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. If you are in the midst of an infidelity situation and you would like my help resolving it in a way that’s truly right for you, let’s work together. You can 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. I can’t wait to meet you.
Today we’re going to talk about treating our infidelity situations as life projects, or as situations that life offers us the opportunity to deal with, and bring to some kind of resolution. This way of thinking about infidelity situations is very different from thinking about them as problems that are impossible to solve, or as mysteries beyond the realm of our comprehension. The way we think about a situation, or a problem, or a challenge sets the tone for how we deal with that situation or problem or challenge, and we have the capacity to choose to think about our infidelity situations in any way we want to. So today I’m going to explain what I mean by thinking about your infidelity situation as a life project, and why it may be useful for you to adopt this kind of perspective.
When I say project, I mean an endeavor that is undertaken to achieve a particular aim. I mean that you intentionally devote time and energy and resources to doing things that will bring about particular results or outcomes.
And when I say “life projects,” all I really mean is projects that have broad or deep – or broad and deep - implications for our lives. Sometimes we encounter challenges or opportunities that require us to dig deep within ourselves and step up to the plate of the game of life. Sometimes we find ourselves at crossroads where we have what we consider a major choice to make. Or major choices to make. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we find it useful to honestly assess what we want, and who we want to be, and what we’re willing to do in the service of our desires and priorities. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations in which we essentially have the choice between stagnating, and evolving in radical ways that we never imagined for ourselves. There are a lot of different ways we could describe life projects, and there are a lot of different kinds of life projects, and what I want to suggest is that infidelity situations can be considered one of many life projects that we might find ourselves contending with as we go about the business of navigating the human experience.
Sometimes, we create life projects for ourselves, and it’s pretty easy to see how we did it. Sometimes we create life projects for ourselves and we don’t really understand how we did it. And sometimes, life projects pretty much come out of nowhere and land in our laps. What I want to suggest is that once you have a life project on your hands – or a situation that could be considered a life project – it doesn’t really matter how the project came to you, or why it came to you. What matters is that it’s happening. It has landed in your inbox, so to speak. Once the project has arrived at your doorstep, you do not stand to gain much by lamenting its existence.
That said, we do get to choose what projects we want to take on. Let’s say war breaks out in your country. You could just sit at your dining room table and see what happens. You don’t have to take on any part of the war as a project of yours. You don’t HAVE to do anything! Similarly, if a big tree that’s on your property falls on your house, and smashes your roof, and smashes your neighbor’s roof too, you don’t have to take that on as a project. You could just live without a roof, or live without a fully functioning roof, and see how that goes. If your neighbor tries to get you to do something about their roof, you could try not responding to them. Of course, you might not like what happens if you don’t take these kinds of situations on as projects that you’re going to attend to, but you still have a choice as to whether you attend to them or not.
And that’s the thing with infidelity situations. You don’t HAVE to take your situation on as a project that you want to intentionally devote time and energy and resources to resolving. You could just see what happens if you effectively just sat around and didn’t take an active approach to doing much about your infidelity situation. That’s totally an option. It’s also an option to treat your infidelity situation as an unsolvable problem, or as a big mystery. But if you’ve tried those approaches, and you don’t like what you’re getting out of them, you may want to try thinking about your infidelity situation as a life project. As something that is important to address, and worth devoting time and effort and resources to solving – and something that is possible to resolve.
So to that effect, here are – I think it’s eight to ten - specific components of thinking about your infidelity situation as a life project.
We can choose to recognize that projects require a certain amount of management. That doesn’t mean we need to follow any particular project management techniques, or any overly complicated procedures for managing our projects, but we can recognize that we can’t expect to approach our project in a completely haphazard way if we want to efficiently move towards a clear resolution. Now, a lot of my clients are very good at treating some projects this way. A lot of the folks I work with completely understand that if you want to get something done, it helps to manage the process, or the project of getting it done. But a lot of people don’t apply this logic to their infidelity situations, and although I think that’s completely understandable, what I recommend is that you start to think of your infidelity situation as a project that needs to be managed.
Sometimes projects present themselves to us, and their scope and objectives are pretty clear. And sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes a situation lands in our lap, and we know we want to take it on as a project, but we don’t have a clear sense of what the project entails. We don’t know exactly what questions we’re trying to answer, or what our main objectives are. We just know we have a situation on our hands that we want to do something about. And when this happens, our first order of business is to start defining the scope of our project, and the objectives of our project. And this is a perfectly legitimate phase of a project, or project within a project. It’s not a PROBLEM to not know exactly what we’re trying to solve for. Getting clear on what our project is all about is just part of the process of dealing with something important – especially if it’s something we don’t have much, or any, experience dealing with.
Projects tend to have multiple components to them, and we usually can’t deal with all of the components at once. We need to be willing to take projects one step at time, and we may need to take certain steps in a particular order. When we’re thinking about some projects, this strikes us as completely obvious and unproblematic. If you want new floors, you have to rip out the old floors before you can put new floors in. Before you can put new flooring in, you have to pick out the new flooring. In order to pick out new flooring, you may want to take a look at different options. In many situations, going through steps like these sounds totally reasonable and unremarkable. But we may have a hard time thinking about our infidelity situations as projects that can be approached step-by-step, and we may have a hard time seeing which steps need to be completed before we can fruitfully tackle other steps. What you can start to do right now is simply consider that maybe your infidelity situation is a life project that needs to be deal with step by step. You can start to consider that maybe there is an order in which you can approach the components of your situation that is more helpful, or advantageous. Even if you don’t yet know what the order of operations is, you can begin to embrace the idea that you can’t just do it all at once, and that if you accept that it’s helpful to do things one step at a time, you by definition have to allow yourself to focus on some things first, and some things later.
On a related note, we can decide that even if we don’t know exactly what it’s going to take to bring our project to completion, we can decide to believe that we’re going to figure it out. And then, we can decide to hold ourselves accountable to taking one tenacious step forward at a time. And we can take responsibility for evaluating our progress. If we know we’re putting forth a half-assed effort, we can bust ourselves. If we know we aren’t really working on our project in any way at all, we can be honest about that. And if we’re trying really hard, but we don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere, we can seek out help.
Which brings me to my next point. We can ask for help if we need help. There are times in life when we may need some assistance, or guidance, or support as we work on a project, and we can simplify our lives tremendously by recognizing when we need help, and seeking it out sooner rather than later. One of the things clients tell me fairly often is, “I wish I’d sought you out sooner. I wish I’d started working with you sooner.” Sometimes we think that asking for help is a big deal, or spending money on getting help is a big deal, but is it? Sometimes by putting off getting help, we waste a lot of time. And if we’re concerned about money, we might want to examine the monetary cost of the time that we waste. Furthermore, we might want to consider that money is a renewable resource – and time isn’t. As I say that, I recognize that there are different ways of conceptualizing what time is, and how it works, and with that, I imagine that some people might say that time IS a renewable resource. And if you find that to be true in your life, then that’s fair enough. But if you are NOT operating from the perspective that time is a renewable resource, you might want to consider the possibility that your time might be more precious than your money.
And to that effect, this might be the most important point I make in this episode. Are you ready? Here it is. We get to decide how long we want to allow our project to take. If we allow things to drag on forever, they can. But we don’t have to do that. And although there are some projects that we may want to devote our lives to, there are others that we want to resolve and be done with sooner rather than later. When we’re in the habit of thinking of our infidelity situations as grand mysteries or unsolvable problems, the idea that we could decide how long we want to take to resolve our situation seems completely incomprehensible. It doesn’t seem like it could be POSSIBLE to JUST DECIDE how long we want to spend on the matter. But what if you could totally decide how long you want to spend on the project? Remember, you can define the scope and objectives of your project. You can treat the situation as a PROJECT, not an unsolvable problem, or something too mysterious to approach systematically.
Theoretically, you could probably resolve your infidelity project pretty quickly, or at least, complete certain phases of it very quickly. If you want to make a decision about what you want to do about one or more relationships, you could make those decisions RIGHT NOW. You could decide that you have enough information to make choices right this minute. That’s possible. If you don’t want to do that, that’s fair, but it’s important to remember that you COULD. On the other hand, if there are certain things you want to consider before making choices about your relationships, you can specify what those things are, and you can specify how much time you want to spend considering them. And then you can commit to making great use of the time you have given yourself.
I’m not trying to suggest that you can control how long every aspect of your infidelity project takes. Let’s say your infidelity project entails getting divorced. You may not be able to completely control how long the divorce process takes. But you can decide how long you’re going to take to ask for a divorce. You can decide how efficiently you engage in doing the divorce things, once the process is underway. And when you take responsibility for deciding how long you want a project to take, and you take responsibility for doing everything you can to complete the project in your desired time frame, you have a much better chance of getting the thing done when you want it done than you do if you do not take responsibility for these things.
We can recognize that any project has the potential to be kind of a pain in the ass at times, and we can decide to deal with that without letting it become too big of a deal. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to get frustrated or angry or upset at times. Of course we are. But we can feel all of those feelings without creating a whole bunch of drama about how terrible it is that our life project is difficult and annoying and challenging and frustrating. Life can be kind of a pain in the ass sometimes. Life can be excruciatingly painful sometimes. Totally fair to not like this. But we can also accept this as part of the ride. This is part of what we get to deal with as humans. Sometimes we get to thinking that something has gone horribly wrong if we’re having a hard time with something, or we dislike having to deal with a particular life project. But what if nothing has gone wrong? What if, as they say, life is just one damn thing after another? It can also be one great thing after another, and those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Finally, we can ease off on our perfectionist tendencies. Sometimes there’s just no way to work on a project perfectly. For instance, if you’re learning how to speak a new language, you’re probably going to make mistakes as you learn. Unless you’re one of those freaks who just learns new languages easily and practically instantaneously, and if you are, I hate you. Well I don’t really hate you, but I am very jealous of you. Anyway, the point is that a bit of stumbling is unavoidable if we’re going to get anything done. Furthermore, it may not be possible complete a project in a perfect way - or even all that well. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get the project done adequately. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of writing a dissertation, you’ve probably heard people say things like, “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.” Or, “Do you want it to be good, or do you want it to be done?” Sometimes just getting something to the point that we consider done is the point. Not to do the Olympic gold medal version of the thing. And there may not be an Olympic gold medal version of completing your project.
When I say this to people, they sometimes push back and say, “But, if we extend that advice too far, we might all just abandon our standards, and we’d never strive to do things well!” My response to that is that I’m not so sure that would happen, but moreover, there are some things that we will never even attempt to do if we expect ourselves to do them perfectly. Or even all that well. And sometimes done is a whole lot better than not done, or never started. So instead of telling ourselves that we have to resolve our infidelity situation in some perfect way, we can decide what specifically is important to us to do well, and then we can work towards doing those things as well as possible.
In general, my belief is that it’s useful to take our infidelity situations seriously, as important life projects that we want to devote time and energy and resources to dealing with as well as we can, and resolving as well as we can. But we want to take these projects seriously without taking them TOO seriously, or so seriously that we can’t actively address them, and bring them to some kind of completion. So to recap, here are ways that we can think about our infidelity situations as life projects that are important, but also addressable:
First and foremost, we can choose to see our infidelity situations as life projects, rather than unsolvable problems, or mysteries beyond the realm of our comprehension.
Second, we can recognize that infidelity situations, like other life projects, will require a certain amount of project management. We need to have some kind of systematic approach to dealing with situation.
Third, if the scope and aims of our project need to be defined, we can allow that to be our first project, or the first sub-project that we tackle. Knowing that we have a life project on our hands, knowing that we have some important life business to attend to, but NOT knowing exactly what the scope or aims of that project look like doesn’t need to be an occasion to panic. We can simply begin the process of defining the nature of our project.
The fourth point is one I really want to stress. You cannot do your whole project at once. This is true of just about any project, and it’s true of your infidelity situation life project. There are likely to be multiple components to your project, and you cannot tackle all of them simultaneously. But you can be willing to take them one step at a time, and you can be willing to figure out the order in which it makes sense to do things.
Fifth, you can decide that your project is addressable. You can decide that your problem is solve-able. You can decide that you are going to figure your thing out. You don’t have to know HOW at the outset. But you can believe that can and will do it.
Sixth, we can proactively seek out help. There are so many projects in life that we cannot complete on our own, without any guidance or support or assistance from others. Why should your infidelity situation be any different? If you’ve been treating your infidelity situation as something you should just be able to figure out on your own and that isn’t getting you anywhere, now might be the time to seek out assistance.
Seventh, recognize that you get to decide how long you spend on your infidelity situation life project. If you want to, you can let it remain an unresolved thing forever. But if you want to, you can decide you’re going to resolve it, and how much time you want to give to that project.
Eighth, remember that any project has the potential to be a pain in the ass. Even projects that we consider relatively minor can become annoying, or otherwise unpleasant to deal with. Consider accepting that dealing with your infidelity situation life project may be a real pain at times, in any number of ways, and that that isn’t a sign that anything has gone horribly wrong in the cosmic scheme of things.
Nineth, consider the possibility that there are some projects in life that can only be done adequately. You may not be able to do the gold medal version of dealing with your infidelity situation life project, but you may not need to. Identify which pieces of your project are important to do as well as you can, and then get to work on doing those things as well as you can.
Okay everybody, that’s it for today! If you would like my help approaching your infidelity situation as a life project that is totally resolve-able, let’s work together. You can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com. There is a big difference between listening to the podcast and working with me one-on-one. Listening to podcasts can be GREAT. I myself have gotten so much value out of listening to other people’s podcasts, and sometimes, hearing some new perspectives or some good guidance is all we need to help us make the changes in our lives that we want to make. But sometimes we need help making use of what we hear on a podcast within the context of our own lives, and that’s when coaching becomes super valuable. Sometimes a bit of assistance goes a really long way, so if you’re thinking that you might benefit from working with me, but you haven’t booked yourself an introductory coaching session yet, I have one question for you: what are you waiting for?
All right, thank you all so much for listening. Have a great week. Bye for now.