From Seeming Hopeful to Seemingly Hopeless

I saw my ex-wife again a couple days ago. It was in the same place—a little coffee shop in our old neighborhood. I wrapped up an appointment a bit early and dropped by for a coffee and to send a few emails before heading to my office. As I entered, she was seated at a table right next to the door. I had to wait in line and was thus standing just a few feet away from her; I had no reason to believe there was any cause for concern, so I took a couple of steps over to her table to quickly say hello.

She was wearing earbuds and wrapped up in her work, but this is not normally a deterrent for most people to greet another. I said hello and asked her how she was. She was rather unfriendly and more or less rebuffed me, saying she was okay. She did not even bother to make eye contact. I got a look at her face and she looked terrible—dark black circles around her eyes, which looked kind of splotchy, almost as if she had been crying recently. “Are you okay?” I asked, feeling genuine concern. She said she was fine, and was rather curt.

I recognized this energy. It’s the energy of obstinacy.

I have a lot of experience with obstinacy. In fact, at some point during this blog’s life, a quick Google search for the term “obstinate spouse” would bring this blog as the top hit (it currently ranks #2 or 3—on my browser, anyway—as I write this). I figured something had gone wrong in her life and I’d just be the target of her unhappiness. So, I figured it was best to leave well enough alone. I got my coffee and went and sat at a table out of her view, sent my emails, then packed up and left. I had to pass right by her table as I left, so I waved goodbye. She just ignored me.

Something really changed in her life in the past few weeks, and she did not seem happy about what that change means to her life right now. This was the behavior of someone who is truly obstinate.

I later texted one of her friends and suggested that she call my ex-wife; I felt that something was wrong enough that the friend would do well to try to find out was wrong with her. This same friend promised a couple of months ago to talk to my ex-wife, but by her own admission never did.  I had spoken to this friend the night before this most recent encounter, in fact, and the friend told me she would talk to her. Somehow, I doubt that has happened.

Soon thereafter, I discovered that a marriage certificate had been issued on that same day. That is, the county records office recorded this document on the very morning that I most recently saw my ex-wife. I don’t know when the marriage was officiated, but it likely happened in the preceding few days.

No wonder she was so unfriendly.

As you’ll recall from my last post, my ex-wife admitted to me two significant things: 1) she thinks about me often, and 2) she misses her dog. I have no reason to think that either of these has changed. But now, she all but guarantees herself that she can never see her dog. Why? Not because I’d forbid it; I’d never do that. No, she cannot see her dog because the adulterer would never allow it. She knows that. He has proven time and again that he is insecure, controlling, manipulative, and even perhaps a bit paranoid. Therefore, her brief encounter with me this week reminds her of the magnitude of the sacrifice she has made—for this fantasy life that will never work out.

Okay, really I get it: conventional wisdom would say that she married the adulterer because they love each other and are happy together, so this is just a natural step. But remember, conventional wisdom would also indicate that I never would have had such a positive encounter with my ex-wife just a few weeks ago. So, I don’t pay much heed to conventional wisdom.

The reality is likely quite different. More likely than not, things have been falling apart between them for quite some time. She entered limerence a lot faster than he did, and seems to have exited it sooner and faster than he, at least as far as I can tell. He would therefore normally follow the pattern of becoming manipulative to keep her in the relationship—and he is a master manipulator. What could be more manipulative than giving her the wedding ceremony she always wanted? He could follow that up with other stuff, but these would also be manipulative acts that eventually will backfire.

She doubtless knows deep inside that she is still living her life out of accordance with her values and this must be eating her up from the inside. She likely feels that she destroyed so much that she can never come back. She probably feels like she has to take her chances on a life out in the boondocks with a serial adulterer who is now on marriage #3. (Or maybe #4 from what I heard in the past. That is, that there was a marriage very early in his life that ended when that wife cheated on him, and that he was so despondent that he nearly committed suicide.) By any measure, this is a losing bet.

I know all the statistics. Third marriages have at best a 25% chance of success. Marriages starting as adulterous relationships fail at a rate 25% higher than normal. 25% minus 25% equals zero. It really does seem that the chances for that marriage to survive are pretty much nil. If I were a betting man, I would not put any money on the odds that they might grow old together.

For now, the question is how long this marriage will last. The adulterer’s last marriage lasted just under six months before that woman, wife #2 (or perhaps #3) divorced him. Perhaps this one will go down the tubes even faster.

Anyway, I likely shall not have much to write here unless the situation changes. As always, I ask if you feel so inclined and inspired to pray for my ex-wife that she may leave her errant path once and for all, so that she may walk a new path very soon. May that path be one that is wholesome and honest, and may I be her companion on that path.

The Silence Breaks

So, I bumped into my ex-wife today and we had coffee.

Wait…what?!?

Yes, that’s actually what happened today. I dropped by a coffee shop in my old neighborhood and she happened to be there, too.

So, you may be wondering what happens when you encounter an ex-wife who had been incredibly hostile, combative, and adversarial? I have to say that my encounter today turned out totally different than I could have ever expected.

I walked into that coffee shop without knowing she’d be there. Yet there she was, sitting at a table near the place where coffee orders are picked up, so I knew I’d have to encounter her. I placed my order and went over to wait for it; this meant that I was standing about five feet away from her table and she is facing me. So, I just said her name—in the familiar form I had always used.

She looked up. I said, “Hi, how are you.” She said, “fine,” and looked back down at whatever she’d been looking at before. That was it, I guess. I thought there’d be nothing more, but at least I’d been cordial. I turned back around to wait for my coffee.

A few long seconds passed, and she says, “How are you?”

Uhhhh… what?

I walked over to her table and told her I was doing great; I read the situation very quickly and realized this was an invitation to talk. So, I sat down and we chatted—for pretty close to a half hour. We talked, we joked, we laughed, we reminisced. She asked about my family and I hers; we filled each other in on details. She told me about some of the work she was doing and I shared mine. It was like I had never missed a day with her and we were just catching up.

She revealed a couple of things to me that were very telling, however. She said that she thought she had recently seen my car nearby, so she thought I still lived in the area. I told her that I no longer had that car (it was unmistakable, but there are also a lot of identical cars on the road) and had recently traded up to something better. I had long suspected that every time she’d see a car like that one, she’d think about me, and this seems to be the case.

She also asked about our dog and told me that she had been thinking about her, “a lot, actually.” I somehow thought this would be the case as well. I shared some recent pictures and videos of the dog with her and her heart was clearly touched. I told her that she was always welcome to see the dog whenever she wanted. She initially demurred, but I assured her it would be okay.

She never once mentioned the other man, nor did she mention anything connected with him—nothing about where she lives, what she might be doing with him, and so on, even though so much of this she makes publicly available. I did not ask, and she did not offer. That is exactly as it should have been.

Some twenty to thirty minutes had passed by this point, and she reminded me that I’d better get on the road so I could get to the office. Again, I read the situation and realized I could just give her a hug on the way out. And I did. And she did not object.

I held her hand and told her not to be a stranger. I told her that I would be there for her if she ever needed anything, and that she just need to call or email. And I told her again how wonderful it had been to see her.

And then I left.

Conventional wisdom would say that things like this can never happen. Conventional wisdom would say that she would hate my guts forever and never want to see me again. Conventional wisdom would say all that and a lot of other things, too.

But conventional wisdom is just plain wrong.

I spent nearly two and a half years fighting for my marriage. My struggles, my triumphs, and my failures are all documented in the posts on this blog. I showered her with unconditional love despite everything that was happening and despite all the rather unpleasant things she felt she needed to do. This is likely a big part of why things turned out the way they did today.

Also critical to this was the fact that she saw a man today who was quite different from the one she wanted to leave behind several years ago. She saw a man who is self-assured, confident, open, relaxed, non-judgmental, caring, and kind. She saw in me an openness and a freedom that she has not known for years, and I think she deeply yearns to have that in her life again.

I do not know right now where any of this will lead. I left the entire experience on a positive note and walked away with gentleness and kindness. That was her last experience of me today, and I think it is a good experience that will stay with her.

So, my dear readers, I have asked you before, if you feel so inclined, to pray for her, and I’m going to ask you to do so again. Please just pray for her that finally her eyes be opened and that she can see her errant path for what it is. Pray that she finally want to abandon that path and walk a new one—a path that lead to wholeness, true happiness, and enduring love. Pray that she decide to walk that path with me and that our reunion can serve as a beacon of hope for those who feel their situations to be hopeless.

Clearly there is hope, but it requires both faith and action. If you’re facing a similar situation in your marriage, please do not give up hope. Please keep the faith, and have the courage to take the right action. You may be amazed at what can happen.

Limerence and the “Halo Effect”

Limerence comes in many situations and in different forms.

A young man falls in love with his college sweetheart and experiences limerence; if both he and the sweetheart are single, there is likely little problem. A deep sense of longing and desire for the partner develops; she is perfect and can do no wrong, and this makes him feel euphoric whenever he is with her and makes him yearn for her when she is away. This is the romantic love that is the subject of so many novels, poems, movies, and songs.

A middle-aged woman connects with a man in the workplace or in some other environment they both inhabit and becomes limerent. One or both of them are married and their relationship violates societal norms and the moral codes of various religions. Yet they feel that they are getting something vital from the relationship—something that is missing from their primary relationship with the spouse. This partner seems perfect and can also do no wrong, despite the fact that there are obvious character flaws that have allowed their inappropriate relationship to develop. Nevertheless, they  feel euphoric when they are together, pine for each other when they are apart, and experience guilt at the impropriety of their actions. Theirs is a forbidden love, one that is also the subject of so many more novels, poems, movies, and songs.

One feature common to both of these relationships is the belief that the romantic partner is “perfect,” yet there is an obvious problem here: no one is perfect; everyone has his or her flaws, major or minor. The college sweetheart might be rude to waiters at restaurants; her boyfriend dismisses this as a sign of her perfectionism that demands the best from everyone—especially if she is paying for something. He may even find this endearing, but certainly will overlook it. The middle-aged woman ignores the ring on her affair partner’s finger and the knowledge that this man is willing to violate his marriage vows to be with her. She will make excuses for his behavior and tell herself that he is still trustworthy, despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

This is the “halo effect.”

These two relationships are on opposing ends of a spectum; on the one side, “normal” relationships occur, and on the other, “deviant” ones, such as adultery. But, this is a spectrum, and there is room for relationships to fall somewhere in the middle. This post is the story of one such relationship.

There is a person I know, albeit not very well—she is more or less an acquaintance I have made through professional circles—who has been quite public over the past few months via social media about relationship developments in her life. In the past, I have mostly known about her married life, her two kids, and her apparently devoted husband of the past decade. Thus it came as quite a surprise a few months ago when another man entered the scene and apparently created an odd sort of relationship triangle. This man was interacting with the kids and with her husband, spending time at the holidays with both in what seemed like a rather uncomfortable way. There were pictures of his presence and interactions with the kids and professions of how wonderful he was and how patient and accepting the husband was of the situation. Yet it was hard to tease this apart; it looked for all the world like an extramarital affair, but there was no direct evidence of such, and the husband was aware of the whole thing.

Very recently the nature of this relationship became clear as the whole situation crumbled to the ground. These revelations came directly from the acquaintance as she aired all her thoughts and feelings over social meda in the form of a public confession.

A couple of years ago, this acquaintance reconnected with an old college friend whom she had not seen for perhaps a couple decades. He was in jail at the time for some sort of drug-related offense. They began to talk on the phone, and the conversations became more frequent and intimate until they were happening nearly every day. By her own admission, they would talk for up to two hours at a time, and her chats with him allowed her to open up emotionally in a way that made her feel understood, safe, and loved.

I’ll just pause the narrative right here to point out that this is already the sign of a serious problem in the marriage. Ideally, the spouse is the person who should make his partner feel understood, safe, and loved; a spouse will typically usually confide in someone else in this way if there is a breakdown in the intimacy of the marriage. Mort Fertel, in his marriage coaching program Marriage Fitness, refers to this dynamic as “emotional infidelity.” This can happen between a man and a woman, as it had in this case; it can also happen between a woman and her closest girlfriend, or a man and his best golf buddy. The key thing here is that the emotional intimacy of the marriage is being compromised by the presence of a third person who is being told things that only the spouse should know.

Returning to our story, the acquaintance developed a deep emotional bond over the subsequent months with the incarcerated friend, going to visit him in jail, writing him letters, phoning him every day, and making plans. At some point, she apparently felt that this man was the love of her life that she was fated to be with. He was soon to be paroled and she even publicly asked her acquaintances via social media to write letters to the parole board in support of his case. It was also around this time that she asked her husband for a divorce.

Her husband agreed; not that he had much choice, mind you, as this is all taking place in a state with no-fault divorce laws. She merely needed to assert that the marriage was “irretrievably broken”—wording that is ever so conveniently pre-written into divorce petitions in this state—and the courts would willingly agree. Her husband nonetheless maintained a presence in her life through all this because of the kids, although it is hard to know whether they still lived together.

Soon after the divorce proceedings were filed, this man was paroled and came to visit his professed life partner. They spent the holidays together in the aforementioned public and rather awkward relationship triangle that was broadcast so visibly over social media. It seems that there also had been a number of people who had advised her that she was on the wrong path. After all, she was married, had kids, and was wanting to throw all that down the drain in favor of a relationship with a man who had documented drug abuse problems and who resultantly for years had been in and out of jail.

This is not to say that this man is a bad person, of course—I doubt he is—but rather that her choice did not appear to be a very sound one. Emotions are illogical, however, and a person in the throes of limerence is not likely to listen to the logical appeals of friends and family. If it feels right, it must be right. She willingly overlooked the behavioral flaws of this recent parolee and professed that he has changed, and that he can and will change further.

This is the “halo effect” in action.

The divorce appears to have gone final in the early part of this year and soon thereafter appeared on social media engagement pictures of the acquaintance and her recently paroled friend, both wearing engagement rings. They lived many miles apart—he had been jailed in another state—but had plans to be together for good. There were the expected “likes” and statements of congratulations; behind the scenes, there likely were also the admonitions and words of caution from concerned friends and family.

A few short months later, the story of these fate-driven life partners falls apart. The man’s addictions won the day and he soon found himself back in jail again. The acquaintance felt betrayed and heartbroken. She made a public confession over social media that their engagement was over and that they would not marry. She had decided to break of their relationship entirely. She asked others not to say “I told you so.” She struggled to come to terms with her obvious and understandable grieving. She sought counsel from friends and professionals. The halo that she saw over this man’s head was just an illusion after all.

It’s unclear where this person’s story leads now. She is divorced and caring for two kids. The ex-husband is still in the picture and appears devoted to his family and still seems to care for her. My instincts and experienc tell me that this aborted engagement could be a blessing in disguise; it could be the impetus by which they could learn the relationship skills that would give them a real life-long partnership filled with trust, devotion, and profound intimacy. It could be the start of a successful reconciliation. Only time will if that will be their outcome. I do hope it is.

To me, this brought home the extent to which a person can be deluded by romantic fantasy. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, of course, so it’s difficult to watch someone else go through it—especially knowing that the person will never listen to the timely and well-intentioned (and possibly well-informed) counsel of others. Limerence and its halo effect is just too powerful. They sometimes only learn when it is too late and the damage has been done. Hopefully for her and her family, that damage will be repaired.

Glimpses from the Other Side; Or, the Grass Really Is Not Greener

So, I changed my mind. I’ve decided to leave this blog up and running for at least a little while longer. This is because some information came my way this morning that seems to be a game-changer of sorts.

This morning, I had a long chat today with one of ex-wife’s oldest friends. Let’s call her “F” because she’s a friend. She also hails from the same country as my ex-wife. (Let’s call her “xW” to cut the word count a bit.) F reached out to me a couple of months ago because an old boyfriend of hers had died unexpectedly. We ended up having a short but pleasant exchange of messages. Her last message asked me to stay in touch. I said I would, and that was that, or so I thought. Then the unexpected news about my ex-wife ‘s apparent wedding landed like a ton of bricks on my computer screen.  So, I decided to reach out to her.

F had, to my knowledge, been in fairly recent contact with xW.  She, along with another mutual friend (let’s call her “M” because she’s a mutual friend), had visited xW last summer. We talked at length about her recently departed boyfriend, a very kind-hearted soul who had a history of health problems. He also somewhat lacked ambition, and this led F to leave him to pursue her elsewhere.

Nevertheless, they remained very close. He was someone she could always turn to for advice. He saw in her a wife of sorts, to whom he never married and from whom he lived mostly in physical separation. He just did not want any other woman in his life.

F was still mourning his loss. It turned out that she and I really see eye-to-eye about many aspects of relationships, in particular dedication and devotion to one’s partner. The topic then naturally shifted to xW.

F told me a lot of things, some of which I knew, many I did not. I told her a few things that I felt she should know, so that she could convey these to xW if she were to talk to her. For example, I told her about the way in which I was served divorce papers by OM’s brother: he brought his teenage daughter, who helped him find our house but who remained in his truck during the “service” ; he tried to defend his brother by describing my marriage as “already destroyed”; and he responded to my factual labeling of his brother as an adulterer by saying, “Well, I guess that makes xW an adulteress then.” F was really shocked at this and thought the comment quite nasty. She told me that she had met the brother and thought he was, well, sort of a jerk. (For that reason, let’s call him “J.”)

F and M ended up staying for at the adulterer’s place (elsewhere on this blog known as “Camp Chickenshit,” or “Camp C-S” for short) for the evening martial arts practice that was to happen there. J gave some instruction to the visitors and ended up harshly criticized M. (Are you following all the initials?) M had no prior experience and was trying some basic techniques. Thus, J was not very kind. Well, come to think of it, neither is serving someone divorce papers, or keeping a daughter waiting in the truck whiIe daddy goes and delivers those family-destroying documents. Incidentally, J told me during that incident that his wife (let’s not give her an initial, because she only figures once) was currently divorcing him. Surprised?

I also told F how xW had not seen her dog—her most treasured possession—for over three years. F was shocked because she thought that xW and I were even now just taking turns caring for the dog. She actually did not know that I have had essentially no contact with xW since the divorce was finalized nearly three years ago. Therefore, I explained the hostility and nastiness I had received during the divorce process, all of which had seemed to have been driven by the adulterer. (Let’s not give him an initial; I think it’s worth being clear and open about what he does.) There were other details, but you get the idea.

F then told me some things she had learned about the adulterer. First, he apparently has a history of adultery, or “problems with married women,” as she put it. This has included women from his past calling him at home or trying to contact him, and xW either receiving these phone calls or otherwise finding out. xW seems to have denied these as significant, claiming that she could “trust him,” but in reality these were disturbing to her. Second, there was the revelation that OM is not nearly as affluent as he claims to be.  When xW’s mother was diagnosed a couple years ago with an illness that would soon claim her life, xW frustratedly confessed that she couldn’t go visit because she didn’t have the money. “What’s your man doing, then?” F asked her. He had apparently not offered to fly her over there, which to me is shocking.

F also confirmed that the adulterer has had multiple marriages but was surprised to learn that his last one had lasted just under six months. Yes, that’s right—six months, then that wife divorced him. One can only wonder…

In short, it seems clear that there are many obvious problems with this adulterer that xW has apparently chosen to ignore. This of course seems to fit the pattern of the stereotypical “romantic” adulterous relationship; that is, one that is based on limerence.

F also told me some things about xW. In particular, she revealed some of xW’s feelings about me, along with some things she had said. xW was apparently a bit upset with me at one point because she felt that I had believed that she could never finish her graduate degree without my help. (Actually, I never said nor believed this.)

Then, there was a major revelation. After xW had broached the issue of the adulterer’s “other women” and the related trust issues that provoked, F told her, “you know, with [Rodion] you would never have to worry about that.” xW agreed without hesitation.

Wow. It really makes me wonder why she wants to be with this adulterer, and why she has not just run in the opposite direction as hard as she can. This probably shows the kind of emotional intimacy that she is missing in her life with the adulterer and may indeed be longing for.

One final thing that came up was that even though she had seen the “wedding” pictures and commented on them, F actually did not know whether xW had legally married the adulterer or not. She asked, “Do you know if they just did the ceremony, or did they actually get married?” In xW’s home country, religious marriage rituals are just ceremonial; one has to do a civil marriage process to be legally married. My hunch—and it’s only a hunch—is that the adulterer really is not committed and may have opted out of the legal process. Heck, it would be a lot easier for him to cut xW out of his life if there were no legal entanglements. You’d think he’d have learned that from his other divorces.

So, the picture emerges here very much fits the model of a stereotypical emotionally-driven affair. Both partners are limerent, they are ignoring obvious faults, and the straying spouse realizes the value of what she left behind.

This emerging picture also seems to corroborate some evidence that shows that xW was exiting limerence at least a year ago if not more, but was not far enough out of it that the adulterer could reel her back in. Heck, he knows all the buttons to push by now, and this traditional marriage ritual was a dream of hers that we never fulfilled. It also seems that the adulterer  put a lot of money forward—and possibly incurred substantial debt—to make this happen.

So what happens next? Only time will tell. However, once they return stateside, life will become ordinary again. Reality should strike pretty hard soon thereafter, and she will suddenly and abruptly realize that her life has not actually changed. They will together enter the final stage of limerence, and the resentment that characterizes that stage should arise. She already has plenty of reasons to look at him and say, “look what you cost me”; she gave up her marriage, her home, her clients, her money, her dog, and on and on. And he’ll be able to pull out all the bills from that “dream wedding” he arranged and perhaps a “fantasy honeymoon” should that have followed. “Yeah? Look what you cost me,” he’ll say.

Somehow, I feel quite confident that this all of this will lead to their undoing.

This May Be My Last Post

I started this blog in early 2012, shortly after learning of my ex-wife’s affair and shortly after committing myself to fighting for my marriage. I never really intended for this blog to be anything more than an outlet for me to share my experiences in the hope that it might help others. Over time, this blog has been a place of refuge for me; it has been my “counselor” to whom I could air my thoughts and ruminations; it has been a place where I could post sources of help and stories of hope.

It seems my hope has—for now, at least—run out. It seems that today, of all days, my ex-wife got married to the adulterer.

My ex-wife started a virtual friendship many years ago with a woman in her home country who runs a lifestyle and fashion business. They got to know each other first via a blog my ex-wife wrote about our dog; then they connected on Facebook and got to know each other. When the affair started, this woman apparently became a cheerleader for the affair, buying into the idea that ex-wife genuinely was happier in her adulterous relationship—which, I might add, this woman knew was adulterous.

I learned that ex-wife and the adulterer had gone to her home country together a couple of days ago; this woman posted pictures yesterday of ex-wife, her brother, the adulterer, and several others having dinner. Tonight, this same woman broadcast pictures and videos on Facebook of ex-wife getting married to the adulterer in a shrine in her home country.

This came as quite a shock, to say the least.

I know all the statistics by heart:

  • Only 1-3% of adulterous relationships result in marriage.
  • Of those who marry, at least 75% see their marriages end in divorce.
  • Marriages that began as adulterous relationships fail at rates 15% higher than normal in 1-3 years.
  • This figure escalates to 25% higher than normal divorce rates within 5 years.
  • These figures escalate whatever divorce likelihood already exists (e.g. 65% of second marriages ending in divorce).
  • The adulterer has been married twice—at least as far as I know. His second marriage lasted barely six months. Thus his third marriage—all other things being equal, which they’re not—is 75% likely to fail.
  • Ex-wife is going into a second marriage which from her side, which—all other things being equal (which again, they’re not)—is 65% likely to fail.
  • They have been together for five years already; thus the likely escalator for this marriage is 25%.

It’s easy to do the math: 75% + 25% for the adulterer equals almost 100% likelihood of divorce from his side; 65% + 25% from ex-wife equals at least 90% likelihood of divorce from her side. The odds for them simply are not good. They never have been and certainly aren’t any better now.

As to what I’ll do next, well, I’m not sure. I still have a lot of her possessions; some of these include gifts from her family. I may just ship them to the adulterer’s house so that she can have them. I still own the web domains for her websites and to my knowledge she still uses them. I may quietly take them down.

She always wanted the wedding in a home-country shrine; we never did that. She finally got what she wanted.

He apparently always wanted a wife from her country because he practices that country’s indigenous religion and one of its native martial arts. He finally got what he wanted.

They both finally got what they wanted.

I do believe in karma and can at least take comfort in the knowledge that whatever negative karma I have committed against her in this life or some other has now been fully repaid. I will never have to suffer the effects of that karmic debt anymore.

However, the fullness of the karmic debt that they have both incurred with me has now reached its apex and that debt will have to be repaid, in this life or some other. That’s how it works, according to the great realized masters of the past and present.

So, I will bid adieu for now to my beautiful ex-wife for whom I fought long and hard with all my blood and tears. She and the adulterer will now have nothing but the winds of their karma to carry them where it may.

This may be my valedictory post, so I wish to thank you all for reading; I wish to thank you for all your kind comments and the sharing of your own experiences; I wish to thank you all for your private messages of good wishes and encouragement.

May you all see your marriages reconciled, restored to full health, and may you enjoy them as they become fuller, happier, and more vibrant and joyful than you could have imagined.

Run the Other Way; Or, Affairs from the Transgressor’s Side

“Run the other way! Don’t do it!” is the advice Joe Beam elicits from a wayward spouse in a truly insightful podcast he recently posted. In this podcast, he interviews a woman who had recently, albeit reluctantly, terminated a four-year extramarital affair, and who in the aftermath gives rather sobering advice to those who might be considering straying from their marriages.

Please listen to the podcast by clicking this link. As you may know, Joe Beam was several decades ago a wayward spouse and because of this fact, he truly understands the wayward spouse’s mentality. He also understands the emotional fragility they feel once the affair comes to a close. Thus, he handles this interview with dignity, compassion, and integrity, and makes every effort to not only protect this woman’s identity, but also her personal dignity. At the same time, he helps her to see some of the obvious flaws with her extramarital relationship, and gives her counsel that hopefully will be comforting to her in the coming months.

I personally feel this podcast to be timely: the holidays are a difficult time for people whose marriages have been disrupted by affairs. I’ve been out of town visiting my family and this year, three different friends of the family had spouses who committed affairs. In every case, the betrayed spouse took (in my opinion) the wrong response, filing immediately for divorce and ridding the wayward spouse from their lives. One of these affairs has ended quite disastrously—the husband now has lost the affair partner and his wife and kids—while the other two are still ongoing. To my knowledge, none of the betrayed spouses has done any introspection as to how they contributed to the dysfunctional marital dynamic that allowed an affair to occur.

Those of us who have been victim to affairs can find it hard to understand the mindset of a wayward spouse. However, as this interview shows, the majority of affairing spouses are ordinary people, like you and me, who never considered the possibility of having an affair. However, a variety of factors, including a strong lack of emotional fulfillment from the marriage, seem to make them vulnerable to the unprincipled, unscrupulous, or just naive and poorly intentioned advances of the affair partner-to-be. Affairs do really seem to be pervaded by self-deception and wishful thinking that persists even despite evidence that shows the affair to be a dead-end prospect. Therefore, I think this podcast is a very important and extremely human reminder as to why we should try to be compassionate to those who have betrayed their marital vows.

Some insights that come from this interview include the following:

  • She wasn’t looking for an affair, but the opportunity arose.
  • She violated her moral values, so she set those values aside to have the affair.
  • She was aware of what she was doing, and felt tremendous guilt because she knew it would hurt her husband. Nevertheless, she rationalized reasons to go forward and to continue.
  • There was the “halo effect” surrounding the affair partner, who was perceived as “perfect,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
  • One affair partner became limerent (infatuated) faster than the other; at the end of the affair, this affair partner fell out of limerence faster.
  • The affair partner became manipulative at affair’s end, wanting to stay friends; she refused.
  • She is grieving the loss of the relationship and still misses the affair partner and feels overwhelming grief and helplessness that describes as suffocating.

Joe Beam comforts this woman by letting her know that, from everything she described, the affair had absolutely no chance of success, but that her belief that the affair was something truly special was not only typical, but to be expected. He advised her that once the limerence fades, it would not come back again; furthermore, if she had married the affair partner, the limerence would still have faded anyway.

Aside from the words at the beginning of this post, the woman in this interview offered two more pieces of advice. For those who have been betrayed, she said, “Be as kind as possible [to your spouse] and pray for them; keep yourself on the right path.” Admittedly, this is hard because it goes directly against our most deeply ingrained human tendencies. For the wayward spouse whose affair is ending, she simply said, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

May tomorrow be a better day for us all.

Note: If you want to learn more about limerence, please check out Joe Beam’s podcasts on the subject below.

Understanding Limerence (the “Madly In Love” syndrome)
More about Limerence
Three Stages of Being “Madly In Love” (Limerence)

Please Care for Your Marriage

Shortly after I got married, my (ex-)wife and I were invited to a party in our favor that was hosted by a local church. She was the accompanist for the church choir, and the pastor wanted to do something for us, as did the congregation. There was a big reception, cake, and a lot of words of congratulations and encouragement.

I distinctly remember one man coming up to congratulate me. He looked like he was in his late 50s. “I’ve been married for 31-1/2 years,” he said, jokingly, “and the first 31-1/2 years were the hardest.” I took this as a joke at the time, but reflecting back on what he said, I can see how true his words ring.

When we meet our soulmate, we are so full of love that we are convinced that we could not be wrong about our choice. Generally speaking, I’d say that most people probably are not wrong about their choice. When we get married, we are filled with joy, wonder, and optimism. Life does seem like a figurative bed of roses; regardless of how much or how little one has, everything just seems perfect. Neither I nor my new bride had much when we first got married: I had a low-paying academic job and she was still in grad school. I downsized from my two-bedroom apartment to move into her one-bedroom, yet our lives were filled with the abundance that only love can provide.

That love carried us through the first several years. We did not really need to maintain our marriage, because our love for each other was doing just that. However, sometime during our fourth year of marriage, she remarked that our relationship was shifting out of a romantic partnership and into a more long-term “friendship” type of partnership. I had sensed this as well; the passion of the initial years was fading and the reality of work and of life in general were starting to feel very present. So it seemed that we needed to move into a different mode of relating with each other.

How very, very  wrong we both were.

This point of transition arguably comes in all marriages. The lucky few out there figure out the ways to maintain the marriage to keep it at least somewhat healthy. One of my family members has been married nearly 20 years and owes this in part to the fact that they have a weekly “date night” during which the kids stay at home with a babysitter. I don’t know who told them to do this or if they figured it out on their own, but this is just one of the components every married couple needs to keep the marriage healthy.

If I could turn the clock back about 10 years or so, I would be able to intercept that message from my (ex-)wife and suggest that we do something about it. Here’s what I’d do:

  • I’d tell her that we need a weekly date night. This is so simple and obvious: dating should not stop after marriage. Dating keeps the relationship fresh and the romance alive. We wouldn’t need to do something fancy every time; we could even just go out for coffee. The whole point, however, would be that we were going out just to be together and to connect with each other.
  • I’d tell her that we should set aside all of the logistical and “business” aspects of the marriage and take care of them during one specific weekly meeting. All the scheduling we’d need to do, all the planning of events, all the managing of finances and paying of bills would be discussed and taken care of at this time. This also seems so simple; the “business” of the marriage all too easily gets in the way of the relationship itself. So, take care of the business all at once (there usually is not so much to do that it cannot be taken care of in an hour or so of concentrated effort) and leave the rest of the week for the relationship.
  • I’d make sure I gave to her every day. This does not mean that I would buy her presents every day of the week, but rather that I would give her things that she loves. I still know exactly how she likes her coffee. I’d make it for her at least a few times a week (if she didn’t make it for me on that day) and surprise her with it on occasion by bringing it to her while she’s in bed. I’d draw her bath in the evening and put in the water the essential oils in that she likes. I’d bring her a single red rose every now and then. I’d buy her chocolates, or her favorite fashion magazine. You get the picture.
  • I’d make sure that I stay in touch with her during the day while I’m at work. I’d call her for no other reason than to say hello. I’d tell her a silly story or reminisce about something we did together. I’d never call to discuss anything logistical unless it were urgent. Oh, and I’d never work a job that did not allow me to put my marriage first. Period.
  • I’d make sure that we get to spend an entire day together at least once a month. This would be our mini-retreat during which we’d do nothing other than be together. Maybe we’d go somewhere; maybe we’d stay at home. Either way, there would be nothing on the agenda other than being with one another.
  • I’d make sure that we get away for a few days each year. This would be our “re-boot” retreat where we could rekindle our romance. I’d take her out to the coast where we got engaged. Or, I’d book a cabin out in the forest near a lake. Or, we’d have a weekend in one of our favorite cities—Vancouver, San Francisco, Chicago, or somewhere else.
  • I’d make sure that I keep getting to know her better and better every day. I’d do everything I could to discover what she likes and what tickles her fancy.
  • I’d make sure that every week we do something together that we both enjoy. Perhaps we’d cook together, or we’d work in the garden. Maybe we’d just do something fun with our dog.
  • I’d always make her my priority and think about her and her needs before thinking about my own. Always. No exceptions.

That’s what I’d do. If you’re married, you should be doing all these things right now. If not, you can expect your marriage to deteriorate over time if it has not done so already. It may stabilize into something you both can “settle” for, but it will probably never be as rich as the relationship you had when you first married. Yet a marriage should mature, deepen, and blossom ever more fully with each passing year.

Really, it’s not that hard to maintain a marriage if you break it down into pieces like I’ve done above. Successful couples do these things and stay happily married in extremely robust relationships. What makes it “hard” is that these things take effort and require shifting of priorities in some counterintuitive ways. Most of us who have been married for some years begin to feel as though our careers are most important, and then next come our kids if we have any. After that comes caring for the home, the finances, and so on. In last place comes the marriage itself.

This is totally backwards. This is a paradigm that leads to mediocre marriages, or even marriages in decline. It is a paradigm that leads a disintegration that lays the marriage vulnerable to affairs, separation, and divorce. Reversing that paradigm keeps the marriage healthy and prevents anyone or anything from unduly challenging it.

I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to do all these things with my ex-wife. Yet every day I wish that I could do those things right now. I am paying the price daily for my unwitting disregard of the single most precious thing I have ever had.

Take care of your marriage by putting it first. Everything else will fall into place.

Please, care for your marriage.

Please.

Moving Forward with Marriage, One Step at a Time.

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