Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark – Review

Some of you may be surprised at first to see a book with this title on the Consciousness Junkie website. However, as you will see from the review, this book can be a powerful source of healing on a subject facing a large number of women. We hope you find it valuable.

By L.J



When my husband of 40+ years quite suddenly – and unexpectedly, left me for another woman, I was devastated! I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was in shock and barely functioning. I spent many hours those first few nights frantically searching the Internet for something that could help me make sense of this – anything that could help me survive. Then I found it: Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal. Vikki Stark, the author, is not only a therapist of some 25 years, but also a survivor of Wife Abandonment Syndrome (WAS).

“I will be your Sherpa” were words soothing to my soul. What I needed was a guide. I needed someone and something to anchor me to the situation and show me there was hope. This is exactly what Vicky Stark and this book did for me.

In finding herself suddenly abandoned by her husband of twenty-one years, Vicky, the therapist, began to search for answers herself. She decided to conduct a study of what she termed the Sudden Wife Abandonment Project (SWAP). She heard from over 400 people who participated in interviews and completed questionnaires. Although most were women, she also heard from children, men, and even a few run away husbands!

She used this information to create the 10 hallmarks of Wife Abandonment Syndrome. One of her goals in writing this book was to guide the reader through the stages of recovery so they didn’t get “stuck”, and to give one a vision of how to imagine a much better future than may seem possible.

For me, this book succeeded in doing just that. I have read this book several times in my first few years of abandonment and still refer to it often. I have purchased it for family and friends to help them understand the depth of what I was going through.

Stark makes it clear that each victim of WAS must follow her own path and timeline to healing. To assist in this process she devised a series of transformational stages one can expect to go through.

They are based on meteorological terms, such Tsunami, Tornado, Thunderstorm, Ice Storm, Fog,Early Spring, and finally Warm Summer Days. The analogies are clear, concise, and easy to understand they give a sense of hope and an idea of what to expect down the road.

Vikki also points out that this is not your typical divorce. Because there were no signs of a break up, no fighting, no threats of leaving, and no battle scars there is not the relief that may come from years of suffering.

She introduces a series of eight major differences experienced by a divorce affected by Wife Abandonment Syndrome. I found this to be particularly helpful as many of my friends were divorced but none had suffered abandonment.

On a more positive note, the book moves into the seven steps for moving forward.To know that there is light at the end of this dark, dark, tunnel gave me hope and inspiration. She includes many personal narratives of other women who have suffered the same fate.

Knowing that I was not alone helped me to cope, and many of their stories so mirrored mine that it enabled me to see things that I wasn’t willing or able to see in my own situation, things that were too painful to acknowledge.

Defining it as a syndrome, a disease or disorder that involves a particular group of signs and symptoms, helped me to see that there were underlying causes that may have led to this. Since it is always the wife who is at fault, according to the husband, recognizing the symptoms made it less personal in a way.

Although there could not be a more serious topic of discussion, especially to a traumatized wife, the book has it’s lighter side as well. The moments of humor interspersed throughout the text helps to ease the pain of delving  in to such a hurtful discussion. For example, her reference to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! But there are also phrases that cut right to the heart such ” Amputation without Anesthetics” or “Death -by-a-Thousand Cuts”.

But the book does more than just create a feeling of mutual pain and bonding. Vikki Stark spends a great portion of the book presenting ideas and suggestions, both her own and those who participated in her study, on how to cope, except, and finally recover from this life altering experience.

She talks about the effect on children and the pitfalls of coparenting with the Runaway Husband. She includes a ” bag of tricks” containing strategies and suggestions from women who have gone through this.

She even includes a section called Turning  Points and embracing change, all of which I thought was impossible at the onset of reading this book. What she doesn’t do is spend much time devoted to “the other woman”. It is amazing though how similar most of these women seem to be!

As an added bonus, there is a website and a guide to Healing  Circles for those who wish to share their experiences and help each other through this hell of abandonment. She sends out periodic emails of women looking for a group in their particular area.  Finding this book was a Godsend for me as I hope it will be for you.


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