Woodbury resident tackles emotional marital problems through book-writing process
Meagan Frank had been married five years, she was a stay-at-home mom of a 3-year-old boy and a baby girl. She moved around so much to follow her college hockey coach husband, Paul, that she was in a vulnerable place.
"I felt really, really stuck," she said. "I couldn't have stayed married like that for life."
In Colorado at the time, the now Woodbury resident said she wasn't happy with her life or marriage. She was worried that it would end.
After visiting her sister in San Diego, she returned home ready to do something different and almost risked losing everything.
"When I got back from my trip I was overwhelmed with my life," she said, adding that a vacation painted a fantasy world that she often compared with reality.
She thought she was going through a rough patch because she was missing her husband, she was lonely.
After networking with a few women, handing out questionnaires and going to "research parties" she found that her reason for being unhappy wasn't because her husband was away a lot.
Gathering all of that information in a journal turned into a book: "Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage" and was published in April.
"It wasn't a full scale study, I wasn't planning on writing it in a psychological journal," Frank said.
The book highlights a number of issues wives and husbands face -- from self worth to various types of addiction.
Frank had moved with her husband five times in six years; living in cities where she didn't know anyone, which was one of the major issues that contributed to her unhappiness.
Adding a network of strong, healthy women to her life was one step toward finding happiness. That, along with finding something she was passionate about, were key to solving the problems.
"When I started to fix things for myself, I was a better mom for my kids and I was a better wife," she said.
The passion she always had but didn't embrace all of her life was writing. But finding passion in one's life doesn't necessarily have to be a time-consuming task. It's about doing something gratifying as opposed to pleasurable.
Through the women she met, she learned that whether it's baking a cake for 30 minutes or playing the piano for an hour, as long as it's uniquely yours, it helps fill your life, she said.
Frank's research for the book consisted of handing out 150 questionnaires, conducting 70 interviews and attending a total of 20 research parties where women of all ages shared stories and feelings.
Some of the marriages were as long as 60 years others were just a couple of months.
"There were plenty of tears shed at these research parties that I wasn't expecting," Frank said. "One woman walked out of a party, it was too emotional for her."
The questions ranged from how did you meet your husband and what was your wedding like, to what parts of marriage were you unprepared for and what advice do you have for the newly married women.
Answers gave a jumping off point to various talks held in a tea party style setting.
"It was never a stale or scripted conversation, and some of the discussions took the topics much deeper," Frank said.
Women shared complex feelings and secrets they kept to themselves even from the closest of friends, she added. They talked about how they handled certain issues and time away from husbands.
Research parties helped Frank realize she was eventually going to move on and that her kids weren't going to stay young.
"That I wasn't stuck in my phase forever, that I was going to evolve," she added.
The research was done over a two-year period at various states across the country from California to Texas, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. Some women even sent her videotapes and notes of their discussions.
"I didn't really wanna stop," she said. "I was kind of obsessed with the whole thing."
Plus, ending the research process meant starting work on a healthier marriage, Frank added, because she didn't want to start writing the book without actually applying the things in it.
After moving to Woodbury, she outlined the book and started analyzing data. Frank wrote three chapters then sent them to six publishers. It got picked up last spring and was finished in November.
"I spent almost every waking moment writing and getting it done," she said.
The 70 stories told by married women in the book are sprinkled throughout along with Frank's story as well. Everything from weddings to kids and marriage's ups and downs are in there. In the last couple of chapters are some of the uplifting, positive messages.
Growing up between separated parents, Frank said she learned how to be the victim. Her parents were divorced, and 70 percent of marriages in her family ended in divorce.
But the moment she kissed her husband she knew she wanted to be with him forever no matter what. She didn't want to put her three kids through what she had experienced.
"When I realized that, I knew I was gonna have to do more fighting than other people would do," she said.
Now married almost 13 years, Frank said writing "Choosing to grow: Through Marriage" was so much more than doing the research and becoming a published author.
"It's been life changing. Even if I wrote it and gave it to my husband that would've been enough for me," she said.
From research parties to book discussions
Now that the book has been published, Frank is traveling and presenting the book in a similar way the information was gathered.
And as more people read the book, she will be getting together in a book club style format with others to talk about what they thought of the stories and the data.
Four presentations are done so far and a few more are coming up this summer.
"This conversation is never done. It's something that everybody is happy to talk about."