'I forgave my husband after he became obsessed with another woman'

A married man says he became “obsessed” with another woman after meeting her at a course - but his wife has since forgiven him after realising it “wasn’t his fault”.

Ruth Perl, 58, and her husband David, 64, have spent 13 years recovering from the incident. David never acted on his feelings towards the person he fancied - but he chose to tell the woman after confiding in Ruth.

He started researching an emotional experience known as ‘limerence’ - which means intrusive, romantic thoughts about another person. David realised his feelings were unwanted - he had no control over them and wasn't interested in beginning an affair with the woman.


After telling Ruth about his realisation, the couple spent time rebuilding their relationship - and say they’re happier than ever.

David, a couples’ therapist, said: “It wasn’t a normal crush, it was weird and disturbing - but we’ve put in the years to heal ourselves since. It was a difficult one - I did end up telling the other person, as I was encouraged to do so through therapy.

“I think she was horrified - in hindsight, it was really unfair to put that on her. But it’s all about forgiveness, we’ve done the work and are happier than ever.”

David met the woman he developed feelings for on January 14, 2011 - after chatting to her at a training course. Their conversation lasted less than 20 minutes, but David could feel he was “besotted” by her - without being able to put a finger on why.

“I’ve had crushes before,” he added. “We both have. But nothing like this - this was really unusual.”

David thought about her, night-and-day, for weeks. He looked online at forums about “obsessive love” - and came across a post about limerence.

He said: “I thought, 'jeez, this is what I’ve got to a T.' Something’s not right - I was absolutely obsessed and I only spoke to her for 20 minutes.

“I kept going over every single word she said to me, every little action. The moment I’d wake up, I’d rehearse in my head what I might say to her if she came up to talk to me.

“I’d experience soaring highs if she replied to an email - and extreme lows if she didn’t. It was like an intermittent reward.”

Knowing the feeling wasn’t going to go away any time soon, he decided to tell Ruth - who also works as a couples’ therapist.

She said: “David told me, and this was all going on about five days after my dad’s funeral. I was in horrific grief at the time, and so my first thoughts were: ‘Oh, for god’s sake. How can you be so bloody stupid?’

“My dad had just died, and my husband wanted to p*ss off into fantasy land. We went into freefall, and it was a very, very difficult 12 months.”

After choosing to concentrate on grieving for her dad for a year, Ruth says she “finally had the brain capacity” to sit down with David, and ask him what was going on. He hadn’t acted on his feelings - and actively decided he wouldn’t “consummate” the crush.

“David reached out to me,” Ruth said. “He asked me, ‘please help me understand what’s going on.’

“He was so confused. I asked him if he still wanted to be married, and he said, ‘I don’t want to throw away what we’ve got.’ I told him to sit in the confusion, and I’d do what I could to support him.

“But I knew that what will be will be, we might not necessarily make it out of this.”

David, from St. Albans, said: “We started having marriage counselling - and one thing I want to stress is it isn’t an excuse to cheat. I was responsible for what I did - but it did make me realise that often, people don’t set out to have an affair.”

David explored some of the ways therapists encourage people to “heal” from limerence - including starving themselves from contact, or consummating it with the other person. He settled on going to therapy, and letting the woman know he couldn’t speak to her anymore.

Now, David and Ruth help other couples going through the same thing - and have taught their children, Hannah-Mai, 32, and Isobel, 29, how to value their own relationships.

Ruth said: “It was important our two daughters knew about all this. They were older teenagers when this was all going on, and they understood it.

“We thought it was very important for them to understand that all marriages have differences - but you don’t throw the towel in when the going gets tough. Even when you’re talking about a full-blown physical affair. Once is a mistake, twice is a habit.”