Leaving One Doesn't Guarantee Happiness With Another

September 12, 2013
“I just want to be happy.”

We hear that regularly from people who want to end their marriages. The premise is simple: I am not happy in this marriage but I will be happy if it ends. Typically, they believe that when freed from this marriage they will develop a new and blissful relationship with someone else.

Sometimes a marriage should end. For example, it may be necessary to leave if a spouse or child is in danger. However most of the departing spouses I work with are not seeking safety; instead, they pursue an anticipated different life in which a new companion will make everything wonderful. More than twenty years working with marriages in trouble teaches me that typically the belief is a delusion. Unfortunately, for most of them, their anticipated “happily ever after” eventually evolves into “what was I thinking?”

There are several reasons that occurs.

A Faulty Assumption

People seem to have an underlying assumption that after divorce they will fall into the arms of the lover of their dreams.

Sometimes I think that I could motivate people to salvage their marriages if I could get them to understand some of the underlying reasons that 44% of the adult population in America are single. The rapidly rising ratio of singles to marrieds does not indicate that most people do not wish to be married; it more clearly represents the difficulty in our self-centered culture to develop a relationship with a person who genuinely cares about you.

It is easy to find someone who will use you; it is difficult to find someone who will selflessly love you.

I know many beautiful, intelligent women with great jobs and dazzling personalities who are alone, though that is not their preference. They have no lack of men who wish to take advantage of them, but cannot find the one who will love deeply and commit to a long-lasting relationship. I know many handsome, brilliant men with solid incomes and sparkling wit who dread going home to empty houses at night. They are tired of the single life. Though surrounded by women, they live in loneliness because they cannot find the one with whom they wish to share their future.

Before you end your marriage, consider how likely it is to find a solid, loving relationship. Is your future more likely to be happy by competing with the masses of singles searching for true love, or by working things out with the person you already know intimately? Every relationship carries risks. Solving your problems with the person who wants to be with you is far easier than sorting through strangers hoping to find one who will love you more than him- or herself.

An Unexpected Future

If you are thinking, “That doesn’t apply to me. I already found the person I will be with for the rest of my life,” perhaps you should think beyond the present. You are not nearly as secure as you think. I do not have the statistics at hand, but twenty years’ experience working with marriages teaches me that relationships that begin through cheating have a very, very poor chance of success.

You likely think you are the exception.

Everyone does...until the terrible day they discover that they are not.

When one woman told me she and her lover were leaving their spouses for each other, I asked how they developed their emotional bond. She said they met on Facebook, eventually creating secret accounts their spouses did not know about so they could communicate freely. Her face fell instantly when I asked how she would know for sure he would never have another secret Facebook account. Or, for that matter, how she could be sure she would never have another. She indignantly replied, “He would never cheat on me. He loves me. I would never cheat on him. I love him.” I gently reminded her that she surely felt the same way about her current husband when she married him, yet she now was cheating on him. Similarly, her lover must have felt the same way about his current wife when he married her.

I pressed, “Each of you have demonstrated that what you feel at the moment is more important to you than vows you made. Emotions change. They did before; they can again. What happens then?”

She scowled, “I thought I was in love when I married before. Now I know what love really is and this love will last a lifetime.”

Against the advice of many who cared about her, she divorced her husband and married her paramour.

It lasted nearly two years.

Now she is alone. She left a man who loved her, though they had severe problems, for a man who made her feel loved beyond anything she had ever imagined. As happens so often, her fairytale love turned out to be just that, a fairytale. She gave up so much for a short-term elation. If she had decided to get the help she and her first husband needed, she would still be married – happily married once they worked things out - to a man who truly loved her.

Now, she is alone. Her life will never be the same.

A Fact of Life

In the beginning of a relationship, two people tend to be on their best behaviors as they try to make the best impression on each other. They tend to listen more, be more generous and giving, and are more attentive to the other’s wishes. My friend Willard Harley calls it the Mother Teresa phase of a relationship. He says that in this phase each person feels “I want to do what makes you happy and avoid anything that makes you unhappy.”

However, as time passes, we tend to listen less, become less giving, and are more attentive to our own wishes. Willard says we can evolve to what he calls the Attila the Hun phase where each feels, “I want to do what makes me happy and avoid anything that makes me unhappy.”

When one relationship goes bad, it is easy to assume that we will find another that will be much better. However, assumptions have a way of leading to disaster. Things do not always work out the way we plan.

Every relationship has its problems. They start with rainbows; they eventually experience thunderstorms. While leaving one person may seem to be a solution to current difficulties, developing a relationship with a new person always leads to its own difficulties. Every relationship – even the birth of a child – carries the potential of pain over time. An advantage to fixing problems in a current relationship is that you know what the problems are. In any new or relatively new relationship, problems will come; however, you do not know what they will be.

Many have realized that the problems they left paled in comparison to the problems they encountered. Working things out with a current spouse minimizes risk of even greater pain lurking over the horizon in a new relationship.

If your marriage needs help, my seminar can help. Visit this page for more information http://www.MarriageHelper.com/marriage_seminar.php

Joe Beam

Is Your Marriage Over?

March 11, 2011
When Should You Give Up On A Marriage?

The only time I believe in giving up on a marriage is when one of them dies, or if after their divorce one of them marries someone else, or if one of them continues involvement in an activity that makes the marriage impossible. Otherwise, I believe there is a chance to reconcile.

The first two – death or one of them marrying someone else – are obvious. Allow me to briefly explain the third. When someone asks me if they should make the effort to save their marriage when their spouse has done some bad thing I always ask, "Is your spouse a good person doing a bad thing, or a bad person doing a bad thing?" The intention of the question is whether beneath the current bad behavior there exists a good heart or if the person is so intent on his or her selfish behavior there is no chance to rescue them. Judging a person by what he or she is doing now can sometimes lead to the wrong conclusion.

That said, there are actions that make it impossible for a marriage to continue. Here are a few examples:

If one continues in an affair, even after confrontation, it is impossible for the other spouse to continue to live in that marriage. (Though I use the word "impossible," I know of some who have. I don’t recommend it.)

If a person is abusing his or her spouse or children, remaining in that marriage is unwise. Abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, or a combination thereof. I have seen marriages reconcile after the abuser got proper help, but even then strict boundaries were put in place to ensure that no more abuse could occur. If the abuser does not seek or accept the help he or she needs so that their bad behavior is corrected, living with them is not a viable option.

The example list could go on. Sometimes the unhealthy, bad behavior of a spouse makes it treacherous for spouse or children to remain in the same home. If a person refuses to stop the devastating behavior, that person eventually becomes unbearable to live with.

However, allow me to point out that there should be patience in concluding that a person will not stop the action destroying the marriage. Often a planned intervention works and can help to rescue a straying spouse.

Before giving up on a person, have the grace and mercy to try all that can be done to rescue them. That’s why I always encourage a spouse about to end a marriage to seek wise counsel to determine if the spouse is truly hopelessly involved in his or her actions. Hurt and angry spouses sometimes make judgments about their spouses that may be incorrect.

If a person can be rescued, they should be. If a marriage has any chance of reconciliation, that chance should be explored to the deepest level.

So What Can Be Done To Save A Marriage In Trouble (Or Already Divorced)?

I don’t give up on marriages easily.

Why?

Because any marriage can be saved if just two things happen. The first is that both have to stop doing the things destroying their relationship. The second is that each must start doing the things to make love grow. Yes, yes, I know. Sounds Pollyannaish, doesn’t it? However, it’s true. Somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 people have been through courses, seminars, and workshops I developed. Therefore, when I make a statement like that, there is a great deal of experience backing it.

Last weekend another twenty couples or so spent three intense days in our LovePath 911 workshop. Nearly every couple there was in the process of divorce. Quite a few came only to get a better deal in the divorce, and told us quite boldly that they had no interest in saving their marriages. We thanked them for their honesty and did the workshop anyway.

We may actually witness a greater than 75% success rate from that group.

It’s amazing what happens when in the right context and environment people begin to learn more about themselves, their spouses, and their situation. Their view of marriage alters. Their perspective of their future changes. They begin to remember why they fell in love with each other, and to their amazement begin to feel the stirring of that long-lost love.

What Should I Do To Save Or Reconcile My Marriage?

In my conversation with a gentleman last night, I asked him if he would be willing to try to save his marriage. He said he was but he doubted if his wife would be willing. Then, after a pause, he asked how he could find out if that were even a possibility with her. I suggested that if he truly wanted to reconcile his marriage, he not fall for the "buy this book or these tapes and everything will work out" ads he will see. It takes work to put a marriage back together and usually that requires other people to help.

One thing is for sure; his marriage will be over unless he does something to try to change that. He has nothing to lose in attempting reconciliation. A third party who has experience with troubled marriages can help prepare you both for difficult conversations with each other and can be a neutral source to help curb selfish actions that are suffocating the relationship. That third party, if they're gifted and experienced, will understand the need to provide you with the environment to express frustrations and issues so that healing can be achieved without hurt feelings, silent treatments and further damage.

Just as with other issues in life such as our health, automobiles, raising children and managing our finances, seeking a professional third party can be very helpful. Be intentional about saving your marriage. As with other areas in life, hard work and perseverance usually pay off.

Joe Beam founded LovePath International, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples.

Save a Marriage After an Affair

March 11, 2011
Divorce breaks the hearts of those involved - couples, children, parents, friends, church, and the heart of God. One of the greatest underlying events destroying marriages today is adultery. The following is a frank and spiritual message on things to do when the sin of adultery has occurred.

My fervent passion is in saving marriages and making them healthy again. I encourage you to at least make a commitment not to remain at a disinterested distance when couples you love have their lives coming apart.

So let's get started.

To better understand extramarital affairs, I sorted them into three categories.

1. The Short-Lived Affair lasts from one night to several months and is primarily about sex. Subcategories included Revenge Affairs, Affairs of Opportunity (at the right place at the right time to do the wrong thing), Self-Esteem Booster Affairs, and more.

2. The Allowed Affair has become more prevalent with the graying of morality in our culture. It was once called "Swinging" and now its participants just call it "The Lifestyle."

3. The Relationship Affair is the most difficult kind of affair to overcome. It typically starts as friendship that evolves into shared emotions and eventually shared bodies. Those in Relationship Affairs usually are in love with each other. Madly in love.

This is why so many Relationship Affairs lead to divorce - no matter how strongly you tell the person that s/he is sinning and no matter how hard the abandoned spouse tries to save the marriage. Because of such passages as Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, churches usually grant the offended spouse the right to start over with a new mate, and few blame him or her for moving on with life.

May I offer another possibility?

Wouldn't it be better for everyone - the cheated, cheater, children, church, and community - if there were a way to rescue the straying spouse, heal the hurts, and guide husband and wife back to a marriage of love and commitment? We in the marriage business know that if a marriage survives an affair, it will be stronger and more loving than it was before the affair.

Salvaging a marriage when a spouse is in love with someone else usually isn't accomplished by pointing the adulterer to scripture, logic, or consequences. If I had space, I'd explain why. The short version is that they are driven by strong and compelling emotions that they're convinced you don't understand. Therefore, they disregard you, along with your Bible, lectures, and piety. Very often they'll even tell you that God sent the lover to them.

So what do you do to save these marriages?

Based on my experience, I suggest the following to both the abandoned spouse and to all Christians attempting to help:

1. Believe that an affair, even an exceptionally strong Relationship/Love Affair, is not necessarily the end of a marriage. It may be, but it doesn't have to be. Don't give up. Keep praying and doing the right things, no matter how hopeless it may seem.

2. Don't beg, cajole, or attempt to manipulate the adulterer. S/he is already emotionally on edge; emotional actions from you exacerbate the situation. Be firm, but always loving and calm.

3. Don't try to convince him or her that the lover is a bad person or primarily responsible for the affair. That might work in a Short-Lived Affair. However, it typically causes a person in a Relationship Affair to develop an "us against the world" union with the lover.

4. Drag out any divorce proceedings as long as possible. The intense emotions involved with being "madly in love" last anywhere from six to thirty-six months. Though the straying spouse may become angry and try to manipulate the abandoned spouse into divorce ("I'll make things tougher for you if you don't go along with me ..."), the abandoned spouse should be strong, endure the other's wrath, and drag it out as long as possible. There is a very real possibility that the abandoning spouse will eventually lose the intensity of desire to be with the lover. Don't give up!

5. The abandoned spouse should demonstrate his or her ability to survive and prosper without the abandoning spouse. S/he must concentrate on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This accomplishes two things. 1) The abandoned spouse needs this for him- herself. 2) The abandoning spouse often is drawn back to the abandoned spouse when s/he continues to be strong and self-sufficient.

6. In fervent prayer, ask God to bring chaos, financial distress, and anything else He will do to cause pain as a result of the sinner's actions and to create circumstances so that it is difficult for him or her to continue in the affair.

7. The abandoned spouse should procure an attorney that will protect his or her rights, finances, and the like. The attorney should make the divorce as painful as possible - financially and otherwise - to the abandoning spouse while still protecting the interests of the abandoned spouse. Expect the abandoning spouse to react with anger. However, making sin have strong negative consequences is the right thing to do.

8. The church should practice discipline, though in our day and age that hasn't nearly the effect it had in biblical times. It's so easy now to walk down the street and go to another church. However, if done in love and compassion, it still may have the needed effect.

9. Practice intervention. (If you need more information on how to do this, click here.)

10. Convince the straying spouse to take one last action before ending the marriage. Sometimes the abandoned spouse does this by offering a concession such as, "I'll give on this point in the divorce if you do this." Sometimes a friend, church leader, or even the person's child may convince him or her that, for conscience sake, s/he should do one more thing to see if there is any hope for the marriage.

In my weekend turnaround workshop for marriages in crisis, LovePath 911, we have many couples who come because someone convinced the abandoning spouse to attend for conscience sake or to get some concession. Over nearly a decade, we've witnessed one seemingly hopeless marriage after another turn around during that weekend. They don't have to want to be there; they just have to be there.

Whether you use our services, your own counselors, or someone else, the message is the same. We must not give up on marriages because we think that either spouse is beyond rescuing. Don't give up on the power of God and what He can do if only we do our parts.

Joe Beam founded LovePath International, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples.

Into Me See

March 11, 2011
She interrupted my talk to tell me that I should say the word differently to make its meaning clear. Instead of intimacy, I should say it into-me-see.

She had a great point.

The Dictionary defines intimacy as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” In the social sciences we think of it as closeness, openness, vulnerability, and transparency. Pronouncing it into-me-see does a great job of giving the meaning in the way the word sounds. It is letting another person look deep inside you.

The difficulty is that most of us don’t have a person, much less a group of people, with whom we can be so open. We learned early in life that people tend to accept us when we meet their criteria for acceptance, and we learned to paint pictures of how they want us to be rather than showing who we really are.

Yet we crave being known as we truly are and loved nevertheless. No criteria. No pretending. Just love me as I am.

A couple weeks ago a friend was interviewing me before an audience several thousand teenagers. In the course of our conversation, I tried to make it clear that we do strange – sometimes very bad – things in our effort to feel that someone loves us as we are. Without realizing it, I referred to the title of an old hymn that I haven’t heard for decades. I said to my friend, “I want someone to love me just as I am.”

“Just as I am,” he mulled. He quickly got the symbolism. Great revivalists in the last century used that hymn at the end of their sermons to draw people down aisles into public repentance. Maybe they understood its importance. Maybe it was just an easy hymn to sing. Either way, the underlying theme was, and is, powerful.

I want to be accepted just as I am. That’s the core of love. I don’t feel loved when someone wants me to be different in some way to be accepted. I feel loved when I realize that another person can and does love me without requiring me to be any different than I actually am deep inside. Some call it unconditional love. Others call it true love. Most don’t care what it is called: They want just want it.

It is a basic desire of every human. When it happens, tremendous bonds of affection, trust, and loyalty develop. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in many relationships.

Some grow up in homes where they feel they have to meet certain criteria to be accepted by a parent. Others enter romantic relationships with people that constantly want to control or change them, only feeling loved when the partner is happy with what they are being or doing at a particular moment. Yet others feel that their friends accept them and want them around as long as they are giving their friends what they want or need.

It seems to be rare for a person to be in a relationship where he or she feels that the other accepts or loves without requiring any action, belief, mindset, or anything else…where love exists for the person when he is good, when she is bad, or when vacillating between the two.

After the interview by my friend, people lined up to tell me that no one loves them as they are. A teenager told me his friends only want what he can do for them and no one seems to care that he hurts, and that he feels lonely. As long as he does what the group wants, he’s accepted. Rather than feeling a close bond with them, he felt rejected and alone. A wife told me a similar story about her relationship with her husband. A husband’s story was eerily similar, though he had no connection to the woman who had just talked with me.

As each passed in turn, I knew a three things were alike for each of them:

1. They were lonely.
2. They wanted someone to love them without making them pretend to be someone or something else. They craved another person to see into them and accept and care about the person they are, even when flawed or imperfect.
3. They each were vulnerable to abandoning their values if they could feel loved and accepted as they are.

Could a predator person prey on them? Yes. However, they were much more likely to find another hurting person and engage in a relationship with him or her that could lead them both to personal misery or destruction.

When lonely hurting people find each other, it can be a wonderful thing if they develop a relationship based on mutual trust, openness, and understanding. It can be a tragic thing if they come to feel that they are “two against the world” and no one else could ever understand or love them the way they do each other.

Allow me to illustrate. At LovePath International we work a great deal with marriages in crisis. Quite a few of those involve infidelity. Sometimes the infidelity is primarily an affair of opportunity; being in the wrong place at the right time and things get out of hand. As bad as that is – and it is very bad – those are usually the less troublesome to overcome. Those that are far more difficult involve two people, feeling lonely and craving love, who come into contact with each other, but one or both of them are married to someone else.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to convince a person to leave a relationship where they feel accepted and loved for who they are, and go back into a marital relationship where they feel the other person controls or coerces them to be as that spouse wants them to be?

It can only be done if there is a restructuring of the existing marriage to a relationship of unconditional love. That, of course, is very hard to accomplish when the unfaithful mate compares the love and acceptance he or she feels from the lover to the experiences of feeling unloved by their spouse. If the spouse being abandoned isn’t willing to see his or her part in what happened, and isn't open to changing the relationship to one much healthier than they had, it’s relatively impossible. We have an amazing success record of saving three out of four troubled marriages, even when this situation exists, but only occasionally can we help when the abandoned spouse refuses to see what must be done, refuses to take any responsibility for what has occurred, or mostly just wants to hurt the unfaithful spouse.

That is not to say that adultery is justified, or that it is acceptable to stray when one feels more love from a paramour than from a spouse. It is to say that a marriage in crisis because a spouse feels loved by another usually involves a serious problem in the marriage. Whatever the symptoms, the underlying cause probably relates to at least one spouse, if not both, feeling a lack of love because they are afraid to let the other person see into them. Or they did let the other person see into them but were rejected, castigated, or made to pretend to be someone else.

Intimacy is the answer to a great many problems in relationships. However, it will never occur until a person feels safe enough to show who he or she is, and the other person in the relationship can accept them as they are.

Without that, all relationships are temporary. They exist until a person finds acceptance and love from someone else. Don't let that happen to your marriage!

Joe Beam founded LovePath International, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples.

Online Affairs: AKA Facebook Affairs

January 06, 2011
Yesterday I talked with another wife emotionally involved with an old boyfriend she bumped into online on Facebook. No surprise there. Every month couples enroll in our workshop for marriages in crisis because one of them – usually the wife – became emotionally and/or physically enmeshed with someone found on one of the social networking sites.

Before you lecture me about how the Internet is neither good nor bad, just a tool, please know that I am not a Neo-Luddite, technophobe, or antimodernist. It’s a great thing to be able to track down old friends online. My wife Alice and I tried for years to find Rhonda, one of my former students. We tried the alumni association, search engines, and everything else that wouldn’t cost a bundle. Nothing worked until Facebook. There she was, easy to find, and we renewed our friendship. Thank you, Facebook.

However, there is another side to this. Every month I see firsthand how it can also be a bad thing to be able to track down old friends, or even to make new friends with the stroke of a key. Thousands of marriages are in trouble this very moment because someone kindled an improper relationship on the Internet. That isn’t the fault of social networking sites, nor of the Internet itself, of course, but those tools make it much easier to get into these situations. We likely agree that a person that develops a relationship with someone other than his/her spouse had some type of vulnerability that preceded the illicit relationship. Where we might not agree is how many married people have such vulnerabilities. Based on my work with couples over the last fifteen years, I’d say many people that think they aren’t vulnerable are indeed vulnerable. A marriage doesn’t have to be bad for one person to feel unfulfilled. It just has to fall short of what one or the other needs or expects. I wish I had kept count of the number of times I’ve worked with someone involved with another who said, “I don’t know how this happened. I thought we were okay. How did I get into this mess?”

Recently a few people corresponded with me about social networking sites and potential marital problems. One lady wrote, “My marriage is in trouble because of what I told myself was innocent flirting. Now I am paying the price for it. MySpace, AIM, and Facebook are all places where a married person can get into trouble."

Another wife wrote, “I believe the key is being aware of the dangers and not assuming ‘it can't happen to me.’ Most dangerous relationships start out very innocently. The needs that are not met will suddenly be filled by someone else: Satan makes sure the void is filled.”

This lady said, “Facebook and other social sites can be very dangerous to a marriage. I think, mainly, because it seems so innocent and so normal to contact people from the past, even people who are from your intimate past.”

Husbands get involved online as well, but, interestingly, most couples that come to our workshop do so because the wife became entangled with another.

How should a person make sure that s/he never crosses the line on a social networking site, or any other site?

First, always work on your marriage. Never take it for granted. Even good marriages may be corruptible because of boredom, feelings of loneliness, desire for a simpler life, cravings for romance, or just plain old curiosity. At least every six months, couples should do something together to strengthen their marriage. Work through a good marriage book, check out our marriage seminar, spend a few hours with a mentor couple, or take a long weekend without the children, work, or any interruptions and do a lot of talking about whatever comes to mind.

Second, always think “it could happen to me” and place boundaries so that it cannot. Do NOT flirt! Yes, it can stroke the ego, but it can also plant the seed of the poison that will destroy you. One woman wrote, “Pay attention to the red flags and pray for strength when they come along. And be willing to hit the ‘remove from friends’ button if the relationship is moving into the flirting zone.” The problem comes when you wait until later rather than sooner to stop. Wait long enough, and you will not stop.

Third, be completely, positively, absolutely open and honest with your spouse about everything. A wife shared, “If your spouse asks who just 'whispered' you online, don't do as I used to and tell him 'no one' when it's someone you shouldn't be talking to. Be honest about who you are communicating with. Openness with your spouse regarding your Facebook is the key.”

Fourth, be honest with yourself about what your weaknesses or intentions might be. The words of this lady hit the target squarely, “I am friends with a couple of ex-boyfriends on Facebook, but my husband knows about them and I know better than to flirt with disaster. My marriage isn't perfect, but it is where I want to be and because of that, I will not risk my family for a rekindled, already failed, long past, relationship. What do people often say is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same process over and over, expecting a different outcome. I learned the first time that these relationships were doomed and detrimental to me. My husband is the better man for me. However, someone with a shaky marriage or any doubt of their self-control should not tamper with old flames on any social network. That would be asking for trouble and trouble will usually find those who are asking for it.”

Finally, some couples need to treat social networking sites just as other couples must treat porn sites. If the weakness or propensity exists for either husband or wife to develop relationships that may harm the marriage, get the Internet out of your house and keep it out your house. Drastic? Yes. However, when preventative measures fail and the medicine doesn’t work, it takes surgery to save a life.

Joe Beam founded LovePath International, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples. For more articles by Joe and permission to reproduce these articles on your website click here.

Joe Beam

December 06, 2008
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