Married for 27 years, Lise and Emil Stoessel celebrate Valentine's Day like many other couples - with romantic moments over dinner, holding hands and an exchange of heart-felt gifts.
Then they'll share a goodnight kiss, as Emil drops Lise off at her townhouse before returning to his home, five miles away.
The Stoessels keep their marriage together by living apart.
Cover art for book by Artwork by Lisi Stoessel
Lise Stryker Stoessel (http://www.LiseStrykerStoessel.com) is the author of "Living Happily Ever After -- Separately" (Nov. 2011, Brandylane.) Her book shares the true tale of the Stoessel's storybook courtship: he was her Prince Charming; she was the enchanting maiden. Their early, intimate conversations revealed their many parallel perspectives, particularly in their beliefs about raising a family and health-conscious lifestyle choices.
Smile Works mug. by Photo Credit: Lise Stoessel
Also, they were both pottery artisans, and their hobby gracefully entwined into Smile Works, their pottery business. "Smile" is an anagram of sorts, of Lise and Emil's first names, and an affirmation of the joy they shared.
Their fairy tale wedding was celebrated among loved ones in a romantic, candlelit chapel. Within the year, baby Susanah arrived, joining Lisi and Julie, Emil's two girls from his former marriage.
But it was not long before it became clear that the lovebirds had each expected something very different. The "smiles" turned to frowns as their lives devolved into a sad but familiar tale of a marriage gasping for air.
Even as daily life got more and more distressing, divorce did not feel like an appropriate avenue, for a variety of reasons. Their concerns were primarily for their three girls, and the high emotional cost of rupturing the family.
Another sobering consideration was the financial cost of divorce, relative to their frugal budget.
So, faced with a marriage that was too uncomfortable to stay in, but unwilling to divorce, they struggled, year after year, feeling powerless and trapped in a commitment of unholy matrimony.
They were hardly alone in their discomfort. An estimated 40%-45% of all marriages end in divorce. (See Resource section for links to additional info.)
Fighting the Dragon by Artwork by Lisi Stoessel.
Then, one day, in a flash of inspiration born from her yearning for peace and balance, Lise had the idea for an experiment that ultimately saved her marriage, her family, and her soul - the radical notion of staying married but living separately.
"Living Happily Ever After -- Separately" is Lise's recounting of her family's fruitful transformation as they left society's conventions behind in order to claim their unique brand of wellbeing.
Arielle Ford, author of The Soulmate Secret, and Wabi Sabi Love (Jan. 2012), calls Stoessel's book an "enlightening and useful book (that) offers an alternative approach to marriage in the 21st Century."
Lise weaves her story with touching humor, poignant revelation, and valuable insights for anyone negotiating the rocky terrain of modern relationships.
Lise in the tulips. by Photo Credit: Elizabeth Stryker
Whether your marriage is grasping for a life preserver, or you are simply interested in the value of creative responses in interpersonal relationships, you'll find that this book opens up a magic purse filled with gems of wisdom.
* how a marriage can be transformed
* benefits of a less traumatic, less expensive alternative to divorce
* ways to begin to appreciate the good in one another again
* how romance can be rekindled
* that each partner can remain true to self while also dancing their part in the relationship
* practical advice on how to make the decision that is right for you