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 ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, I can help you do it. There are three ways we can work together. You can join my secret society/group coaching program, You’re Not the Only One, which includes group coaching calls that are held in a way that protects your privacy, and an online library of my teachings and assignments. Or you can purchase the DIY version of You’re Not the Only One, which includes all of my teachings and assignments that will help you sort your infidelity situation out, but does not include access to the group coaching calls. Or we can work together one-on-one. All of these options are great, they’re just great in different ways, and you can access each of them through the services page of my website, mariemurphyphd.com/services. If you are ready for some relief and a clear path forward, why wait any longer? Head on over to my website, and let’s get started.
Sometimes, two people who are involved in an affair relationship get into a dynamic where one party has an agenda for the other. Is it possible that both parties could have an agenda for their affair partner? Of course. But something I see far more often is that affair couples sometimes get into a situation where one member of the affair couple has a pretty distinct agenda for their affair partner. And today, I am talking to those of you who have an agenda for your affair partner. I’ll devote a future episode to what to do if your affair partner has an agenda for you. But today I’m talking to those of you who have an agenda, or, to put it differently, are trying like hell to guide your affair partner to do certain things, or to take a particular approach to their situation, or to think about the affair relationship in particular terms.
If you have been having an affair with someone, or you’re in a relationship that has some infidelity component to it, you may think you have a pretty good idea of what your affair partner needs to do to resolve their infidelity situation. And it may seem like a pretty good idea to TELL them what you think they should do to resolve their infidelity situation. Or, better yet, it may seem like a pretty good idea to attempt to GET THEM to do the things you think they should do to resolve their infidelity situation. I think anything along those lines counts as having an agenda for your affair partner.
Before I go any further, I want to make something absolutely clear. I am not calling anybody out here. If you do have an agenda for your affair partner, or if after listening to this episode, you think you maybe kinda sorta just might have an agenda for your affair partner, you are not being scolded. The point of this episode is NOT that if you have an agenda for your affair partner, you’re a defective human being, and you’d better drop your agenda right now.
Because in a sense, it’s totally reasonable for you to have an agenda for your affair partner. You may know them pretty darn well. In all likelihood, you see your affair partner’s situation from a unique vantage point, and you may think you have really great insights into their experiences and their challenges – and into all of their strengths and weaknesses. You may be able to see their blind spots in a way they cannot. You may be able to see the opportunities available to them in a way they do not.
In addition, you may have more exposure to personal development type stuff than your affair partner does. “Personal development stuff” can mean a lot of different things. What I generally mean is, you may have had some pretty significant exposure to and experience with different ways of approaching the human condition that make dealing with our own humanity a little more tolerable. If you’ve dabbled in personal development stuff more than your affair partner has, you may be familiar with some tools and perspectives that you and other people have found really helpful – and you may think that your affair partner might find those tools and perspectives helpful, too, if they knew about them and used them.
Even more specifically, I get a fair number of clients who tell me, “Well, my affair partner listens to your podcast, and they thought I needed your help, and they encouraged me to book this appointment.” Or even, “My affair partner listens to your podcast, and they made this appointment FOR me, and that’s why I’m here.” So maybe you’ve been listening to my podcast for a while, but your affair partner doesn’t listen to it, and you think that they need to talk to me.
And the thing is, you might be right about a lot of things – at least to an extent. I probably COULD be of help to your affair partner. And all of the tools and perspectives you want to introduce them to might really help them deal with their infidelity situation differently. All of your ideas about what they should do differently might be GREAT. You might have an understanding of what’s going on with your affair partner that is super insightful, and your analysis of what’s holding them back or driving them crazy might be spot-on. It’s entirely possible that you have a really clear take on what’s happening within their situation, and you have a clear sense of what they want to do, and you see what’s keeping them from doing what they want to do. And all of the ideas and advice and instructions you give them might be really good – at least in theory.
BUT. There are two buts here, and the first one is this. Even when you are as sure as you can be that you know what would help your affair partner, it’s also important to be aware that your insights into what’s going on with them and your opinions about what they should do might NOT be quite as astute as you think they are. They absolutely might be, but they also might NOT be. Sometimes we get a little too attached to the idea that we KNOW what’s going with our partner, and a little too attached to the idea that we KNOW what’s best for them.
It's also important to remember that two seemingly competing things can be true at once. Your assessment of what’s going on with your affair partner, and your ideas about what they should do may be pretty good. But even if they are, that doesn’t mean that it’s your job to share your ideas and advice with your affair partner. In other words, even if your insights are great, you don’t have to turn them into an agenda for your affair partner.
I want you to consider the question of whether, in the cosmic scheme of things, it’s ever your job to know what’s best for someone else. Is it? Is what’s best for someone else, or what someone else should do, ever really our business? Can any of us ever know, with any kind of absolute certainty, what another person needs to do with their lives, or with their infidelity situations? And even if we COULD somehow know what’s best for another person with absolute certainty, is it ever our job to attempt to convince them of what’s best for them?
There may be times when we really want to make a strong case for what we believe is best for someone else. Both within and beyond the context of infidelity situations. Within your infidelity situation, there may be times when you really want to tell your affair partner what you think they should do and why you think they should do it. And I think that’s fine, or at least, I think this CAN be a fine thing to do sometimes. But after you make your case for what you think your affair partner should do, or how you think they should do it, or why you think they should do the things you think they should do in the way you think they should do them, you may want to step back and let your affair partner figure things out for themselves. Or NOT figure things out for themselves, as the case may be.
The act of stepping back and letting your affair partner figure things out for themselves is just as much for your sake as it is for their sake. I’ll say that again in a different way, because this point is REALLY important. You releasing your grip on your agenda for your affair partner is just as important for you, or just as beneficial to you, as it is to them, or for them. Perhaps even more so.
If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about the three kinds of business. This idea comes from Byron Katie, who says that there is your business, their business, and god’s business, or the universe’s business, or the cosmic business. The business that is beyond the ability of any one mere mortal to do.
And the only kind of business we can do in life is OUR business. But so often, we try to do other people’s business – or the universe’s business – instead of ours. And I think there are many reasons for this. A lot of the time, we don’t even really recognize what business is ours to do, and what business we cannot possibly do, or successfully take care of, no matter how hard we try. And, sometimes it SEEMS like trying to do other people’s business, or the universe’s business, WILL actually solve our problems, or get us what we want.
And of course, sometimes what we want is to be in a particular kind of relationship with a particular person! And we may be very attached to that desired outcome! And that can be kind of a great thing. Really wanting to have a particular kind of relationship with a particular person can be a LOVELY experience, and doing everything we can do to make it possible for our relationship with a particular person to go in a particular direction can be a wonderful thing to do. When you want to go for something, sometimes the greatest thing you can do is go for it.
But the problem with relationships with other people is that they involve other people. If there’s a specific person you want to be in a specific kind of relationship with, there are lots of things YOU can do to make that relationship possible. But there are also certain things that only the other person can do.
So for example, let’s say your affair partner is married, and they’ve been saying they really want to leave their marriage, and they’ve been saying this for months or even years, but they still haven’t left. You believe your affair partner when they tell you they want to leave their marriage! And you see all of the reasons why they haven’t left yet as really legitimately hard things to deal with. But you’re sure that if they just did what you keep on telling them to do, they’d be able to successfully deal with all of the hard stuff, and they’d be able to leave their marriage, and then the two of you could be together and everything would be great.
And so of course it seems like a really great idea to give them all kinds of input on how they should go about extricating themselves from their marriage. They may even seek out your advice and input, or at least, they might be really receptive to it when you offer it to them! And it may seem really exciting to you to be in a position to help them solve their problem – some of us get a real high out of helping other people solve their problems. And this isn’t an entirely bad impulse, of course, but there’s a difference between offering help – when appropriate – and then stepping back and let other people take responsibility for themselves, and wanting to be a fixer of other people’s problems. That topic could be a whole podcast episode in and of itself, but for now, you may just want to take a curious look at how invested you get in helping other people solve their problems.
You might observe that you attempt to fix other people’s problems in lots of areas of your life, but it’s important to be aware that helping your affair partner solve the particular problem of leaving their marriage comes with a very special bonus for you, namely, you get to have them all to yourself. If you help them leave their marriage, you get to be the indispensable helper person who helped them do the big thing they thought they couldn’t do, AND you get to have the relationship you want to have with them. Or so you may have it worked out in your brain.
For these reasons – and some others, which I’ll talk about soon – it can be really easy to get sucked into the idea that helping – “helping” – your affair partner leave their marriage is a really good idea. Focusing a lot of energy on helping them – “helping them” – leave that relationship so that the two of you can be together may seem like a great use of your time and effort. So it’s really easy to develop an agenda for your affair partner without even being aware that that’s what you’re doing. It may seem like what you’re doing is something that is obviously beneficial for everyone.
But here’s the thing. Only your affair partner can leave their marriage. I know it might sound really obvious when I say it like that, but our minds are capable of overlooking or forgetting some pretty basic points when we get super attached to a particular outcome. Only your affair partner can get over their fears of getting divorced – or their fears of whatever they’re afraid of. If your affair partner says they want to leave their marriage but also thinks they “can’t” leave their marriage, only they can bridge that gap. They have to deal with their own thinking about their circumstances. You can’t do their thinking for them. And they have to deal with their own feelings. You can’t deal with their feelings for them. So often we think that if we just give someone the right guidance, or the right advice, they’ll see the light and do what we suggest they do. But that’s not quite how it works. You can deliver all of the advice you want, but what they make of it is up to them. You don’t get to manage that part of the process. That just isn’t something you have the power to do. Or, put differently, that’s not your business.
And what often happens when we try to do business that isn’t really ours to do is we drive ourselves crazy. We may drive other people crazy too, but the most important thing for your purposes is that you may drive yourself completely insane when you try and try and try to do business that isn’t yours to do. Because for one thing, you will not succeed in the ways you want to, and for another thing, when we try to do business that isn’t ours, we are also neglecting the business that IS ours to do.
So if you have been dedicated to your agenda for your affair partner, you just might want to reorient yourself to taking responsibility for the things you actually DO have the power to control. You might want to start actively focusing on doing your own business, and you might want to start disengaging from your affair partner’s business. That doesn’t mean you have to completely disengage from THEM. You don’t have to abandon your whole relationship with them. It just means you relate to your relationship with them in a different way.
What exactly does this mean, if you’ve been trying to “help” your affair partner leave their marriage? Well, the first question I would suggest you ask yourself if you’ve been really focused on trying to help your affair partner leave their marriage is, what business of yours might you be avoiding? What are you NOT dealing with in your own life when you devote your energy to trying to get your affair partner to extricate themselves from their marriage? Sometimes trying to do other people’s business for them serves as a very entertaining way to distract ourselves from business of our own that we don’t really feel like doing.
For example, sometimes, the person who is trying like hell to get their affair partner to leave their marriage is still married themselves! And this may be you!
It’s not that it’s BAD to try and get your affair partner to leave their marriage if you haven’t yet left yours. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, it doesn’t mean you’re a deeply flawed human being. You don’t have to give yourself a hard time if you’ve been putting your energy into trying to “help” your affair partner leave their marriage if you have not yet left yours. But you may want to get really clear about what exactly it is that you’re trying to achieve here, and whether or not what you’re doing is helping you get what you want.
Sometimes we want our affair partner to leave their marriage before we leave ours because we think that if we do, it will be easier for us to leave our own marriage, or our own committed relationship. We think that what we ultimately want is to be with our affair partner in an above-board relationship. And we think that that’s what our affair partner wants, too. And that may indeed be what they want!
But even if that is the case – or especially if that’s the case – your job is to make yourself available to be in the kind of relationship you want to have with the person who is currently your affair partner. If you want to be in an above-board relationship with them, and both of you are still married, one of the things that needs to happen is you need to leave your marriage. Or you need to tell your spouse that you want to have an open marriage. Or whatever – there are many ways to skin a cat. The point is that you need to deal with whatever is happening on your end that prevents you from having the relationship with your affair partner that you want to have.
Sometimes the folks who are focusing more on getting their affair partner to leave their relationship than they are on leaving their own relationship say, “Well, it’s more complicated for them to leave their relationship, so I have to help them do that, and THEN I can focus on leaving my own relationship.” Right? I know some of you totally believe that, or believe something pretty close to that. We can come up with all kinds of ways of trying to justify our attempts to do other people’s business instead of our own. But I want you to consider that at the end of the day, if you’re still married, your job is to leave your marriage if you want to be with your affair partner in a non-affair relationship. The end.
Leaving your marriage may not seem like a fun task to take on, and that’s fair enough. But attempting to distract yourself, or attempting to delay the process of leaving your own marriage by trying to get your affair partner to leave their marriage isn’t going to solve for that. Even when, or if, your affair partner leaves their marriage, if you haven’t left your marriage yet, you still have to leave your marriage if you want to be in a non-affair relationship with the person who is now your affair partner. Your affair partner leaving their marriage before you leave yours will not relieve you of the task of leaving your own marriage. And counting on your affair partner leaving their marriage first to make your own process of leaving your marriage any easier is not a great idea.
Is it totally human and totally understandable to get mixed up in other people’s business? YES. Is it totally human and totally understandable to find attempting to do other people’s business a lot more attractive than dealing with our own business? YES. But attempting to do other people’s business will not get us closer to what we ultimately want.
Here's another reason why we sometimes get really fixated on our affair partner’s business. Sometimes we want our affair partner to leave their marriage for us because we think that will prove that they really love us, and that we’re loveable and important enough for someone to make a big, bold change in their lives for us. Sometimes we really want the hit of good feelings we think we’d get if we thought someone wanted us badly enough to leave their marriage for us. We may really want the high we think we’ll get if our affair partner “chooses us.” And we may be conscious of wanting this, or we may not quite recognize that this is what’s going on, or a part of what’s going on.
Now listen up, people. It’s not BAD to get really fixated on winning. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you if you are really attached to the idea of your affair partner choosing you and leaving their spouse for you. These are not character flaws. If you notice that part of the reason why you’re so invested in trying to get your affair partner to leave their marriage is because you really want them to CHOOSE YOU, you can just notice that, and decide if you want to keep pursuing your agenda for this reason. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to choose us. But if we’re putting a lot of effort into trying to GET someone to choose us, we may be neglecting a lot of important business that we and only we can attend to. Like how to feel okay even if a particular someone does not choose us, for instance.
One last reason why we may get overly involved in “helping” our affair partner leave their marriage is because we think that they are our only source of the kind of love and sex and connection and intimacy that we want to experience.
Many of us associate love with a specific person, or maybe specific persons, and we get the idea in our head that if we want to experience love – or intimacy, or connection, or a particular flavor of lust, or whatever – it can only be with that particular person. Or maybe multiple specific people. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s fine to want to be with a particular person, or to want be in relationships with a few specific persons. But so often, we unconsciously and unintentionally start to believe that having a particular relationship with a particular person is the only way we’ll get to experience the kind of love and connection and sex and intimacy and romance that we want to experience. And when that’s one of our operating beliefs, or one of our embedded assumptions, we can get really sucked into believing that we HAVE to make this one relationship work out, or ELSE. Or else we won’t get to experience love or connection or intimacy or great sex AT ALL.
And this is only true if we allow it to be. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with a particular person, or wanting to have relationships with particular people. But there’s a difference between wanting to pursue a relationship with a particular person, and pursuing it – and believing that a particular person is the ONLY person who you can have an amazing connection with. I talk about this more in Episode 123, which is called something like “abundance vs. scarcity of love,” and you may want to go listen to that episode if you suspect that you’ve been operating from the belief that one particular person is the ONLY person with whom you can possibly have the kind of relationship you want to have.
What this means is that if you leave your marriage for the sake of doing what you have the power to do to make an above-board relationship with your affair partner possible, and your affair partner doesn’t leave their marriage, you still have the opportunity to create the kind of relationship you want to have with someone else. Might it be sad that things didn’t work out with your affair partner? Of course. Perhaps very sad. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the road for you. Even if your special someone is VERY special to you, if you are open to finding love elsewhere, you will.
You may not WANT to think that way when you’re in love with someone and desperately attached to the idea of being with them in a certain way. Thinking that your affair partner isn’t the ONLY person you could have an amazing relationship with might seem like a negation of the amazingness you share with that particular individual. But what if it isn’t? What if loving someone without believing they’re the only person you could ever love allows you to enjoy the relationship more – AND be less desperate to ensure that the relationship goes in a particular way?
What some people who have an agenda for their affair partner ultimately fear is losing the relationship with them. Some people try so hard to “help” their affair partner leave their spouse because they’re terrified of the possibility of not having their relationship with their affair partner continue in the way they want it to.
Here’s the thing, people. Your relationship with your affair partner might not continue in the way you want it to. Whether it does or not is partially your business, partially your affair partner’s business, and partially the universe’s business. And that might seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but is it? What you probably ultimately want is a great relationship with someone you think is amazing. At least that’s quite possibly what you ultimately want. And if that IS what you ultimately want, you can trust – or you can CONSIDER TRUSTING – that this outcome is not dependent on your affair partner leaving their marriage. This outcome is dependent on you making choices that help you move in the direction of this ultimate goal. You don’t need to get your affair partner to leave their marriage in order for you to have a great relationship with someone you think is amazing. You might decide that you already have that with your affair partner, even though they’re still married! Maybe the only thing that needs to change is your thinking. Or you might decide that you’re going to take responsibility for deciding how long you are going to wait for your affair partner to leave their marriage, because that’s something you actually have the power to control. If your affair partner doesn’t leave their marriage by a certain time, you can say goodbye, and get on with the business of pursuing your ultimate goal of creating the kind of relationship you want to create.
Okay people, it’s one thing to hear me say all of this and think, I want to do that. And you may also want some help doing the stuff I talked about today. Putting down your agenda for your affair partner may be easier said than done. Deciding to focus on leaving your own marriage rather than trying to get your affair partner to leave their marriage may be a shift you find difficult to make. Putting a timeline on how much longer you’re going to wait and see if your affair partner leaves their marriage may seem like a terrifying thing to do. I can help you with all of this. There are three ways we can work together. You can purchase the DIY version of my course, You’re Not the Only One; you can join the group coaching version of You’re Not the Only One; and you can work with me one-on-one. You can access all of those options through the services page of my website, mariemurphyphd.com/services. Let’s get to work on resolving your infidelity situation in a way that you feel great about.
All right everyone. Thank you all so much for listening. Have a great week. Bye for now.