Wondering how to overcome an emotional affair? Let’s talk about two sides of basically the same coin. On one side, we’ll put the spouse who is having an affair. It may be emotional, or it may be sexual, or it may be a combination of both emotions and sex. On the other side, we’re going to put the spouse not involved in the affair, the one who is being cheated on, if you will. If you look at either side, some are saying how in the world can we get past this?
Yes, that’s right. Sometimes the person in the affair is saying, how can I get over this? How can I stop it? And often, the spouse who wants to save the marriage says, how can we get past this? How can things change? Well, there are some ways to do that. We’ll talk about them in this episode of relationship radio.
Hi, I’m Dr. Joe Beam with MH International. Typically on this program, I’m joined by Kimberly Holmes, our great leader. She’s an amazing leader who works with us. She is not in this particular episode that I’m recording right now because as I record this, she’s off working on her Ph.D. That’s right. She’s working on her doctorate so she can even be more effective in helping people. That’s what she wants to do, and that’s what we’re all about at MH International.
Now we’ve been talking about emotional affairs for the previous two episodes of relationship radio. So if you have not heard those, may I recommend that you might want to stop this one right here and go back and listen to the previous two. In the first one, I talk about the difference between an emotional affair and a sexual affair and how there are sometimes emotional affairs that are not sexual and occasionally sexual affairs that are not emotional. And then sometimes a combination of the two, which means an affair that’s both emotional and sexual.
And through those two episodes, we talked about the stages that people go through when they get involved in an affair, even an emotional affair if they go through certain stages. I didn’t go through all the stages of what happens if a person is involved in a sexual affair because those stages can be different, but this is a series about emotional affairs. And so, if you’ll go back and check out those previous two episodes, I think you’ll find some excellent information there.
Now, as I start talking about it in this one, how can you overcome the emotions of an affair? Understand that it might be a little bit redundant. We’ve discussed some of the points in the other two episodes, but hopefully, I can elaborate more, so they make sense to you.
You can’t change emotions just by sheer willpower.
I realized that sometimes you might be praying if you’re a religious person. God, my spouse, is involved with somebody else. Change his heart, change her heart, make them different, make all that emotion go away. And you may have become very disappointed if you’re that religious person in the sense that you prayed and prayed, and it doesn’t happen. Maybe you’re the spouse who’s involved in an affair, sexual, emotional, or both, and you’ve been praying. Lord, I know this is wrong. Please somehow do something inside of me to take this emotion away from me.
And now you’re doubting prayer because even though you beg God, if you’re that religious person, to make these things change within you, they haven’t changed, or at least not noticeably. And you’re thinking, well, maybe this prayer stuff doesn’t work. But if you think that somehow God’s going to make that happen, if you’re a religious person, I’m going to tell you right now that typically that’s not how that occurs.
Now, I have a Bachelor’s degree in bible studies, quite a bit toward the master’s degree in bible studies before I changed gears several years ago. And so if you wanted to talk about it theologically, I could, and we could have a fascinating conversation, but that’s not what we do here. Here we use the social sciences. And in the social sciences, I’m going to tell you that no one else, including God, if you believe he exists, is going to step in and rip those emotions out and change them like that.
So you might be thinking, okay, well, I’ve read these positive thinking books. And if I think positively enough, things will happen. I mean, I love those old books like The Magic of Thinking Big, The Magic of Believing, all of those kinds of things that I read when I was a much younger man that I still to this day think have some very powerful principles. And so if you’re thinking, if I think hard enough that somehow it’s going to make my husband quit loving her and love me, my wife will quit being involved with him and want to be with me. So if I think positively enough, I can make that happen; lots of luck.
Or if it’s like, wait a minute. But I’m doing the same kind of thing. I’m trying to think positively and change these things out. And I keep telling myself, you don’t have an emotional connection with her. You don’t want to have sex with him again. And then if I mess up going right back again and again and again. Welcome to the human race, and understand that you’re not going to fix this just by willpower and trying to make it disappear.
But there’s some good news in this.
Time changes emotions. Now, if you doubt that, try and think back into your childhood. If you had a good relationship with your mom or dad or both, what you felt about them when you were three if you could access that somehow and try to remember it, was love, and it was an intense love on a three-year-old level. And what you thought about them at 13 was much different than that. It’s still love, but it has many other things and nuances that weren’t occurring at three that do happen at 13.
And if you’re 33 and you love your parents, even now, it’s different than when you were 13, because emotions change with time. And you might be thinking, okay, Dr. Beam, but it’s still love. That’s right. But the intensity of that, how it expresses itself, and how it feels inside you changes.
And if you’re involved with somebody else emotionally right now, or sexually, for that matter, if you’re having an emotional affair or sexual affair with another human being, then there are all kinds of emotions inside of you that are driving that. So it’s not just a desire for sex. Other things happen inside your mind, leading you to be almost obsessed with that other person.
Now we have videos you can see more about that. And if you go to our YouTube channel, you’ll find hundreds of videos we have on that site that are all free for you. Some talk about the intensity of emotions that happen in affairs. Particularly look for ones that have the word limerence. And you can find a lot more information there. But understand that the intensity of that emotion is going to change.
Even if you’re listening to this thinking, but you don’t understand Dr. Beam, I am so madly in love with this other person. And I’m always going to feel this way about them. I’m sure you think so, and I’m sure you believe it with all your heart right now. But who do you know has that same intensity level with a person they fell madly in love with now that five years have passed? Well, they still love each other. But what about the intensity of that emotion? Do you think it’s the same after five years, or do you think it’s modified into some other things? What about ten years, 15, 20, 25, 30 years?
Now, I’ve been married to my wife at the time of this recording for over 50 years. Give or take three. And in that time, do I love her? Yes. Is that the same kind of emotion I felt when we were 18 when we met each other? No, it changes with time. And so understand that feelings change with time. And so, the intensity of what you’re feeling toward the other person will evolve with time. Or if you’re worried about what your spouse feels toward the other person, my husband’s madly in love with her, or my wife’s madly in love with him, it’s not always going to be that way.
Emotions will change. And if they’re right now so powerful that they’re leading you to think I can’t stop, I can’t do this. I mean, I’m like a slave to my own emotions inside of me. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not do so. That is going to change.
Now, there are all kinds of research about that out there in the social sciences. But I’m just telling you to look around. Just look at the people in your world, in your life, that you know that those emotions evolve into something else. And not always evolve; sometimes they devolve into something else. And so whatever your spouse is feeling towards somebody else right now is not going to be the same thing they feel three years from now, particularly not five years from now. And whatever you feel toward another person right now is not the same thing you will feel three or five years from now. So time does change emotions.
And that’s why people often look back on something they wanted with all of their heart that they gave up everything to have. Whether that’s an occupation they wanted to have, some goal they wanted to achieve, or some person that they wanted in their life that years later they’d look and see all the damage and harm they did to the other people in their world to get what it was they wanted. And now they don’t have the same intensity of desire toward that thing that they once did.
I’ve known many extremely wealthy people in my lifetime who, when they were younger, it was all they could think about; I crave making more money. Now the ones I know still made money when they were older, but they saw money differently. It was no longer the same thing to them anymore. It’s like, once you get it, once you get used to it, you don’t feel the same way about it anymore. You feel differently. And that happens in human relationships as well, either evolving or devolving.
And when it devolves, actually sometimes even when it evolves, you look back and see what you did to yourself, what you gave up that was important to you, the damage you did to people you care about by making those decisions. Do you not understand that when you do that, not only do you regret the pain that you caused, that you damage other people, that you look at them and think, well, at one point, I felt that being with you was worth whatever damage I did to myself or anybody else. But now I believe you share in my guilt. You share in the hurt that I feel for the damage that I’ve caused.
Now, am I guaranteeing what you’re going to feel five years from now? Obviously not.
I’m not going to be like those charlatans and frauds on the internet who think that they know everything and can tell you precisely what to say, what to think, what to feel, and exactly what’s going to happen in five years from tonight. No, I’m not going to do that, but I’m telling you that I’ve been working with marriages since 1994. Now, at the time I’m making this recording, it is 2021. So that’s a whole lot of years, about two and a half decades, that I’ve worked with marriages.
And even last year, for example, we at MH International had 10,000 couples involved in some of our programs, either live programs or online programs or, et cetera, over 10,000. And more than a quarter of a million people have been to courses, workshops, and seminars that I’ve written and developed. No, I haven’t met all of them, but we’ve had enough exposure to enough people over a long enough period of time that we have some understanding as to what people are going to do.
And while I can not make the exact prediction for you or your spouse, I’m telling you that human nature’s pretty consistent. And we have seen things happen so many times to so many people. Sometimes it hurts to see what people are doing because, you know, based on all the experience we have with all these people, this thing that’s so important to you now that you’re willing to sacrifice everything for, you’re going to regret doing it down the road. And it hurts in advance to know in all likelihood where they’re headed.
I hope that you take from this not that I’m trying to discourage you but that I’m trying to give you hope. Hope that if you do want to somehow stop the emotions, you’re feeling toward another person so you can stop having the emotional or sexual affair, that it can and will happen with time. Or that my spouse is involved with this other person, either an emotional or sexual affair, and I’m hoping they get past that so we can put our marriage back together.
I’m telling you that those things are going to change with time. So I’m trying to give you hope that when you look at your situation, you think it’s not hopeless. You don’t say I have no control over myself and what I feel. It’s hopeless, and I have no control over my spouse or what they feel. So the hope is not in control; the hope is in understanding human nature and that people continue to change.
Now, understand that people can change in the wrong direction.
And so you might be thinking, oh my goodness, so I could do even more things to hurt other people over time? Yeah, you could evolve or devolve that way. Or my spouse may wind up doing worse things, causing more pain to me than they are causing now? Yeah, that’s a possibility here. Time will change it, but time doesn’t always make it change in a good direction. So what does?
We’ve already said you can’t fix it by using willpower. We’ve already said that time will change things, but what you do determines how time changes things—the things that you do that are positive and the things that you don’t do. I can’t do that, or I better not do that. I better not do that. And so, the actions you take, the behaviors you put into your life working with time, first of all, speeds the time process up. Doing or not doing the right things; don’t do these, do these, doing that the way you should speed up the time factor. And it also determines which direction you go. Will it get better? How does it get worse?
So maybe I can explain that a little bit better by answering a few questions that have come in. “How can I come out of an emotional affair with my coworker who’s having a relationship with another coworker? He kept on telling me lies that he loved me more. I feel I have no one who loves me. I see both of these coworkers daily at my workplace, and I still love him.”
So here we have a young lady who wants to stop her feelings toward this guy because this guy is hurting her. Now, she didn’t state whether she was married or not. But I’m going to assume that she is because typically, that’s when people come to us and ask these kinds of questions. But she’s involved with this guy who’s also involved with somebody else. Now notice what he does. According to what she said, he says that he loves her more than the other person, yet all three of these people work at the same place.
So he is interacting with the woman asking the question, he’s also interacting with the other woman, and she’s watching this and saying, it hurts. So I think he’s lying to me when he says he loves me more because if he loves me, how can he be involved with her? And I want to stop feeling this way for him. So how do I overcome this emotional affair because I still love him?
I understand the pain that she feels. Remember, we’ve already talked about the fact that you can’t just will those emotions to go away. And also, if you’re paying attention to the questions she asks, you understand that when you pit logic against emotions, emotions will win. So if you look at this logically, she works there, knowing the guy is lying to her. She said he tells me he loves me more, but I’m watching him with this other woman. So I know that’s not true. And as she watches these two people interact with each other, it’s causing her a tremendous amount of pain.
And logic would say, well, I’m in a painful situation. I’m being used. Yes, I’m interpreting that. But I infer that she’s being used because he continues to tell her that he loves her more. And that’s somehow keeping her connected with him, which implies that the two of them have a connection other than just seeing each other at work. They’re having some kind of a share where they spend time with each other, where they talk, those kinds of things. Or, they’re also having some sexual interaction with each other. But she calls it an emotional affair, not a sexual affair. And so maybe I’m wrong by interpreting that might be part of it.
But I’m just saying that we look at this and know that this woman was being used, at least emotionally, also possibly sexually. And all the logic in the world would say, run, this guy is using you. You’re going to continue to hurt as long as you stay there. But those emotions are so powerful. I mean, unbelievably powerful. And so here she is saying, I still love him despite all that. She knows she’s being used. I still love him despite all that. How?
How can I overcome this?
Well, we talked about the fact that time will eventually change those emotions. But also, we talked about the fact that there are certain things you should do and certain things that you should not do. And not only will that help that time factor go faster, meaning you could get over it quicker than you would otherwise, but it also can lead you in a better direction. And so what is it then that I would recommend that she would do or not do?
It may sound kind of ridiculous when I start talking about it because you’re going to think, boy, people don’t do these kinds of things, do they? But the first recommendation I would have is that she should quit that job. Why? Well, because he and the other woman are there. Because she’s watching that interaction, and that’s the way he continues to have some emotional control over her. You say, but maybe she was there first. Could be. Perhaps she’s making a lot of money there, and she won’t be able to replicate all that if she gets another job. Could be. There could be a lot of reasons that she would lose in some fashion if she leaves that job.
But the question comes down to what’s the healthiest thing for her? Is the most beneficial thing for her to continue to be in torment? I’m going to assume that she’s probably not sleeping very well because she worries about this. It’s probably affecting her eating, in one way or the other, because she’s concerned about this. I’m assuming all kinds of negative things, just based on how much experience we have with other people and watching what they do and how they act.
There’s nothing in this that’s good for this woman. And if indeed she’s married, can you imagine the terrible effect it’s having on a relationship with her husband? Well, is it worth giving up some money to get past all that and to start finding some healing inside? In my opinion, it is. Is it worth losing some seniority? Is it worth maybe having to drive another 30 minutes to work further than what you do now? In my opinion, yes.
Now, she has to make her decisions, but I would recommend leaving. And if you leave so that you don’t have contact with him anymore, the next thing I would say is to block him on your phone and Facebook account. You block him from your email. You don’t let this guy have any contact with you at all. Because if you talk to him, if you continue to communicate with him whatsoever, it’s going to keep that flame inside you that you feel is love. There are some things you can do here, but they won’t be easy, but they require you to make a decision. No matter what you feel, decide what’s best even if you want something different, because what she wants is him. Make that decision and then do those things.
You’re saying, have you told people that you think they should leave their work? I’ve helped people do it. Now, it’s their decision. They decide. I don’t make their decisions for them. But have I recommended it? Yes. Have I helped people find other jobs? Actually, I have.
Back when I was not quite as busy as I am now, but actually, I have. Why? It’s incredible how much it helped them once they got away from the other person and began to build their lives differently. How that not only did they become much happier, more fulfilled people, but in their marriages, they became stronger and more in love with each other. So that would be my recommendation to her. Understand you’re not going to get it by willpower. That time will help, but you need to help time by certain things you do and don’t do.
We have another question.
Let’s look at it. “My wife has been in a limerent affair for three months, but loves and wants to be with me. How can I encourage her to end it without pushing? She’s transparent, and our relationship is amazing otherwise. She was relieved to learn about limerence, but she wants it to end before ending the affair.”
Let me congratulate you on the fact that your wife is being open and transparent. That is good. The fact that she has somehow learned about limerence is a little risky there. We typically don’t recommend people trying to teach their spouse about limerence. Sometimes the limerence is so intense and strong that when you teach them about it, they throw out all that information and decide that none of that could ever be true.
In your case, it worked better. Your wife learned about limerence; there’s a name for what she’s feeling. There’s a process. I’m not the only one to go through this. So good for her that she was open and good for you and the marriage that she let that influence her. But part of the reason that that worked positively is that you say she’s been in the affair for only about three months. In other words, if it is limerence, and even she thinks it is, then it’s going to get stronger with time if she continues to have interactions with that guy.
The fact that it’s still relatively new is probably why when she saw that, she thought, oh, that’s me. Now I understand it. Thank you. Even though she knows what it is and that it’s going to end, if she has studied limerence, even though she loves you and wants to be with you, she says she still wants to be with this guy until the limerence goes away. Why would she desire that? She’ll desire that because it just feels so amazing.
If you’ve listened to any of our stuff about limerence, you’ll understand that some brain chemicals affect limerence. One of which is called dopamine. When they feel that the limerent object, the person they’re madly in love with, when they think that person is reciprocating with them, dopamine floods their brain, and they get an amazing high. I have been in limerence before. Many, many years ago, I left my wife for a woman I was in limerence with. I was going to marry her and live happily ever after, but it fell apart.
As it always, at some point, will fall apart. And after three years of being away from my wife, when I asked her if she would take me back and marry me again, amazingly, she did. Even though she was already moving on with her life, dating somebody else, she decided she’d take me back anyway. And so I don’t just know limerence from reading about it in books. I don’t know limerence from watching other people go through it. I know limerence because I lived through it.
And so I understand when she’s saying I want to end the affair because I love you, I want to be with you, but I’m going to stay in this until this emotion goes away. Not logical, but certainly understanding emotionally. But young man, whoever the husband is that called this question in, if you think about it, if she doesn’t end the affair now, the limerence will get stronger. When it gets stronger, she’s going to stop being open and transparent with you. And when that happens, she’s going to become more emotionally connected and dependent upon him.
Now, I’m not saying that you should try to make her do anything because when you try to force people to do things, it almost always turns out badly. People want to make their own decisions. But since you are having these open and transparent conversations, this is when you might want to speak to her about, if you stay in this, based on what we can read and learn about limerence, where do you think it’s headed? Where do you think it’s going? And how do you think that’s going to affect you?
Because I know you still love me now and still want to be with me. But if you let this continue to develop, at some point, you’re going to only want to be with him, and there will be no more us at that point in your mind. It’ll be only about him. So now, while you still love me and care about the marriage, let’s do something to get past it.
And so, this is what I’d recommend.
Now, it will sound like a commercial, and for that, I’m very sorry. But what I recommend to you is this. Please ask your wife, and hopefully, she’ll agree, and then come to one of our intensive three-day workshops for marriages in trouble. You can do it online, which is the less expensive way. You don’t have all that airfare, hotel, and all those kinds of things. And the online version, in my opinion, is just as good as the in-person version.
So you can do it online from wherever you live and save a lot of money that way. Or come to the in-person workshop; we have those as well. Based on whatever’s happening with the pandemic at the time, how many people we could have in there, based on CDC guidelines, could change.
But I believe that if the two of you were to come through our intensive three-day workshop, you’re both going to get help. And that in that, your wife can finally find the path forward to do the things that she will not want to do because her emotions are leading her toward him, but to do the things that are the right things to do, and stop doing the things that she shouldn’t be doing, where you guys can rescue this marriage. It is not an instant fix, but it is starting on the right pathway.
Remember, time has to be involved, but the time now works in your favor because there are certain things you know to do, and you do those. Certain things you know not to do, and you don’t do those. And this then becomes rescuable and where you can be even deeper in love with each other in the future than you are now.
Now, if you say, I want to try something else, you certainly have that right. You can do whatever you wish to do. If you decide to try marriage counseling, be very careful to find a pro-marriage marriage counselor. And if we can help you, you can call our toll-free number that’s on the screen right now, and our client representatives will help you get enrolled in this workshop. What I’m trying to tell you is this. She has some vulnerabilities we’ve talked about in previous parts of this three-part episode on emotional affairs.
She has developed a strong emotional connection with him, and that willpower will not get her out of it. You’re wishing her out of it won’t get her out of it either, but time will, but you need to use that time wisely. Don’t let it pass, thinking things are going to be okay. Do the right things now, and you can turn your life around together and make it extraordinary.
Well, typically, Kimberly Holmes is with me, and she does the recap here. And actually, I think I just gave the takeaway just then myself in answering that question. But three takeaways I want you to remember from this particular episode: you won’t be able to will away the deep emotions you feel toward another person or the deep emotions that your spouse feels about another person. Time always changes emotions, but time might lead you in the wrong direction instead of the right direction.
Time may make it worse. Even as the emotions change, time may make it worse, so do the right things. Start doing the things you need to do and stopping the things you need to stop. And not only then will it make the process of time healing take less time, but also develop the relationship between the two of you that can work.
Now, if you still have more questions about this, may I recommend you go back and listen to the previous two episodes about emotional affairs? Because in those you’ll find more information. And remember, all you have to do is call us. There’s a toll-free number on your screen right now. And our client representatives, they’re not therapists, they’re not counselors, but they understand what we do, and they understand the principles we teach. So they will listen to your particular situation and then guide you to the best resource we have for you. Some of them are free, some of them you pay for, but they will guide you to the best resource for you.
Now, sometimes when people listen to these things because we’re so frank and so honest about the bad side of things, people are like, oh man, you give me hope, then you take it away. Then you give it back to me, and you take it away. That’s because we’re going to deal with reality. We’re never going to tell you things to make you feel better. We’ll let you know the truth. We’ll always tell you the truth, even when the truth hurts. But I understand that sometimes that can be discouraging.
But I want to help give you hope because we have seen marriages that everybody had given up end in success. The counselor had said, you guys need to divorce. Their family and friends were saying you can’t possibly stay together. We have witnessed so many of those over the decades where it seemed impossible, but they’re happily married to each other now. So please know there’s hope. And in the next episode of Relationship Radio, we’re going to demonstrate that hope for you. You can listen to more episodes of Relationship Radio here.