he doesn't let go.

As we stand to leave, the first light of hope glints across Sam's eyes. The gavel has fallen. The evidence is irrefutable. We are not guilty.

We'd never stopped loving each other enough even though we thought we had... in the midst of the disconnection, pain, numbness, and powerlessness of the months leading up to our divorce. Even though we'd been convinced that divorce was the best solution.

We just hadn't had all the evidence and tools we'd needed to make a well-informed decision.

And now we do.

So, strange as it sounds, we did not get back together again because of special unique details, a magical love bond, or our children. It was science-based information that allowed us to get back together. That information brought on conviction about the heights of what's possible in any marriage; a new unwavering commitment to our partnership; a bone-deep repulsion against further loss, fracture, and divorce-related risks for us and our children; and the vulnerable, sometimes scary, always humbling choice to keep our hearts open.

Science is how I got my ex back.


The books and research we used (and still use):

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy and pioneer in the new science of love and attachment. For more on the science of love and attachement see, "My How Couples Therapy Has Changed! Attachment, Love, and Science" by Sue Johnson. Johnson's incredible clinical track record and research is the pioneering scientific information that gave us hope and conviction.

The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis. Chapter One of The Divorce Remedy contains a bulleted list of recent findings on the long-term impacts of divorce; findings my husband and I were totally unaware of when we chose to divorce.

Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch.

After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner has been Unfaithful by Janis Abrahms Spring and Michael Spring.

Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley P. Glass and Jean Coppock Staeheli.