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  • Marie Murphy

Drama, discomfort, and infidelity

Sometime we cheat for reasons we aren't fully aware of

Photo credit: Mia Harvey

People cheat for all kinds of reasons.

Sometimes we’re pretty conscious of our reasons for cheating – or some of them, anyway - and sometimes our reasons for cheating aren’t totally clear to us.

Sometimes, one of the reasons we cheat is that the excitement and danger and drama of the whole business is intoxicating in and of itself, above and beyond or in addition to our feelings for whomever we’re engaging with.

And this does not have to be a bad thing! Humans find all kinds of things interesting and appealing, and if you’re getting a kick out of doing something illicit because it’s illicit, you wouldn’t be the first.

But there’s a but, of course.

Sometimes we get into the habit of doing things that don’t really serve our highest purposes, for reasons we aren’t totally aware of.

Many of us do this, in fact – even if we aren’t engaging in any form of infidelity with another person.

Here’s what I mean by that:

Human life offers all kinds of opportunities to experience discomfort. By discomfort I mean any feeling that we don’t really want to feel. Sometimes it’s the discomfort of the grind of day-to-day existence, which might feel like boredom or stress or frustration or anxiety or disinterest or apathy or malaise. Sometimes it’s the cataclysmic discomfort that comes with major challenging moments, which may take the forms of more intense feelings like rage or grief or shock or humiliation or abandonment or shame or powerlessness.

Whether it’s relatively low grade or extremely intense, most of us do not know what the hell to do with our discomfort. Most of us never got any kind of an education in how to deal with our own feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones.

So what do we do? Well, most of us look for ways to avoid our discomfort, or numb it, or distract ourselves from our feelings or create a “buffer” between ourselves and our experience of our feelings. How do we do this? Oh, you know…

Some of us watch hours and hours of television.

Some of us really love our wine and cheese… and maybe everything in the liquor cabinet and the cupboard, too.

Some of us shop for more than what we need.

Some of us don’t mind a bit of crack here and there.

Some of us “have to work all the time,” and freak out if we aren’t working.

Some of us look at porn… a lot.

Some of us kick the cat, or yell at the kids, or pick fights with anyone who will engage with us.

Some of us endlessly criticize others.

And… you guessed it: some of us constantly look for validation or emotional connection or sexual satisfaction from romantic or sexual partners. Some of us expect our romantic partners to make us feel good all the time. And some of us crave relationship drama in one form or another. It’s exciting! It’s compelling! It’s seems so urgent and so important!

This can be true in any romantic relationship, whether infidelity is part of the picture or not. If you want dramatic highs and lows in your relationship, there are a million ways you can create them. No cheating required.

But if love is your drug of choice, infidelity can provide a really interesting – and perhaps uniquely potent – way to get your fix. It provides a powerful and unique blend of lust and danger and excitement and secrecy and passion and intensity and high-stakes questions and love and longing.

For example…

Perhaps, on the one hand, you’ve got your spouse or primary partner at home… and you’ve got your affair partner on the side. Maybe you really love your spouse and care about them, but you’re also dying for someone who knows you and sees you and Really Understands You in a Way They Just Don’t. And… you have an affair partner does all of that! And of course, the sex with your affair partner is beyond incredible, better than anything you’ve experienced before, and you’re pretty sure you want to run off with your affair partner and make a life with them and live happily ever after.

Except…you aren’t really sure you want to leave your spouse. You love them! You don’t want to hurt them! You value what you’ve shared, and the life you’ve created together! (And you’re a little terrified of all the changes that would inevitably come if you were to leave them. How the hell would it all work out???) And… you know things are amazingly hot with your affair partner right now, but will all of the amazingness last? Will it All Be Worth It, a year from now, or five years from now? And oh yeah, your affair partner is married too. What are THEY going to do? When are they going to leave THEIR spouse? ARE they really going to leave their spouse? They said they would!!! But… will they? Should you hedge your bets and stay with the bird in the hand?

On top of all of that, your love for your spouse and your affair partner only deepens your love for both of them! You can’t believe that your heart could hold so much love! And it’s so amazing and great to feel so alive and it’s also so damn stressful to have to juggle this double life you’re living. And you know you have CHOICES to make, but you have no idea how to even begin to make any decisions right now. It’s all sooooo confusing and overwhelming and crazy!!!


This kind of stuff can take up a LOT of time and energy! Like, ALL of your time and energy.

And sometimes that is exactly the point.

Of course love is great and great sex is great and feeling really deep, potent connections with amazing people is great. Prioritizing these things in your life can be a really good idea.

But sometimes we use all of that stuff to distract ourselves from other important things in our lives. Things we may be a little scared – or really, really terrified – to take on.

Like writing that novel you want to believe you have within you, but have no idea how to start.

Like leaving the career you’re miserable in, and taking the plunge and going back to school to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Even if it means a big change in your financial situation.

Like finally quitting a long-entrenched habit that you know isn’t good for you, but you’ve stuck with anyway, because you have no idea who you’d be without that habit.

Like getting back into acting, or singing, or whatever your artistic outlet is. Even though it’s been years and you’re rusty as hell.

Like making peace with your parents, or your long-lost best friend, or your kids. Which might involve a LOT of vulnerability.

Like making a big decision that seems too terrifying to make – like whether or not to leave your marriage, for instance.

Having an affair, or engaging in serial relationships with people who are ostensibly committed to someone else, or continuously seeking out relationship drama in some other form, can be a GREAT way to avoid dealing with challenges like these.

Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that every act of infidelity is fundamentally an act of unconscious avoidance of something you’re scared to step up to. But this sort of thing IS a factor in some instances of cheating, and some instances of regularly seeking out relationship drama.

And let me emphasize one other thing: if you love all of that drama, go with god! Let’s face it: relationship drama can be a lot of fun.

But if the drama in your love life is starting to seem exhausting above all else, ask yourself this:

What am I getting out of this roller coaster ride? What do I love about all of this turbulence? As much as you may complain about your situation, you’re getting some benefits from it. Your situation is serving some function for you – the fun part is figuring out what that function is.

Also ask yourself if there any aspects of your life that might be begging for your attention right now. Are there any projects or challenges or situations that you’re scared to take on, or are actively trying to avoid?

Think these questions through and see what you come up with. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll end up with a little more perspective on what’s going on in your heart, your mind, and your life as a whole right now.

And of course, if you want some help working through these kinds of issues, that's what I'm here for. Schedule an introductory coaching call with me today.

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