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 cheating on their partners, or 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 judgements. I know how tempting it can be to avoid dealing with your infidelity situation in any sort of deliberate way. I know the whole situation may seem overwhelming. Or completely terrifying. I know you may think that there’s nothing you can really do about your situation because you don’t have any good options – or maybe you don’t think you have any options at all. But I want to tell you that your situation really isn’t impossible to deal with. I want you to know that you really do have options. And I want you to know that it really is worth it to step up to the plate and deal with your infidelity situation in a conscious, deliberate way. Because the rest of your life is waiting for you on the other side! Because you really can have a love life that you feel great about – instead of feeling stuck in a complicated situation forever. So when you’re ready for change, I can help you make it. When you’re ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com. You can also learn about the coaching packages I offer new clients beyond that initial session on the services page of my website.
Okay, today we are going to talk about cheating on your fiancé. And I want to be really clear about what I mean by this. I mean that you are planning on marrying someone, and you are doing something that is definitely outside of the bounds of your relationship with your fiancé that they don’t know about, and probably would not be happy to find out about.
Not everyone puts marriage and monogamy together. So it’s entirely possible that you could be engaged to marry someone, and be doing romantic and/or sexual things with other people, and that isn’t a problem within the context of the agreements you have with the person you’re marrying, or in terms of the desire you have to go through with your wedding.
But that kind of a scenario, where there’s an element of consensual non-monogamy, is not what I’m going to be talking about today. Today what I’m talking about is you being engaged, you formally planning to marry someone, and that person thinking that the two of you are in a relationship that is currently monogamous and is going to stay that way. Meanwhile, without your partner’s knowledge, you are doing some things that you think count as infidelity, and you are pretty sure your partner would also think what you’re doing counts as infidelity. Right?!
Before I go any further I want to note that there are many different ways you could be cheating on your fiancé. Perhaps there’s this particular sexual thing that you really like to do, but you’ve never told your fiancé about it because so many people have shamed you for liking what you like in the past, you’ve decided to never explore this particular sexual thing with a committed partner. Instead, you occasionally hook up with people to do this particular thing, but there’s no ongoing relationship with a particular person involved in the equation. Or, perhaps you’re having a really intense emotional affair with someone, but you don’t see them in person all that often, or perhaps you’ve never even met them in person. Maybe you like to make out with attractive strangers you meet when you’re without your fiancé. Maybe you have a serious relationship going with someone else that could conceivably be your primary relationship, or your only relationship, or a relationship without any infidelity being involved in the equation. And these are just a few examples, of course. There are many ways to engage in infidelity! The sky’s the limit!
I also want to make it clear that for some people, engaging in infidelity and planning to get married doesn’t constitute a problem. For some people, this was and is their PLAN. Some people are like, “Yeah, I’m totally going to get engaged and I’m totally going to engage with my partner as IF we are in a monogamous relationship, but I’m not actually going to be monogamous. Because I just don’t want to do that! And then my fiancé and I are going to get married, and I’m going to keep on doing whatever I want outside of the marriage, and I will make sure my spouse never knows this.” This is a Thing, and some people make the choice to do this and not only do they feel no compunction about it, they feel really great about it. And if that’s you, that’s your prerogative and your business. You get to do whatever you want, and if it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem for you.
But on the other hand, a lot of people who are cheating on their fiancé who they are supposedly in a monogamous relationship with are NOT thrilled about their situation. A lot of folks who are cheating on someone they are supposed to be marrying are NOT like, “Oh yeah, I’ve totally got the best of both worlds.” A lot of folks in this situation are like, “Holy fucking shit, how did I get myself into this mess, and what the fuck am I supposed to DO?” Rather than being thrilled about what’s going on, they are very, very overwhelmed by what’s going on. And often, they are having a very, very, VERY hard time thinking clearly about what they want, and what they’re going to do about it.
And if you’ve ever been in this kind of situation, you don’t need me to tell you that this is not a fun place to be. If you currently are in this kind of a situation, you REALLY don’t need me to tell you that this is not a fun place to be.
So it’s really important for us to call out some of the obvious yet also not-so-obvious reasons why it can be so very stressful to be cheating on the person you’re supposed to be marrying, and perhaps, within a few short months or even WEEKS. For starters, there is a fair amount of social pressure to get married. As you may have noticed. Obviously, this varies to an extent, given where you live, and where you’re from, and what your family is like, and what traditions and communities you are a part of, and all of that. For some folks, getting married is if not literally compulsory, then pretty close to compulsory. For other folks, the expectation that you’ll get married isn’t super high, but it’s still there. And of course all of this may be, on the whole, more applicable to folks who either identify as heterosexual or are expected to be heterosexual, but, yay fun, the pressure to get married is not exclusive to people who identify or are identified as straight.
So the point is, there’s a certain amount of general pressure to get married out there, circulating in the cultural fog, which some of us experience more intensely than others. Then, once you actually get engaged, or otherwise declare your intentions to marry someone, you’re not just contending with general pressure to get married. You are now dealing with a whole bunch of people in your life having the understanding – or perhaps it’s better to say the expectation – that you are going to marry a very specific person, on a very specific date. So the expectation, or the pressure, shifts from being general or vague, to being very specific and direct.
And if you’re having any kind of a wedding, there’s not just the pressure to get married, there’s the pressure and drama associated with the wedding itself. Maybe you’re planning a fairly simple wedding, but maybe you aren’t. Maybe the wedding that you’re planning is a pretty grand event in the making, with a lot of moving parts, and a lot of people involved, and a lot money already spent, and a lot more money TO be spent.
And you might find this stressful for a lot of reasons, even if you are very content in your relationship with your partner and are enthusiastic about marrying them, and aren’t cheating on them in any way, shape, or form. Weddings can be stressful, for all kinds of reasons, even under the best of circumstances. So there’s that.
But on top of that, a lot of folks, once an engagement has been announced, and wedding plans have gotten underway, start to think that they HAVE to get married. Since the date has been set, the invitations have been sent out, the non-refundable deposits have been paid, they start to think that they have no choice but to go through with the wedding.
Now of course, this kind of thinking also happens with people who AREN’T engaging in infidelity. But if you’re thinking that you have to get married because wedding plans are underway, AND you’re cheating on your partner, this can put you in a particularly unpleasant predicament.
When you believe you literally HAVE to get married and there’s nothing you can do about that, it’s very hard to think clearly about your infidelity situation AND what you want to do about getting married. Or not getting married! If you believe that you have to marry the person you are supposed to marry and that’s all there is to it, it is going to be very difficult for you to be radically honest with yourself about what you actually want, and what you want to DO in the service of what you want. And when we believe we don’t have options, we behave as if this is true. And what that means in practice is some people go through with their weddings, even though they are actively cheating on their partner, and don’t feel great about doing that, AND even though aren’t really sure if they want to marry the person they’re marrying. All because they just don’t know what else they can do.
And this, dear listeners, is probably a situation you want to avoid. I don’t consider it my business to tell you what you should do or have to do, but I can tell you that marrying someone you aren’t sure you want to marry because you believe you just have to go through with your wedding is probably a situation you don’t want to put yourself in.
I will tell you that I have worked with clients who have been cheating on their fiancé and decided to go through with the wedding even though they weren’t sure if they really wanted to get married or not, and weren’t sure what they wanted to do with their infidelity situation, and weren’t really sure about much of anything aside from believing that they “had” to go through with their wedding. AND I have worked with clients who have been cheating on their fiances and decided to call their weddings off and break up with their fiances.
And I will also tell you that folks in both types of situations have ended up dealing with their fair share of discomfort. I don’t think anyone I’ve worked with who has called off their wedding would say that doing so was easy or fun or anything close to that. I am pretty sure that some folks I’ve worked with who chose to call their weddings off would say that doing so was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, if not THE hardest thing they’ve ever done. And I can also say that without exception, they all later said that it was the best decision they ever made, and that they were so glad they did it.
On the other hand, the folks who chose to go through with their weddings even though they weren’t sure they wanted to found that all of the problems that they thought they were avoiding by choosing to just get married didn’t go away. Sometimes people think that if they just get through their wedding, everything will be fine, and they’ll be happy with their spouse, and life will be great.
And I think that’s sort of reasonable to hope for, to a certain extent. The lead-up to a wedding can be pretty stressful and unpleasant, and it’s not all that unreasonable to hope that once the wedding stress is over, things will be different. Also, some people respond to wedding-related stress by freaking out about their relationship with their fiancé, and sometimes that freaking out takes the form of doing a little cheating. And sometimes the cheating really is about freaking out about the wedding, and it stops after the wedding, and the former cheater lives happily ever with their spouse. That sort of thing DOES happen.
But sometimes people who are cheating on their fiancé aren’t just having a little fun on the side or fucking around because they’re freaking out and they don’t know what else to do with themselves. Sometimes people who are engaged to one person are madly in love with another person, and are deeply involved in their relationship with that person. And when people who are in this kind of situation hope that the act of getting married will somehow make their desire for their other person go away, and make them somehow be exclusively interested in their spouse, they are usually QUITE disappointed.
Now, I am not telling you about these two categories of clients as a means of saying you shouldn’t get married if you are cheating on your fiancé. That’s not the point here. It never is. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you know that I am in favor of you making whatever choices you want to make, but my encouragement is that you make your choices as consciously as possible. So if you want to get married even though you’re cheating on your fiancé and you aren’t really sure if you want to marry them, do that, if you choose. Rather, I am telling you about these two different sorts of experiences my clients have had for the sake of making two very important points, which are as follows.
Number one: your wedding will not magically resolve your infidelity situation.
Number two: sometimes the only choice we have is between discomfort now, or discomfort later.
I know you might really WANT to think that if you just go through with your wedding, everything will be fine. Meaning, more specifically, if you just go ahead and get married, your infidelity situation will somehow magically resolve itself. And I will tell you that the likelihood of this happening is very, very low.
And I know that the idea of calling off a wedding and dealing with everything that comes with that may seem HORRIFYING to you. Some people tell me they would rather die than call off their wedding. And yes, actually going through with calling off your wedding and doing all of the things associated with that may be quite unpleasant. But by doing that unpleasant stuff in the short term, you may save yourself from having to deal with A LOT MORE unpleasantness in the longer term.
In other words, the only choice you may really have is between dealing with a certain form of discomfort now, or a different form of discomfort later. And that might sound like bad news but I want you to consider that it really isn’t. When we accept that the only way out is through, when we accept that there may not be an easy way out, dealing with life’s challenges actually gets easier.
Canceling a wedding might suck. But going through with marrying someone you’re not sure you want to marry, and NOT deciding what you want to do about your infidelity situation has the potential to not only prolong your current problems, but exacerbate them. Calling off a wedding might ultimately be less trouble than going through with a wedding, only to have to figure out whether or not you want to get divorced, and then actually getting divorced. NOT calling off a wedding might seem like a win in the short-term. But in the long term, calling off a wedding might be the bigger victory, in terms of the overall amount and quality of discomfort you experience, and in terms of the amount of total time in your life that you give yourself to live the way you really want to live.
So it is really, really, really important to give yourself the opportunity to honestly and comprehensively assess your situation, so that you can make decisions about what you want to do that are not driven by fear or panic or the belief that you don’t have any choices. This opportunity may not present itself to you on a silver platter. You may have to aggressively seek out time and space and assistance with which you can take a clear look at your situation and be honest with yourself about what you want.
This might all sound kind of bad and hard and awful, but I want to suggest that if you are cheating on your partner, and you’re supposed to marry that person, you have the option of looking at your predicament as a gift, rather than a problem. Because your looming wedding date – or the expectation that you will soon set a wedding date – can be treated as an incentive to get clear on what you want, sooner rather than later. And getting clear on what you want sooner rather than later is AWESOME.
Now I know that some of you will think this sounds insane. I know that some of you think that you need unlimited time to make certain decisions – such as whether or not you want to call off your wedding - and that you can’t possibly make certain decisions when there is any kind of pressure on you to make one choice rather than another.
But for one thing, not making a decision is a decision in and of itself. If you say you can’t make a decision, you’re choosing not to make a decision, and that IS a decision.
But perhaps even more importantly, I want you to consider that having more time to make a decision will not, in and of itself, enable you to make a better decision. And although we can relate to pressure in such a way that we find it harder to make a decision, we can also relate to pressure in such a way that it inspires us to be ruthlessly clear about what we want and what we’re going to do about it. And sometimes – especially if we’re in the habit of believing that it’s hard to make decisions, or believing that it takes a long time to make certain decisions – it’s quite a gift to have an event looming in our future that gives us an incentive to make a decision sooner rather than later.
So if you’re cheating on your fiancé, I want to suggest that no matter how inconvenient or stressful or impossible to deal with your situation may seem, you can treat this as a valuable opportunity to get clear on what you really want to do in this moment of your life, and be faithful to that. You can treat this moment in your life as an opportunity to step up to the plate and make decisions that serve you well. If you think you don’t KNOW how to make decisions systematically and efficiently, that’s okay. You can learn, and if you’re willing to, you can learn pretty quickly. Not instantly, but pretty quickly. And there is so much to be gained for taking responsibility for being decisive, instead of languishing in the land of indecision.
When we’re in the midst of a situation we find challenging and stressful and overwhelming, it’s really easy for us to believe that we CAN’T make decisions. Or, if we do believe that we at least theoretically can make decisions, it’s easy for us to get lost in our fear and confusion. So it’s really helpful to have someone who can help us see what our options truly are, and help us keep our thinking focused on what’s most important to us, and help us consider the best-case scenarios that are available to us. And I am one source of such help. When you’re in a situation like this, when you’re cheating on your fiancé and you don’t know what to do, it may be helpful to turn to people you know and trust for advice. And that CAN be fine and good, sometimes. But sometimes it is immensely valuable to turn to someone who doesn’t have a pony in the race when we need help making major life decisions. Sometimes our closest allies have a bit of an agenda for us. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but other people’s agenda for you may not be YOUR agenda for you. So there are times when working with a neutral party to clarify what’s truly right for you is PRICELESS. And obviously, I’m one such neutral party.
Now, before we wrap up for today, I want to leave you with two things to consider which I hope you will find somewhat reassuring. Here’s the first thing: seriously considering that you might want to call your wedding off does not mean that you will ultimately decide to do so. Sometimes we’re afraid to even THINK about calling off a wedding, or ending an engagement, or doing some other thing we think would be a really big deal because we think it would be such a big deal if we chose to do the thing. We’re so scared of that big deal happening that we shut down, and can’t even consider our options. And we do ourselves a tremendous disservice when we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to even consider what we really want. And the result of considering doing a scary thing is not always that we choose to do the scary thing. Sometimes we decide to not do the thing we think is scary, and we feel great about that decision. But we could never get to that point of clarity and certainty and relief if we weren’t willing to courageously consider our options.
So there’s that. Considering calling off your wedding may mean that you decide not to call off your wedding!
And here’s the second thing that I hope will be reassuring. If you do decide to call off your wedding, and you actually do it, you will survive. It may be super uncomfortable. It may be kind of a big deal, at least to some people, at least for a while. But everyone who gets worked up about it will survive, and you will survive too. And if you make the decision to do this for reasons that you like, you will reap rewards that make all of the discomfort worth it.
So, if you’re cheating on your fiancé, and you’re not doing this intentionally, or for reasons that you like, I encourage you to do whatever you need to do to figure out what you truly want to do about your situation before you actually get married. Yes, this might seem inconvenient and hard. I know! And it might be totally worth it. And of course, if you want my help taking a look at your situation and making decisions you feel great about, 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, so we can work together no matter where you’re located. I can’t wait to meet you.
Thank you all so much for listening! Have a great week. Bye for now.