“John, if you divorce Melinda and marry Sheila, the odds are better than 8 out of 10 that you and Sheila will divorce. Even if you stay together, which is not likely, you will have difficulties in that marriage because of the way it started. I know that you believe I’m wrong. Even when I tell you I’ve seen the same thing repeatedly over the last twenty years, you think that you will be the exception. Everybody thinks that. Nobody is. Allow me to explain what you have before I predict where you will wind up.
“John, you love Sheila so intensely that you think no one else could possibly understand what you feel. It’s so deep that you don’t know how to find words to describe those feelings adequately. Because your emotions exist at a level beyond anything you’ve previously experienced, you believe them to be extraordinary – nearly magical. You cherish those feelings so dearly that you want to do whatever it takes to maintain them.
“I understand that. Really. And I don’t blame you for not wanting to let them go. However, no matter what you do, what you feel now isn’t going to last. We know from science and from our own experience with thousands of people that limerence lasts somewhere between three months to three years and then it begins to fade away.
How long have you felt this way about Sheila, John?”
John angrily replied, “About nine months. But you’re wrong, Joe. It won’t go away. This is real. Very real. It’s not some infatuation that flashes and dies. I’m not drugged. I’m in love.”
I reassured him, “I have no doubt it’s real, John. However, though you don’t want to hear it, you are intoxicated. Your brain makes the chemicals driving these amazing emotions. I’ve felt it. I know what it’s like. The reason it has to fade, John, is that the emotional state you’re in now would destroy your life and livelihood if it lasted a lifetime. Admit it; you spend a lot of time thinking about Sheila. So much that some things in your life don’t get the attention they need.”
He began to debate, “No. Not a thing. You’re wrong about that.”
“John, think about your children. Honestly, do you spend as much time with them as you used to? You still love them, but if you are honest with yourself, you know that you will miss events with them if Sheila wants you with her. Same with your parents and your close friends. Spend much time with any of them lately, John?
“And what about work? You’re not a guy who does some rote work for 8 hours a day and goes home. Your job requires you to think, be creative, and plan. Isn’t it true that some days when you feel euphoric about Sheila, you find yourself amazingly productive for a few hours, but gradually lose the productivity because you become so focused on thinking about her? And what about the days you get very little done because you find yourself obsessing about whether she’s happy with you? Isn’t it true that if she isn’t having a good day, you worry and find yourself ineffective at everything you do? Yeah, John, I’ve been there. I know all about that.