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.


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.

Moving Forward with Marriage, One Step at a Time.

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