You probably never meant for it to happen. It’s not as if you went looking for a lover. However, once you fell in love with someone else other than your spouse, things got rather intense.
You’re already in what some refer to as an emotional affair. Perhaps you’ve gone further and the relationship has turned physical.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
It may be difficult for you to know exactly how you got into this situation.
Some are honest enough with themselves that they know step-by-step how everything came to be as it is now.
Others have more difficulty, their mind confused because what they are doing is so contrary to what they believe and value.
Some feel that God sent them their soul mate. Others blame it on their spouse’s actions or lack of actions. Underlying vulnerabilities very likely made the new relationship possible. Highly revered marriage researcher John Gottman writes in his book The Marriage Clinic:
…many clinicians…have been quick to point out that ‘affairs involve sex, but sex is usually not the purpose of the affair’…In fact, most clinicians who have written in this area report that affairs are usually about seeking friendship, support, understanding, and validation…they are about getting the acceptance that is missing in the marriage.”
My work with thousands of married couples in crisis indicates that this is exactly the case. Relationship affairs – as opposed to the one-night-stand type of affairs that are wholly about sex and not at all about relationship – usually find root in a person’s feeling unloved, unaccepted, disliked, and/or disrespected.
That doesn’t mean that the person necessarily went looking for affirmation and validation from someone else. However, when it came, it captured his/her heart and they fell in love with someone else. If you suspect your spouse of having an affair, take the Affair Test after reading this article to get a good idea if your fears are justified.
Maybe you describe this new relationship similar to the way others I’ve worked with:
- “I’ve never been loved like this.”
- “No one understands me as well as he/she does.”
- “This is the person I was meant to be with.”
- “I can’t explain how this feels because I don’t think anyone else can understand it. It’s intense. Amazing. Wonderful.”
Most likely your desire is not to hurt the person you’re married to, but rather to live in this new level of love that you never knew existed.
You don’t mean to harm family, friends, coworkers, church buddies, or anyone else. Your desire is to have, not to hurt. (There may be an exception to that if you feel that your spouse has been unkind or hurtful. If so, that degree of negativity toward your spouse probably increased its intensity after your affair began.)
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
You have four potential paths before you:
1. Stay in your marriage while continuing a relationship with your lover,
2. Leave your marriage for your lover,
3. End the affair yourself, (see “How To Confess An Affair Without Losing Your Spouse”)
4. Or your lover ends it.
Each possibility carries consequences. Short-term consequences and long-term consequences.
If you choose short-term, you may decide to end your marriage for your lover. The intensity of your present emotions may make that the choice that seems most likely to make you happy.
However, there are long-term consequences that will come with that choice.
Consequences involving your family, your children, your friends, your religion, your personal beliefs and values, and your spouse.
If you think that being with your lover more than makes up for any difficulties in these areas, you aren’t alone. Nearly everyone who makes that decision figures that because of they are deeply in love with someone else, everything balances out in the end.
Unfortunately, it rarely, if ever, turns out that way.
Married But In Love With Another/Someone Else
Your emotions are intense now, but they won’t be forever.
Within a couple years, if not before, you’ll discover that the Cinderella or Price Charming you’re in love with isn’t quite as wonderful or perfect as you think.
In the ecstasy of new love people overlook flaws, quirks, and problems in the other or in the relationship. When that emotion evolves, as it must and will, you’ll start to be bothered by things that never bothered you before. You will discover that Cinderella and Prince Charming exist only in fairy tales. All the rest of us are flawed and at times hard to live with. (See the article, “How Long Do Affairs Last?”)
Repeatedly those who left their spouses for a remarkable love come to me after a few years and say they wish they could do it all over again.
This time they wouldn’t abandon their marriage but would figure a way to work out their marriage problems. They would not expect their children NOT to be negatively affected by the divorce.
They would look deeper into their hearts to see that their beliefs and values are part of their very identity and realize that to live in contradiction to them would lead them to become someone quite different than they were. They would admit that there is never a “happily ever after” and that leaving one relationship for another is trading one set of problems for another.
In short, they would have stayed in the first marriage and done all they could to make it work.
MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION
Though logic doesn’t reign for you at this moment, please attempt to silence your emotions temporarily to see past the feelings into your future. What do you honestly, at the deepest level of your being, expect it to be ten years from now if you abandon your marriage, maybe destroy another in the process (if your lover is married as well), and violate your core beliefs?
Based on my observations of and work with thousands of people, I can tell you from a purely logical, statistical, vantage point, that it is extremely unlikely.
Don’t have your headphones or a private place to listen right now? Read the script here:
Married But In Love With Someone Else: Part 2
With Dr. Joe Beam
(0:00) A few weeks ago I did a video called “Married But In Love With Someone Else?” and it’s gotten a bit of attention, including some specific questions that I need to answer. By the way, if you haven’t seen that video, you can watch it above.
Here’s a quick summary of part one.
There are four potential paths you could pursue if you are married but in love with somebody else. And, there are two likely results that will come based on which path you choose.
I also spoke about how to view the situation. You need to view it in a 10-10-10 manner, which means you need think about how much your decision is going to affect you not in just in 10 days, but in 10 months, and even in 10 years. And I talked about how your decision would affect your lover, your spouse, your kids, and many other things.
In that particular video, I mentioned that I had been in a passionate, deeply “madly in love” relationship with another woman when I was married. As a matter of fact, I went so far as to divorce my wife to be with the other woman. I did not come back and ask my wife to take me back until three years later, and we’ve been remarried now for quite a number of years.
But when I mentioned the fact that the lover had left me, some people commented:
“Ah, the reason you think the way you do is because she left you. If she had stayed with you and you guys had gotten married to each other and were happy to this day you’d have a totally different view of this.”
People thought, if it was up to me, I’d still be with the lover.
And you know what? I think it’s a reasonable question, a reasonable objection to think about. Because, you see, back in those days, when I was, “madly in love” with the other woman I felt intense emotions:
- Nobody ever understood me like she did
- I never had the degree of passion toward another person that I had toward her
- It was reciprocal between us
People said, “See? You left your wife for the person that you truly were in love with. Therefore, unless she had left you, you’d still be with her to this day and be happy.”
And I’m assuming, the people making that objection are people who are feeling that way right now. In other words, they could be married but madly in love with another person.
(3:16) Well, what I didn’t say in that video because I didn’t have time is this, I didn’t go back to my spouse when my lover left me. And, she didn’t leave immediately, it took her a while to do so. I was divorced for some period of time after that, and eventually had a relationship with another woman, and we had a very deep emotional connection.
It was actually my decision to leave that woman and then to ask my former wife if she would consider the possibility of taking me back. So it wasn’t like, “Wow. I don’t have any other options, therefore I’d better go back to what I have because I don’t have anything else.” That wasn’t it at all.
And so you may say, “Well, why? Why then do you think that in most cases leaving your spouse for the person that you’re madly in love with is going to work out to be a bad situation?” Well, first of all, we have been working with marriages since 1994. That’s a pretty long period of time, which means we’ve worked with thousands and thousands and thousands of marriages.
We have worked with many marriages where either the husband or the wife was “madly in love” with someone else, to the point that, “I don’t want to be with my spouse anymore. I want to divorce him or her and I’m going to go be with my lover and it’s going to be happy ever after.” And, I can only think of one that got even close to that out of all the thousands that we dealt with.
Now, I realize even when I say that, that I can only think of one, if you’re in this situation you might be thinking, “Well, we’ll be the next one. Therefore, everything you have said or are about to say will not apply to us because we’re going to be the exception to the rule, it’s going to be amazing for us.” And that’s exactly how I felt and what I would have thought at the time.
Relationships Go Through Stages
(5:10) The first thing I know from my own experience, but also from the experience of thousands and thousands of people that we’ve worked with, is that the relationship with this person that you’re now madly in love with will change, no matter what you do. If you decide to go back to your spouse it’s obviously going to change, although those feelings will not immediately go away. If you decide to divorce your spouse and go be with that person, it’s still going to change. And you say, “Why?” Well, because of the fact that all relationships do.
You see, there’s an early stage, sometimes referred to as infatuation, where you have intense emotions toward each other. But with all relations having to do with romance, all go through these stages and at some point begin to diminish and change into a different kind of love that does not have the ecstasy.
You see, here’s the thing. If you are madly in love with another person, it’s an amazing sensation. Like, as I’ve said earlier, “Nobody understands how I feel except that person. Nobody’s even ever felt what I’m feeling except that other person, I can’t even explain it to anybody else.” I know, it’s euphoric. But, you see, that’s what you feel today.
As a matter of fact, if you look at it from an anthropological standpoint, even a biological standpoint, it has to change. Because people in that state of intense relationship with each other, that intense set of emotions, that becomes overpowering.
- It’s most likely affected your productivity.
- You definitely do a lot of daydreaming about the other person…
- About what the future’s going to be like. You imagine it’s going to be this, and imagine it’s going to be that..
- Your thinking could even be obsessive.
We Want You to Consider Reaching Beyond Your Emotions
(7:25) Because, you see, you may be working off of what you’re feeling today. If you decide to give up your marriage, give up your relationship with your children if you have them, to end the things with your spouse because of what you feel today, think about, what are you going to feel tomorrow? I’m not saying feelings immediately and automatically go away, but they will subside.
Even in the relationship you have now, if you felt this kind of ecstasy or anything even close to it when you were dating each other and then you finally got married, you’ve been married for a while, those emotions did subside. Now, to a different kind of love maybe, but they definitely did subside.
And the sexual relationships. I mean, if you’re having sex with a lover, you probably are thinking, “It’s amazing. And it’s going to be like this tomorrow, the day after that, the year after that…It’s going to be the most amazing sex for the rest of my life,” and that’s just not the case.
We know about “sexual habituation” which means that any couple, no matter how intense their emotions are for each other, experience a change in the level of intensity in their sex life after a couple of years.
Think about your own marriage, it definitely did, did it not? After a period of time? The sexual habituation, meaning you become so used to each other, what’s going to happen next, who’s going to do what, who’s going to say what, all those kinds of things.
You’re thinking, “Oh, no, no, no, no. No. That might happen to other people but it’s not going to happen to us. We’re different.” Well, in one sense we all are different. We all are unique, there’s no doubt about that. But one thing about statistics, and I know you’re not a statistic, is that statistics give us insight into human behavior.
Dr. Joe Beam Experienced This Change in His Feelings
(9:19) I say this because these feelings changed with Sally Sue and me. And yes, to the point where she left me. I know that and you think, “Okay, it’s bitter, sour grapes because of the fact that you were abandoned.” But remember, I did develop a relationship with another person and had a very intense relationship, and still made the decision to leave her.
Think About How Your Actions Affect Others
But, more toward what I wanted to talk about- you begin to think about how what you do affects other people. For example, think about what you do to your spouse if you leave him or her for another person. He or she will be hurt, unless they’ve already checked out and gone off and left you.
- They’re going to be hurt because of the fact that you rejected, they’ll still love you. (There can come a time when that love ends, I understand that, but they’ll be deeply hurt.)
- They’ll feel rejected, they’ll go through their issues of self-esteem, like, “How can I not compare to her? Why is she so much better than I?” or, “What does he offer that I can’t offer you?”
- They’ll start questioning themselves, and their future is going to be affected by your abandoning them.
You say, “Ah, she’ll be happy, he’ll be happy, they’ll find somebody else. They’ll get married, they’ll be wonderful.” Maybe they will get married again. It’s not a guarantee they’ll get married again, but there’s a possibility they might be married again.
But because of the fact that we deal with marriages every day of all sorts, people in their first marriages, second marriages, third marriages, even today talking to somebody in a fifth marriage, understand that the hurt you carry from whatever previous relationship definitely affects how you operate in another relationship.
You might think, “Well, it doesn’t matter. My spouse can go ahead and live as he or she wants to, I don’t need to stop and think about her. He’s not my problem. She’s not my problem.” I’m assuming that at one time you cared about what she felt, about what he felt. If your intense emotional connection to this new person is so powerful that you don’t care what your spouse feels now, what would that possibly say about the way you’re thinking?
You may be doing what I did. I vilified Alice. What I mean by that is I turned her into the villain, talked about how evil she was, all the terrible things she did, how she was getting what she deserved, and fully believed all those things when I was saying them. But deep down I knew she’s actually a good woman, she doesn’t deserve what I’m doing to her. I didn’t want to feel guilt about the pain I was causing her, just like you may not want to feel guilt about the pain you’re causing your spouse. But if he or she cares anything about you at all, then you know that by leaving him or her for another person, you are hurting that person.
Leaving Your Spouse Affects Your Children
(12:52) And not just your spouse, but your kids. As a matter of fact, you may love your children deeply. All through the stuff I did, I never quit loving my children deeply. And, I was part of the process that brought them into this life. Therefore, I owe them because I brought them here. There’s certain obligations, as their father, that I have toward these kids. In a similar way, if you’re a mother, there’s certain obligations you have toward your kids because you brought them into existence.
Now, think about this. Even if things had worked out with Sally Sue, the person I talked about in the first video, would that then mean that I had no more obligation to my children? If you’re thinking, “Well, the kids are resilient. They’re fine,” kids are resilient. And I’m not saying it would have destroyed their lives, but it definitely will affect them. Even though Alice and I eventually got back together and remarried, and my children and I have wonderful relationships to this day, I can see the effect. As a matter of fact, one of my daughters still has fears and worries about abandonment from her husband, but not because of anything that he did or has done or is doing, but because of what I did all those years ago.
(14:59) In a workshop we do for marriages in crisis, people will tell stories about their childhood. Inevitably, one or two of them will mention how their parents’ divorce affected them to this day. Then interestingly, just a little while later, somebody who was sitting there, watching them, heard that pain, heard that agony will say, “Divorce doesn’t affect kids at all.” And I’m going, “Did you not hear what he just said or she just said?” And then I realize, no, they didn’t, because they were so focused on their lover and what they were feeling at the moment, that they didn’t allow themselves to hear the responsibilities parents have to kids (and how divorce affects kids).
I know, or at least I’m assuming, if we put your lover right here and your kids right there and said you’ve got to make a choice between the two of them, some of you would say, “I choose my children.”
But what if you were to say, “Well, if I had to choose between my kids and my lover, I’d pick my lover.” If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. I’m not even trying to beat you up for it. I’m just saying you might consider the impact on your kids, how they feel about themselves, about how lovable they are, and the way they’re going to view future relationships.
You May View Your Lover with a “Halo Effect”
In the midst of passion, you may experience a “halo effect” toward your lover. What that means is you don’t tend to see his or her flaws. This happens when people feel amazing, powerful emotions toward another. Or if we see the flaws, we minimize them.
It happened for me, it happened for Sally Sue. It also happened with thousands and thousands of couples. And, it does finally begin to subside; that halo effect goes away. You can begin to see flaws in the other person because everybody is imperfect, including you, which means they are also going to see your flaws.
What is the Most Important Thing for You?
(17:38) You know, what I wasn’t thinking about? What it was costing Sally Sue, my lover, to be involved with me. What was she losing? How did it affect her other relationships, her reputation, her own self-concepts?
I wasn’t thinking about anything but the two of us being together for the rest of our lives and how happy we were going to be. And finally, when those emotions began to subside, she saw everything she’d given up to be with me and she became very upset. It didn’t happen overnight, it gradually occurred. But when it did, who do you think she was angry with? It wasn’t anger at herself because of the decisions that she had made, it was anger with me.
Now, that’s not an anomaly. That’s not unusual. We see that again and again when that intense emotion begins to fade if the other person had to give up something for you, reputation, relationships, religion, occupation, family, whatever it might be. And if you’re being honest with yourself, was it really fair to ask him or her to give up everything for you?
(18:53) And even yourself. Even if you wound up together, it’s not going to be like it is now. The odds of you winding up together are actually extremely slim. Most people who leave their spouse for another person never marry that person. Those emotions fade before it ever gets that far and so they don’t wind up being married to each other.
The ones that do marry each other, they have an exceptionally high divorce rate. You say, “Wait a minute, but some of them do make it?” Yes, some of them do. The ones I know that have made it still have regrets about what they did, and they have regrets about the pain they caused other people, and the pain they caused themselves.You see, your actions determine your future. So I guess what you need to be asking yourself is: What’s the most important thing for you?
So… What If Dr. Beam Ended up with Sally Sue?
(19:40) So, would I be “all for” these things if I had wound up marrying Sally Sue and we lived “happily ever after”?
Well, I know enough about my heart now to see that I was so focused on her at that point, “I want to be with her, life will not be worth living if I’m not with her, she’s the most amazing thing that ever happened to me,” and she was feeling the same kind of things about me. But with time, those focuses would begin to change, those emotions would begin to modify.
- Were there have come a time when I would have looked at the pain my children were going through and ask myself, “Did I do that because of my own selfish desires?”
- Would there be times I would look at Alice, and whatever happened to her and her future, and felt some twinge of, “You know, a lot of it has to do with what I did to her when I left her?” Yes.
- And would it also be about me? You see, the reason I finally left the second lover, went back, and asked Alice if she would consider taking me back was because I realized by following these actions I became a different person. My own values had changed, my beliefs had changed, which meant that I had changed. One day, I realized wanted to be me again. I want to be that guy again, only better than he was before.
Well, I’m not the only person that has felt this. I’m not the only person that has been through this. Again, we’ve dealt with thousands of people.
“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”
Let me refer to a song by Bob Seger called “Against the Wind.” For copyright reasons I can’t put all the lyrics up here, but I’m sure you can find them online. When he sang, Seger otalked about this woman named Janey who was the queen of his night. He talked about how they shared secrets with each other and their love was like a wildfire that was out of control. And he talked about her holding him so tight, promising him that it never would end. Remember that other line? “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”
What’s that, Bob, it ends? And what does that do to you? You begin to have regrets. As a matter of fact, he phrased it like that, from that point on in the song. He said he sought shelter again and again. In psychology it’s called a “focusing illusion.” It means you think when I have this one thing, I’m going to be happy. For example, a focusing illusion can be: “I win the lottery, I’ll be happy.” But when you’re madly in love with another person, thinking, “I’m going to give up my spouse. If I have children, give them up as well. I can be a good parent and end that marriage…” If you make those decisions based on what you feel now, it doesn’t really reflect what you’re going to feel in the future.
- Decisions Have Consequences
(23:01) So would I, if I had been with Sally Sue, be happy now and encouraging other people, “Leave your spouse, go marry whoever you want to, you’ll have a great life with that person. Don’t worry about the consequences?” No, I wouldn’t be saying that. Even if I wound up with her, I’d be talking about how decisions I made have consequences not just to me, but people around me.
- You May Not Clearly See The Outcome
Even if I wound up with Sally Sue I would still be saying that now, but I wouldn’t have seen it then because all I could think about was how I felt.
- Think Long Term
Is it really all about me? Is it really all about you? No. I want you to be happy, I really do, but not based on something that you think is going to last forever. If you’re going to make your decisions, make your decisions thinking, “What’s the long term, what’s the right thing to do? It’s always your choice.
Hey, I’m all for love. Love that’ll last. What about you?
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