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.


The Grass Is Not Greener

My last post concerned the concept of limerence and the ways in which relationship affairs depend on it. It also concerned the fact that limerence is a physiologically limited condition that simply cannot continue ad infinitum; the body is only capable of producing the euphoric cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters for so long… then it stops. And when it stops, the affair begins to crumble. It is typically only a matter of time until the affair ends.

In most cases, limerence lasts anywhere from three to 36 months; on average, it is said to last from a year and a half to three years. This is why most affairs fall apart by the end of three years. My ex-wife’s affair is now four and a half years old and thus is a statistical outlier. There may be many reasons for this duration, including the fact that, right around the three-year mark, her mother became terminally ill. This understandably could have taken over all other concerns, including what should have been an affair teetering on the brink of collapse. Indeed, I learned of my former mother-in-law’s illness at the beginning of last year, just a short while after it would have been diagnosed. The friend who told me about this said that she felt my ex-wife was in “survival mode,” as she put it.

I have not had much information about what’s going on up there at Camp C-S. (That stands for “Camp Chickensh•t,” for reasons I wrote about some years ago, and yes, it did involve chickens and chicken feces.) Most of what I have heard would seem to paint a picture of a blissfully happy partnership thriving under ideal conditions—even though the actual pictures that sometimes slipped through the leaky walls would show an ex-wife with a vacant stare and an adulterous partner with a vapid, forced smile. There was just something so unnatural to those pictures every time I would come across them, which was not often.

A couple of days ago I came across some other pictures, but these did not directly concern my ex-wife. The pictures were broadcast quite publicly over Facebook and were advertisements for the adulterer’s daughter’s new business. The daughter is a young woman whom I would estimate to be in her late 20s to early 30s. She lives, like her father, out in the hinterlands, albeit in a different state. She has apparently been married for a few years to a man who, like her, purportedly comes from a broken home that was beset with divorce and other issues. So it was a bit curious that this young lady would be starting a business as a personal coach who specializes in relationships.

The pictures—which appeared rather unceremoniously in my browser window—led to her website, which I visited just out of curiosity. It was clear that this business is not more than a few months old and that she does not yet have much of a client base. The descriptions of her services and experience are those of a newbie who is trying to put her best face forward, trumpeting her “successes,” limited though they may be. Only two cases are mentioned, one of which concerned a couple that was on the verge of breaking up. After a consultation with her, that couple decided to get engaged just a few short months later. That kind of success is, in a word, extraordinary.

This piqued my curiosity, and so I looked at a few other pages. Her methodology is not clearly described but what is described seems to focus on a new-age quasi-spiritual approach of somewhat questionable provenance. To her credit, she is credentialed in this approach, even though such credentialing comes from the for-profit concern that its founder created. She appears to teach couples to listen, which is good. But listening alone simply will not fix a broken relationship.

Still curious, I looked at her testimonial page. There were four testimonials in total, three of which come from people closely connected to her: her husband, her father, and my ex-wife. From these last two it became immediately clear that this couple that had been on the verge of breakup—the one whose relationship she “saved”—was none other than her father and my ex-wife.

That told me pretty much all I needed to know.

I felt at once sad for this young lady, because she appears to mean well and to genuinely want to help others. She has been the unwitting victim in all of this, lied to from the very beginning by her father, who ran a fairly elaborate scheme of deception to keep her from finding out who his new “girlfriend” really was when he was trying to pluck her out of her marital home. I do not know if she was ever told the truth about all of this; somehow, I doubt she ever was. Instead, she was probably told some distorted version of the “truth.” And now, she has been led into testing her still-developing coaching skills on a relationship that has virtually no chance of being helped or fixed.

Perhaps that’s why the supposed engagement happened: as a means of sustaining the façade. That, and also as a means of maintaining control. The adulterer is notoriously manipulative; I have direct experience of this manipulativeness. He is probably also trying to keep her in the relationship while the limerence fades. More likely than not, the limerence is already over in my ex-wife’s case, and he is just finding ways to keep her there so that he can hold on to his own limerence, which itself must be rapidly fading. For the past several years, he has had her isolated from friends and colleagues and made her dependent on him for money and transportation . This is not a healthy recipe. Incidentally, in none of the pictures that have surfaced since this supposed engagement does the ex wear any sort of ring. I find that more than a bit curious.

So it seems that it is really true: the grass really is not greener on the other side of the adulterous fence. The wayward gets lured away into a charmed life that turns out not to be so charmed at all. Instead, it turns out to be a relationship that, like any other, has a host of problems. All of the relationship dysfunctions that led to the adulterer’s multiple divorces are almost certainly present, and all of my ex-wife’s relationship dysfunctions that contributed to our marital troubles have also got to be there. Those dysfunctions seem to be very present in recent months, to the extent that they were tearing the two of them apart.

If anything, it seems likely that the daughter’s efforts may have served as a temporary salve to a situation that really cannot and will not heal. There are too many wrongs, too many hurt feelings, too much mistrust, too many lies, too much deception, and too many negative actions. And, if we are to believe what all the experts say about affairs as the limerence dies, there must also be a lot of resentment. The weight of all of this must eventually bring that relationship down.

I have no idea when that will happen, but something makes me feel like it won’t be long.

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.

A Story of True Love and a Humble Request

Imagine a man in his early twenties, young and carefree. He finishes college and goes to live overseas. He returns home after a few years to earn a professional degree and spends another couple of years overseas again along the way. He does not put down roots but seems happy nonetheless.

Now in his early thirties, the young man is in the final year of his degree. He meets a lovely young woman who hails from a land 5000 miles across the sea. They really like each other—the attraction is mutual—but he still has a girlfriend overseas and is trying to get back to her, so nothing happens. Instead, the young woman ends up dating one of his friends.

The young man finishes the degree and shortly thereafter the girlfriend dumps him. The lovely young woman knows he got dumped, but she is now dating his friend. Depressed and unemployed, he toughs it out for a few months and, just before hitting what he think might be rock bottom, lands a job. The job does not pay much and it is a bit out in the hinterlands, but it is a career he loves, so he is content with what he has. The lovely young woman still keeps in touch with him and it soon turns out that she is single. Meanwhile, the young man finally feels ready to put down roots and even entertains the idea of getting married.

He and the lovely young woman are soon together. Theirs is a whirlwind romance and after a few months he realizes that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her—and tells her so. She admits that she feels the same way. A few months after that he asks her to marry him and she accepts. A half a year later, they are married.

Year one begins with the lovely young woman is still finishing her university degree and this obligates their spending that first year of marriage living in separate residences. His home is with her, but he spends a bit more than half the week away, enjoying long weekends together. She finishes enough of her degree requirements that year to be able to move in with him out in the hinterlands.

In year two, they live together in a small house with an enormous yard and a beautiful garden. They have fruit trees and raise all sorts of vegetables. Money is a bit better but it is not plentiful, yet still they are happy. He would regularly come home to all sorts of wonderful surprises she would prepare for him. He loves her dearly, and she him, but neither of them really know how to maintain this marriage they are in. They simply let the love that started their marriage carry them through. They travel abroad to visit her family.

In year three, he fulfills her lifelong wish of owning a dog by buying her exactly the kind of dog she has always wanted. She is over the moon with joy. Again they travel abroad to visit her family. The dog has to stay at home, but is well looked after.

Year four finds our two lovers, husband and wife, facing the apparent reality that love inevitably fades and must transform into something more lasting. They sense this is happening and they feel that their relationship now has to become something more like friends than soulmates. The young man does not feel so young anymore and is tremendously bogged down with work. He begins to withdraw from her emotionally, bit by bit. She stays engaged. Again they travel abroad to visit her family; this time the dog comes along.

In the fifth year, the not-so-young man loses his job as the result of political backstabbing among some of his colleagues. Even so, he makes a trip overseas representing the institution that wants to let him go, and he brings his wife along to visit a place she has never been. However, he is forced into an uncertain job market whose jobless rate officially would hit 9%. With no work in the hinterlands, they spend a lot of savings to moving back to the city. Soon, some sources are reporting the actual jobless rate to be around 26%. He struggles to find work and eventually lands a job that pays far less than his previous one. Nevertheless, they make two further trips overseas: one for her work, and another to visit her family.The lovely young lady has had her youthful optimism slowly drained away and replaced by a more worldly realism. She works to help support the two of them but seems to resent having to do this more and more as the months pass.

In the sixth year, the not-so-young man starts becoming very discouraged, since he feels that the job market will never improve such that he can find better employment. In year six, the marriage starts to unravel, bit by bit. She makes a trip overseas without him because money is tight and he needs to work. Soon after her return, he hears her say to him for the first time that she thinks they should separate. He has seen her have many emotional upsets that have led to other impassioned statements, but never one like this. Those upsets would always blow over and he figured this one would to, and it did. Still, they seem more or less happy as a couple, but looking at their pictures one can see that this not-so-young man looks weary and disappointed with the world. He formally adopts a spiritual path that actually brings him some encouragement.

However, his wife adopts her own spiritual path, which she soon feels to be different from his and perhaps even a source of incompatibility. Nevertheless, the borderline-middle-age man encourages her to truly explore that path and fully supports her in so doing. They visit a shrine connected with her homeland—one they had gone to the preceding year for a new year’s ceremony—and return there several more times over the coming year.

In year seven, the more-worldly-yet-still-lovely woman suggests they move to her country. The borderline-middle-age man agrees without reservation. The woman’s mother sends them information about the possiblity of their both getting jobs at the same institution in a city not far from her childhood home in which her parents still reside. The borderline-middle-age man completes his application but discovers his wife has given up on hers when she realizes there would be complications in bringing along the dog. He tells her not to worry, but tears stream from her eyes when she says that she looked at the dog’s face and realized she just could not leave her behind.

A few months later, the borderline-middle-age man has an interview for a job in another state. Things have become difficult with the more-worldly-yet-still-lovely woman and she states that she would not go with him if he were to get the job. This struck him as rather unexpected but in retrospect seems to be the consequence of their ongoing emotional disconnection. He feels relieved not to get the job, even if it means facing continued discontent with the still-depressed work market.

A couple of months later, they attend a cultural festival at a nearby community college. Representatives from the wife’s homeland shrine are there to perform a ceremony. They are both asked to participate. At a small reception thereafter, they mingle, but separately. She has a conversation with a tall, somewhat-over-the-hill man who looks at her with a rather unholy glint in his eye. The borderline-middle-age man notes this but thinks nothing untoward of it because he trusts his wife. She is worldly, after all.

One month later finds the worldly-but-still-lovely woman contending with a totally unrealistic workload she has assented to—a workload that nearly breaks her both physically and emotionally. They visit the shrine once again and she disappears. He learns later that she went looking for the somewhat-over-the-hill man whom she had met the previous month and with whom she had become Facebook “friends” in the intervening time. Borderline-middle-age man remembers this “friendship” occurring, but thought nothing of it at the time, because she is worldly, after all.

Five days later, the worldly-but-still-lovely woman erupts at him quite unexpectedly. He figures she is under tremendous stress and that it will soon pass, but this eruption is different than anything he had ever seen. She implores him to move out within six weeks. She stops sleeping in the marital bed. He soon would learn that she had commenced regular contact with somewhat-over-the-hill man via Facebook, which she now began to use more frequently and secretively. Borderline-middle-age man begins to feel middle-aged and is facing the reality for the first time in his life that his marriage is in real trouble. He searches for guidance and finds a book that makes a very compelling argument about staying together and working things out. He introduces this to her and she is uninterested. Nevertheless, he orders some support materials that are supposed to help in cases just like his.

At the end of that month, the worldly-but-still-lovely woman goes out for the day and says she might not return; ostensibly she is going to a party and will spend the night with friends. Something about this feels very wrong to middle-aged man. He does not sleep that night. Worldly-but-still-lovely woman returns the next morning looking somewhat ragged and in an odd emotional state.

That night, they have a long, emotional chat and middle-aged man begins to think that maybe things are turning for the better. The next day they spend in the yard, cleaning up the garden. Middle aged-man feels great; his two weeks of horrendous stress from the marital discord seem to be gone. Nevertheless, when he suggests a rather normal partnership situation to his wife, she refuses to consider it. He takes her to a rehearsal and cooks her a nice meal. For some reason, while she’s gone, he discovers that she left her computer on with her Facebook account logged in. There in plain view is evidence that she has been having an affair with somewhat-over-the-hill man.

The details that follow are chronicled in the pages of posts that precede the post you are currently reading. However, I will summarize them here.

Year seven ends with middle-aged man spending his anniversary and the holidays alone; his wife chooses to be with somewhat-over-the-hill man.

Year eight begins and up-and-down reconciliation process that shows much promise and improvement, even though she moves out early in that year, presumably to go live with somewhat-over-the-hill man—a fact that is later confirmed. Things turn south toward the end of the year and she begins to withdraw contact and disappear from his life. This year also ends with middle-aged man flying solo for the holidays and his anniversary.

Year nine sees an apparent turnaround when his wife chats with him on the phone for an hour. The conversation is genuine and cordial, and ends with her saying, “let’s talk again.” Therefore, middle-aged man is quite blindsided when he learns that only nine days later she has filed for divorce. Things become very acrimonious as he continues to stand for his marriage; she is apparently under tremendous pressure from somewhat-over-the-hill man to be done with him once and for all.

Year ten sees things get worse still, and after a few months the divorce is finalized amidst and atmosphere of utter hostility and contempt that appears to be driven completely by the behind-the-scenes workings of somewhat-over-the-hill man. The fact that the whole situation does not spiral into all-out legal chaos is attributable to a mutual friend—a former neighbor from the days out in the hinterlands—who negotiated a deal that kept the hostility from her side at bay. He does not see wordly-but-still-lovely woman again.

Year eleven begins with news from that same mutual friend; she has just seen wordly-but-still-lovely woman, who reported that her mother had stage-IV cancer. Middle-aged man is heartbroken at the news because he knows he can do nothing to help. The year ends with no further news or contact from worldly-but-still-lovely woman, although he does hear through the grapevine that her mother passed away.

Year twelve begins much like the other recent years; the holidays were passed with family, but without the presence of wordly-but-still-lovely woman. The mutual friend contacts him again and invites him over for dinner; he suspects maybe that this friend has some sort of news to report about wordly-but-still-lovely woman. He remembers her promise of twelve years previous that they would spend their lives together. He remembers their wedding vows spoken at the end of that same year, and reflects on the relative meaninglessness of that now-vacant anniversary date. He has been including her in his aspirations and prayers and somehow even reamined hopeful she might awaken from her path of wrongdoing sometime soon.

Year twelve is only seventeen days old as I write this, dear reader. Some of you have followed this blog for years, while others may be visiting for the first time. I learned yesterday, on the sixteenth day of this year, that my wordly-but-forever-lovely woman is engaged to now-over-the-hill man.

This news was unsolicited and caught me unprepared. It felt and still feels like another betrayal, even though I have not seen her now for nearly two years. Her absence does not erase the memories that flood to the fore of my mind whenever I hear a certain song, smell a certain aroma, or am in a certain place that unwittingly reminds me of her.

I suppose I have been feeling as the days pass that the door for my wordly-but-forever-lovely woman to reenter my life was slowly closing. Nevertheless, I have felt truly responsible to her. It is hard to describe why; in a quick-fix society that has little patience for the protracted nature of marital crises, few understand why anyone would stand for his marriage instead of just “kicking the wayward spouse to the curb“ and ending it once and for all. Yet my months and years of standing for this marriage attuned me more and more to the solemn but joyful vows I uttered just over twelve years ago, and to the sacredness of the promise those vows contained.

I do not know where things stand at this point; my mind is still reeling and my heart is still wounded over this latest news. I am mindful of what this news might mean but at the same time am also aware of what the statistics say: only 3% of affairs end in marriage and those fail at the rate of 75%. Over-the-hill man purportedly already has three marriages under his belt; the failure rate of fourth marriages was recently reported at 93%; moreover, marriages beginning in adultery fail at a rate 15% higher than other marriages within the first three years and 25% higher within five years. If those statistics are anywhere near being true, then there is little hope for either of them sustaining any so-called union.

I pray for both of their sake that this house of cards they built implodes before they can get married, because their attempt to consecrate an illegitimate relationship would bring further dose of horrible karma upon both of them. The question now is where I’ll be when this house of cards finally implodes.

This blog has been my outlet and at times my therapist. I have posted freely here through it all because I felt that others might benefit in some way from my relating my experiences. Many have contacted me privately to offer support and even to say that my words have helped them; to them I am grateful for their sincere conmments. I have even privately endured scorn or ridicule from some who felt my actions were ill-advised; to them I did not react, because I do feel that each can and should be afforded his or her position, even and especially if they do not coincide with mine. I would much rather treat them with respect they feel they deserve as fellow beings walking on this planet.

I may shut down this blog, dear reader, sometime in the near future. I am really not sure if and when I might do it, but for the first time in four years closing this blog seems like a reality. I had always thought my final post would be one of joy and happiness in which I report of my still-ever-so-lovely woman’s sudden return. Perhaps that may still be true.

Tonight, however, I would just like to conclude with a simple, humble request. Please remember me in your prayers, and please remember my still-ever-so-lovely woman as well. Please pray that she will see the fog lifted from her eyes and that she will finally leave her path of sorrow and wrongdoing now, before it is too late. The world has enough of suffering without her injecting more of it upon herself and others. And, if you will indulge me, I would like to end with a simple aspiration that I say and ponder often:

May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the root of suffering.
May they not be separated from the happiness devoid of suffering.
May they dwell in the great equanimity, free from passion, agression, and prejudice.


Long time…

It has been nearly 10 months since my last post, and I have had quite a few emails and comments asking for an update. So, I guess I should put one out there right now for those of you who have followed this blog, as well as for those of you who are new or perhaps arriving here for the first time. (That is, if you typed “obstinate spouse” into google, you will still see this blog in the top five hits.) So, here we go.

As I wrote about nearly two years ago, I was served with a divorce petition on April 4, 2013. I fought like hell against that litigation and even had the trial date postponed. In the end, however, the legal system won and a court commissioner — not a judge, but a frail, elderly woman whose job it is to sign off on these things — “dissolved” my marriage on the morning of March 25, 2014. It was one of the most absurd experiences of my entire life and a testament to just how little value this society seems to place on marriage.

The situation was quite acrimonious at the end, and I was obliged to hire a lawyer to fend of some of the crap that the adulterer was trying to throw at me via my (now ex-)wife. I simply was not in the mood for messing around anymore. In the end, I had to agree to a voluntary no-contact agreement, since the adulterer simply felt too threatened by the prospect the I might have any contact with the now-ex whatsoever. My attorney was very shrewd and kept this separate from the divorce litigation, framing it as a voluntary contract that was never filed with the courts.

I walked out of the courthouse around 9:00 a.m. that morning and have not seen or heard from my ex-wife since. In the interim, it seems that the shit has begun to hit the fan in her life from multiple directions.

An old friend contacted me just after Christmas and asked me if I would like to have dinner with her husband at their place. This friend actually did some critical behind-the-scenes negotiation that prevented the final stages of the divorce from getting far worse. She has known the two of us—my ex-wife and me—for over ten years. Because of the profession from which she retired, she is a very keen observer and sizes people up very accurately and very quickly. It seems like, whenever she and I meet—which has been only twice in the past year—my ex-wife has been in contact with her only days before.

Such was the case last Friday when I went over to this friend’s house. She told me that my ex-wife had contacted her only two days before and that a crisis, or rather multiple crises, seemed to be brewing in her life. She first told me that my ex approached her to seek help in editing her doctoral dissertation. She similarly approached this friend for that kind of help over a year ago, in December 2013, and the friend sized up the situation and told her, “if you ever need a place to stay, you are welcome to stay here for as long as you want.” She also told me that she did not know why she said that to my ex, except that she just had a gut feeling that she should because something seemed not right in her life. In the interim, the ex has done nothing insofar as her dissertation is concerned and did not contact the friend again for help.

That is, until last week, when she suddenly materialized again. Help with the dissertation was the ostensible reason for that communication—and we’ll get to that soon enough here. However, it seems she had a more pressing reason to contact this friend. She told her that she had recently been overseas to see her family and that her mother had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Her mother was refusing conventional treatment in favor of some sort of herbal remedies or something of that nature. The friend further said that it seems like the ex was in denial about the whole thing, and that it is likely that her family is in denial as well. I do not know anything more about this, i.e. what type of cancer it is, the extent of the metastasis, what her prognosis is, and so forth. However, when I heard this news, it was truly crushing, especially since I am unable to reach out to her or her family at this time.

The friend then told me that the ex was possibly seeking a new dissertation advisor and that she might not be given any further leaves of absence. If this is true, I have seen this situation coming for years now; at some point her advisor was going to either get tired of her lack of effort, or would come under some scrutiny for having a student who has now exceeded the allowable time limit by three years. I do not know exactly what happened, but it seems like she is under a lot of pressure. Moreover, she has also changed her thesis to an entirely new topic, the content of which to me seems somewhat odd. The friend is not expert or even really knowledgeable about any of the topic material (although I am knowledgeable if not expert in both areas she wants to explore) and further does not really know the extent or scope of the work that she would have to do in “editing” this dissertation. The ex needs more than an editor; she needs someone to be assisting her at all stages: conceptualization/topic-framing, structure, research, writing, editing, submission, and revision. Moreover, all of this needs to be done and completed in the next 16 weeks. That is a truly Herculean task that, if I were with her every single day for the next 16 weeks, we perhaps could pull off; I’d give it 50/50 odds. However, with this friend’s intermittent guidance that would happen once a week at best, I’d say the likelihood of her completing this project on deadline is, at best, about 10%.

Moreover, if she is not able to secure a leave of absence—and it sounds like that leave might not be granted—then she will have to come up with nearly $2000 in tuition fees within the next two weeks or so. The friend told me that both the adulterer and the ex are hurting for money right now; I am not sure how she knows this, but it is likely that the seasonal nature of his work and whatever cash outlays he may have made (e.g. for plane tickets abroad for her) plus the meager earnings she brings in are really stretching their finances thin.

In short, she could be facing the complete implosion of her situation. She might be able to forestall it a bit, but given the weight and severity of everything that is occurring in her life right now, it seems unlikely that that implosion could be too far off in the distance.

Anyway, dear readers, I only have one simple request, should you be willing to grant it, and that is for prayers. If you care to make prayers or positive aspirations for my ex-mother-in-law’s improved health and recovery, that would be greatly welcomed. Moreover, any prayers you might wish to do for the ex and the other members of her family would be welcome as well.

As for me, I already am praying for all of them, and further making the aspiration that she see the light of day before it all is too late, while I still can provide a soft landing spot for her when the whole situation crumbles. I don’t know how much longer I can leave the door open to that possibility, but as of this writing, I have not needed to shut it yet, since it really requires no effort to keep it open.

Message from the Universe

This is my first post in a long, long time. I apologize to all my readers who frequented this blog in the past. I was simply because I was too busy to write, had nothing to say, or did not want to say anything.

The last few months have been filled with ups and downs of all kinds. Recently, the ups and downs have been so abundant that they have occurred in rapid succession—even simultaneously. One such situation happened today, and I thought I should share it.

I recently began asking for signs about various things in life; I don’t need to get into all that nor to get too metaphysical, but let’s just say I put the request “out there” for the universe (or God, or  guardian spirits, or whatever you want to call it/them) for signs about how to understand or work with certain kinds of situations. The results have been interesting.

Today, I was downtown and quite preoccupied by my thoughts and some of the tasks I was going to have to achieve, then and in the near future. Frankly, some of these tasks had me rather unsettled. On my way downtown, I just asked for a “clear and unambiguous sign” about how I should deal with one of these situations in particular; I had noticed that, when I asked for signs, often they would be signs: street signs, traffic signs, business signs, and the like. I just asked that I would get a sign that would be different, yet unambiguously clear.

I parked my car downtown in an area that is sort of “transitional;” there is a mission for the homeless nearby and those who are in need of this mission can often be found milling around this area. Some are people who are just down on their luck, others have drug or other dependency issues, while still others have mental health problems. The area is also home to some high-end art galleries and other shops that attract tourists, and then there are coffee shops serving nearby corporate offices, so one never knows the kind of people one might encounter there.

I walked over to the kiosk that vends parking permits—this was parking on the street, not in a lot, so I was lucky even to find a space— and an older African American man caught my attention out of the corner of my eye; he appeared to be in his 50s or 60s and was walking behind me toward the convenience store. I guess I had not given him much thought, except to notice that, as he was walking toward the store, he chose to divert his path so that he got closer to me.

As I am paying for the parking permit, I suddenly hear him say the following:

“Hey there, son, you only get this one lifetime to live, so you better enjoy it.”

I guess I was a bit startled; I mean, that was the last thing I had expected to hear from anyone, anywhere. I turned around and he just smiled; I gave him the thumbs up and said, “got it.” He just kept walking right into the convenience store as if nothing special had happened.

What that man did was to touch my soul in a way that no other person on earth possibly could have. He delivered the deepest and most meaningful gift that I have received a very long time. It was just a simple and honest comment that requested absolutely nothing in return, but sent the simple yet powerful message: This is it, your life. There is nothing more to your life than this very moment, and you do not know how many more moments you’re going to get. Therefore, the most important thing you can do in this life is to live it fully and to enjoy every moment—the good ones and the bad, the happy ones and the painful—to the greatest extent possible.

I wish I knew who that man was and that I could thank him for that gift. Maybe he’d think I’m nuts, or maybe he’d just smile and nod. One thing is for sure: he had tremendous wisdom that he expressed right there in that brief, passing moment.

Moving Forward with Marriage, One Step at a Time.

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