Often, our infidelity situations come with extreme highs and lows. The excitement of connecting with someone new and the stress of dealing with the anxiety or confusion that comes with it, can feel like an emotional rollercoaster ride.
In this episode, I talk about that emotional rollercoaster and how the extreme ups and downs can feel like a really big deal. I discuss different situations where these ups and downs can occur and how handling this rollercoaster is totally doable.
You get to decide how you want to ride the rollercoaster, how long you want to stay on, and when you want to get off. Tune in to learn some simple mental shifts that can help you feel in control, sane, and okay in your infidelity situation.
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, 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 resolve your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, I can help you do it.
Starting in January I am going to be opening the doors to my new anonymous group coaching program called, “You’re Not the Only One.” This program will include group coaching calls held on a good old conference call line, not over Zoom, so your privacy will be protected, but you will have the opportunity to hear other folks talking about their infidelity situations and getting coached by me. Infidelity is incredibly common, but it’s also incredibly stigmatized, and one of the very unfortunate implications of that is that folks who are cheating often feel really isolated and alone. So this program I’m going to be offering is a step towards giving people who are cheating an opportunity to see that they are absolutely NOT alone, and a chance to see that the challenges they’re experiencing are shared by others. On these group coaching calls you will of course have the opportunity to get coached yourself, in addition to benefiting from hearing the coaching I offer others. You’re Not the Only One will also include videos of me teaching you tools and concepts that I don’t share on the podcast. It will also include assignments for you to apply the teachings I offer you to the specifics of your unique infidelity situation. Once you join the program, you’ll have access to these materials all the time, for as long as the program exists, so you’ll really be able to work at your own pace, and on your own schedule, which is pretty great.
And for those of you who want the simplicity of a DIY approach, I’ll also be offering a bundle of my teachings and assignments, without the option to join the group coaching calls. You can learn more about all of this, and sign up to be notified when these offerings become available through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.
And of course, sometimes you just want to work with a coach one-on-one. Sometimes you just want the focus to be all on you and the specifics of your situation. And I’m still offering my one-on-one coaching services for those of you who want me all to yourself for an hour each week. When you’re ready to talk to me, you can sign up for an introductory coaching session with me through my website. All one-on-one sessions are held via Zoom, so we can work together no matter where you’re located.
As you may be WELL AWARE, infidelity situations often come with extreme highs and lows. There’s no way to prove this, but I’d be willing to bet that few emotional roller coaster rides are as intense as the emotional roller coaster rides that so often come with infidelity situations.
Even when nothing ESPECIALLY dramatic is happening – and I’ll say more about what I mean by that in a minute – your infidelity situation is probably a continuously potent cocktail of intense emotions. You’ve got all of the excitement of connecting with someone new – or maybe more than some ONE new. The newness factor can be a really big deal in and of itself. You’ve got all of the intoxication that comes with love and sex and lust and intimacy and romance. And you’ve got the sneaking around factor, or the lying factor, or the dishonesty factor, or the living a double life factor, which can be pretty novel and exciting in its own right. It may also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, but being willing to deal with that stress and anxiety and overwhelm comes with a payoff. Or at least, CAN come with a payoff that’s pretty significant. If you’re trying to make decisions about what you want to do with your infidelity situation but “can’t” make decisions, you may feel confused or frustrated or powerless or overwhelmed, and that can feel pretty intensely unpleasant. So even on a day in which nothing dramatically out of the ordinary is happening within your infidelity situation, you may experience some pretty high highs, and some pretty low lows. The parts of your infidelity situation that you like may be pretty great. And the parts that you don’t like may seem pretty awful.
Even if we’re “just” talking about getting to see your affair partner for a few hours, and having an amazing time with them, and then having to pry yourself away from them to go home to your spouse and try to act like everything is normal, that may feel like torture.
Even those kinds of routine ups and downs can be a really big deal.
But beyond that, when more major stuff happens, your emotional roller coaster ride may get even MORE intense. You might not have thought that was actually possible, but then something happens, and you realize that the highs and lows you were experiencing before were just a warm up. So for instance, let’s say your affair partner gets caught cheating by their committed partner. And they, your affair partner, panics, and denies the whole thing. And they attempt to prove their innocence to their committed partner by being present with them every minute of the day, and never looking at their phone, or doing anything else that they think might provoke suspicion. And this means that your affair partner does not have as much time available to spend with you or communicate with you as they used to. They’re promising that they love you and want to be with you, but they’re also employing a strategy of appeasement with their committed partner. So in your mind, things don’t quite add up, and you are freaking out. For one thing, you just want to see them and talk to them as often as you’re used to seeing them and talking to them. And for another thing, you want to know why they’re trying to prove to their committed partner that they aren’t cheating, if their plan is to leave them so they can be with you, anyway.
If this is the kind of situation you’re in, it may seem like an EMERGENCY to you. You may be DYING to know what’s going on. You may be obsessed with hearing from your affair partner, and desperate for information about what’s happening on their end.
If you’re in this kind of a situation, or if you’re in any sort of infidelity situation that seems especially high stakes, you may be in agony. On a conscious level, you may be thinking, “This is torture! I’m in HELL! I can’t handle this! This is way too much for me!” But on a less than conscious level, your brain is like, “Wow, this is SO EXCITING. This is GREAT ENTERTAINMENT. This is better than the best TV show I’ve ever watched. This is better than the best drugs I’ve ever done. This is better than the most engrossing novel I’ve ever read.” Or whatever. Pick your form of stimulation or entertainment. The emotional roller coaster ride that is your infidelity situation may seem intolerable, but it sure isn’t boring. And I am confident in suggesting that on some level, your mind kind of likes that. Or really likes that. Even if there are also parts of the experience that you definitely do not like.
If you feel like the emotional roller coaster ride of your infidelity situation is way too much for you, and you want to get off the ride, but you think you can’t, I have some options for you.
The first thing you’ve got to know is you CAN get off the roller coaster ride, literally and metaphorically, whenever you want to. It really is within your power to deal with the highs and lows of your infidelity situation differently, and I’m going to talk about how you can do that in a moment.
But first, it’s really important to know that you might not WANT the roller coaster ride to stop. You might not want to get off the ride. On a certain level you might, but on another level, you really might not. And that’s OKAY. You have every right to want to ride the ride! There is nothing wrong with enjoying excitement and drama and extreme highs and lows. Especially when we’ve been kind of bored for a while, or if we’ve been kind of numb for a while, or if we’ve kind of been sleepwalking through life for a while, the emotional roller coaster ride of your infidelity situation may give you a sense of ALIVENESS that you haven’t felt in a long time. And it’s wonderful to appreciate that. And it’s so helpful to be honest with ourselves about appreciating that.
However, we usually don’t appreciate the roller coaster ride experience in its totality. We like the highs, but we don’t like the lows, and we might even get kind of freaked by the highness of the highs. Some people do, anyway. Not everyone, but some people. So before you try to do anything else, I want you to ask yourself what you LIKE about the extreme highs and the lows of your infidelity situation. What do you like about the emotional roller coaster ride you’re experiencing? Really think about this, especially if you’re tempted to say you don’t like the roller coaster ride at ALL. If you really don’t like it, you could just step off. You could have just stepped off already. Usually, when we keep doing something, even though it torments us, we’re getting SOMETHING out of it that we like.
And it may simply be the case that you are enjoying the drama of your infidelity roller coaster ride on some level. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. You don’t have to look deep into your psyche and spend years in psychoanalysis to identify what you’re enjoying about the highs and lows of your infidelity situation. It’s pretty likely that your brain just finds the entertainment factor pretty darn compelling on some level. The roller coaster ride may be pretty crazy at times, but you may like it a lot better than being bored. Feeling alive usually feels better to us than the alternatives do, even if it’s a pretty torturous experience of aliveness.
So knowing that it’s okay to enjoy the emotional roller coaster ride of your infidelity situation, I want to encourage you to give yourself the option to consciously choose to stay on the roller coaster ride, and not do anything about it. You have every right to just carry on as you have been, and not do anything differently. You have every right to choose to keep on riding out the extreme emotional highs and lows of your situation, and not do much of anything to manage your experience of those highs and lows. It is your prerogative to choose to NOT intentionally deal with your emotions. It’s your prerogative to allow yourself to believe that your emotions are at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Sometimes we kind of WANT to feel like we’re getting whipped around by life. Isn’t that kinda why we like actual roller coasters anyway? You have every right to want to continue to star in a soap opera that you think someone else is directing. As usual, my only exhortation is that you make this choice CONSCIOUSLY. If you want to believe that your infidelity situation is an emotional roller coaster ride that you can’t get off of, that’s fair, but know that regarding it as such is your decision.
Because you really can step off the roller coaster ride if you want to. You can decide that you are just going to DEAL with your infidelity situation. You can decide that you are willing to make choices and changes, and do whatever is necessary to bring your situation to a resolution that you feel good about. This may be a bit of a project, but it’s totally do-able. It may be a bit of a deal, but it doesn’t have to be an epically huge deal. Anytime you want to make your infidelity situation simpler, you can. You might want some assistance in making it simpler, but that’s what I’m here for. I can help you make your infidelity situation a LOT simpler. But the first step is you deciding that you’re willing for it to be simpler. Simple doesn’t always mean EASY or PAINLESS, but that’s okay. Many in things in life that are well worth doing aren’t entirely easy or painless.
Many of the things in life that we think are complicated or hard are only complicated or hard because we think they are. When you decide that you don’t want your love life to be a roller coaster ride anymore, all you have to do is decide to step off the roller coaster, and decide that you’re doing to begin to approach your infidelity situation as if it is something that a) can be dealt with, and b) can be fairly simple to deal with.
If you’ve convinced yourself that your infidelity situation is a roller coaster ride that you can’t stop or step off of, just these simple shifts in your thinking may be pretty profound. And big changes start with simple shifts in thinking.
I see my clients make these kinds of shifts all the time. For instance, people come to me quite regularly and say, “Well I know I want to leave my marriage, but I can’t.” And because they’ve believed that for so long, they’ve accepted that it is the TRUTH, and they’ve proven to themselves that it’s true by not leaving their marriage. But when we get into the details of it, we see that they actually CAN leave their marriage, and they know it, but they’re afraid it’s going to be hard. Even that shift in thinking can be very freeing. There’s a big difference between saying to yourself, “I CAN’T do that thing” and saying to yourself, “I know I CAN do that thing, and I also know I’m afraid to do that thing.” From there, we gain the option of being willing to do something even though we’re afraid. And we gain the option of being willing to do something that we might experience as hard. And that’s totally do-able if we’re willing to take it one step at a time.
Another way that you can deal with the extreme highs and lows of your infidelity situation is to decide that you’re going to accept these extreme highs and lows as part of the deal, and learn how to consciously and deliberately relate to your emotions. This is very different from letting yourself believe that your infidelity situation is tossing you around and driving you crazy and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is saying, okay, I’m choosing to continue doing something that I know comes with some intense emotions, and I know I really like the intensely enjoyable emotions that come with what I’m doing, so I’m willing to tolerate the really intensely uncomfortable emotions that come with what I’m doing. I’m going to relate to those uncomfortable emotions skillfully and deliberately – or learn how to do that – and I’m going to embrace them as part of what I’m continuing to sign up for. I’m not going to try to fight the emotions or figure out a way to not have to feel them. I’m going to expect that they’re probably going to come up, and I’m going to be willing to feel them when they do come up.
So for instance, let’s say you’re involved in a long-term affair, and you and your affair partner are REALLY into each other, but you have no plans to leave your committed partner anytime soon. You may enjoy spending time with your affair partner SO MUCH. When you’re with them, you may feel better than you have ever felt in any context in your life. And when you leave them, you may feel TERRIBLE. Like you’re going to DIE as a result of being torn away from them. I know some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. And this may seem like a really big PROBLEM.
But is it a problem? Or is it a feature of your situation that you could, if you wanted to, choose to live with? You could decide that feeling really intensely uncomfortable emotions every time you have to say goodbye to your affair partner is worth it, since you love the experience of being with them so very much. It’s kind of like deciding to go out drinking even though you know you may feel hungover the next day. You may not be able to escape the hangover. Unless you don’t drink, of course. Or unless you only have a little sip of alcohol. But if you DO want to drink, and you do want more than a sip, you may not be able to avoid feeling rotten in the morning. Or for the whole next day. Is it worth it? It might be. You get to decide. If you decide that the hangover is worth it, you get to enjoy your night of drinking, and you get to decide how you ride out the hangover. You can accept that it’s a natural result of your drinking the night before, and muddle through not feeling great without making a too big a deal out of it. Or you can constantly think about how miserable you are, and how crappy you feel, and you can give yourself a really hard time for choices that cannot be unmade at this point.
What we so often want is to get to experience all pleasure and no sorrow. All highs, and no lows. That might not be an option. And moreover, we might not really want it to be an option. Some would say that it is the contrast of emotions we get to experience that makes life emotionally rich, and interesting, and meaningful. Whether you want to take that as a literal truth or not, it’s worth considering.
AND, it’s also really important to use our discretion. Sometimes we WANT to experience really intense emotional highs and lows. Sometimes that makes us feel really alive. Sometimes what we’re getting out of the situation makes the lows totally worth it. Sometimes the opportunity lies in learning how to relate to our intensely uncomfortable emotions differently. And sometimes the opportunity lies in saying, no thanks. I don’t want to ride this roller coaster anymore. I want to get off the ride.
Your infidelity situation may seem like it is taking you for a ride, but I assure you, you are the driver of your own bus. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe, for the purposes of this episode, it’s more appropriate to say that you are the operator of the roller coaster. Your emotional experience is not at the mercy of forces beyond your control.
And if you want help dealing with the emotional roller coaster ride of your infidelity situation, I can help you. If you want to work with me one-on-one, you can head on over to my website, mariemurphyphd.com, and schedule an introductory coaching session with me – and you can learn more about the packages I offer new clients on the services page of my website. You can learn more about the new opportunities to work with me I’m going to be offering starting in January on the services page of my website, too. Dealing with your infidelity situation may be challenging, but it doesn’t need to be impossible, and you don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to support you. So when you’re ready for some relief and a clear path forward, let’s work together. I can’t wait to meet you.
Thank you all so much for listening! Have a great week. Bye for now.