149: Your Questions Answered (Part 2)

Jul 11, 2023

Dr. Marie Murphy has received numerous questions, prompting her to return with a second Q&A episode. You can still submit your queries (more details below), and while she may not address your specific situation, there will be something valuable for everyone.

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you've made mistakes in your relationship and desire to end it but worry about how others will react to your decisions, if you have concerns or doubts about your sexuality as you age, or if you're struggling with the consequences of infidelity, Marie has you covered this week. 

Tune in this week to discover how to deal with wanting to leave your relationship, why you don’t owe anyone a justification for your decisions, and how to deal with other people’s reactions. Dr. Marie Murphy is helping you get clear on what you really want for your future, and showing you how to make decisions you feel good about so you can live your life without regret.

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!

Dr. Marie Murphy is planning a Q&A episode to address your specific infidelity-related questions. You can send your questions to her and, if they’re appropriate, she will answer them on the podcast while keeping you anonymous. Submit your questions by clicking “contact” at the top of this page! 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How to communicate to your partner that you want to end your relationship.

  • Strategies for handling the opinions and judgments of others when deciding to leave your relationship.

  • The steps involved in ending a relationship if that is your choice.

  • Cultural norms surrounding sexuality and aging that need to be challenged.

  • Factors to consider when making decisions about secret relationships.

  • How to make decisions that instill genuine confidence and minimize the fear of regret. 

Listen to the Full Episode:


Featured on the Show:

You are listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me, non-judgmental talk about infidelity with Dr. Marie Murphy. If you’re looking for new perspectives on complicated relationship issues, you’ve come to the right place. 

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 and clarify what they want and make decisions about what they’re going to do. There’s a lot of advice out there on the interwebs and self-help books and elsewhere that contain a lot of so-called advice for people who are engaging in infidelity that is little more than thinly veiled judgment, or perhaps not so 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, no matter what you’ve been doing, no matter what you want to continue doing. So, when you are ready to begin the process of resolving your infidelity situation 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. 

You can learn about the coaching packages I currently offer new clients after that first session, as well as my current pricing through my website on my services page. 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. 

Okay, a couple of episodes back I put out a call for listeners to send me questions, which I would address on a podcast episode or try to address on future podcast episodes. And the questions have been coming in. And just like I did in the last episode, I’m going to answer some of them today. So without further ado, let’s get started. 

This question reads, “The situation is we have been together for about seven years, engaged three years ago, and married one year ago. But now I feel I made a mistake and want out. But her family, friends and everyone loves us and have no idea of our marriage struggles. My question is, how do I mention to her that I want out? And how do I deal with the shock and concerns from our family, friends, and especially church people? (I stopped going to church, I don’t want to anymore.) Should I just announce it and shut myself off from everyone?” 

Well, to an extent I do think the answer is you should announce it. I do think that if you come to the decision that you do not want to be in this relationship anymore, if you are certain that you want out, I would encourage you to announce this to your partner and to the people in your circle that you believe deserve to hear this announcement directly from you. 

But, I don’t think you have to shut yourself off from everyone. If I’m reading this question correctly, my sense is that there is a concern that there will be kind of a negative reaction from friends and family and church people. And this could be the case. You can anticipate this to some extent by providing people with some explanation as to why you’re choosing to do what you’re choosing to do. 

You don’t owe anyone a justification of your decision, but it may be easier for folks to understand what’s going on if you give them some insight into why you’re making this decision. That may help deal with the shock and concerns from the community and family et cetera. However, a certain amount of shock and concern from family and community et cetera may just be a set of waves that you want to plan to ride out. 

You can learn how to digest the discomfort that you feel when other people react in however ways they might without letting your discomfort be a problem, right? And ultimately, that’s all that you’re responsible for, dealing with your own discomfort. You don’t have to solve for anybody else’s discomfort for them. That’s for them to do and it’s not even possible for you to do it. 

Now, of course, there’s also the matter of telling your spouse or telling your partner that you don’t want to be married to them anymore. And there are some episodes in this podcast, I think they’re called Preparing For A Breakup and What To Say When You Break Up With Someone and The Intimacy of a Breakup, that may be helpful to this effect. 

But if you are confident that you want to end the relationship, the task at hand may be to start to think about how you want to convey this to your spouse, to your future ex-spouse. And that, I think, is worth a bit of thoughtful consideration. But if you’re sure that you know what you want, if you know for sure that you don’t want to be in this relationship anymore, perhaps your job is to give yourself permission to act on that decision and start to plan how you’re going to act on this. 

Now, last but not least, even when people are surprised by decisions we’ve made, or even react “negatively” to decisions we’ve made, they sometimes get over it just fine. For instance, if you’re the first person in your community or your family or your church group or whatever to decide to get divorced, everyone may have a moment about this. And you don’t have to deal with their freak outs, but you also don’t have to completely shut yourself off from everyone. 

You can allow them to deal with their own feelings and allow your relationships to work themselves out over time. You probably won’t end up being a total outcast from your community forever and I would encourage you to believe that you belong with people who care about you no matter what, even if you do something that they consider surprising or even objectionable. You can remind yourself of your own fundamental sense of belonging. 

This next question is a great one for so many reasons. The question reads, “How can I stop feeling like a creepy old lady because at 65 and single, I still have a high libido?” Well, the first thing I have to say to that is you go girl. And the second thing I have to say to that is in our society we have some really interesting ideas about sexuality and age. And gender, of course. 

But just speaking to age first, we have this idea, and I’m going to exaggerate slightly here for the sake of emphasis. But we have this idea that you can only be sexual between the ages of like, I don’t know, 18 and 31, or maybe 21 and 35, or something like that. And before that, you’re way too young. And after that, you’re so impossibly old that you might as well just like go kill yourself. Like forget about having sex after whatever age you think it’s bad to have sex after or unthinkable to have sex after. Whether that’s 35, or 40, or 45, or 50, or 65, or 80, or whatever. 

But here’s the thing, we can be sexual creatures at any age. We can own and celebrate our sexuality at any age, even though voices out there in the cultural fog or “society in general” may think that 65 is, I don’t know, too old to still have a high libido and be chasing after people. What if they’re wrong? And moreover, what if age is really just a number? What if we’re only as old as we feel? 

We tend to think that certain ages mean things. That there is deep meaning associated with being 65, or deep meaning associated with being 80, or deep meaning associated with being 57, or 42, or 39, or 29, or 19, or whatever. But what if there really isn’t? The age thing is so interesting because it intersects with people’s concerns about their infidelity situations in so many different ways. 

And actually, I’ve been meaning to put together about age and the implications of age for infidelity situations for a long time. But for today’s purposes I’ll just say this, what if you’re not a creepy old lady ever? What if you’re a hot person, no matter what your age is? And what if you just want to put on your hottest dress and go on out there and find somebody who thinks you’re just as hot as you know yourself to be? Get to work. That’s what I have to say to that. 

Okay, here’s our next question. “I’ve been in an infidelity situation for over two years now. I am in two serious relationships. One that I have been in for 10 years and I’m technically engaged. The other shorter one has been a secret but feels just as real. I am getting lost in my thoughts of comparison because I feel as though I don’t have an accurate perspective on reality. I flip flop with fear of delusion due to everything I am gauging being situational in the sense of living in this infidelity bubble. 

My question is, how do I find the strength and clarity to just make a decision and stick with it? It’s been going on for so long, I know I will be more at peace with whatever decision I make. But I fear regret and I don’t have confidence in my own decision.” 

Okay, so a couple of things about this. One is the process by which we make a decision can help us feel good about our decision. Committing to minimizing regret ahead of time, committing to loving our decisions ahead of time can be really helpful here. 

And I did an episode about loving our decisions very recently. There’s an episode called Regret Is Optional, which came out earlier this year, I think. There’s another one called Is The Grass Always Greener, that I think came out last year. And then there are all sorts of other podcasts in which I talk about decision making. 

And so give yourself the opportunity to say I am going to take a hold of this decision. I am going to make a decision here using a process that I feel good about. And I know that once I make a decision, I am going to feel better. I will be more at peace. I don’t need to fear regret, right? That can be really helpful. 

Within this message there are kind of like competing things going on. On the one hand, “This has been going on for so long, I know I will be more at peace with whatever decision I make.” That’s a very powerful statement. But then the next words on the page are, “But I fear regret, and I don’t have confidence in my own decision.” 

You can start to talk to yourself differently about your decision making process. You can start to say I know I can make a decision systematically here and I’m going to go back and listen to those episodes Marie recommended that will help me make a decision systematically. I know I will be at peace with whatever decision I make. 

You don’t have to keep telling yourself I fear regret and I don’t have confidence in my own decision. When you talk to yourself, make sure you say the right things. Telling yourself I don’t have confidence in my own decision is going to, guess what? Inspire you to not have confidence in your own decision. 

Confidence is created through our thinking. If you tell yourself that it’s possible to make a decision for reasons that you feel great about, you may feel more confidence than you do when you say, oh, I don’t have confidence in my own decision. The implication here when people say this is often I don’t know how to have confidence in my decisions. Well, what if you could? 

What if you could know how to have confidence in your own decisions? What if you could decide that you will be at peace with whatever decision you make because you’re going to make a decision for reasons that you feel really good about through a process that is somewhat systematic and deliberate and thorough? 

So the other piece of this question that I want to speak to, well, the next piece of this question that I want to speak to is the notion of the infidelity bubble or the affair bubble. And here’s the thing, I think it’s important to note that when we’re in a secret relationship with somebody there are constraints on the relationship that are important to be aware of. 

It’s important to be aware that we’re probably not experiencing day to day life with our affair partner. It’s important to note that because we can’t communicate as often as we want to, the times when we do get to communicate may be that much more exciting to us. It’s important to recognize that we’re experiencing something that isn’t the same thing as everyday life. And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have something that’s truly important to you on your hands. 

And so often what I hear people make the infidelity bubble or the affair bubble mean is that whatever is happening in the affair bubble isn’t real. And I want to suggest that that’s not a helpful way to look at it. I think that it’s fair to want to be deliberate about considering what you have going on within the affair bubble. But I don’t think the question is whether or not what’s happening in the affair bubble is “real” or not. 

I think the question is, do you want to take what you have seen thus far in that relationship that’s in the so-called infidelity bubble, and run with it? What do you want to go for in your life? Where do you want to invest your time and energy into making something as good as it can be? And it could be, and this applies to everybody, not just the person who asked this question. It could be that what you see in your affair bubble is something that you really want to go for. 

You may say, look, I have no idea what’s going to happen outside of the so-called affair bubble. I don’t know what it’s going to be like if we’re living day-to-day life together. I don’t know what it’s going to be like if we’re dealing with each other’s weird habits and smelling each other’s farts and dealing with each other’s really annoying tendencies at times. Like fine, fair enough, you don’t know. But the question is, do you want to find out? 

Do you want to put the energy into making that relationship as awesome as possible under different circumstances? And it’s totally legitimate for the answer to that question to be yes. It’s totally legitimate for you to say, based on what I’ve seen with this person within this situation, I want to go for this relationship. Fair enough. And it sometimes works out. It sometimes works out great. 

Sometimes people quote me all of these stupid statistics about affairs not lasting. And all I have to say is, have you checked out the study design on whatever study it is that you’re getting this information from? I’m willing to bet you that the study design is terrible and that the study is based on ridiculous assumptions that are not facts. They’re just normative assessments of what people should and shouldn’t be doing with their love lives. 

Anyway, it is true that some people’s affair relationships don’t last. And it’s also true that other kinds of relationships don’t last. So if you see something in that affair that you want to invest in making into something more, that is worth taking seriously. 

Now, it is also true that some people get so seduced by things being so amazing in their affair relationship that they don’t think critically about, like do I really want to go for it with this person? Am I really interested in seeing what the day-to-day is like with this person, even if it’s not as intoxicating as what we have going on now? And it’s something that you can’t anticipate entirely, but it’s good to ask yourself, am I willing to be bored with this person? Am I willing to be annoyed with this person? 

And if you are, well then, you just might want to go for it. Not that that’s the only litmus test. But it’s one that’s important. If you’re just in it to be excited and intoxicated all the time, that’s something to keep an eye on. That’s something to take seriously. You might want to be “concerned” about that. But if you’re like, man, I’m willing to go for it with this person and do all the hard stuff with them. Well, go for it. Or at least consider it. 

This writer speaks about, “I’m getting lost in my thoughts of comparison because I feel as though I don’t have an accurate perspective on reality. I flip flop with fear of delusion.” Stop telling yourself that. What if you do have an accurate perspective on reality? What if you see what you’re seeing in this affair relationship and you also see what you’re seeing in this other relationship? What if you don’t have to question what you know? What if you started cataloging what you are certain of, instead of second guessing yourself? 

This is an interesting exercise to engage in because sometimes when we start cataloging what we’re certain of, we find that we really aren’t certain of very much. And that can be illustrative, that can be enlightening. But sometimes we recognize that we’re really sure of quite a lot and we’re just second guessing ourselves for reasons that don’t have anything to do with our own certainty. So try it out. What seems real about your secret relationship, dear listener? 

Now, another piece of this is the engagement piece. And this is something else that I’ve been meaning to do an entire episode on for quite some time. It can seem really unfortunate or challenging, or especially difficult if you are engaging in infidelity and you’re engaged and you have this option to not get married to this person that you’re supposed to be getting married to, but it seems so impossible to call a wedding off. 

Well, here’s what I recommend. I recommend that you use your engagement as impetus to get really, really, really serious about making a decision that you feel great about. Looking at your infidelity situation clearly and comprehensively and making a decision that you feel really good about. 

I have worked with clients who have been engaged and have called off their wedding a few months, or I think one time it was even a few weeks prior to the wedding. And afterward they told me it was the best decision they’d ever made and they were so thankful that they hadn’t gone through with getting married. I certainly wouldn’t know whether or not that’s the case for everyone across time and space, but a lot of people who call off a wedding say that although it was hard to do, it was totally worth it. 

Now, that’s not to say that you, listener, want to call off your wedding, but you might. And you might want to take very seriously the possibility that you might. And so what I want to ask you is, would you rather sit down and get really radically honest with yourself about what you want right now or would you rather continue to proceed in the direction of getting married to someone who you might not want to get married to? So think about that. 

Okay, lots of little pieces to that last question. Let us move on to the next one. “Is it a good idea to wait for your affair partner when you’re both madly in love, but they are considering staying in their marriage for the kids? Here’s the context, we have not yet been caught, yet. Their spouse has an idea about me and my name. 

My affair partner ‘wants’ to leave but is prioritizing their children’s ‘family experience’ above their own ‘selfish’ needs and desires. Cheating long-term is not ideal for me. As I’m separated and publicly single, it requires upkeep and lying to everyone in my life, where they have the guise of their marriage to hide behind.” 

Okay, so it sounds like, listener, it sounds like you maybe have already told me what your answer is here. But I’ll get back to that in a moment. First, let me say this in general, you get to choose if you want to wait for anyone to do anything. You get to choose how long you want to wait for anyone to do anything. And if you choose to wait for someone to do something, such as leave their marriage, you get to choose what you want the quality of your experience of waiting to be like. 

So let’s say that you’ve left your primary relationship, or maybe you never had a primary relationship. But you have someone in your life, your affair partner, who is currently married or committed to someone else and they’re saying they’re going to leave their marriage or their committed relationship. Let’s say that you say, okay, I’m going to give you six months. You get to decide what you want to think, feel and do in those six months. 

If you want, you can spend every day obsessing about whether or not they’re going to leave their marriage or leave their relationship. If you want to, you can spend every day worrying about what’s going to happen. If you want to, you can spend every day writing long letters or emails or text messages or WhatsApp messages or signal messages telling them all the reasons why you think they should leave their marriage and all the reasons why you think the two of you are going to be a great couple going forward. 

And you can make your every emotion dependent on what indications they give you on a given day as to what they’re going to do about leaving their committed relationship or not, right? You could do that, or you could be like, I am going to have a great life for the next six months. Maybe I’m going to commit to not dating anyone else for this time. Maybe I’m going to tell my affair partner that I’m going to date a little bit since they haven’t made a decision yet. 

But if I’m not going to date, I’m going to enjoy not dating. If I’m going to date a little bit or a lot, I’m going to enjoy dating a little bit or a lot. I’m going to do things that I enjoy doing. I am going to focus on my relationship with me. I’m not going to make my emotions dependent on what they do or don’t do. I’m going to give the six months because it’s worth it to me to wait this long, but I’m not going to approach the waiting as if it’s like waiting. I’m going to approach the waiting as this see what happens phase. 

These are always options, deciding if you’re going to wait, deciding how long you’re going to wait and deciding what the experience of waiting is going to be like for you. Now, that said, it kind of sounds in this message like the writer of the question is a little concerned about their affair partner’s orientation. 

I’ll just read this again, “Affair partner ‘wants’ to leave, but is prioritizing their children’s ‘family experience’ above their own ‘selfish’ needs and desires. Cheating long-term is not ideal for me.” So there’s two things going on here. 

One is that if you know that cheating long-term is ideal for you, you get to decide has this been going on long enough or not? And do you think that your partner is going to act on their desire to want to leave or do you think they’re going to act on their desire to prioritize their children’s family experience above their own selfish needs and desires? 

If you have a sense of what you think they’re going to do right now, you could make a decision right now. I’m done waiting, I don’t think that this is going to play out well. That doesn’t mean that you know for sure what’s going to happen, but that’s not the point. This is your life, you get to call it as you see it and you get to decide if you want to stick around for any more of them saying that they want to leave, but not actually leaving or not. 

Now, on the other hand, you might say, well, okay, they’re saying that they want to leave. So I’m going to take them at their word for a little while and I’m going to give this a certain amount of time to see what happens. And if it doesn’t look like anything’s changing, then I am going to prioritize my desire to not continue to cheat long-term and let this one go. That’s possible, right? 

Now, it may be easier, in a sense, to continue waiting than to decide to let someone go, especially when they say they want to leave their marriage. But at a certain point, we all just have to take responsibility for our own lives and say, look, this person hasn’t left yet. I’m not interested in sticking around anymore to wait and see what happens no matter what they’ve been telling me. 

You have the option to do that at any point in time. And you have the option of taking on either the discomfort that comes with waiting and seeing or the discomfort that comes with saying, look, I’ve waited enough, I don’t want to wait and see anymore. I’m going to let this relationship go even though it may hurt to do that. 

One choice leads to a certain set of benefits and drawbacks. Waiting and seeing may come with the benefit of your affair partner eventually deciding to leave their committed relationship. That could happen. And you might really want that and that could be great, right? Giving that relationship a chance for even longer than you’ve already given it might be a benefit for you. But with that benefit, you also get the discomfort of not knowing what they’re going to do and perhaps not liking that. 

On the other hand, if you call it and say, you know what? I’m not going to wait and see anymore. I’ve waited for long enough, I’ve waited to see for long enough, it may be painful to let that relationship go. It may be super painful to let the relationship go. But the benefit that you may get is that you then become available to find a relationship with someone who you really enjoy who is fully available to be in a relationship with you. 

All right, everyone, that was a lot of fun for me. I hope you enjoyed listening to this. That is the last question I’m going to answer for today. If you are interested in submitting a question that I will try to answer on a future episode of the podcast, you can send it to me through the contact form on my website. Go to mariemurphyphd.com and at the top right-hand corner of the screen on the homepage you’ll see a button that says contact. Press that button, fill in the contact form, send me a question and I’ll try and answer it on the show for you. 

Thank you all so much for listening. Have an amazing week. If you are ready to talk to me about your infidelity situation and get my help applying the kinds of tools and concepts I talk about on the podcast, as well as tools and concepts that I don’t talk about on the podcast, to the specifics of your unique infidelity situation, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com. I look forward to working with you. 

Thank you all so much for listening. I hope you have a terrific week. I’ll see you next time. Bye for now. 

Thanks for listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me with Dr. Marie Murphy. Make sure to click subscribe to get updates on our latest episodes.


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