164: Cheating On Your Affair Partner

Oct 24, 2023

Are you worried that you're cheating on your affair partner? Is that even possible? This is a real dilemma that my clients bring up, so if you can relate, you are definitely not alone.

What counts as cheating in this scenario can vary from person to person. Maybe it's violating a promise of an exclusive act that you only do with your affair partner. Or perhaps you have an emotional attachment with them and it feels like cheating if you allow closeness with your committed partner.

If you are cheating on your affair partner or worried that you might be doing something that counts as cheating, listen in. This is a complicated but completely human situation to find yourself in, and this episode will help you understand how you got there and what to do next.

Starting in early 2024, I am offering additional ways to work with me. I'm offering a program called You’re Not the Only One, including teachings on dealing with infidelity situations, video courses and assignments, and even group coaching calls with other people just like you (while also maintaining your privacy!). Stay tuned and sign up for my mailing list in the pop-up for all the details!

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

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What cheating on your affair partner might look like.

  • Why cheating on your affair partner isn’t objectively right or wrong.

  • How to decide what you really want and start moving forward in a way that feels right to you.

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. 

Hello 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 judgments.  When you are ready to deal with your infidelity situation in a way that you feel great about, I can help you do it. I offer one-on-one coaching via Zoom that is tailored to your specific needs. To schedule an introductory coaching session with me, go to my website, mariemurphyphd.com. I can’t wait to meet you.

Also, today I am announcing for the first time that I will soon be offering additional ways to have me as your coach.  Starting early next year, I will be offering a program called “You’re Not the Only One” which will include my teachings on how to deal with your infidelity situation delivered in the form of videos and assignments for you to complete on your own time, and group coaching calls which will give you the opportunity to be coached by me, and also to hear other people who are dealing with their own infidelity situations be coached by me.  So many of my one-on-one clients have told me that they really wish there were some way for them to see that what they’re going through isn’t unique, and to have some sort of connection to other people who are dealing with infidelity situations too.  So I am in the process of creating an opportunity for that to happen.  All of the group coaching calls will be on a good ole conference line, not via Zoom, so your privacy will be totally protected when you participate.  This new thing in still in the works so I’m not announcing an official start date quite yet, but it will be available starting early next year, and I’m very much looking forward to welcoming you into this thing.  I’ll continue to announce details on the podcast, but if you want updates delivered to your inbox, get yourself on my mailing list by going to my website and signing up.

Although I will continue to offer one-on-one coaching after “You’re Not the Only One” is up and running, I will do so on a more limited basis.  So if you’ve been thinking you might want to work with me one-on-one, but you’ve been holding off for some reason, now is a great time for you to book your first session with me.  Let’s get down to business and help you find some relief from all the things that are bothering you, and help you find a clear path forward.  Once again, you can book an introductory coaching session through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.

Today we are going to talk about cheating on your affair partner, which is definitely a thing that happens, and is a thing that presents a real dilemma to many of my clients.  Dilemmas that come up within the context of cheating on one’s affair partner are relevant to all kinds of different infidelity situations, so a lot of today’s insights will probably apply to you even if you aren’t cheating on your affair partner.

Just like there are lots of ways that you can engage in infidelity in general, there are lots of ways that you can cheat on your affair partner.  Or put differently, there are lots of things that you could do that you might consider cheating on your affair partner.  Today I’m going to talk about three common ways that people cheat on their affair partners, or three types of situations in which people are doing something that they think counts as cheating on their affair partner.  I’ll talk about the quandaries people often face in these kinds of situations, and of course, I’ll offer some guidance on how you might deal with these kinds of dilemmas.

The first kind of situation in which people consider themselves to be cheating on their affair partner is this.  Two people who are each ostensibly committed to someone else will get involved with each other, and they’ll form an affair relationship, and that relationship will become a really significant and important relationship to both of the parties involved.  For a lot of folks who are having affairs, the affair relationship takes on a tremendous amount of emotional significance.  This isn’t true for everyone, of course – some people have ongoing affairs that they enjoy, but aren’t super-duper invested in – but it is definitely the case that some people get VERY attached to their affair partner, and very invested in their affair relationship.  

And the two affair partners may want to treat their relationship as a special and important thing, and that sometimes includes wanting to be faithful to each other in particular ways, or to do things exclusively with each other, or to have certain feelings or experiences only with each other.  And, on the one hand, this is fair enough!  This is what a lot of people like to do with their relationships, or what makes a relationship a relationship for a lot of people!  It can be really nice to experience a sense of exclusivity with another person, or a sense of “you’re all mine, and I’m all yours, and we share certain things only with each other”.  That can be totally great, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting this kind of experience with your affair partner.

But of course, if you’re in an affair relationship, there may be some built-in threats to the sense of exclusivity you’d like to have with your affair partner.  For instance, if you’re still in a committed relationship with someone else, and you’re keeping your affair a secret, and you’re trying to act like you’re still invested in your spouse, or your committed partner, you may be choosing to do things within your committed relationship that seem like violations of your relationship with your affair partner.  Or threats to the sense of exclusivity you’d like to have with your affair partner.

So for example, a lot of folks in this kind of situation say they feel like they’re cheating on their affair partner if they have sex with their spouse, or their committed partner.  Sometimes people feel even worse about what they’re doing if they ENJOY having sex with their spouse.  Sometimes people feel bad about having any kind of emotional closeness with their spouse or their committed partner.  Sometimes people feel bad about enjoying their spouse or their primary partner’s company.

When some people notice that they feel like they’re betraying their affair partner by engaging with their spouse or committed partner, they’re like, “Okay, I think I see the writing on the wall here.  I think I’m more committed to my affair partner than I am to the person I’m officially committed to, so I need to make some changes.”  Some people are like, “Well, if I really want to have a relationship with my affair partner that’s exclusively them and me, then I’d better make some changes,” and then they do just that.  They extricate themselves from their committed relationship, so that they can be fully available to the possibility of having an exclusive relationship with their affair partner.  And if their affair partner does the same, then great – they get to have exclusive relationship with each other!  And if their affair partner doesn’t do the same, then they’re available to pursue an exclusive relationship with someone else who is a good fit for them.  So that’s a pretty decisive approach to dealing with wanting to have an exclusive relationship with your affair partner.

But some people aren’t so decisive.  Some people get really worked up about cheating on their affair partner with their primary partner, and they make this a problem that’s really hard to solve.  Sometimes people are like, “Oh my god, I feel really bad about cheating on my spouse already, I know that’s a really shitty thing to do, and now it seems like I’m doing the same thing but in a different way because I’m not being faithful to my affair partner in all the ways I want to be, but I kind of have to pretend like I still want to be with my spouse, because I haven’t really decided what I do about my marriage and my affair just yet, so I have to just act like everything’s normal.  But by doing that, I’m cheating on TWO people that I care about, and I just feel so bad about that that I don’t know what to do.”

Here's the thing, people.  It’s totally fair to feel like you’re caught between wanting to honor the commitments you’ve made to one person, while also wanting to form and honor a new set of commitments to another person.  This is totally human, and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  It’s totally human to have made a set of promises to one person, and to want to make a bunch of new promises to another person before you’ve figured out how you’re going to reconcile the new promises you want to make with the old ones you’ve already made.  I know a lot of people will tell you that you’re selfish if you’re in the midst of this kind of a situation, or you’re a narcissist, or you’re a this, or a that.  But I don’t agree with that, and even if it were TRUE in some absolute way that you ARE in fact a selfish narcissist if you’re still committed to your primary partner but you also yearn for a sense of exclusivity with your affair partner, beating yourself up for being selfish probably isn’t going to help you make any changes.

It's totally human for you to want to have a relationship with the person who is your affair partner in which they’re all yours, and you’re all theirs, and the two of you share certain things only with each other.  It’s totally human for you to want this, even if you’re still officially committed to someone else.  We can take all of the morality stuff out of it, and just acknowledge this as a very human thing to want.  AND, we also have to be very clear about something.  If you want to have a relationship with the person who is your affair partner that truly is exclusive, you’re going to have to make some changes in order to make that happen.  If you think that you are effectively cheating on your affair partner by engaging with your spouse or your primary partner, and you don’t like that, you could decide to leave your spouse so you’re no longer cheating on your affair partner by engaging with them.  Doing that will, in a sense, solve this problem for you.

The trouble of course is that sometimes we don’t want to make those kinds of changes.  Sometimes we want to wring our hands and lament our situation and beat ourselves up for cheating on not one person, but two.  Sometimes we prefer to complain about the problem than to do something about the problem.  This is true in lots of situations in life, of course, not just infidelity situations, and not just this particular kind of infidelity situation.  Sometimes we kind of like having our problem more than we want to solve our problem.

Sometimes, NOT having what we want, or thinking that we can’t have what we want provides us with an interesting form of drama.  Sometimes one of the exciting things about an affair relationship is wanting more with a particular person than we can have, at least in a given moment.  When we tell ourselves that we “can’t” be with someone, it may make them more attractive to us.  Now let me be really clear that I am NOT saying that this is the primary appeal of your affair partner, or the only appeal of your affair partner.  I am NOT saying that this is the defining attribute of all affair relationships, and I’m not saying that this even a factor in all affair relationships.  I’m not making that kind of a generalization.  BUT, it’s important to recognize that this CAN be a factor in affair relationships.  When we think that we can’t be with someone who we’re really attracted to in all the ways we want to be with them, or when we think we can’t have all of what we want with someone, that can be a really potent source of drama.  It’s torturous to believe that we can’t have what we want, but it’s also kind of exciting.  It creates tension in our lives.  It may be pretty torturous to believe that you’re cheating on your affair partner by engaging with your committed partner, but that particular form of torture might be more appealing, or more entertaining than saying, “Okay, if I really want exclusivity with this person, what am I prepared to do in the service of that?”

It's possible that you AREN’T prepared to do much of anything in the service of wanting to experience true exclusivity with your affair partner.  And that’s okay.  That’s totally human!  But if that’s the case, then you might want to either embrace the drama you’re creating for yourself by the way you’re thinking about your situation, or you may want to think about your situation differently so that you can feel less tortured.  For instance, you could shift your thinking about whether or not what you’re doing with your primary partner counts as cheating on your affair partner.  You could decide that your relationship with your affair partner is not threatened by your interactions with your spouse.  If you’re going to keep on doing what you’re doing, you could find a way to make peace with your actions instead of finding reasons to be tortured by them.  Unless you want to keep on feeling tortured.  If you do, go right ahead.

Okay, here’s another example of how people experience cheating on their affair partner.  Some folks have decided that they are going to stay with their spouse or primary partner, and that they are going to get their sexual or romantic or emotional needs or all of the above met outside of that relationship, and they decide that they’re totally okay with that.  In other words, some people make a very clear decision to cheat and stay married, or cheat and stay partnered.  They’re not interested in being in an open relationship with their primary partner, they are interested in doing what they do on the side secretly.  And at first, their intention is to do this and have a good time, without forming a committed relationship with a particular affair partner.  They’re not looking to fall in love, they’re not looking to find someone they might want to leave their marriage for.  They’re just looking for a certain sort of fulfillment that they don’t have or maybe don’t want to have within their primary relationship.  

But then, something happens.  They meet someone really special.  And they really like that special someone.  And that special someone knows all about their marital situation, or partnership situation, and they’re cool with it.  But the new special someone wants the affair relationship to be exclusive.  And on the one hand, our main character in this example is like, “Yeah, sure, we can be exclusive!  Exclusivity is really nice in some ways, and I like this special someone a lot!  Sure I can agree to that with them.  That sounds good.”  And they may really mean this!  

But.  The main character in this example got into the infidelity game for the sake of ruthlessly pursuing getting their needs met.  They didn’t get into infidelity by accident.  They didn’t meet someone and fall in love and find themselves having an affair, and then find themselves conflicted about what to do about it.  They got into it for the sake of getting certain things, and having a full-on affair relationship wasn’t one of those things.  And so after agreeing to have an exclusive affair relationship with the special someone they’ve met, they go, “Wait a second.  I didn’t embark upon this journey of intentional infidelity in order to tie myself down to one person.  I’m doing this because I want to be faithful to MYSELF in terms of exploring certain desires I have.  And I may really like this special someone I’ve met, but I really want to be able to do whatever I want, with whoever I want.  So do I have to tell my affair partner about this?  Or can I justifiably do whatever I want outside of my affair relationship, since we’re both already cheating on our spouses anyway?”

The answer, in a sense, is quite simple.  You don’t have to do anything.  You get to do whatever you want.  And sometimes when I remind people of this, they say something like, “Yeah, I know I CAN do it if I want to, but is it really BAD if I do it?”  And my answer to that is, I don’t think that’s the right question to ask yourself.  I think the better question to ask yourself is, what’s most important to you and why?  

There may be times in life when the most important thing to you is to act on your desires, even if that means you’re doing something that you think counts as cheating.  AND there may be times in your life when it is more important to you to honor commitments you’ve made, even if doing so means that you forfeit something else that’s important to you.  So instead of asking whether or not cheating on your affair partner might be bad in some general sense, or in other people’s opinions, I want you to ask yourself whether it’s right or wrong for YOU.

I don’t often use language like that.  I don’t often ask you to consider whether something is right or wrong for you, because I think our use of dualistic thinking and absolute rights and wrongs usually doesn’t get us anywhere great.  But, I’m using this language today because I think it works well enough to convey what I’m getting at, which is this.  There will be times in life, when no matter whether or not anybody else ever knows what we’ve done, we will want to behave in a particular way because we believe it’s truly right for us to do so.  There are times when we choose to do things because by doing so, we get to experience more of the life we want to live, and we get to contribute to life in the ways that we want to contribute, even if doing those things comes at some sort of a cost to us.

I encourage you to get clear about what you would want to do if no one but you were to ever know about your actions.  Or to be more specific, if no one but you ever knew that you cheated on your affair partner, how would you choose to proceed?

Again, sometimes people get really agitated by this question because they think it bypasses important questions about what’s morally right.  But I don’t agree.  When we get really bogged down by questions of absolute morality, we tend to get stuck between what we think of as absolute rights and wrongs, and what we think is truly right or wrong for US.  And when we get stuck, we often just keep on doing the things that might or might not be morally problematic anyway, AND we may not take responsibility for making choices.  But on the other hand, by getting clear on what we would do if the only consequences we face are self-imposed, we help ourselves figure out what’s right for us, and that then enables us to decide what we want to do in the service of that.

So for instance, if we say to ourselves, “Yeah, I like this commitment to my affair partner and I want to nurture that relationship, but I also want to do whatever I want outside of that relationship and keep it a secret and I am totally okay with this infidelity,” then we can do what we’re going to do, without taking on an enormous burden of guilt.  And interestingly, if we cheat and make peace with it, we’re usually in a much better position to engage in the relationships we’ve committed to in a way that we feel good about than we are if we choose to cheat, but also give ourselves a really hard time for doing so.  

On the other hand, if you realize that even if no one ever knew about your actions, YOU don’t really like the idea of cheating on your affair partner, you put yourself in a much better position to decide what you WANT to do about that.  You could decide, for instance, that you’re not going to commit to being exclusive with your affair partner.  They may really want that with you, and you may really like them, so you may really want to want that, too.  But if you’re really honest with yourself about your desires, you may find that you want to be able to see whoever you like, and you don’t like the idea of telling your affair partner that you’ll be exclusive with them when you don’t really intend to do that.  You may prefer to tell them that you just can’t make that kind of agreement with them – not because it’s fundamentally better to do that, but because that’s most in line with how you want to live.

It might sound strange, but when we can be really honest about our desires, we’re usually much more able to behave in ways that we consider right.

It generally feels pretty good to be clear about what we want, and clear about what’s important to us, and to act in the service of those ideals.  It generally makes for a less complicated, more enjoyable life to allow ourselves to be honest about what’s okay with us and what isn’t – instead of trying to grapple with moral absolutes.

When we get too worked up about moral absolutes, we may fail to take responsibility for doing the best we can within the circumstances of our lives.  This is such a sad irony, but it’s so prevalent.  Or put differently, in the service of trying to be morally perfect – whatever the hell that might mean – we may end up being a lot more morally imperfect than we could be if we accepted that the goal is to do the best we can to live in ways that we consider appropriate.     

The third example of what cheating on your affair partner can look like is this.  Sometimes someone starts cheating on their committed partner with one particular person.  And they form a relationship with their affair partner that’s pretty significant, in their estimation.  And then on top of that, they start seeing other people too.  Maybe they get on the apps, or maybe they just can’t seem to stop meeting other people.  And before they know it, they’re lying to their spouse, they’re lying to their affair partner, and when they meet additional new people, they’re presenting themselves as if they’re single.

A lot of times – not all the time, but a lot of times - when I see this happening, the main character in this sort of a story has been married for a while, or in a committed relationship for a while, and hasn’t had a very satisfying relationship with their spouse or partner for a long time.  And they didn’t have much romantic and sexual experience prior to committing to their spouse or partner.  So they’re in the situation of having an affair partner and also cheating on their primary partner of after years of being unhappily married, and without much prior experience with dating and relationships.  That’s not to say that people who are married, and have an affair partner, and are also cheating on their affair partner ALWAYS have these kinds of experiences, and it’s not to say that having relatively little dating experience prior to getting married CAUSES people to cheat, and then cheat on the person they’re cheating with.  Not at all.  But these contextual factors are important, and here’s why.

Sometimes, when people are married, and cheating on their spouse with an affair partner, and also seeking out other people, they go, “Oh, maybe I’m a sex addict.  Maybe that’s what’s going on here.”  And, you might find the construct of sex addiction a useful lens through which to examine your own behavior.  Some people have found the notion of sex addiction a really helpful way of understanding and dealing with their experiences, and if you’ve benefitted from seeing yourself as a sex addict, or looking at your experiences through the lens of sex addiction, that’s fantastic.  If your perspectives and approaches are working for you, then that is great, and I have no desire to try and take them away from you.

However, there is much to critique about the notion of sex addiction itself, and much to critique about how people are diagnosed as sex addicts.  I’m not going to launch into a full-scale analysis of how our contemporary understandings of sex addiction came about and why these understandings may be problematic.  Instead, I’m going to offer other ways of looking at an infidelity situation like this one.

First of all, it’s important for us to recognize that we have a normative bias towards committed relationships in our society.  Meaning, we collectively tend to think that committed relationships, especially marriages, are Good Things.  We tend to encourage people – subtly and not-so-subtly – to get into committed relationships.  We tend to regard entering a committed relationship as an important milestone to be achieved in the service of being fully recognized as an adult, or in the service of achieving what social scientists call full personhood.  And ironically, even in societies like the United States that place a high premium on individualism, we don’t really encourage people to get to know themselves well as individuals before they enter into a committed partnership with another person.  And we don’t really encourage people to get to know what they want out of a romantic partnership before entering into one that is – quite often, anyway – supposed to be both life-long, and monogamous.  

So in other words, we urge people to do this thing – meaning, we urge people to partner up – without really telling them what it’s going to mean for them to do this, and thus, without giving them any way to really assess whether or not they’re interested in signing up for what they’re signing up for.  Signing up for the next step in your journey to become a fully recognized adult might sound really good.  Signing up for a life-long monogamous relationship before you’ve even had a chance to get to know what you want in a relationship might not sound as good.  But that may be effectively what we’re doing, and we may not know that.  

And so then, we get married, or we commit to a partnership, and years go by, and we’re kind of not that satisfied but maybe we don’t really know that, or we’re just trying to make it work, no matter what.  And especially if we didn’t have much experience with relationships prior to committing to our partner, we may think, “Well, I guess this is just the way relationships are.  This is just the way it goes.  How could I possibly expect that things could be any better than this?  I guess this is just how my life is.”

And then all of sudden we meet someone amazing, and our understanding of what sex and intimacy and connection and romance can be like is totally blown up.  We’d been living in black and white, and all of a sudden we’re living in full color, and we’re like, “Oh my god.  I didn’t know relationships could be like this.  I didn’t know that sex could be like this.  I didn’t know that connecting with another human could be like this.”  It’s like we open a door to another universe, and our minds are completely blown.

And sometimes what happens is, people discover this through cheating on their committed partner with one particular person.  And they may really enjoy that one particular person… AND they may also have a desire to see what else might be out there.  

Sometimes once we stick our toe in the waters of something new, we want to jump all the way in.

If we’ve been eating mealy, flavorless apples our whole lives and then we get the taste of a perfect mango, we may go, “Oh my god, this is so great.  I want to eat mangos from here on out.  I’m done.  I’ve found the fruit for me, and I’m sticking with it.”  And that’s cool!  Mangos are pretty great.  If I could eat a good one every day, I would.  BUT after tasting our first mango, we may not want to stop with mangos.  We may say, “Okay, the mango was great, but I have a feeling that’s just the beginning!  Now that I know what’s out there, I want to explore the taste of every tropical fruit I can get my hands on, and I am going to love every minute of that.  Maybe one day I’ll settle on one fruit I really like and eat exclusively that, but maybe I won’t.”  Right?  

I want to suggest that there is nothing wrong with wanting to sample all of the amazing fruits you can get your hand on, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to explore a variety of connections with other humans.  I want you to consider that that’s a totally legitimate thing to do.

The problem, of course, is that sometimes people discover that they want to explore new connections when they’re in a committed relationship.  And of course, sometimes they discover this by cheating, and sometimes, once the horse has left the barn, the cheater doesn’t really take hold of the situation in any systematic way.  So, more specifically, sometimes people start cheating on their committed partner with one particular person, and then they start seeing other people too, and although this desire to connect with other people may be totally legitimate, the way they act on this desire comes with a lot of secrets and lies, and before they know it, they have a big, gnarly complicated situation on their hands that seems really hard to deal with.  And this can seem like a really bad, heavy situation.  And when we’re in a situation that seems really bad and heavy to us, it can be really easy to say to ourselves, “Wow.  Something must be really wrong with me.”   

Now some people will say that this sort of behavior I’ve been describing is sex addiction, or sex and love addiction, pure and simple.

But I think there are other ways of looking at it.  

It’s really important to remember that a lot of people feel a strong desire to not leave their marriage.  They may be ambivalent about staying married and being faithful to their spouse, but they’re not really excited about the idea of leaving their marriage.  And this is often the case for multiple reasons.  For one thing, a lot of people really like SOME things about their marriage, even if they also have a desire to get involved with people other than their spouse.  And a lot of people don’t want to give that good stuff up!  A lot of people find the prospect of leaving their marriage to be one that is filled with uncertainty, and they don’t like the idea of that – even if they realize that leaving their marriage would allow them to pursue other relationships without cheating on their spouse.  

On top of that, there can be a fair amount of social pressure to stay married once you’ve gotten married in the general sense, and you may experience a good amount of that within the specific context of your life.  If you’re worried that if you get divorced, people in your life will be dismayed or disapproving, leaving your marriage may sound like a really daunting thing to do.  Especially if one of your primary reasons for wanting to leave the marriage is for the sake of being able to explore connections with other people.  If you feel like you have to give people a good reason why you’re choosing to leave your marriage, that may not seem like a good enough reason to give.  

On a related note, you may believe, as a lot of people do, that being in a committed relationship is fundamentally better than not being in a committed relationship.  On some level, you may believe that it’s better to be in a committed relationship than to be dating multiple people – even if you also WANT to be able to date multiple people.  Collectively, we tend to think that settling down with one person is BETTER than enjoying variety for its own sake.  That’s not 100% true 100% of the time, of course.  We collectively affirm the desire to be free to do whatever you want with whoever you want to some extent.  But we tend to think that on the whole, it’s better to be partnered with one person.  And so people in your life may think that, and give you a hard time if you say you’re getting divorced, or you may believe that yourself to a great degree, and if you do, it may be really hard to truly allow yourself the option to get divorced.

And if you don’t really allow yourself the option to get divorced so that you can see other people without that counting as infidelity, but you also really want to keep on seeing the people other than your spouse who you’re seeing, guess what happens?  You probably keep cheating!  And you may feel pretty terrible about it, but if you don’t think you have any clear path forward to resolve your situation in a way that you find satisfying, chances are you’re going to keep doing that you’re doing.

So if you are in a situation where you are involved with multiple people other than your spouse or committed partner, I want you to consider the possibility that it is legitimate for you to want sexual and romantic variety for its own sake.  It’s fine and great to value exclusivity, and commitment to one person.  Of course that’s great.  But it’s also fine and great to want to be able to see whoever you want and do whatever you want with them.  And if that is what you want, it’s important to take that seriously, and to give yourself permission to want that.  Not being honest with ourselves about what we really want is not a recipe for anything great.  

So often, we DON’T think that wanting sexual and romantic variety is a legitimate thing to want.  So when we find ourselves wanting that, or enjoying that, we may have a really hard time honestly acknowledging these desires, and believing that they’re worthy of acting on.  We may have a really hard time saying to ourselves, “I really want variety and I believe that it’s okay for me to pursue that, so I guess it’s time to get serious about leaving my marriage.”  Instead, we may second-guess our desire for plurality and variety, and we may try to convince ourselves that we should just stay married and try to shut down all the cheating.  Or, maybe we think we should leave our marriage, stay with our affair partner, and shut down the rest of the cheating.

But if we don’t actually want to do either of those things, it may be pretty hard to do them.  And this is where we can get ourselves into a really tough situation.  If we tell ourselves we should do certain things, but we don’t have sufficient desire to actually do them, and then we don’t do them, we may be inclined to tell ourselves that there’s something wrong with us.  But is there?  Not necessarily.  The only problem may be that we aren’t allowing ourselves to want what we want. 

Now, I do want to mention that if you feel like you’re compulsively seeking out sexual or romantic connections and you don’t like what you’re getting out of doing that, then that is a different story.  If that’s your experience of cheating, then you may want to look at what’s going on when you seek out that encounter, or that connection.  Chances are you’re trying to get away from a feeling you don’t like.  There are many ways we can distract ourselves from the pain of being human, and seeking out sexual and romantic connections is certainly one of them.  Does this count as sex addiction?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  But that’s another conversation for another day.  

For today, the important point is that if you’re cheating on someone you’ve committed to with an affair partner, and you’re also cheating on your affair partner, you may want to seriously consider the possibility that you want to be free to pursue different kinds of interactions with anyone you want to right now!  And you may want to consider that that’s a totally legitimate thing to want, and a totally legitimate thing to do.  And if you want to be able to do that in a way that doesn’t count as cheating, it may be time to think about extricating yourself from some of the commitments and agreements you’ve made to certain people in your life. 

In conclusion, I will say that if you’re doing things that you think count as cheating on your affair partner, and you don’t like that, and you’ve been upset about that for any length of time, you may have gotten yourself bogged down in some pretty unhelpful patterns of thinking.  You may be at the point where you don’t know which way is up anymore.  You may really WANT to act decisively in the service of what you want, but you may have talked yourself out of wanting what you want so many times that you don’t trust your own read on your truest desires anymore.  If that’s where you are, I can help lead you out of the maze of your own mind, and help you find clarity and certainty and a clear path forward.  When you’re ready to talk, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  I can’t wait to meet you. 

All right everyone! Thank you all so much for listening. Have a great week.   Bye for now.


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