Two Years; Or, A Story of Limerence

If you have read this blog in the past, you will know that I started it about four years ago because my wife was having an extramarital affair. Many have found this blog since then and have been able to find help through the various resources and links that I had posted here.

I very recently found a resource that is so important to anyone with an affairing spouse that I am going to post the link right here.  It’s a podcast that you all must hear. Please click through and listen to it right away. It will not cost you anything, your computer will not be infested with malware, and you will not be sold anything. Please, please, please, click through and listen. It’s that important. I would not post the link three times if I really did not feel it would be helpful. If you want to know more about why I am posting this link, then please read on.

Looking over this blog today, I realize that I have only written three posts in the past two years. Prior to these past two years, I posted quite regularly, as the archives will show—so regularly, in fact, that if you do a Google search for “obstinate spouse,” this blog will still be one of the top hits. There is a reason why I have not posted much these past two years.

Two years ago to this day, on March 25, 2014, my marriage ended. I was more or less obliged to play along with my (now-)ex-wife’s “let’s-destroy-the-marriage” ploy. Let’s just say that she—or more properly, the adulterer, working through her (because as we all recall, he was far to cowardly to confront me directly)—more or less obliged me to sign the papers that finalized the divorce process.

That was the last time I saw her. Two years ago today.

My last post from two months ago was one that originated in a bit of desperation. I had learned some rather unsettling news about my ex-wife and really felt quite upset. One of the things I did shortly thereafter was to have a chat with the marriage coach I had worked with over the course of the marital crisis. I had not spoken to him for nearly a year, and the previous time I had contacted him was just before the one-year mark of my being an unwilling divorcé. His advice for me then was to “take a season” and wait; he felt that she was very much in transition and that things could change.

Well, things did change in her life—she lost her mother—but the affair did not seem to show any signs of ending. It just seemed like all the traumas and turmoils of her life forced her deeper into a stupor of self-justification—a stupor that seems to persist even to this day. So, I was a bit surprised when, at the end of my most recent chat with the coach, he gave me his advice.

“I think your next move is to wait,” he said.

I asked him why, and he said that he felt that I had not been released from the force that compels me to wait. This was a very accurate assessment. I am not particularly in a hurry to start a new committed relationship with anyone at this point in my life. I am also not desperate or depressed. In fact, on the whole, life is pretty good.

“I wish I had statistics to prove to you that the affair always ends,” he said. Well, I’ve seen those statistics, and her affair certainly is a statistical outlier. Most affairs would have died by now. I left that conversation feeling somewhat buoyed but also a bit confused.

A few weeks later, I heard from an acquaintance who had also suffered her spouse’s long-term affair. Her ordeal had lasted somewhere around four and a half years before her spouse’s affair ended and he came home to reconcile. She directed me—albeit somewhat indirectly—to a podcast that I have found very helpful.

The podcast is called “Marriage Radio” and the host is Joe Beam. I had known about Joe Beam for some time and knew that he had a quite successful marriage coaching business. However, his coaching style seemed more geared toward Christians, so I had opted for a coaching system that was more secular but still strongly morally grounded. He started a workshop format around the same time my marriage crisis began and boasts success rates from that workshop of about 75%. That is, 3 out of 4 couples attending are still married 7 years later. These are pretty impressive statistics.

Joe Beam’s story is interesting, in that he knows the psychology of the affairing spouse first hand: he had an affair as a young man and divorced his wife. After three years of divorce, the affair ended and he returned to remarry his ex-wife. He then made it his life’s work to help others in similar situations.

So it was with great interest that I found this one podcast episode that aired a few days before last Christmas. The podcast title is “Why Your Spouse Loves Another (Understanding Limerence),” and is a must-listen for anyone whose spouse is committing adultery. Limerence is a concept I was already familiar with; essentially it is a very strong type of infatuation that easily is mistaken for real love. “Relationship” affairs (i.e. as opposed to short-term, sexual affairs) are typically characterized by limerence and therefore subject to the trajectory that limerence sends the affairing partners on. There has been a good amount of research done on the topic, so Beam’s remarks are really quite trustworthy.

Beam describes the three stages of limerence: its beginning stages, in which the affair partners slip into the affair and experience cognitive dissonance; its middle stage, in which the faithful spouse becomes the sworn enemy, as does anyone who would oppose the affair; and the final stage, during which the limerence breaks down and resentment grows between the affair partners. An interesting phenomenon that typically occurs in limerence is that one partner becomes limerent more quickly than does the other; during the first stage, the slower partner pulls away because of guilt and other feelings, only to be pulled back by the other partner who already is fully limerent. In the last stage, the partner who became limerent the fastest also typically falls out of limerence the fastest. Now the roles reverse: the partner who entered limerence more slowly also exits it more slowly and begins to pull the other partner back into the affair.

This characterization of the final phase, it strikes me, is almost certainly where my ex-wife is right now: she was the one who became limerent the fastest, going from cordial formailities to I-love-yous in just a few days. The adulterer, on the other hand, was far more circumspect and did pull away from her several times. I learned this at the time from others who knew what was going on. It seems like it took him a good 4 or 5 months to finally go headfirst into full-fledged limerence. I already know on good authority that the adulterer is a very insecure, controlling, and manipulative person, so it is therefore highly likely that he is pulling out all the stops to keep her there on his property.

“Limerence exists to bring people together, not to keep them together,” Beam says, and this is one of the key take-aways from the podcast. It always ends, and when it does, so does the affair. Sure, one may ask whether it is possible that affair limerence could be replaced by true love once the limerence ends; the answer seems to be, “yes, it’s possible, but highly unlikely.” This is because the seeds of the affair were planted in soil that was thoroughly poisoned by lies, deception, and mistrust. Precious little can survive long-term in that kind of ground.

And that, my friends, is why my coach advised me to wait.

So please do listen to this podcast if your life has been touched in some way by an extra-marital affair. It will truly change your outlook.

May all affairing spouses eyes be opened to the impropriety of their conduct, and may they all immediately return home to reconcile. May all of you find happiness, peace, and love with your spouses once more.