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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.

By the way, if you like what we do with these videos, you can subscribe, click that button, and when you click that button, you’ll get updates about all the videos that we do. We talk about affairs, of course, but many other things as well including relationships, and we’d love to have you get those videos when they come out.

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.

For example:

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

Want more help? This free guide will teach you the 7 things you need to know when saving your marriage from an affair.

19 thoughts on “If Your Spouse Is Having An Affair

  • October 5, 2018 at 12:12 am

    My husband had an affair with a woman he met at work for 10 years. We have been married for almost 20 years. It ended – he said a mutual decision – and I discovered it a few months later. He was not going to tell me and planned on staying married to me. He was devasted when I found out – begged me to forgive him – said he always knew it was wrong – always loved me – says he was lost – she was 10 years younger and was an escape from the life we had built – long story short – we have been trying to recover and work through this for 18 months. He is at times very caring, supportive and seemingly trying to change but then on the other hand can be very defensive and hurtful. I am so hurt and sad but was not expecting this to happen – I love him and don’t want to be apart but it is so hard. There is not any information out there for an affair with this time frame. Is this forgivable?. I am at a loss. We have two children and I thought a happy life…

  • October 5, 2018 at 12:54 am


    I filed for divorce because the woman who he was having an affair, I don’t know for how long, sent me a picture of him and her. He left our home July 14, 2016. I filed Divorce June 2017.

    I do not know if I should follow through the divorce.
    My husband does not want to come back to our marriage. It’s been two years he abandoned our home.
    He doesn’t have a relationship with the children,
    14 and 10. I ask him to come and visit them.

    I know that he misses us.
    I hear it in his voice.

    I didn’t let my family know details of all the crank calls and harassing from this woman.
    I did tell my husband to tell her not to call me.

    During this time I had a water leak December 2017.
    My 18-year-old graduated from
    High School and entered the University.

    I’ve had a lot of problems with my 14-year-old son.
    He is angry with his father.

    I am here for my children.
    I also go to colle for court reporting. I focus on studying or doing something productive, not let negative feelings get the best of my time and thought.

    I don’t know if I should continue with divorce?

    Kind regards,

    I need to have security for my children and income to pay my bills.

    Thank you for video.

  • October 5, 2018 at 2:35 am

    You only mention that you could save a marriage where a good person is doing something bad. My husband has made so many bad choices the 27 years we’ve been married but I still want to save us! He started an affair in 2015 , came home February 2018 and things were really turning around, he told me he had fallen in love with me again and that we were going to be okay and I believed we were past the mess, then overnight it changed again. He started not coming home several nights a week toward the end of July and has now been gone two weeks with the same woman but will not admit to it. I know for a fact. He has barely talked to our 14 year old daughter or his 20 year old daughter(my bonus daughter,step) since he left and only text me when he needs his meds or something like that. Could we still be saved!

  • October 6, 2018 at 3:15 am

    Very inspiring- my spouse ran off with a woman but never said anything to me. He doesn’t even speak to me, but I still have hope.

  • October 6, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    My wife served me divorce papers last XMas and started working on why I was the way I am ( read Lundy Bancroft) and within 2 weeks (she was very vulnerable no doubt) hooked up with an old friend and has fallen in love with him. She’s going through with the divorce and I’m powerless on doing anything about it. I’m praying she is going through this limerance stage you’re talking about and someday comes to her senses. I’m 62 and she’s 56, so maybe it’s a midlife crisis affair. Working on my P.I.E.S and giving it all to God. My question is what else can I do and/or should I just move on. This has broken up our family (it’s our 2nd marriage for both of us) and she deals with past issues with conflict avoidance and intimacy. I feel stuck. She’s a good person who is making bad decisions. This guy has money and they’re going on all kinds of vacations together. Can’t tell you how low I feel…do love her very much and don’t want to give up.

    • October 8, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      Hi, Tad. I am so sorry you are going through this. Please call us at 866-903-0990 so we can help!

  • October 7, 2018 at 3:29 am

    My husband has drawn me back in to reconcile twice since I left after finding out about his affair with a coworker and both times I have caught him with his affair partner by chance. The first time he told me it was over and the second time he told me “it isn’t like that” but I hung up on him and went no contact. He didn’t try to contact me. We recently began talking again about our children and he took us out for a family dinner, hugged me tight and said he loved hanging out with me and seeing me laugh. He even texted me the next day that he wants to do dinner again next week and was smiling thinking about the day before. Today I see him out with her. I can be a safe place, but don’t want to get pulled back in so he has us both. How can I be a safe place but put safe boundaries in place?

  • November 20, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    My husband had an internet affair for 3 months and i am devastated. We have always been so close. The past year we have not had much intemecy due to health priblems. He ended it and says he feels horruble for hurting me. I cry and have anxiety every single day. The stuff the other lady told me is true and i cant get it out of my head. I have dark thoughts in my head. Please help

  • November 26, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    I believe my husband has been having an affair for about a year now although he hasn’t admitted it. He left the house in January and said he wasn’t in love with me anymore. Since then he has been living with his parents who happen to live right next door to me. He is mean to me and withdrawn and says that I never let him do anything, that we never went anywhere or did anything together. At the beginning of our separation I did all the wrong things like crying and begging and I feel it just pushed him away. He has been gone for 10 months now and we do have grown children which are 22 and 18 whom still live with me and he spends time with. He has been going on trips and goes out of town to see her at least every two weeks when he is off although he doesn’t admit that’s what he’s doing. He claims he’s working or hanging out with friends. I believe he is in the limerance stage. He’s been gone so long, can my marriage even be saved? Can I start to work on things this late during our separation?

    • January 2, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      Hi, Karrie. We believe every marriage can be saved. Please call us at 866-903-0990 so we can help!

  • November 28, 2018 at 2:20 am

    Ok, heres my story my wife asked me to separate from her we have 4 years together (married) and 3 years going out so it´s a 7 year relationship we have a beautiful three-year old son, anyways she is dating this guy from work and i found out tried to work things out (got obsessed, insecure and she said that she wasn´t happy) next thing i knew she asked me toleave, and even though she wouldnt admit it i know she is dating this guy… but, she has been somewhat nice to me when i pickup my kid, she hasnt talked about divorce but, i need guidance thanks.

  • December 24, 2018 at 2:23 am

    My wife of 10 years has/had an affair. She was caught by her oldest son with him in my house. She has said that she isn’t in love with me and hasn’t been in 2 years. She is rewriting history of our marriage. We have 2 great young children 8 and 9 years old. She is a good person doing a bad thing. I have been for the last 4 weeks on an emotional roller coaster. I have said extremely bad things to her, even told her that she has nothing to offer and that I didn’t love her. I gave her all of our pictures and took her wedding ring. We live under the same roof but we are in different rooms. I, for sure, see the limerence in her at this time. She hasn’t focus at all on her business that is falling, not really spending time with the kids, secluded and hers and I communication right now is up and down. I’ve decided to not speak to her anymore and to only talk about our babies. With all that said, she doesn’t want to seek help or counselor. I have decided to let her be and to focus on myself. I want my marriage to work for us and for our children. What now? Thank you

    • January 2, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Hi, Johan. We are so sorry you are going through this. Please call us at 866-903-0990 so we can help.


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