Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy. I’m a relationship coach and I help people who are engaging in anything they think counts as infidelity to deal with their feelings, clarify what they want, and make decisions about what they’re going to do. No shame, no blame, no judgments. A lot of the “advice” out there for people who are cheating on their partners is little more than thinly veiled judgement, but that is not what I provide. I believe that you are entitled to guidance and support that respects the fullness of your humanity, and the complexity of your situation, no matter what you’re doing. If you would like my help resolving your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, let’s work together. The first step is to schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com. I can’t wait to meet you.
Today we’re going to talk about abundance of love vs. scarcity of love in the world, and the kinds of situations in which it behooves us to be aware of whether we’re believing that love is abundant, or love is scarce. Sometimes people talk about abundance and scarcity – whether of love or of anything else – in very woo woo and abstract terms. And it may even be useful at times to think about abundance of love in woo woo or abstract, general terms. But today I’m going to talk about some specific examples of things that can happen within infidelity situations where our beliefs about the abundance or scarcity of love really matter, because those beliefs impact how we deal with our situations, and what actual actions we take in our lives.
The first general example I’ll touch on is this. Sometimes, people get into situations that seem to involve a choice between one romantic partner and another. Specifically, sometimes a person is married, or is in a committed relationship, and they’re also involved with someone else, and it seems like the big question they have to resolve is, do they want to stay with their spouse, or their long-term partner, or do they want to pursue their relationship with their affair partner. And for a lot of people, it really seems like this situation must be resolved by answering the either-or question. Do I want to be with this person, or that person?
Now, sometimes people know, at least intellectually, that they could choose to leave both relationships, and move forward in their love life with a clean slate. But sometimes people are very reluctant to consider that that’s even an option, because they really don’t believe there’s anyone else out there for them.
Sometimes people are pretty darn SURE that it’s either their spouse or their affair partner, and it has to be one or the other, or else they’ll end up alone. But other people are pretty scared that this might be true, even though they at least theoretically believe that it doesn’t HAVE to be true. And other people have never even considered the possibility that there might be a whole world of potential partners out there, just waiting to meet them.
Whether you are extremely afraid of being alone, or just a little bit afraid that things with both your spouse and your affair partner might not work out and then you’d be shit out of luck, these fears can be pretty potent, and they’re worth acknowledging. When we acknowledge our fears, instead of trying brush them under the rug, we’re able to deal with them a lot more consciously, and that’s a very helpful thing to be able to do.
One of the reasons why it’s so important to acknowledge the fear that it’s either our spouse or our affair partner or we’ll end up alone is because that fear can make the stakes of your situation seem INCREDIBLY high, and that can lead to some pretty funny decision making.
Now, of course, your infidelity situation might not include a spouse and an affair partner. You might be dealing with a totally different equation. You might not only have a person A and a person B, but you might have a person C, and maybe even a person D, E, F, and G in your life. So I want to acknowledge that, but today I’m going to talk primarily about situations in which you have a spouse and an affair partner, in part for the sake of simplicity, and in part because this is such a common scenario, and it’s important to address. And of course, many of the themes within the experiences of folks in this kind of a situation will be relevant to you, even if the specifics of your infidelity equation are different.
A lot of folks who are married and are considering leaving their marriage in part for the purpose of creating the opportunity to have an above-board relationship with their affair partner believe that if they leave their marriage, they will be giving up a pretty good thing, or at least a sure thing, in order to take a chance on an uncertain thing, or a relationship that they’re relatively uncertain about. And, on the one hand, these ways of thinking may be valid to a point. Yes, there may be many aspects of your relationship with your spouse, or your committed partner, that you really value and appreciate, and you may have a shared history with them and a shared life with them that you really like. All of that may be true, and you may not take the idea of relinquishing all of that stuff lightly. But there is a BUT to that, but I’ll get to it in a few moments.
And of course, along with that, it may be reasonable to say that you can’t be certain of your relationship with your affair partner in the same way that you can be certain of a relationship you’ve been involved in for a few years or ten years or twenty years or forty years or however long you’ve been with your committed partner. It’s pretty hard to compare a long-term committed relationship to a much shorter-term relationship that has existed exclusively or primarily as a secret relationship. It’s pretty hard to compare a relationship that has all kinds of everyday life stuff built into it, to a relationship that is primarily or exclusively organized around a really intensely pleasurable connection. If you’re trying to compare your relationship with your spouse to your relationship with your affair partner, you’ve got to realize that not only can you not compare apples to apples, you may not really even be able to make a fruit-to-fruit comparison. And as such, comparing the two relationships may not really help you all that much.
Instead of making comparisons, what I want you to consider is that you could have everything you want in a relationship. Instead of thinking about EITHER the stability and comfort of your long-term committed relationship, OR the excitement and passion of your affair, I want you to consider that you might be able to have all of those things.
And by the way, I’m not suggesting that your long-term relationship is JUST about stability and comfort and your affair relationship is JUST about passion and excitement. I know full well that both of these relationships – or whatever relationships you’re juggling – probably have a lot of good things to them, otherwise you wouldn’t be having so much trouble deciding what you want to do with your love life!
BUT, I do want to make the point that we sometimes get into thinking that we can have certain things in one relationship, but not in another. We think our relationship with our spouse could NEVER be as exciting as our relationship with our affair partner. And we think our relationship with our affair partner might never turn out to be as good of a partnership as the one we have with our spouse. We kind of pigeonhole each party into the role they currently occupy for us, and we assume we know what’s possible with each person, and within each relationship.
And when we get into this kind of thinking, it can seem like we’re facing a very torturous decision. It may seem like we’re choosing between stability OR excitement. Or a wonderful shared history with someone, OR an exciting set of new possibilities. And those may seem like impossible choices to make.
Here’s what I want to suggest. Although you are totally allowed to have whatever preferences you want to have, you may also want to consider that your relationship with anyone you are involved with – your spouse, your affair partner, or whomever – has the potential to grow in ways you may not yet have imagined. There can be an abundance of unrecognized possibilities in any relationship.
For example, sometimes people are CONVINCED that their sex life with their spouse or long-term partner is pretty much dead. Or if not dead, then basically comatose. And if they’re having amazing sex with their affair partner, they may come to the conclusion that their affair partner is THE source of amazing sex for them, and they could never have such amazing sex with their spouse, because it simply isn’t possible.
Here's the deal, people. You don’t have to want to have sex with anyone. You don’t have to want to have amazing sex with anyone. Sometimes we get to the point where we simply do not want to have sex with our partner anymore, and that is totally okay. You get to make that call anytime you want, for any reasons you want.
But there’s a difference between deciding you do not want to have sex with someone anymore, and believing that it isn’t possible for you to have amazing sex with someone. It actually might be possible. It might not only be possible, it might end up being better sex than you even dared to hope for.
And the same is true for other aspects of a relationship, of course. Sometimes we think our long-term partner is incapable of connecting with us emotionally in the way that we connect with our affair partner. And again, if you just don’t want to connect with your long-term partner emotionally anymore, it is your prerogative to make that choice! But again… there’s a difference between saying you don’t want to do something, and telling yourself that something isn’t possible.
On the other side of that coin, sometimes people think that even if their relationship with their affair partner is really exciting and amazing and intensely wonderful in SOME ways, it would never work out in the long run, or in “real life.” As soon as the everyday business of life were to become a part of the relationship, the magic would fade – or so the thinking sometimes goes. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It can be the case, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Just because you and your affair partner haven’t had to do laundry together yet, or pay bills together yet, or manage other life stuff together yet, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do those kinds of things together and still REALLY enjoy and appreciate your relationship.
So the general important points I want to emphasize here are as follows: we want to be aware of the constraints we place on the possibilities of love with particular people, or in particular relationships. We may assume that we can’t experience X, Y, or Z with a particular person, but that doesn’t have to be as true as we think it is. If we want to love someone, we can intentionally cultivate love for them, or desire for them, or attraction to them, and when we do this, we may surprise ourselves by what we get. Now, this kind of change may take effort. In fact it almost certainly will. In order to get what we want in relationships, we have to be willing to take radical responsibility for what we have the power to control, and that takes a certain amount of work. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all.
Affair relationships serve as great teachers. Sometimes, from having an affair, we learn more about ourselves, and what we want in a relationship, and what’s important to us in a partner, and how we want to love, and how we want to be loved, and what we want our sex life to be like, and all kinds of other stuff. And all of this insight helps us expand our vision of what is possible for us to experience. If we want to move forward in our life in A relationship, meaning one relationship, we may have a much richer, more current sense of what we want that relationship to look like. We may also come to the realization that we do NOT want to move forward in ONE relationship, but I’m not going to say more about that possibility today.
When you grow in your sense of what is possible in a relationship, you grow in your capacity to make all of that happen within a relationship. You want a really pleasant home life AND great sex? Well great! What can you do to make that happen? Can you start to see how that might be possible with your spouse OR your affair partner? You might have to engage in the relationship differently in order to create these new experiences, but that’s totally possible.
If you’re trying to choose between your spouse and your affair partner, ask yourself if you would want to have everything you want in a relationship with either – or both – of those people. This isn’t a question about what you think is possible, this is a question of what you would WANT.
If you DO want to have everything you want in a relationship with one of the people you’re involved with, then you get to get down to the business of creating that with that person. And yes, you don’t exactly what’s going to happen if you try to, say, have better sex with someone you haven’t had great sex with in a long time. But the endeavor is going to be totally different if you believe that it is abundantly possible for you to have great sex with your person. If you are pretty convinced that great sex with your person is highly unlikely at best, you may well prove yourself right. Your job is to consider believing in the abundance of ways you can experience love with a particular person.
And, if you decide that given your expanded sense of what is possible in relationships, and what you want in a relationship, you don’t want to be with your spouse OR your affair partner, guess what? There are about 8 billion people on the planet these days. You can find someone who you would love to be in a relationship with, I promise.
Now I’m not saying that to take anything away from the uniquely precious people who you are currently involved with. Not at all. But two seemingly competing things can be true at once: any particular relationship can be uniquely wonderful, AND there can be endless possibilities for you to experience the kind of love you want to experience.
In fact, sometimes people leave their marriage with the hope that they’re going to have a relationship with their affair partner, and then that relationship doesn’t work out – and that truly seems like the END OF THE WORLD for a moment. But then, a funny thing starts to happen. The person who might have initially thought they were all alone and had lost not one but two relationships, and thought they had lost all hope for ever having a partner, starts to discover that there are all kinds of interesting, attractive people out there. Who happen to find them interesting and attractive, too. And all of a sudden they go from mourning the loss of their marriage and their affair relationship to being so incredibly glad that NEITHER of those relationships worked out, because there are just so many amazing people out there that they want to get to know better. And sometimes in these situations, the affair partner eventually comes crawling back, and the person they left behind is like, you know what, there was a time when I thought I couldn’t live without you, but actually I can. I thought you were the only person in the world who I could experience intense love and happiness with, but actually, I have discovered that that is not the case at all.
If we are open to it, love is all around. Or great sex is all around. Or fun flirtatious conversations are all around. Or people who find us attractive and interesting are all around.
And, on the other hand, if we are closed off to the abundance of love, if we are convinced that love is scarce, and certain that getting what we want is hard, that will become our experience. Not by magic, but because our thinking creates our feeling state, and our feeling state determines the actions we take and decline to take.
If you know what you want in a relationship and you know what you want to contribute to a relationship and you believe you’re a wonderful person and you believe the world is full of wonderful people, chances are, you’re going to have a pretty easy time meeting great people. And you’re going to be willing to get out there in the world and meet people, one way or another. If, on top of that, you believe that you are attractive and intelligent and hilarious and kind and generous and fun, and that the world is full of people who are dying to meet you, my guess is that you’re going to get more attention from attractive, interesting, intelligent, fun people than you know what to do with. Your cup may runneth over!
But so often, we DON’T think that way. We think that great love or great sex or great connections are in limited supply. And there are all kinds of messages out there that support these ways of thinking, so if you’ve been thinking this way, I don’t blame you! BUT you may also want to ask yourself if this way of thinking is serving you.
So often, when we think that love is limited, we cling to whatever we’ve got – even if we know we’d prefer something different. We think that because our marriage is pretty good, and there isn’t anything objectively terrible about it, we shouldn’t yearn for more – and we definitely shouldn’t leave our spouse.
If we think that our connection with our affair partner is amazing but it couldn’t possibly work outside of the affair bubble, we may take the kinds of actions that will prove us right.
What if we could appreciate whatever we appreciate – in a relationship or in any other area of our lives – and trust that it’s okay to want more? And what if we could trust that more is out there, either within a very particular relationship, or beyond the scope of the relationships we’re currently involved in? This is such a radical shift for many of us, to the point that we don’t even want to try on this way of thinking!
When we fear that love is limited, we may think that we’re protecting ourselves from disappointment.
But what we’re really doing is shutting ourselves off from connection. Closing ourselves off to possibilities.
Okay. I want to talk about one other way our thinking about the abundance or scarcity of love can have a big impact in infidelity situations.
If we’re contemplating leaving someone, we may fear that they won’t be okay without us. And this can be true no matter who we’re thinking of leaving, but I see more people who are deeply worried about what will happen to the partner they’re committed to if they leave them.
Sometimes we believe that if we leave our spouse or our committed partner, they’ll never find love again. We may believe that we’re essentially the only thing holding them together, and that if we leave them, they’ll just crumple. We may believe that if they find out that we’ve cheated on them, they’ll be so scarred by that knowledge that they’ll never be able to trust anyone again.
Usually, when people think this way, they think they’re being caring and considerate. But I want to suggest that this kind of thinking reflects a scarcity of love for your person, or a lack of love for your person. What? Some people think that sounds heretical, but even if it is heretical, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering. I want to suggest that loving someone abundantly might include trusting that they’ll be okay without us, even if they do indeed struggle in some ways, if our relationship comes to an end that they don’t like.
Let’s face it. Believing that someone will never love again if we leave them, or won’t be okay without us is DEFINITELY a form of scarcity thinking. There could be a million ways for your partner to be okay without you. If they want to find love again, I promise you, it’s available to them and it is possible for them to find it.
Let me hasten to emphasize that believing that love is abundant, and believing that we have the capacity to love if not literally ANYONE, then maybe a bunch of different people, does not diminish the importance of the particular love we have for any unique individual, or individuals. We can experience the love we have for a particular person as singular, and uniquely precious, AND also believe that our capacity to experience love with others is only limited by our own imagination.
And we can believe that the same is true for others, too.
Let me be clear that sometimes someone will leave someone, and the person who is left will essentially crumple, and kind of stop in their tracks, and never really pick themselves up again. And even for the hardiest and most resilient of us, the end of an important relationship can be a pretty big deal, and we may go through an extended meltdown if our partner breaks up with us and we didn’t want the relationship to end.
But that said, your partner may surprise you with their capacity to deal with you leaving them, and their capacity to find love again and form new relationships. And more importantly, you don’t have to wait for them to surprise you. You can believe, ahead of time, that they will be okay without you! For some of us, this can feel like a bit of a blow to our egos, but we can take that hit. And besides, is it really all that attractive to believe that your partner will not be okay without you? It might not be!
Having an abundance of love for your partner may include trusting that they’ll be okay without you – even if they do struggle with the end of your relationship. Having an abundance of love for your partner may mean trusting that if they want love – in any form, or forms – they can find it if they take responsibility for doing that. Having faith in the abundance of love in general may include recognizing that you are not the only source of love that is available to them – and perhaps, by setting them free, you may be paving the way for them to experience the fullest expressions of love that are possible for them.
Okay. In conclusion, I want you to consider that two things can be true at once: your love for any particular individual can be unique and uniquely precious. AND there is also infinite love available to you beyond any particular relationship. That’s true for you, and true for anyone you’re involved with.
And that is it for today, everyone! Thank you all so much for listening. If you would like my help sorting out your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, let’s work together. The first step is to schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com. I offer confidential, compassionate coaching via Zoom, which means we can work together no matter where you’re located.
Have a great week everyone! Bye for now.