136: If You’ve Been Stuck in Your Infidelity Situation for a While

Apr 11, 2023

Last week, Dr. Marie Murphy discussed how to get your bearings in a brand-new infidelity situation. This week, she’s addressing those of you who have been in your affair for what feels like a long time. The truth is, the duration isn’t important, but if you’ve reached a point where you feel stuck in your infidelity situation, this episode is for you.

When you’re feeling stuck in your infidelity situation, it’s easy to think that the situation is out of your hands and change is becoming increasingly more difficult. What you need is a little tough love so you can see that no matter how long it’s been going on, you are not stuck and you do have the ability to resolve your infidelity situation.

Of course, resolving your infidelity situation doesn’t mean stopping cheating and recommitting to your spouse or partner, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite. Tune in this week to discover what to do if you’ve been stuck in your infidelity situation for a long time and you feel like you’ve already tried everything to resolve it.

If you’re ready to take this topic deeper in a confidential and compassionate environment, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with Dr. Marie Murphy by clicking here!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The beliefs that have you feeling stuck in your affair when it’s been going on for a while.

  • Why a resolution to your situation could take a number of different forms.

  • How the defining attribute of any resolution is that you like your reasons for committing to it.

  • Why you are not entitled to a particular outcome just because you’ve tried to get it.

  • The tough love you need to hear if you currently believe you’re stuck in your infidelity situation.

  • 5 things you can start doing right now to actually begin resolving your infidelity situation.

Listen to the Full Episode: 


Featured on the Show:

Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy.  I’m a relationship coach 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 so-called advice for people who are engaging in any kind of infidelity is little more than thinly veiled judgment, 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.  So if you’re ready for some relief, let’s talk.  You can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com, and you can learn more about the current packages I offer clients as well as my current pricing on the services page of my website.  I offer confidential, compassionate coaching via Zoom, which means we can work together no matter where you’re located.  I can’t wait to meet you.

In last week’s episode, I offered some guidance for how you can begin to get your bearings if you’re in an infidelity situation that is very new.  This week, I’m going to speak to those of you who have been in your infidelity situation for a WHILE.  “A while” can mean many things – for some people it means a number of months, and for some people it means a number of years.  The specific duration of your situation isn’t as important as you having gotten to a point where you think you’re “stuck” in your infidelity situation, or you think you have tried to figure out what to do about your infidelity situation, but you “can’t” figure it out, or you think that there’s really no way for your situation to get better unless something changes that you don’t have the power to control.

I’m going to throw down a little tough love for you today, people.  If you want to resolve your infidelity situation and you have not yet figured out how to do that, here’s the deal: you have to be willing to keep going.

Before I go any further, let me clarify something that is really important that I haven’t mentioned on the podcast lately.  “Resolving” your infidelity situation can take many forms.  When I say “resolve your infidelity situation,” that isn’t code for, “quit cheating and recommit to your spouse.”  That sort of resolution wouldn’t even be an option for everyone I work with, anyway.  Not everyone I work with HAS a spouse; there are many different types of infidelity situations, or ways to be involved in an infidelity situation.  So a “resolution” to your situation could take many forms.  

That said, there ARE defining attributes of a resolution, in my opinion, and those are that you pick a particular course of action for reasons that you like, and you commit to sticking with it, and you commit to making the best of what you’ve chosen to do.  If you want to consider why that might be worth doing, I encourage you to listen to episode 100, which is called, “The point of resolving your infidelity situation.”  For some people “resolving” their situation, at least in the short term, means that they decide to keep on doing whatever they’re doing.  Or put differently, they decide to not make any changes in what they’re doing, but they make peace with that.  THAT’S the resolution, in that sort of scenario.  And to be clear, for some people that does mean that they decide they’re going to keep cheating, and doing all of the things that go along with that, like lying to one or more people.  Let’s just be really clear that that is an option that is open to you.  For more on that topic, you may want to listen to episode 82 which is called, “How to cheat and keep your sanity intact.”  

Being able to say, I don’t want to make a decision, but I’m just going to embrace that, and keep on living my life without freaking out about that 

is very different from continuing to indulge in the belief that you “can’t” 

make a decision, and that something needs to come along and change in order for that to be different.  That’s important to emphasize.

Now let’s move on so that I can yell – lovingly, of course – at those of you who think you are stuck in your infidelity situation, and can’t find a way to resolve it, and have been thinking this way for what you consider to be a long time.

Sometimes, when we’ve been struggling with something for a while, when we’ve been trying to deal with a particular challenge for what we think of as a long time, and nothing seems to be changing, we start to think that are entitled to have gotten somewhere different already.  We may think that we’ve worked so hard to figure out situation out, or done so much to try to resolve whatever it is we’re contending with, and we should have gotten some relief by now.  We think that things should be different already – and by different, we usually mean easier, or simpler, or clearer, or less confusing, or less hard.  If we’ve been trying – in our estimation – really hard at something, and our efforts haven’t generated their desired results, we think that something has gone wrong.  And, we may think that by now, given all we’ve already done, we’ve suffered enough, and we shouldn’t have to suffer anymore.

And when we think this way, when we operate from these kinds of beliefs, we tend to do things – or not do things, as the case may be – that prove us right.  If we think “I’ve tried everything, and I just can’t find my way out of this conundrum,” we tend to behave as if we really can’t find our way out of our conundrum.  And then we don’t find our way out of it.  What that may mean in practice is that we either stop trying to resolve our infidelity situation, OR we keep trying approaches that just aren’t working, OR we try new approaches, but we expect them to bring us an instant resolution – and we don’t give them enough of a chance to actually benefit us.  And then nothing much happens, and we tell ourselves that that is evidence that we truly cannot make any changes, and we’re just doomed to stay stuck.

Here’s the deal, people.  Trying to do something does not entitle you to any particular outcomes.  Putting effort into something does not mean that you are guaranteed any results, or should be guaranteed any results.  Even if you have spent YEARS trying to resolve your infidelity situation, that does not mean that you somehow deserve to have the whole thing sorted out by now.  

That’s not to say that effort doesn’t count for anything.  I think there is tremendous value in effort in many situations, and sometimes, I think that making an effort is intrinsically valuable, even if it doesn’t get us to the results we want.  But we are not entitled to get a particular outcome that we want simply because we’ve tried to get it.  And when we THINK that we deserve to have already gotten what we want, by virtue of having expended a certain amount of effort, we set ourselves up to feel sorry for ourselves, or pity ourselves, or feel like victims of our circumstances.

And that’s all fine if what you want is to sit in your dirty diaper all day long.  Or all year long.  Or for your entire lifetime.  Or for however long you want to.  If you want to be able to sit around and say, “Well, I tried everything, but it just didn’t work!” you have that option, and I will not attempt to wrestle it away from you!  But if what you want is to resolve your infidelity situation – or reach whatever goal it is that you have, or create whatever it is that you want to create in your life – you have to be willing to keep going, even if you think you’ve tried really hard, and even if you think you’ve tried everything, and even if you think you shouldn’t have to do anything more to get what you want.  

Getting what you want from what you’ve already tried doing may not be an option.  But you do have the option to keep going, and keep trying new things.  And that might not sound like fun, if you think you’ve already worked hard enough or suffered enough in the pursuit of what you want.  But if you really want to get to where you say you want to go, that’s the only option you have.

The great news is, that does not have to be a problem!  You do not have to make the fact that you have not resolved your infidelity situation yet into a terrible thing.  I know you may THINK it’s a rather terrible thing.  I know you may think that you have this unsolvable problem on your hands and woe is you and you’ve tried everything and it’s just so hard and why does life have to be this hard?  I get it.  I know.  You may have spent ten years feeling “stuck” in your infidelity situation, and me telling you that isn’t a problem may sound like heresy!  Or just really insulting.  So often, when we think we’ve had a hard time with something, we think that “having a hard time” is a big problem, and needs to be considered a big deal.  Don’t worry, I’ve been there.  I KNOW what it’s like to be very attached to the idea that I have suffered, and my struggle is real, and that I deserve some sort of martyr prize for what I’ve been through.  Or something like that.

But I want you to consider the possibility that thinking this way is not going to help you get what you want – unless what you want is to feel sorry for yourself.  And by the way, feeling sorry for yourself if you think you’ve struggled enough doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  It’s not a reflection of your fundamental worth, or an indication of bad character.  Not at all.  It’s a totally human tendency.  But usually, there are things that we want MORE than we want to feel sorry for ourselves, and if you want to get to those things, you’re going to have to be willing to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and do something else instead.

And to that effect, if you think you’ve been stuck in your infidelity situation for a while, or have believed that you can’t resolve your infidelity situation for a while, but you really WANT to resolve your infidelity situation, here are five things I recommend you start doing right now.


If you have been trying to resolve your infidelity situation for months or years or longer and it seems like it’s been hard or impossible and you feel like you’ve been trying so, so hard to make change, to no avail, and you’re feeling kinda sorry for yourself, I recommend you allow yourself to have a pity party.  Have your pity party, and make it EPIC.  Allow yourself to really go there.  Feel as sorry for yourself as you possibly can.  Let yourself believe that you’ve tried everything to deal with your situation and it just hasn’t worked, or hasn’t been possible, despite your very best efforts.  Or whatever the specific storyline is for you.  

Let yourself go there…and then decide that you’re going to be done with it.  Done with the pity party, that is.  Sometimes there is great value in allowing ourselves to say something along the lines of, “Woe is me, it’s been so hard, I’ve had such a tough time,” and just sit around in our poopy pants for a while.  Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to truly believe we are powerless before we can claim our power.  Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to believe we are a victim before we can consider the possibility that we might not be a victim, or at least, might not be a victim to the extent that we thought we were.  So if you need to wallow a little bit, go for it.  It’s your party, and you can cry if you want to, and if you want to, there’s so much value in just getting it out.  But if you want anything to change, your opportunity lies in being willing to take responsibility for the things you have the power to control.  So have your pity party, sit around in your dirty diaper for another day or two, and then decide on purpose that you are going to take responsibility for what you can, even if you don’t know what that means yet.

Sometimes we don’t want to take responsibility, because we think that doing so will be hard.  Or otherwise unpleasant.  But what many people find is that taking responsibility, even if that starts with very small shifts, is actually easier and more pleasant than the alternatives.   


BE WILLING TO KEEP GOING.  One of the most basic yet important things you can begin to take responsibility for is the way you think about your situation.  Simply changing your attitude from “This has been going on for too long, I shouldn’t have to deal with this anymore, I should have figured this out already” to “I am willing to do whatever it takes to resolve my situation, even if I don’t know exactly what that entails quite yet” is powerful.  The first kind of thinking divorces you from your power.  The second kind of thinking puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life.

It's important to affirm your willingness to keep going, and keep working towards resolving your infidelity situation because there are some things in life that do not have a guaranteed end point.  Some things just take as long as they take!  And if we want to see those things through, we have to be willing to keep going even though we don’t know exactly where the finish line is.

So if you really want to resolve your infidelity situation, you can do yourself a tremendous favor by being willing to keep going, and being willing to do whatever it may take to get you to your desired result.  

That does NOT mean that resolving your infidelity situation needs to take forever.  It does NOT need to take forever.  But we need to be aware of the fact that when we think things like, “This is taking too long and I should be done already,” or “I can’t stand not knowing when I’m going to be done with this,” we end up interfering with the process of resolving our situation!  So do yourself a favor and be willing to keep going.

That brings me to point number THREE:


As they say, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  So often what I see is that people who have been “trying to resolve” their infidelity situation for months or years or even longer than that have been doing things over and over that are not benefitting them in any way.  But they keep doing the same things again and again anyway!  They keep putting a lot of effort into banging their heads against the wall.  

I have the utmost empathy for this, because a) banging our head against the wall HURTS, and b) we usually keep doing the same things over and over again when we just don’t know what else to do!  And that’s not a fun place to be!

But.  All the empathy in the world will not change the fact that if you keep doing the same things, if you keep approaching your situation in the same ways, you are NOT likely to get different results.  So you need to be really honest with yourself about what exactly it is you’ve been doing to try to resolve your infidelity situation, and whether or not what you’re doing is working.  

Sometimes, when people tell me they’ve been “trying really hard” to resolve their infidelity situation, it turns out that what they’ve been doing essentially boils down to not very much.  OR, they have been very actively doing things, but those things just aren’t doing anything much for them.  

So if you want to get un-stuck, it may be time to take a clear look at what you’ve been “trying” in your efforts to resolve your infidelity situation, and to be radically honest with yourself about whether your methods are working for you or not.  And if they aren’t, I cannot encourage you enough to be willing to set the old ways down, and be open to trying something different.

That of course takes me to point number FOUR:  


If what you’ve been trying – or “trying” – to resolve your infidelity situation hasn’t worked yet, it may be time to try new things.  And you may need to try the new things in dedicated way in order to get any benefit from doing them!  

Just about any practice for making change, or any system for making change requires sustained application in order to be effective.  If you want to recover from an injury, you usually can’t just go to physical therapy once and then be all better.  Or you can’t just do your recovery exercises by yourself once and be all better.  You may have to do a bunch of things consistently over time in order to see any benefits.  And you may need to be willing to continue trying things that don’t seem to help much at first.  You may have to be willing to commit to trying something long enough for you to stand a chance of benefitting from doing it.

If you’ve felt stuck in your infidelity situation for any length of time, this may not be what you want to hear.  You may want me to tell you that if you just do three simple things, your situation will quickly become easy to deal with.  When we’re sick of our situations, and desperate for relief, we may really want to believe that we’re just one new thing away from total clarity.  But that may be an unrealistic expectation.

Now when I say that you may have to commit to doing something for a while in order to get any benefit from doing it, I don’t mean that you have to stick with doing anything you hate.  If you try some new method for addressing your infidelity situation and you find it absolutely terrible, you don’t have to keep doing it!  For instance, a lot of people tell me, “Oh, I read these books that told me I had to do this, and this, and this because I’m cheating, and I don’t really like doing any of it, but the book said I have to, so I’ve kept trying.”  That always breaks my heart a little bit.  You don’t have to keep doing things that you are sure you do not like.  That’s not the point.

Rather, the point is that even the best methods or approaches are unlikely to yield instant solutions.  To use my own work as an example, sometimes people schedule an introductory coaching session with me, and they say, “Well, I’ve been dealing with my infidelity situation for years, and I’ve been to several therapists, and none of them have helped me before, but I know that you’re going to be able to help me like no one else has.”

And quite often, people DO find my approach different, and uniquely helpful.  But that doesn’t mean that my work provides people with an instant fix.  A lot of people find some relief right away, after their first coaching call with me, and that’s how I want it to be, but when people come to me with situations that have been years in the making and they think that I’m going to solve all their problems in one coaching call, they’re bound to be disappointed.  

I think that my approach to coaching is pretty darn good.  I believe that there is tremendous value in what I have to offer.  I feel great about the work I do, and I love what I have to offer as a coach.  But it’s my clients, and what they bring to our work together, that creates the success of the coaching process for them.  What I bring to the coaching relationship is very important, but what they bring to the coaching relationship is equally if not more important!

And that’s true of any other process or method or approach to dealing with your infidelity situation.  It doesn’t matter how good the approach is if you don’t put effort into making use of it, and making use of it consistently.  And that’s true of a lot of things in life!  Brushing your teeth works pretty well if you have decent technique and you do it every day.  But if you only do it once or twice, it’s not going to be all that effective.  The best coach in the world can tell you how to improve your golf swing, but it’s the way you put their guidance into use, and the practice you put in that makes the magic happen.

So finding an approach you like and are willing to put into use is really important.  And you may have to try a few things before you find the right thing.  The first thing, or the first ten things you tried might not have worked, even if tried them in the “right ways,” so to speak, and with great dedication.  You may have to try the eleventh thing in order to get where you want to go.  Or the twelfth.  Or whatever.

And of course, if you aren’t really trying to make use of the things you’re “trying,” it may be time to call a duck a duck and acknowledge that.  Don’t give something a half-assed shot and say that it didn’t work.    


BE WILLING TO BUST YOURSELF ON WHAT YOU’RE GETTING OUT OF STAYING “STUCK.”  I have news for you, people.  If you have stayed “stuck” in regards to your infidelity situation for any length of time, you’re getting some benefit from doing that.  The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to see what benefits we’re getting from staying stuck, so it can be really helpful to have an outsider’s perspective to help us see what we can’t see.  

Just for example, when we tell ourselves we’re stuck, and we can’t figure out what to do about our situation, we relieve ourselves of having to make choices, and make changes.  And this may be a tremendous benefit to us if we’re terrified of making the changes we think we might have to make if we were to actually make some choices about our infidelity situation!  And indeed, in the short term, you may get the “benefit” of avoiding the discomfort associated with doing something you’re scared to do. 

Getting some benefit out of staying “stuck” is totally common, and nothing to be ashamed of.  The problem is that in the longer term, that might not actually be much of a win.  Short-term benefits may turn into long-term drawbacks.  

So what I want you to do is ask yourself what you’re getting out of staying stuck in your infidelity situation.  What does staying stuck help you avoid?  What does staying stuck enable?  How might staying stuck be pretty comfortable and convenient for you, even if it’s also very uncomfortable?  And are you willing to give up those benefits, or “benefits”?  If you want anything to change, you are going to have to give those benefits up.

So, to recap the points I’ve covered today…

One – if you think you’ve tried and tried to resolve your infidelity situation, and it just isn’t working, but you shouldn’t have to work any harder, have a pity party for yourself and make it a good one.  And then be done with that pity party, and decide you’re going to pick yourself up and start taking responsibility for what is in your power to control.

Two – decide that you are willing to keep going!  Having this attitude is essential.  One of the first things we can do to take a new degree of responsibility for resolving our infidelity situation is to decide on purpose what we are going to think about it.  Being willing to keep going will translate into taking action and continuing forward… instead of just spinning your wheels and staying stuck.

Three – evaluate the strategies you’ve employed thus far to try to resolve your infidelity situation, ditch them if they aren’t helping you!  Yes, we may keep on doing the same things and expecting different

results for reasons that are perfectly understandable.  But will doing the same things get us different results?  Probably not!

Four – be willing to try new approaches, and really invest in the new approaches you decide to try!  There are lots of different approaches out there for resolving an infidelity situation, and you may have to give more than one a good try before you find tools that you like.  But even the best strategies are useless if you don’t utilize them well.    

Five – be willing to bust yourself, over and over again, on what you get out of staying “stuck.”  This may not be pleasant to hear, but if you have stayed “stuck” in your infidelity situation for any length of time, you are getting something out of that.  And that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you!  That’s not a failing on your part!  But if you want to resolve your infidelity situation, if you want to make choices and changes, you’re going to have to get clear on what you’re getting out of staying stuck, and be willing to let go of those benefits.

Okay everyone!  If you are listening to all of this and you’re like, “Cool, I know what I need to do now, and I’m going to go do it,” then GREAT.  Sometimes all we need is a little guidance and we’re off to the races.  So if that’s where you’re at, go get to work.

But if you’ve listened to this episode and thought to yourself, “Sounds great, but I need help doing these kinds of things,” that is what I am here for.  As your personal coach, I am here to help you apply the kinds of concepts and tools I talk about to the specifics of your own life.  And having me as your coach means that you not only turbocharge your learning process, and the application of what you’re learning to your own situation, it also means you have someone to be accountable to.  And sometimes that is the most valuable thing in the world.  

So when you’re ready to work with me, the first step is to schedule an introductory coaching session with me, and you can do that through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  Together we will get down to the business of finding you some relief, and making choices and changes that you feel great about.

Thank you all so much for listening!  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, I would appreciate it if you would do me the kindness of giving the podcast a 5 star rating on iTunes.  Your ratings help other people who would benefit from hearing what I have to say find this show, so please help other people who need a non-judgmental approach to infidelity out and take a moment to post a rating.

Have a great week everyone!  Bye for now.


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