“In short, John, unlike your pastor, I believe you love Sheila. I also know where this love leads. If you were both single, I’d congratulate you. But you are married. Divorcing your wife to be with Sheila creates negative consequences for you, Sheila, Melinda, your children, parents, friends, and the kingdom of God.
“You may justify it in your mind and proceed. It may even seem good for a while. Nevertheless, the limerence will fade. When it does, you will come face-to-face with the consequences for you and all those others I mentioned.
“We will help you then or we can help you now. If you let us help you now, there will be far fewer awful consequences. Do the right thing, John, and good things happen. They will not be as exhilarating as limerence, but they are much deeper and more fulfilling.”
His eyes indicated our conversation was over; he barricaded his mind and heart from me. I had anticipated that and had come on as strongly as I did because I feared I would have no second chance. Therefore, I had tried to plant as many seeds as possible.
That conversation occurred a few years ago.
Though hardly anyone believed it could happen, John decided to end his relationship with Sheila and try to restore his marriage. About a year after he made his decision, he explained it to me, “I hated you for saying it, but you were right. I’d become someone else because I had let go of what and who I am. After a lot of soul-searching, I realized I wanted to be me again. I loved Sheila, but finally accepted that the future I desired for us could never equal the fantasy I’d built in my mind. I wanted to be with her – there are days when I miss her intensely – but deep inside I wanted peace with myself, with my God, and with my children. At first, I didn’t really care about making peace or reconnecting with Melinda, but with time that worked out as well. I love her…guess in a way I always did. She’s a good woman and we have a good life. Not only did she forgive me, she stood up for me to her family, our friends, and our church when she took me back.
“It feels good to know I did what was right. Always will.”
John and Melinda worked on healing their marriage. They allowed me to help them understand how he had fallen into limerence, how to heal their marriage, and how to learn to love each again. Actually, they learned how to love each other more than they ever had before.
It was not easy for John or Melinda. His deep emotions for Sheila did not end immediately. They had taken time to develop and, therefore, they took time to reside. During the process, John went through a grief process similar to those experienced by people who lose loved ones to death. However, he worked through it.
Admirably, Melinda understood and coped with amazing strength. She forgave John. She forgave Sheila, though for obvious reasons she maintained no contact with her. Neither did John, though when he ended his relationship with Sheila, he worried about her future. Sheila reacted badly initially, but eventually she, too, healed her heart and moved on. She fell in love with a good man. Wisely, she told him her experience and they sought counsel before they married. They, too, have a good marriage.
The story of John, Melinda, and Sheila is neither unique nor rare. Sometimes the husband falls into limerence with another. Other times the wife. While the dynamics change slightly, the same principles apply. With the right help, their marriage can be saved and they can love each other more deeply than before.
We see it every day.