QUESTION: Today, I officially broke it off with the other man. For the past six months I was sinning and I never once felt good about it. I did contemplate leaving my husband but I just can’t do it.
Being part of this Facebook group and finding MarriageHelper.com early on let me know that I wasn’t alone. Reading all the material and all your posts really have saved me from making a series of monumental mistakes that would’ve ruined the lives of the people I love the most. I hope with all my heart and soul that everyone’s significant other will feel what I feel today and know the pain they’ve caused.
Every time I read a post on Facebook about what a cheating spouse did, I imagined the pain my husband felt and I’m heartbroken. It’s excruciating to know what I’ve done and how others are feeling on the other side. I have great fear for what will happen in the coming months. Healing. More pain. More regret. But I have to face my consequences. It’s the price of losing sight of what’s really important. I am wondering if you have suggestions on to help me get over the other man so that I can focus on healing my marriage, my husband, and myself from all the hurt I’ve caused. I want to stay in my marriage but I regret to say that it still hurts that I can’t have the other man as well.
ANSWER: As one who has been where you have been, I thank you for telling us this. It helps others. It also gives strength to carry on for those of us who work so diligently to help others. It touches us deeply to know that we a part in your decision.
Now, may I tell you a little about what may happen next? Not saying it will, just offering it in case.
Though it hurts some whose spouses are in limerence to hear this – and I hate that it will hurt them – I wish to speak to your emotions, not only for you but for others who read this who are in similar situations.
Though limerence by its very nature is relatively short-lived (typically lasting somewhere between 3 months and 36 months) it is a very real and intense emotion/feeling. When a person decides to leave a limerent relationship, or if they are the one abandoned by the other, the emotions don’t immediately disappear. There is no instant limerence cure. It’s not unusual for either or both parties to go through a type of grief process. We humans grieve when we lose something or someone we value deeply.
You will likely go through a process similar to what’s known as the Grieving Process. As/when/if you do go through this process, consider my responses to the steps you will likely go through.
1) Some days you will feel strong and very good about your decision to end the relationship. Other days you’ll wonder how in the world you ever thought you could leave it and that you desperately want it back. Recovering from this is often a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kind of thing. If you have these vacillating emotions, contact someone to talk to or have coffee with until you get your emotions back in control.
2) There will be “triggers” that will flood you with emotions about the relationship you ended. A song. A place. A line in a movie. When you discover what these are, avoid them. For example, the dial on the radio can change to another song very, very quickly. Switch immediately without allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by continuing to listen.
3) Jealousy may hit you hard, especially if you hear the paramour is seen with someone else, or if you see him with another woman walking through the mall. If you feel it, that doesn’t mean you aren’t sincere or real in your decision. It just means you’re human. When it strikes, if ever it does, don’t be alone. Find that person to talk with or have coffee with. Make sure it’s someone who will listen, but who also can help you think of other things in life – someone who will hear your pain and gradually move you to more pleasant things. How do you find someone such as that? I suggest you find a happy older woman who has learned from life and still has a sense of humor, as well as the ability to empathize.
4) You may dream about him. The dreams may have a sexual nature. They will likely most often be about the friendship part of the relationship that you lost. The sharing, understanding, and transparency. When you wake, don’t ponder the dream. Accept that you miss the friendship and move on.
5) Every once in a while you’ll feel you have a very good reason to contact him. It might be to check on him. Maybe to tell him happy birthday. Whatever the reason, don’t. Never. Not once. It will make things worse for both of you. It will definitely make the healing process longer and cause you to feel pain you don’t need to feel. It also hurts him because it will give him hope.
6) If you are part of anything that causes you to be in his presence – work, church, social groups, whatever – make arrangements as quickly as you can to end that. Tell your pastor the situation and ask him to recommend a good church. Start applying for a new job TODAY. If you can, quit immediately. If you cannot, do everything you can to keep yourself from direct contact. If in the same room, be polite, but do not do anything – tone of voice, lingering look, whatever – to open the door for him to think you are wanting to get back together with him. Even if you are struggling with that very feeling, don’t give him any clue that you are. If you’re married and it’s at all possible, have your husband drop you off to work, meet you for lunch, and pick you up after work.
7) You are not alone. Your decision was a good one. If you believe that there is a devil, then expect the “bad guys” to come at you to do anything and everything to make you want to contact your paramour again. Don’t be surprised if something happens that creates within you an almost overwhelming desire to talk with him. It may happen to you or in your life, or it may happen to him or in his life. If something happens in his life that causes you to want to help him or be there for him, you must leave it to others to care for him: You’ve lost that right. He’s also lost his right to take care of you. Find your sustenance in your marriage, if you are married, and in your family and friends. He must do the same.
8) Time heals. The limerence will fade with time. There will come a day when you no longer feel at all the emotions you once had. You’ll have some good memories about him. Don’t dwell on those memories. Don’t ever expect to be friends with him. Not ever. For his sake and the sake of your own marriage, that can never happen.
9) On bad days, don’t look back and wonder what it would have been if you had stayed with him. You’ve made the right choice. You can never know what would have happened if you had remained with him. We can tell you that the odds are extremely high that it would have ended badly. However, your mind will want to assign good possibilities. Don’t let it. It’s over.
10) When you heal enough, reach out to others who are in limerence and hurting their own marriage or the marriage of their paramour. We who have been there are the ones others will listen to because they know we understand. We don’t judge them. We empathize with them. But we also let them know the benefits of doing the right thing….even when it hurts.
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