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 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. I offer confidential, compassionate coaching via Zoom. And if you’re interested in that, you can head on over to my website, mariemurphyphd.com, and schedule an introductory coaching session with me.
Also starting in January, which is coming up pretty soon here, I will be offering two other ways that we can work together. I’ll be opening the doors to my anonymous group coaching program, which is called You’re Not The Only One. You’re Not The Only One will include group coaching calls that will be held in a way that protects your privacy, as well as teachings and assignments that you can access online anytime.
The amazing thing about this new group coaching program is that it will allow people who are engaging in infidelity to come together, in a way, and see that their challenges are not unique and see that other people can successfully deal with their infidelity situations in a way they feel great about.
Infidelity is incredibly common, but it’s also incredibly stigmatized. And one of the unfortunate implications of that is that people who are cheating or engaging in something that they think counts as infidelity often feel really isolated. So one of the reasons why I decided to start this group coaching program is to give people an opportunity to come together and get coached together.
You will, of course, have the opportunity to be coached yourself by me when you join You’re Not The Only One. But in addition to that, sometimes hearing other people get coached is just as good, if not better than getting coached yourself. And within this program you’ll get to have both opportunities. You’ll get to receive your own coaching and benefit from hearing others receive coaching that will apply to them and will often apply to you too.
And for those of you who want to learn more than I can teach you on the podcast but also want the simplicity of a DIY approach, I’ll be offering a bundle of my teachings and assignments without the group coaching calls.
You can learn more about both of these new options by going to the services page of my website. And as of now, we’re as confident as we can be, barring any unfortunate surprises, that both of these options will be available early in January. So stay tuned for more info.
All right, for today’s episode, which will fall just before Christmas, I am rerunning one of my most popular episodes of all time because it’s a topic that a lot of people are grappling with at this time of year. And by that, I mean during the holidays. And that topic is missing your affair partner and how to deal with that.
If you are missing your affair partner right now, my heart goes out to you and I hope you enjoy this episode.
Today it’s just me, there’s no guest. And what we’re going to talk about is what you can do if you’ve ended an affair and you miss your affair partner like crazy. And I shouldn’t say if you’ve ended an affair, I should say if an affair has ended, whether or not you ended it, and you miss your affair partner like crazy.
Now, sometimes people ask me if it’s normal to miss your affair partner after an affair has ended, and my answer is absolutely yes, it’s normal. However, there are certain things we can do to deal with this situation and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
So often clients come to me because they’ve had an affair and it’s over and they miss their affair partner like crazy and they’re hurting a lot. And whenever I talk to people in this situation, my heart goes out to them because missing someone you love and you’ve been separated from is such a singular experience of pain.
And in addition, missing an affair partner is often a very private experience of pain. Maybe your affair was a complete secret and no one but you and your affair partner knew about it. And now that it’s over, nobody knows about your grief. If you have a spouse or a primary partner and they didn’t know about the affair, you may be struggling to hide your grief and keep up the appearance of everything being totally normal in addition to feeling the pain of the grief itself.
And even if your affair wasn’t a complete secret, you may not have a whole lot of support for dealing with the emotions that come with the ending of that relationship. Infidelity is incredibly common, but it is also incredibly stigmatized. So it may be hard to find sympathy from the people you’d love some sympathy from.
And if you have a spouse or a partner and they do know about the affair, they may be pretty dismayed by your feelings regarding the end of the affair, on top of perhaps being disgruntled about the existence of the affair itself. And they may be impatient with you to just get over it and move on.
Grief like this is sometimes called disenfranchised grief or grief that society doesn’t acknowledge as legitimate, or as legitimate as other forms of grief. Put differently, experiencing disenfranchised grief can be kind of like getting kicked while you’re down. You’re hurting and there isn’t much comfort to be had from people who might extend their care to you under other circumstances.
And possibly you don’t even see your own grief as totally legitimate. Ouch, not fun. So, if your affair has ended and you’re missing your affair partner terribly, the first thing I want to make absolutely clear is that your pain is legitimate.
Human life is messy and complex at times. Sometimes we fall in love with people we aren’t supposed to love, and I say supposed to in air quotes. And those relationships can be incredibly rich and full of meaning and care and significance and all kinds of wonderful things even if these relationships were never supposed to happen in the first place. Even if these relationships broke some rules or agreements, even if they involve some deception and deceit,. Even if a relationship was complicated, and sometimes especially because a relationship was complicated, its ending can be spectacularly sad.
And it’s important for you to honor your own sadness and sense of loss. It’s important for you to honor the love you shared with your affair partner or the lust you shared with your affair partner, the connection and intimacy and maybe friendship you shared with your affair partner. And I want you to know that I honor that sadness and loss too.
Now, with all of that established, there are three main things I’m going to say about the sadness and pain associated with an affair ending or three sorts of scenarios or perhaps stages that I’m going to talk about today.
Number one, if your affair has just ended, and perhaps ended abruptly or dramatically, and you are feeling intense, all consuming pain and sadness and grief and maybe anger and rage and resentment or jealousy or fear, or all of that and then some, here’s the deal. Your first job is to allow yourself to feel what you’re currently feeling.
This is a profoundly simple assignment, but that does not necessarily make it easy or pleasant. You may be feeling some emotions right now that you didn’t know was possible for any human to feel. And it may be absolutely excruciating to exist from one moment to the next and you may not be able to breathe and you may want to crawl out of your skin and die.
As awful as it might sound, the trick is to find a way to let yourself feel all of this stuff. Find time and space where you can cry and get loud and messy and scream and punch pillows if you need to. If you have physical practices that help you disperse your emotions, put those to use. Allow yourself to actually experience the feelings you’re currently feeling as much as you can, without trying to distract yourself or numb yourself or avoid the feelings.
In the short run this may be hard, but your willingness to feel the feelings will pay off, and possibly sooner than you might think. Most importantly, see if you can allow this moment in your life to be messy. See if you can give yourself permission to fall apart a little bit. There’s so much beauty in our raw, crazy, messy moments if we allow ourselves to see it.
And, of course, at times we simply need help in moments like these. And if you’re in a moment like this one and you need some help, I am one such source of help. Reach out to me, I’m here for you, mariemurphyphd.com.
Okay, the summary of point number one, or scenario number one, is that it’s so important to let yourself have a meltdown if that’s what you need to do. Even if you have to keep that meltdown as contained as possible within your life, allow the feelings to be present.
Now, moving on to point number two, or scenario number two. Sometimes clients seek my help because an affair has ended and they’re terribly sad and they want to know what their sadness means and what their sadness means they should do. Sometimes this scenario overlaps with the first one I just described, the thing has just ended and I’m totally freaking out.
But this experience also sometimes comes later, after the most intense phase of the emotions have passed. But there are still a lot of lingering feelings of sadness and loss and confusion and what have you. But here’s the thing, sometimes endings are just sad. Sometimes they’re really, really, really, really, really sad and painful and intense.
The loss of a relationship with someone we’ve cared about deeply can feel insanely uncomfortable and most of us are not very good at dealing with intense discomfort. Most of us have not really learned how to tolerate emotional pain, so dealing with it is excruciating and sometimes confusing. And this is where the trouble often starts.
Sometimes, actually often, we try to lessen our pain by giving it meaning. We try to figure out why we’re feeling really sad, for instance, if an affair is over, or what it means that we miss our affair partner and what all of these feelings mean we should do. So, for example, if we had an affair and it’s over and we feel sad, we might tell ourselves that our sadness is a sign that our affair partner was our one true love or our only soulmate.
We may tell ourselves that since we miss our affair partner so much, it’s a sign that we should be together. We may tell ourselves that we’re never going to experience the same kind of love that we had with our affair partner with anyone else, including our spouse if we have a spouse, or with anyone else on the planet.
And when we start to tell ourselves these kinds of things, we usually feel pretty bad. We may feel confused. We may feel really sad. We may feel more deprived or more persecuted or whatever. And this is where we tend to lead ourselves astray.
Many of us think that our feelings have inherent meanings that we can decode if we analyze them correctly or extensively enough. But rather than leading to enhanced understanding, endless examination of our feelings can lead to a fun and interesting experience known as paralysis through analysis, which I assure you is only fun and interesting for a little while.
Now, let me make something absolutely clear, when I say that feelings don’t have inherent meaning I am not saying that feelings aren’t important or valuable. I definitely think that feelings are important and valuable. But the problem is that most of us don’t realize that meaning comes from our thoughts.
Feelings are not inherently meaningful. And in fact, they’re the result of our thoughts. Our thoughts generate our feelings and our feelings are a set of physical sensations that we experience in our body to which we can assign a one word name; love, sadness, grief, anger, vulnerability, et cetera.
Now, most of us have this vague idea that our circumstances cause our feelings. We think that when something happens in our lives, that event creates a feeling state. So for instance, if a relationship with someone we care about comes to an end, we think that we feel sad because the relationship ended, but that’s not exactly it. It’s what we think about the ending of the relationship that generates our feelings, not the end of the relationship itself.
Humans are meaning-making creatures and it’s the specific significance we give to our life circumstances that creates the particular feelings we experience in relation to those circumstances. So again, for example, if we had an affair and it ended and we believe that our affair partner was our one true love and now that things are over we’ll never find happiness or love again, we are likely to feel heartbroken or devastated or sad or awful, or lonely or vulnerable, et cetera.
And if we continue to tell ourselves that we’ll never love again like we did with that person, we’ll never find anybody like that to share our lives with, we’re never going to be happy again or anything to that effect, it’s pretty likely that we will continue to feel sad and lonely and heartbroken and devastated and maybe even depressed and unlovable and a whole bunch of other feelings that usually don’t feel very good to feel.
But on the other hand, if we believe that the end of our affair was really sad but that we’re going to find a relationship that’s even better for us, maybe not in the next week or two, but some way, somehow, someday we will find it, we may find that our sadness is balanced by hope or optimism or faith.
If we believe that we shared a really special experience of love with our affair partner and we also believe that now we know that that sort of love is possible, we have the capacity to experience it again, we may feel courageous in addition to feeling gutted by what we’ve lost. And that’s a very different emotional experience.
Now, the important thing to note here is that the same hypothetical scenario was true each time a relationship ended. And it’s how we think about that basic circumstance that’s up to us. And however we think about the situation will determine our feelings. So instead of trying to figure out what messages lie within your feelings, ask yourself what you believe to be true when you are feeling intense feelings.
If you’ve ended an affair or an affair has come to an end and you’re feeling all kinds of pain, ask yourself what you’re thinking about your affair or your affair partner, or yourself in relation to the affair. What do you believe to be true about the whole thing? What’s your story about what happened? If you’re feeling feelings you don’t want to continue to feel, that’s a good indication that it’s time to get your narrative about your situation in check.
When we can change our narrative, we can change our feelings. But before we can change anything, we have to get really clear on what we’re currently thinking. So what do we currently believe to be true? If your affair ended months ago, maybe even more than a year ago, and you still feel stuck in sadness and grief and loss, this is a really good opportunity to say, hey, what am I telling myself was true about this experience?
Okay, so getting our narratives in check or examining our narratives is really important. But another thing that’s really important to know here is that the normal, and as always I use the word normal lightly, spectrum of human emotions is broad. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but in our society we tend to glorify the so-called positive emotions and pathologize the so-called negative emotions, but all emotions have value. All emotions have their place.
That said, we sometimes turn sadness or anguish or despair or grief or loneliness into problematic experiences. And on the one hand, I completely get it. These feelings can be really, really, really uncomfortable. But what if they aren’t inherently bad? What if they’re worthwhile, at least to some extent, and they’re just as important to feel as all of the so-called positive emotions?
Ask yourself this, would it be possible to fully experience intense positive emotions if we never experienced intense negative emotions? And moreover, what if a spell of sadness or pain was as normal as a rainy season or a patch of bad weather?
Most of us accept bad weather as part of life. We may not love the rain or the snow or the sleet for the heat, or humidity or whatever it is you don’t like. But when our least favorite form of weather hits, we tend to accept it, even if we don’t like it, and we do what we can to ride it out.
And here’s the thing, sometimes our emotional weather systems aren’t all that sunny or aren’t all that pleasant. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is simply recognize this and let our emotional storms run their course. I think Dolly Parton says something like you can’t get to the rainbow without the rain or something like that. Sorry, Dolly, I might have just butchered that. But I think you get the point.
Okay, in conjunction with doing that, in conjunction with allowing our emotions to be present without pathologizing our negative emotions, as I said before, we also have the opportunity to get clear on what we believe to be true about the end of our affair. If you’re feeling sad, that’s not a bad thing, unless it is a bad thing.
If the sadness just keeps going and going and going and you think you should feel better by now, this is an opportunity to check in with your narrative about the whole situation and see what beliefs are fueling your feelings. Coaching is really helpful for this. I am a source of help. If you can do this yourself, that’s great. And if you need assistance in doing this, that’s exactly what I’m here for.
Okay, last big point, or scenario number three. Sometimes people put an end to an affair because they’re very stressed out about the situation and they feel guilty about the infidelity and the deception. They’re confused about what they want. The whole thing seems like a big gnarly mess and ending the affair seems like the only way, or at least the quickest way, to “solve the problem.”
And to many clients that I’ve worked with, this seems both logical and honorable. Many of my clients who have been engaging in infidelity feel really bad about it and they want to end their affairs because they desperately want to do the right thing, or stop being selfish.
And in a sense, ending the affair does solve some of these problems. They’re no longer actively cheating and lying to their spouse or their partner, and they feel better about that. Or they’re no longer the third person in the equation. But at the same time, they’re longing for their affair partner, and they were never all that certain about the decision they made to end the affair and stay with their spouse, if that’s what their situation was.
And moreover, they don’t know how to move forward. They feel bad. They feel sad. They miss their person, their affair partner that is. But they don’t know what to do about it. They think they did the right thing, so to speak, but they also don’t feel right.
So even though the affair is technically over, this resolution isn’t all that much of a solution. Now, let me be clear about something. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to resolve a complicated situation in your life and get all of your ducks in a row and put an ethical dilemma to rest. But here comes the very big but, making a decision about complex matters under pressure may not lead to great outcomes.
If you end an affair without giving yourself permission to be honest with yourself and time to figure out what you really want, you may well have made a decision based on what you think you should do. And as they say, should feels like shit. I don’t know who made that up, but it wasn’t me. Whoever did deserves some credit.
So ending a relationship with someone you care about because you believe you have to usually feel awful. If you’ve ended your affair and you’re feeling terrible and you miss your affair partner so, so much, this could be an indication that you made a decision hastily or you made a choice for reasons you don’t like.
Now, how do you know whether the particular flavor of awful you are feeling is a natural response to the ending of a relationship that was important to you or an indication that maybe you made a decision that wasn’t right for you and you need to do some serious introspection? So I’ll say that again. If you’ve ended an affair, if an affair has ended, and you’re super sad about it, how do you know if that sadness is an indication that you need to feel your feelings, examine your beliefs about the situation, or perhaps go back to the choice itself and potentially reconsider?
Here’s my answer. A starting point is to ask yourself why you chose to end your affair. If you know what those reasons were or are, spell them out to yourself once again. And if you don’t know what those reasons were or are, now is the time to think about it.
Why did you make the decision you made at the time? Or why are you making the decision that you’re currently making? Get as clear on what those reasons were or are as best as you can, even if you discover that you don’t really have that many reasons. Be really dedicated to figuring out what they were or are. Make a list if you can, write it down if you can and see what you find. See what you come up with.
Now, if you discover that you don’t have a very clear set of reasons why you ended an affair, or a robust set of reasons why you ended an affair, or you don’t like any of your reasons for ending the affair, you may want to revisit the decision. It’s possible that maybe you made a decision for reasons that weren’t great for you.
Now, I have to say, doing this may seem terrifying. Often, people choose to end an affair because they’re afraid of what would happen to their lives as a whole if they do not end the affair. For example, they’re afraid of divorce. They’re afraid of the wrath of their families. They’re afraid of not living in the same home as their kids. They’re afraid of financial changes. They’re afraid of never finding love again. And this is just to name a few things.
All of the what-ifs seem so overwhelming that they simply don’t let themselves examine their concerns and be honest with themselves about what they truly want and don’t want. For instance, sometimes people are scared that if they allow themselves to be really honest with themselves, they might discover that they want to leave their marriage and continue their relationship with their affair partner.
Now, if this sounds like your situation, I have some great news. It is possible to examine your concerns without acting on them. It is possible to be honest with yourself about what you want without acting on your desires, immediately or ever.
So, for instance, thinking through what might happen if you were to pursue your love for your affair partner and make some big changes in your life doesn’t mean you have to get a divorce next week, it doesn’t mean you have to get a divorce ever. You might discover through thorough introspection that you’re actually really interested in recommitting to your marriage, for instance. That’s just one possibility, of course.
The point is, if we don’t dig deep and really look at what we want and don’t want, and really examine what we believe to be true for us, it’s going to be really hard to sort our complicated feelings out.
So if you do, on the other hand, discover that you have a very clear set of reasons for ending the affair and you feel reasonably good about those reasons, that’s a fairly good indication that it’s time to work on allowing yourself to be sad about the relationship’s end and to digest the grief. Loss hurts for sure, but allowing that loss and all of the feelings that comes with it can be incredibly liberating.
Also, if you feel sure of your reasons for ending your affair and you feel sad about its ending, that’s a great indication that you have an opportunity to take what you’ve learned from your affair and integrate it into your life moving forward.
Maybe you’ve learned new things about yourself and who you are. Maybe you’ve learned about how you want to love and connect with a romantic partner. Maybe you’ve learned more about yourself as a sexual creature. The possibilities for what you may have learned are endless, as are the possibilities for how you might integrate this awareness into your present and future life.
Now, one last thing here. I know some of you are listening and saying, “Well, I didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t the one who ended the affair. It wasn’t my decision. So what am I supposed to do about that?” In some ways this is a separate topic, but in some ways it isn’t. Even if you didn’t have a choice about whether the relationship continued or not, you can choose to allow yourself to have a choice about how you feel your feelings.
You can choose to check in with your thoughts about the end of the affair. You can choose to examine the story you’re telling yourself about what the affair meant, about what its ending meant and what the whole thing means about you and your life and the possibilities for your romantic future.
That might not seem like a huge win when a relationship you valued and cared about and enjoyed has come to an end. But for better or worse, the only freedom we’re really guaranteed in this life is the power to choose what we make our circumstances mean to us.
Sometimes we can change our circumstances, but sometimes we can’t. And when we can’t, we can always choose what we make them mean. And when we make use of this power, even the most painful situations can become opportunities for our growth and transformation.
All right everybody, that’s it for today. Thank you all so much for listening. If you are ready to make some changes in your infidelity situation so that you can feel great about your love life/sex life/romantic life/relationship life, let’s get to work. One of the things I hear from new clients all the time is, “I wish I’d reached out to you sooner. I wish I had started dealing with my infidelity situation a long time ago.”
Why wait any longer to find some relief and a clear path forward? If you’re ready for change, let’s get to work. Head on over to my website, mariemurphyphd.com to learn about the ways we can work together. I can’t wait to meet you.
All right everybody. I hope you are enjoying or at least surviving the holidays. Have a great week. Bye for now.
Thanks for listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me with Dr. Marie Murphy. Make sure to click subscribe to get updates on our latest episodes.