How to Understand Your Spouse Who’s in an Affair
With Dr. Joe Beam
(0:00) Your spouse is having an affair, and it hurts. All kinds of questions are going through your mind, including “Why, why is this happening? How could it happen? Is there something wrong with me, or with my husband, my wife? Is the world going absolutely crazy?” There are probably a lot of people who’ve given you all kinds of answers, trying to explain to you why your spouse is doing this or that. Unfortunately, a lot of what they’re telling you is wrong, and it’s certainly not helpful.
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Now, in this particular situation, how do you understand your spouse when he or she is having an affair? The first question you should ask yourself is this: “Is my spouse a good person doing a bad thing or a bad person doing a bad thing?” An affair is a bad thing, and I’m sure you feel the same way. You probably are thinking, “I don’t like this, this is bad, my husband/my wife should not be doing this,” and I would agree wholeheartedly.
If indeed your spouse is a bad person…it means he or she, for a long period of time, has demonstrated no integrity. They have done one bad thing after another, after another, almost from the time that you’ve been married. You cannot trust him or her, ever. Don’t confuse that with the fact that whatever he or she is doing right now is a bad thing. If you focus on what he or she is doing right now, you will probably deem your spouse as a “bad person.” But, think beyond that. Think about who he or she was when you got married; who he or she was during the course of your marriage. If indeed your spouse is a good person at heart, then this marriage is likely worth rescuing.
Now, it’s your choice to divorce him or her if your spouse is cheating on you; however, if you choose to try to rescue this marriage, then it makes sense to try to understand “why” he or she is doing “what” he or she is doing.
And, avoid false diagnosis.
What do you mean by that? Well, there are a lot of people in your world, and on the Internet who’ll have all the answers about why your husband or wife is doing what he or she is doing, what will happen next, and what you should do. You should avoid those people because they will diagnose your spouse (many without even knowing him or her). Also, the people close to you who love you, such as your parents, siblings, and close friends will make diagnoses as well. But, be careful. Since they love you and see you hurt, they will be angry at the person that hurt you.
(3:54) Also, please be careful, about trying to make your own diagnosis from what you read on the Internet. Recently a lady heard one word she thought applied to her husband. So, she started looking up that word on the Internet. This word led her to another word, “narcissist,” and she read all she could about it. Then, she decided that he must be a narcissist based on what she’d read on the Internet. You can’t diagnose someone as a narcissist after reading about it on the Internet.
Only a trained, qualified professional who has had several visits with the person, can diagnose a narcissist. Additionally, be careful if a counselor diagnoses your spouse without having several sessions with your spouse.
We hear it all the time:
“Ah, my counselor says my spouse is a narcissist.”
“Really? How many sessions did your therapist have with your spouse?”
“Oh, they have not met my spouse. But just based on what I said, my spouse is a narcissist.”
Again, is Your Spouse a Good Person?
Let’s review: Don’t let other people determine if, “My husband or wife is a good person doing a bad thing, or a bad person doing a bad thing?”
- Trust your gut
- Look at the life experiences you two had together so far
And, if you make the judgment “my spouse is a good person,” then he or she is worth rescuing. Believe it or not, if you can rescue this marriage, your marriage will be even better than it was before the affair. No, no, not because of the affair. Rather, because of what both of you will learn from this.
How to Understand Limerence
(5:53) I’m assuming if your spouse is having the affair, it’s probably the case he or she thinks and feels that he or she is “madly in love” with another person. If you say to your spouse, “No, this is not real, you are not madly in love with him or her” it will not work very well. You need to understand typical people in this situation have something called limerence.
If you subscribe to our YouTube channel for example, you can find out we have a whole lot of videos explaining this thing called limerence. It will not make you a limerence specialist, or expert, but can give you a lot of insight into it. Oh, and by the way, if you watch our videos, don’t drag your spouse in and say, “Watch that, because that’s you.” No, that will not work either.
Understand limerence as an identifiable kind of love. Now, I know you don’t want to hear that. Limerence is not the kind of love you and your spouse have but in the social sciences, we can identify it as a “kind” of love. Here is something you need to understand. If your spouse is in this limerence state, and feels “madly in love” with the other person, then he or she is not in control of his or her emotions or his or her intellect. They tend to have obsessive thinking. They daydream about the other person, fantasize about a future with the other person, and this powerful emotion takes control. Which means for a while, the spouse you thought you knew so well, is a temporary stranger. Not just a stranger to you, but actually a stranger to themselves, because they’re not thinking or feeling the way they used to.
There are even some brain chemicals involved that actually lead a person in limerence to become somebody else for a period of time.
They do things they didn’t normally do…
They think things they didn’t use to think…
They feel things more intensely, at least they believe, than they have ever felt in their lives…
While they’re not in control, whenever you’re trying to figure out “Why? Who? What? When? Where?” your spouse can’t even answer all of those questions. Some of the things you’ll ask “Why?” about won’t receive accurate answers. Because they’re so confused emotionally, they’re not really clear about it either.
Know This: Change is Coming.
(8:19) That kind of intense “madly in love” thing we call limerence is relatively short-lived. On average, it is going to last somewhere between 3 months and, at the longest, 48 months. Not many go that far, but typically it will land somewhere in between 3 and 48 months.
If Your Spouse is a Good Person Needing Rescue…
(9:11) Here are some things to do if you’ve decided your spouse is a “good person” needing rescue.
Number one: accept the fact that your spouse feels this way.
You can try to explain all day long that they don’t feel a certain way, but unfortunately, they do feel a certain way. Denying it won’t do you any good. At the same time, don’t believe everything that he or she says. They do feel those emotions, but some things they say aren’t really accurate. Believe them, and understand none of it is outright lying, but it’s driven by those emotions and brain chemicals, and it will change.
They may attack you and say mean, terrible, vicious things about you, and you think, “Is that what you’ve always thought of me?”
And here she makes it, “Yes, I’ve always felt that way about you!” But they haven’t.
They may also say things such as
- “I’d be better off if I never had married you.”
- “Oh, I’m such a terrible, wicked person that you’d be much better off if you divorced me.”
Or anything about the other person they’re involved with, about you, about the world, God, church, or anything that comes into their minds. They’re not lying, because that’s what’s happening in their head, but it doesn’t mean that’s the truth.
Number Two: Work on the PIES
(10:55) If you want to put this thing back together, you’ll need to work on this thing we call PIES, P-I-E-S. It stands for Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual. You can find more about PIES in our other videos, but simply put, PIES is how to attract the other person to you. And most importantly, it helps you be the best person you can possibly be.
Number Three: Be a Safe Place
(11:43) The last one is a tough one: be a safe place. What that means is, if your spouse opens up and talks to you, rather than arguing or beating him or her up verbally or emotionally, be safe.
- You can say things such as, “I hate the fact that you feel that way.”
- You can even demonstrate the fact that you are hurting, if you’re like, “Oh, that hurts.”
- Rather than attacking, let him or her know, “You know, I really understand. I do. I understand what you feel.”
- You aren’t agreeing as to how they got there, say “I don’t agree with that, but understand, and I get it. I understand how you feel, I accept the fact that you feel that way.”
But…if you excessively cry or get extremely emotional, your spouse won’t tell you the truth, or anything because they’re afraid of your negative reaction. It’s okay to be human, but if you can, try to hear what the other person is saying; be a safe place.
The Principle You Should Know
(12:48) Here is the principle: People don’t leave what they have unless they believe what they’re going to is better. What that means in your spouse’s mind right now, is that that they actually feel in love with the other person because they believe being with him or her is better than being with you…Ouch! I know that hurts. I don’t mean to be mean, but need to be realistic. The reality is that he or she believes being with that person is better than being with you. So what do you do? You can’t stop that. But, you can you work on you, and become the best you that you can be.
If you need help with that, we’re glad to do it. You can call us at (866) 903-0990