Your Secret is Safe with Me with Dr. Marie Murphy | Scandal, Disgrace, and Redemption

189: Scandal, Disgrace, and Redemption

May 08, 2024

I don't love to reinforce the idea that "disgrace" is a thing and that your actions are inherently shameful. However, there are many people out there who believe some actions are inherently bad or shameful, and that engaging in these actions is disgraceful. Collectively, humans also tend to love a scandal, and infidelity gets treated as a big scandal that the "perpetrator" needs to redeem themselves from.

Whether or not you buy into the idea that scandal, disgrace, and redemption are real things, other people turning your experiences into a public spectacle is a very real thing, and it's a pretty big deal when you and your infidelity situation are the object of the scandal.

People often freak out when infidelity occurs, even if it has pretty much zero impact on their lives. So, what can you do to reclaim your life and your sense of who you are after being the object of a scandal?

Tune in this week to discover what you need to consider if you find yourself the object of a scandalous spectacle following an affair. I share two parallel practices for dealing with being the object of a scandal, and you'll learn how to take responsibility and begin the work of redeeming yourself in your own eyes, if that's what you choose to do in this situation.


Are you ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that you feel great about? There are two ways we can work together:

Why wait any longer to find some relief and a clear path forward?  Let’s get you the guidance and support you need today!


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How some people choose to make infidelity a very big deal.
  • Why humans' existential boredom leads to an air of scandal around the infidelity situations of others.
  • The differences between being afraid of being the object of a scandal, versus actually being the object of a scandal.
  • Why you are allowed to be unhappy about being the object of an infidelity scandal.
  • 2 important parallel practices for dealing with being the object of a scandal.
  • Why you can still take responsibility for your actions without being okay with how you've acted or how others are treating you.
  • How we usually think about redemption, and a more helpful way to think about redemption.

Listen to the Full Episode:


Featured on the Show:

Are you ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that you feel great about? There are two ways we can work together:

Resolving your infidelity situation may take some effort. And it is also totally do-able. Why stay stuck for any longer?  Let’s find you some relief and a clear path forward, starting today.


Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy and I’m a non-judgmental infidelity coach.  If you are engaging in anything you think counts as infidelity, I can help you deal with your feelings, clarify what you want, and make decisions about what you’re going to do.  A lot of the so-called advice that’s out there for people who are cheating is little more than thinly veiled judgment, but that’s not what I provide.  I give you guidance and support that respects the fullness of your humanity, and the complexity of your situation, no matter what you’re doing.  When you’re ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, I can help you do it.  There are two ways we can work together.  You can purchase my self-guided course, You’re Not the Only One, or we can work together one-on-one via Zoom.  To learn more about both of these options, go to my website,  I can’t wait to meet you.


I gotta tell you, right off the bat, that I’m a little ambivalent about the title I gave today’s episode.  I don’t really like to reinforce the idea that disgrace is a Thing.  Meaning, I don’t like to reinforce the idea that there are things that we can do that by definition, bring shame upon us, or bring shame upon our associates.  I don’t think we have to operate as if some actions are inherently shameful, and I don’t think we have to operate as if we can truly be disgraced.  What if our grace was non-negotiable, or what if our worth or worthiness were non-negotiable?  Sure, maybe our actions are worthy of critique and adjustment at times, but what if even our so-called worst actions do not disgrace us, or do not render us disgraced?  Put a little differently, what if we’re all just humans bumbling our way through life, and what if there’s no way for us to ever be so “good” as to be unassailable?  And what if that constitutes, rather than compromises, our fundamental humanity?


Now, all of that said, I am well aware that a lot of people DO believe that some actions are inherently bad or shameful, and thus, if we engage in these actions, we are disgraced, and we may also bring disgrace to those who are associated with us.  I know that it is a social fact, as the sociologists say, that people think this way.  And with that, I certainly recognize that collectively, we love a scandal.  Collectively, we love to see people supposedly fall from grace.  We love to see people mess up, especially people who, prior to “messing up,” enjoyed a great amount of social esteem.  Or at least some of us sure do.  Lots of humans love to make a spectacle out of other people’s missteps, or supposed missteps.  And more specifically for our purposes, plenty of people love to make infidelity into a big, scandalous, spectacle of a thing.


So the paradox here is that although nothing we do is by definition shameful or worthy of disgrace in any absolute sense, socially, some people certainly do regard certain things as inherently shameful, and acceptable grounds for publicly shaming people. Collectively, we love to create a big fuss about people doing “bad things,” so to speak, for lots of reasons.  For one thing, if we think others are “bad,” then we get to be “good.”  Or at least, we get to put the focus on other people’s supposed badness, rather than our own.  And when we operate within a worldview of dualistic, moralistic thinking, a lot of us really want this.  A lot of us DESPERATELY want to be “good,” and really don’t want to be “bad.”  And this gives us a lot of incentive to make a really big deal about other people’s supposedly bad behavior.


My observation is that are a lot of other reasons why humans – or at least some humans – really relish scandals, or really relish the public shaming of others.  Needing other people to be bad so that we can see ourselves as good is a big one.  But I think existential boredom is, too.  So many of us are so unfulfilled in really significant ways, and have NO idea what to do about that.  And so what do we do?  Well, we want relief from our existential boredom, that’s for sure.  So what do we do?  The answer is that humans do all KINDS of things to find relief from their existential boredom, and sometimes that includes getting really mixed up in other people’s business, and spreading gossip and rumors, and looking for ways to call other people out for whatever it is we think they’re doing wrong.  Sometimes we turn on reality TV, and never turn it off.  We get totally sucked into cycles of scandal and disgrace and redemption because the whole “Are they good or are they bad?” drama is so compelling to us, and we want to be compelled by SOMETHING.  We don’t want to be bored.


Getting back to my concerns about my choice of a title for this episode, I also take issue with the notion of redemption.  What do we need to be redeemed for?  For being human?  For doing human things, just like all the other humans do?  I don’t know about that.  Now, to be clear, I certainly believe that human behaviors need to be dealt with appropriately.  When people do stuff that we’ve collectively determined is problematic, sanctions on their behavior may be necessary and appropriate.  For sure.  I’m not suggesting that we don’t need to deal with certain human antics in a structured way.  But I am suggesting that we can do that without making a big fuss about how bad the human who engaged in the behavior is – and I am suggesting that we can deal with the things that humans do that we consider problematic without getting into the whole “you did something bad, so now you have to be good to redeem yourself” thing.  Do we sometimes want to change the ways we’re behaving?  Sure.  Do we sometimes want to make amends for things we’ve done?  Sure.  But we can do all of that without believing that our fundamental okay-ness, or our right to be considered an okay human is on the line.  We can deal with people’s behavior without believing that what’s at stake is our worthiness of grace, or acceptance, or belonging.  We can deal with human behavior without getting into the drama of disgrace and redemption.


Having said all of that, the reason why I named this podcast episode what I did is because I know a lot of people really buy into the idea that there are some behaviors that are inherently bad or shameful, and that are worthy of disgrace.  And that people who are disgraced have to redeem themselves if they want to be accepted again.  And I want to speak to these ideas, while also challenging them.  I also want to acknowledge that even if you personally don’t buy into the idea that you have to redeem yourself if you do something that people consider problematic, people you know and care about might buy into this idea, and you may have to contend with their ideas to some extent.  And along those lines, I want to acknowledge that scandal is a Thing.  Other people turning your experiences into a public spectacle is a Thing, and it can be a pretty big deal if you’re the object of the scandal.  You can also turn your own experiences into a public spectacle if you want to, of course – let’s not forget about that option.  And I want to talk about how you can reclaim your life, and reclaim your sense of who you are after being the object of a scandal, and that’s what I’m REALLY talking about today, when I talk about “redemption.”


So as many of you know quite well, sometimes, people FREAK OUT when infidelity occurs.  Not always!  It’s important to point out that some people deal with infidelity in a pretty matter-of-fact manner, even when it impacts them in a way they don’t like.  On the other hand, some people DO make infidelity into a very, very, very big deal.


Now, this is a good time for me to point out that there is a difference between being afraid of people’s reactions to our behavior, and worrying about the possibility of being the object of a scandal, or object of a spectacle, and actually contending with being the object of a scandal in the present.  Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet is one thing.  Solving for that is different from solving for something that is actually happening in real time.  So if you’re currently worried that your infidelity situation might lead to your eventual disgrace, you might want to start to use your precious time and energy thinking about what you have the power to take responsibility for right now, in relation to your infidelity situation.  There might be a lot you can do to significantly reduce the likelihood of what you fear ever happening. 


On the other hand, if you are in the midst of what you consider to be an epic moment of disgrace, if your infidelity has been discovered in what you consider to be a very dramatic fashion, and a lot of people in your life know about it and have things to say about it, then let’s talk about how you can deal with that.


For the sake of having an example here, let’s say that you were married.  And let’s say that you and your spouse – or former spouse – have children together.  And let’s say that one of your children was getting married, and their wedding was a very big deal, with lots of guests coming in from out of town.  And let’s say that your family and your community are pretty committed to keeping up appearances in a particular way.  Let’s say that people in your orbit tend to like to pretend as if humanity isn’t as messy as it actually is, and everybody in your realm tends to like to keep their dirty laundry well out of public view.  And let’s say that you and your spouse were considered pillars of your family, or your community, or both, and then some.


And then, let’s say that on the eve of your child’s wedding, everyone discovered that you had been having an affair.  And let’s say that this information came out in a manner that we might consider rather dramatic.  Let’s say that you and your affair partner had filmed yourselves having sex.  And let’s say that you had that video on your phone, in a very un-hidden place, because you like to look at that video yourself from time to time, and you like to have it within easy reach.  And there was never much risk of anyone finding this video, because you have your phone protected by a password.  And no one is EVER interested in your phone, anyway.  No one you interact with on a regular basis has ever shown the slightest bit of interest in your phone, so you never really gave much thought to digital hygiene, or keeping the evidence of your affair off of your phone.  You thought you had enough privacy on your phone, and for a while, you really did. 


But then, on the eve of your child’s wedding, someone gets a hold of your phone to take pictures of wedding-related events.  Perhaps you even voluntarily GAVE someone your phone to take pictures of wedding-related events.  Because you were thinking about the wedding, and about pictures of the festivities, you were NOT thinking about the possible consequences of someone having your phone in their hands, without the password standing in their way.  And so, this person, whoever they are, has your phone and takes some pictures with it, and then start to take a look at the pictures they’ve just taken on your phone.  And then they scroll a little too far in the wrong direction.  Maybe this was totally unintentional on their part.  Maybe they had no idea what they were doing.  Or maybe their intentions were not benign.  But one way or another, they come upon your precious video of you and your affair partner, very naked together, very obviously doing sexual things with one another.  And all they need is a quick glance at your video to recognize, with total certainty, exactly what they are looking at.


And the person who has gotten a glimpse of your little video does not pretend like they haven’t seen what they saw, and hand your phone back to you.  No.  They shriek.  Or yelp.  Or maybe they, “Oh my fucking god!”  And then everyone gathered around wants to know why they’re so upset by whatever they see on your phone.  And so someone grabs the phone from their hand, and they see your video too, and they shriek too, then it’s all over.  Your phone gets passed around before you can manage to reclaim it.  Very graphic evidence of your infidelity has now been seen by many.  On the eve of your child’s wedding. 


And this creates an episode of epic proportions.  In the short term, everyone who has gathered for your child’s wedding gets to be shocked and horrified and perhaps even outraged by what they have discovered – and the whole thing creates quite a stir, both in the very immediate short term, and in the longer term.  And what you’ve done gives people layers of reasons to think they are very justified in being upset with you, and talking about what a bad thing you’ve done.  Not only did you do the very bad thing of cheating on your spouse, the discovery of said cheating marred what was supposed to be a very happy occasion.  People sometimes say that your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life.  And now something has happened that quite possibly ensured that whenever anyone thinks of your child’s wedding, they will think about the dramatic discovery of your infidelity.  And of course, everyone may think that you ruined your own child’s wedding.  Maybe your child thinks that, too, or maybe they don’t – but the swarm of commentators thinks they’re totally within their rights to call you an awful person for having done this.


Now, obviously this is a rather dramatic example.  But even so, it illustrates a few themes and possibilities that are not uncommon.  The abrupt discovery of someone’s infidelity can happen, and it can become a public event, or a semi-public event quickly and even accidentally, and when that happens, it can become a pretty big, unpleasant deal pretty quickly.


Today I’m not going to talk much at all about how to deal with the things that happen immediately or very quickly after infidelity is abruptly discovered and made public, other than to simply say, do your best.  If everyone at your child’s wedding abruptly finds out that you’ve been having an affair, you may want to DO something in the short term to address the masses.  You may want to ask for privacy, and ask everyone to focus on the happy occasion for which they have all gathered.  You may want to beg your spouse for a reprieve.  Or, you may want to flee to the nearest international airport without even packing a bag.  Doing our best can look very different, depending on the situation at hand.  And of course, get some help as soon as you can.  Find someone who can be YOUR advocate within the whole situation.  I am one such source of this kind of help. 


Instead of getting into how you might handle the immediate eruption of a scandal, I’m going to talk a bit about how to deal with the longer-term fallout.  After the immediate drama unfolds, how do you deal with people’s ongoing reactions?  How do you deal with being the object of other people’s scrutiny and derision for a while?  How do you deal with fallout that lasts for weeks, or even months, or even longer?


The means of dealing with being the object of a scandal includes two parallel practices.  The first entails allowing ourselves to be really honest with ourselves about what WE think about what has happened, rather than attempting to manage what other people think about what has happened.  We often think that if other people are upset with us, the solution is to convince them to not be upset with us.  And attempting to convince other people to think about you in certain ways and NOT think about you in other ways may not get you anywhere great.  Other people may be pretty committed to seeing you as the “bad guy,” so to speak, or the “bad person” in the situation, and trying to change their minds simply may not work.  Do you have the power to influence what people think?  You certainly might.  We’ll talk more about that later.  But it’s also the case that you may not be able to change people’s thinking immediately – or at all.  Some people may be very committed to thinking of you as a terrible jerk for “being an adulterer and ruining your child’s wedding while you were at it.”


Moreover, attempting to change other people’s minds, even if you were successful by some measures, might not get you all that much of what you really want.  My guess is that what you really want, if you are in a situation that’s anything like the one I described, is to feel better.  And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to want!  The problem is that we often do things, or attempt to do things, that we think will make us feel better that actually have very little chance of making us feel better in any kind of sustained way.  And of course, one of the things we sometimes do when we want to feel better is attempt to get other people to think differently about us, or get other people to behave differently towards us.  And this is a losing game because for one, we can’t always get people to think differently or act differently, and, even if we did, that wouldn’t necessarily make us feel any better because other people’s statements and actions do not cause our feelings. 


Rather, our thoughts about other people’s actions or statements are what create our feelings.  And it’s REASONABLE for us to not like other people’s actions and statements, at times.  If everyone you know is telling you you’re a horrible jerk, it’s totally reasonable for you to NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL.


And, it’s also important to know that even if it’s totally reasonable for us to not like something, we’re probably not going to feel great when we really don’t like something.  And it is OUR THINKING that creates our feelings – not the circumstances that we don’t like!  We love to think that the thing we don’t like is what makes us feel bad.  But it isn’t.  It’s not liking the thing, the whatever it is, that makes us feel whatever we feel. 


This might seem like a problem.  It might seem horribly unfair that we’re allowed to dislike something, but disliking things usually leads to not feeling great, AND we don’t get to blame our uncomfortable feelings on the thing we dislike.  That might sound like a really bad deal.


But it isn’t.  Here’s why.


Recognizing that it’s our thoughts about something, rather than the something itself, that creates our feelings gives us our power back.  If we believe that external circumstances have the power to cause our feelings, then we’re always at the mercy of external circumstances being the way we want them to be.  And as long as we have preferences about the way things are, which most of us do, then we’re always going to be at the mercy of external circumstances in order to feel okay, or feel good, or feel however we want to feel.  And that’s a tough corner to box yourself into if you want to have any say in how you feel.  You have a lot more power over what you think than you have over how other people behave.


But I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit.  Right now we’re not concerned with exercising power over the way you think.  More on that in a minute.  Your first order of business when you’re in the midst of an infidelity scandal is for you to be really, really honest with yourself about what YOU think about what’s going on.


And most likely, that will entail acknowledging that you do not like what is happening.  If you’re NOT unhappy about being the object of a scandal, that’s fine – you don’t HAVE to be unhappy about being in this position.  But you are ALLOWED to be unhappy about it.


What I see a lot is that folks whose infidelity is discovered in some dramatic fashion feel really bad about what they have done, and when they’re in the midst of being the object of collective scrutiny, they place all the blame on themselves.  Or at least a whole lot of it.  And they think that this is only fair, they think that they did the bad thing, or at least, they did a thing that could reasonably be considered bad, so therefore, they kind of deserve whatever they get, and they just have to take all the shit they’re getting.


Here's what I have to say to that: no, you don’t.  You don’t have to regard other people’s derision of you as a fair punishment for your misdeeds or “misdeeds.”  Even if you feel really badly about what has happened, that doesn’t mean you have to like what’s happening to you if you’re target number one of everybody’s gossip and anger and malicious joking.  Furthermore, you can take responsibility for your actions without being okay with how other people are treating you.  Allowing yourself to not like other people’s actions towards you is not equivalent to disavowing responsibility for your behavior.


So your job is to allow yourself to not like other people’s actions towards you, if you indeed do not like them.  Your job is to allow yourself to be really, really honest with yourself about what you don’t like about what’s happening.  Telling yourself that you don’t have the right to not like what’s happening might sound noble, from a certain angle, but even if it is noble – which is debatable – it isn’t going to help you very much.  Not allowing yourself to dislike a situation which you may very much dislike is only going to make dealing with what’s happening harder.


See if you can be radically honest about what exactly you dislike about being the object of an infidelity scandal, and see if you can allow yourself to be honest about exactly how much you dislike it.  Get specific.  Get detailed.  Be comprehensive in articulating what you don’t like about what’s going on.


All you’re doing, by letting yourself acknowledge whatever you dislike, is telling yourself the truth.  Or you’re telling yourself one set of things that are true.  It may also be true that you feel bad about some of your actions, and that’s fine – that can be true, too.  But we’re not focused on that right now.  If you’re the object of a scandal, and you don’t like that, allow yourself to be really comprehensively honest about what you don’t like about that.


This may not feel good!  Acknowledging what we don’t like, perhaps especially when we’re acknowledging what we don’t like about the way other people have treated us, can feel pretty terrible.  There are lots of reasons for this, and in a sense, the reasons don’t really matter, but in a sense they kind of do.  And one of the reasons why it often feels terrible to acknowledge that we don’t like the way other people have treated us or are treating us is because we believe, however subconsciously, that if other people have treated us badly, it must be because there’s something really wrong with us.


And believing that there’s something wrong with us usually feels REALLY BAD.  Why wouldn’t it?  When we’re totally enmeshed in dualistic good / bad, right / wrong understandings of the world, we tend to really want to be good, and we tend to really want to NOT be bad.  And the idea that we might be bad can seem like our worst nightmare has officially come true.


However, thinking that we might be bad doesn’t mean that we actually ARE bad.  You have the opportunity to recognize that thought as a thought.  You have the opportunity to recognize that thinking that you might be really bad doesn’t mean that you actually ARE really bad.  But simply acknowledging that you are entertaining the thought that you might be really bad can feel terrible.


Here's the deal, though.  Acknowledging the thoughts that cause us the most pain is the only way to truly alleviate the pain.  Trying to avoid the thoughts that create our suffering does not help us ease our suffering.


So in the simplest terms, part one of the strategy for dealing with being the object of a scandal is being willing to acknowledge that you dislike whatever is happening, and allowing yourself to feel terrible when you do so.  This might sound like terribly misguided advice, but the solution to feeling terrible is not to pretend we don’t feel terrible.  The solution to feeling terrible is not to try and rush our way around feeling terrible.  The solution to feeling terrible is to allow ourselves to feel terrible. 


Now, there is DEFINITELY a way to feel terrible skillfully, and that’s something I teach you how to do if we work together one-on-one or if your purchase my self-guided course which is called You’re Not the Only One.  I’m not suggesting that you should just subject yourself to feeling terrible without any tools for navigating the experience of feeling terrible.  And I highly recommend that you work with me if you want to learn how to deal with your most challenging emotions in a skillful way.  Because the only way through our most uncomfortable emotions is through them.  It’s not to pretend they don’t exist.  It’s not to avoid them.  It’s not to attempt to minimize them.


When we allow ourselves to not like being in the midst of a scandal, and we allow not liking being the object of a scandal to feel pretty bad, we accept reality as it is, and we effectively lance the boil.  We say, okay, this is happening, and I don’t like it.  And I’m going to let myself feel my feelings, instead of attempting to argue with reality, or ignore reality.


What we often do when we don’t like something that’s happening is we tell ourselves that that something SHOULDN’T be happening.  And this may apply to external circumstances, or to our own feelings.  If people are freaking out about our infidelity and talking about us and saying things that we think are inappropriate or cruel, we may not like that, and that is FAIR!  But there’s a big difference between saying, “This is happening, and I REALLY don’t like this, and I have a RIGHT to dislike this, and I’m going to be honest with myself about not liking this, even if doing so feels really uncomfortable,” and saying, “This shouldn’t be happening.  These people shouldn’t be treating me like this.  They shouldn’t be acting this way.”  For better or worse, people get to do whatever they want.  People can and do engage in all kinds of behaviors that might reasonably be considered less than great.  But thinking that other people SHOULDN’T do what they’re doing only makes us feel terrible.  Some of you know what I’m about to say next, and if you do, say it with me.  Ready?  Should feels like shit.  I don’t know who said that first, but I find it to be true, over and over and over again.  When we think things should be different than they are, we tend to feel TERRIBLE.


On the other hand, when we acknowledge that we really don’t like something, that may not automatically lead to us feeling awesome, but it will allow us to feel better than we feel when we believe that something should be different than it is.  I want you to try this out and see.  Later today, or maybe tomorrow, think of something in your life that you think SHOULD be different.  First, try thinking about it in those exact terms: “This whatever it is should be different.”  Allow yourself to be super convicted and super self-righteous about this.  And then try thinking, “There’s this thing I don’t like.  And I REALLY don’t like it.  I don’t like the way this thing is.”  See if you notice a difference.  I bet you will. 


After ACKNOWLEDGING what you don’t like about being the object of a scandal, the second of the two parallel practices you have the opportunity to engage in is intentionally managing your thinking about what’s going on.  You cannot skip over the first step though.  I say that these are parallel practices because it’s unlikely that you’ll do the first thing once and then never have to do it again, but if you’re going to do this second thing successfully, you’re going to have to do the first thing first.  It’s really hard to effectively manage your thinking when you don’t first acknowledge what you are already thinking, or what you are unintentionally thinking about something.


You’re going to have plenty of unintentional thoughts about what’s happening, which may be something along the lines of “This is so terrible” or “I want to crawl under a rock and die” or “I must be a horrible person” or “This ordeal is never going to end,” or “These people are total fuckers” and that’s only natural.  You can deal with these thoughts intentionally, even if they come to you unintentionally.  And that’s something that you may not know how to do yet, but that’s something I can teach you how to do.  One of the big emphases of my work as a coach is helping you learn how to deal with your mind and deal with your own thoughts, in a more conscious, deliberate way.  Doing this is incredibly beneficial, but most of us never learn how to do this.  And that’s tragic, but it’s something we can change.  It’s never too late to start learning how to intentionally relate to your own mind and your own thinking.


So intentionally managing your thinking about being the object of a scandal entails dealing with your knee-jerk thoughts about what’s happening in an intentional way.  It ALSO entails deciding what you want to think on purpose about the whole situation.  For today’s purposes, I’m going to focus on the latter.  There may be multiple facets of your situation that you will want to think intentionally about, and two of those facets are almost certainly going to be what you think about yourself, and your own behavior, and what you think about other people, and their behavior, and I’ll say a little bit about both of those aspects of your situation right now.


If you are the object of an infidelity scandal, and you don’t like the way other people are behaving towards you, that is fair enough.  But if you can’t change their behavior, the question becomes, how can you THINK about their behavior differently so that you don’t have to suffer so much?  By thinking differently about their behavior, you aren’t letting any of them off the hook for being assholes.  That isn’t the point.  Nor is it the point to tell yourself that you aren’t really bothered by their behavior.  If that isn’t true, telling yourself that will not help you at all.


So what might be true about other people’s responses to your infidelity that doesn’t deny your dislike of their behavior, but also helps you suffer less?


Well, it might be helpful to take notice of the fact that humans love a scandal.  You might want to consider what I said earlier in the episode about humans and their existential boredom.  You might want to think about examples of very public infidelity scandals.  And the reason why you might want to do this is because they provide evidence that getting all worked up about other people’s infidelity situations is a thing that humans love to do.  At least sometimes.  It might be helpful to consider that although of course your situation is personal to you to some extent, it also isn’t really about you, in some ways.  It’s about other people’s desire for entertainment.  It’s about the sick thrill we get out of seeing other people “disgraced.”


There’s a very recent example of this playing out on reality tv right now, if you need a current example to refer to.  I don’t know all of the details of this saga myself, but I’m aware that there is a show on Bravo called Vanderpump Rules and apparently one of the guys on the show had a longtime girlfriend who was also on the show, and then he cheated on her with some other woman who was also on the show.  And I don’t watch Vanderpump Rules but this incident created such a stir that I heard about it somehow, and from what I understand, this incident which I think is referred to as #scandoval has been a REALLY big deal.  I did read a whole article about the gentleman involved, whose name is Tom Sandoval I think – I’m pretty sure I’m getting that right – and what it sounded like, from that article, is that basically the “whole world” took the side of his girlfriend who had cheated on him, and that everyone was either giving him hell or shutting him out, and it seemed like a rather enormous deal.  And what shocked and saddened me was that it sounds like – from what little I know about this saga – that a lot of people have basically rallied around the whole, “Cheaters are bad, and the people who they cheat on deserve all of the sympathy and support” trope.  I would have liked to think that there would be a more nuanced response to this guy’s cheating, but apparently not.  Anyway, if you watch Vanderpump Rules you know far more about this than I do, but the point I’m trying to make is, people sometimes get very worked up about cheating.  Even when it has absolutely nothing to do with them.  Some people love to make other people’s infidelity situations into their entertainment.


And that, dear listener, has absolutely nothing to do with you personally, or with the details of your specific infidelity situation.  Other people’s bloodthirsty lust for drama and scandal has nothing to do with you.  Can it be really unpleasant to get caught in those crossfires?  Absolutely.  But you do have the opportunity to intentionally remember that even if other people are all worked about something that’s going on in your life, it’s not really about you.  You’re just serving as a character in a movie someone else is watching. 


And although you may not want to be a character in a movie someone else is watching, looking at your situation in this way is very different from believing that other people having this dramatic reaction to your behavior means there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.  Recognizing that other people may be passing judgement on you as if you are a character in a movie they are watching is very different from thinking that other people have the right to pass judgment on you, and believing that you must be subject to their judgments.


You don’t have to consider yourself subject to their judgements.  You don’t have to agree with what other people think about you.  You have the right to think whatever you want to think about yourself and your actions.  Now, sometimes, when I talk to clients about this, they say things like, “But that’s so hard!!!  I’m so used to basing what I think about myself off of what other people think about me” and I understand that for some of us, it IS really hard to claim our right to think whatever we want to about ourselves.  And you may need to learn how to do that.  You may need HELP doing that.  And that’s okay, and this is one of the things that coaching is great for – at least, coaching in the way that I and many other coaches practice coaching.  Helping my clients decide what they want to think about themselves on purpose is part of the work I do, and I believe that this is a super important skill set for all of us to develop – even if we never find ourselves contending with a big infidelity-related scandal.  We really can learn how to choose what we want to think about ourselves, and then actually believe those things – even if other people have different thoughts about us.


So although I’ve talked about redemption, what I’m actually interested in is something other than redemption.  I would suggest that redemption is something we usually think comes from other people thinking differently about you, or other people deciding that you’re actually not all that bad, you’re actually okay.  Maybe because of something you did to earn redemption, or to supposedly earn redemption, or maybe because they just started to see your situation differently and decided to think differently about you and have decided to behave differently towards you.  Now, to be clear, it can be really nice when people who have been being total assholes to you decide to start treating you differently.  That can be lovely.


But what I suggest is even more powerful and even more valuable than redemption in other people’s eyes is your own reclamation of your right to be human.  Messy, perhaps.  Imperfect, perhaps, but still human.  I say “imperfect” cautiously, because I don’t really like the notion of imperfection because it implies there is such a thing as perfection, which I think is highly questionable.  When you claim your right to be fundamentally okay, or fundamentally worthy of belonging and love and respect not in spite of your humanity, but BECAUSE of it, that’s when you really win.  When you can say to yourself, “I am fundamentally okay not in spite of whatever I’ve done that other people didn’t like, and maybe that I didn’t like either, but because of whatever I’ve done.  I am worthy of my own acceptance, just as I am,” that’s when you transcend the whole scandal thing.  That’s when you totally change the nature of the game that’s being played.


To reiterate what I said earlier in the episode, believing that you are fundamentally okay no matter what doesn’t mean that we have to unequivocally approve of all of our own behaviors.  We can dislike things we’ve done, or aspects of things we’ve done, while also recognizing the human-ness in the things we’ve done.  We can dislike things we’ve done, without rejecting ourselves.  We can take responsibility for our actions without making our fundamental worthiness contingent upon things we’ve done that there’s no way for us to un-do.  If we want to make amends for things we’ve done in the past, we can.  But we don’t have to make the fact that humans are, by definition, “imperfect” creatures, a reason to reject ourselves.  Even if others reject us, we don’t have to reject ourselves.


Now, I know some of you are saying, but I NEED other people to accept me and love me and forgive me and all of that stuff.  Fair enough.  It’s fine to want these things, but the problem is, we may not always get these things.  And so what then?  Do we want to be totally, completely screwed if other people have rejected us?  We don’t have to be.  We can accept ourselves.  We can be our own tribe, even if it’s a pretty small one.  The company of others is great.  The approval of others is great.  The acceptance of others is great.  But so often we discount the importance of our own company, and our own approval, and our acceptance.  And when we believe that other people’s company and approval are more important than our own, we compromise our relationship with ourselves.  And in so doing, we effectively add insult to injury.


When we’re the object of a scandal, we may have the world’s best opportunity to cultivate a stronger relationship with ourselves on our hands.  And that’s an opportunity worth taking advantage of.


And interestingly, it’s often when we do the sometimes very challenging work of accepting ourselves when we’ve done something that others consider disgraceful, that other people start to see us differently.  When we accept ourselves, as the “imperfect” humans that we are, when we declare to ourselves that we are worthy of love and acceptance not in spite of what we’ve done but because of it, that message kind of emanates from us.  Or, in more concrete terms, when we show other people how we expect to be treated through the way we treat ourselves, they often take the cues we give them. 


There is a great example of this out there for you to access and enjoy that has nothing to do with infidelity.  There’s a Milli Vanilli documentary that came out in 2023 that illustrates what I’m talking about beautifully.  I’m not going to say too much more, for the sake of not wanting to spoil the experience, but let’s just say the film touches on a lot of what I’ve talked about today, perhaps especially this last point. 


Now, having talked about all of this, I want to make it clear that if you are the object of an infidelity-related scandal, and you’re having a tough time, you may want to invest in some support.  Listening to this podcast may be helpful, and of course, I certainly hope it is.  But you may need more than just this podcast to weather the storm you’re in the midst of.  Sometimes a little guidance is all we need to deal with a challenging situation in a way that we feel good about.  But sometimes we need more than a little guidance, and that’s okay – get yourself that guidance.  Get yourself the support you need.  Invest in yourself, and in your quality of life, and in your future.  Even if you are the person who was the “bad guy” in your situation, you are still worthy of guidance and support that respects the fullness of your humanity – and that helps you respect the fullness of your own humanity.  And of course I am one such source of this kind of help, so if you want to work with me, head on over to my website,  I offer one-on-one coaching via Zoom that is laser focused on your specific needs, and I also offer a self-guided course called You’re Not the Only One which includes teachings that are super relevant to dealing with an infidelity scandal.


All right everyone, thank you so much for listening.  Bye for now. 




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