“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.