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Compassionate Approach To Infidelity – Exclusive Interview With Dr. Marie Murphy

Dr. Marie Murphy is a relationship coach and the host of the podcast, “Your Secret is Safe with Me.” Dr. Murphy helps 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 – without shame, blame, or judgments. She believes that if you’re cheating on your partner, you deserve guidance and support that respects the fullness of your humanity, and the complexity of your situation, no matter what you’re doing. Resolving your situation in a way that’s truly right for you IS possible, and Dr. Murphy can help you do it.

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Marie Murphy, Ph.D., Relationship Coach


You’re a relationship coach, and you help people who are having affairs, or cheating on their partners, or engaging in some kind of infidelity. That’s a pretty unique niche! How did you decide to start working with people who are in this kind of situation?


I’ve always been interested in things that some people may consider taboo, or off-limits, or stigmatized. I’ve always been interested in finding ways to talk openly and honestly about things other people are too freaked out to talk about – particularly all things related to sex and sexuality and relationships. My work in this arena began a long time ago, when I served as a peer sexual health educator when I was in high school.


When I began my work as a relationship coach, clients with relatively stigmatized challenges just started naturally finding their way to me. A lot of folks engaging in some sort of infidelity sought me out. Many told me that they’d sought help from other professionals, but had felt judged by them. It quickly became pretty obvious to me that there was a huge need for a more compassionate and effective approach to helping people who were cheating, and I decided to focus on addressing this specific need.


What is different about your approach to infidelity?


I operate from the premise that infidelity is a neutral circumstance – meaning that the behaviors that we think count as infidelity aren’t inherently bad, and the people who are engaging in them aren’t inherently bad, either. This strikes a lot of people as a radical ideal – and as you might imagine, some people flat-out disagree with this perspective. Most of us have bought into the idea that infidelity IS inherently bad, after all.


But the negative meanings we assign to infidelity inhibit our ability to effectively deal with infidelity – whether we’re the one engaging in it, or dealing with someone else’s infidelity. Hating infidelity won’t make it stop happening. Thinking people are bad for engaging in infidelity isn’t going to make cheating disappear. Telling people to just stop cheating doesn’t actually help them stop cheating – if that’s even what they want to do.


If we can approach infidelity as a human thing, rather than a BAD thing, then gain the opportunity to deal with it differently. When we can get beyond believing that cheating is this terrible thing, and approach it with compassion and curiosity, we can actually make changes that we feel really good about.


Furthermore, although a lot of people view infidelity as an individual failing, or an indication that there’s something wrong with the person who is cheating, I have a very different perspective. A great many societal factors contribute to infidelity (as I discuss in this episode of my podcast). We exist in a state of mass hypocrisy: on the one hand, we collectively dislike infidelity – to put it mildly – but on the other hand, we collectively contribute to conditions in which people are likely to cheat. For instance, we totally glorify the institution of marriage, and the idea that commitment to a romantic partner should last a lifetime. We figuratively and sometimes literally shove people into life-long commitments that are supposed to be monogamous. There’s still a fair amount of stigma associated with divorce. Within these societal conditions, a lot of people feel like their choices about how they live out their romantic lives are severely constrained, and that contributes to cheating.


Does having compassion for cheaters mean that you don’t have sympathy for people who are cheated on?


No, far from it. I care a great deal about the experiences of people who have been cheated on, and I consider their pain – and anger, and all of their other feelings – totally legitimate. But I think one of the biggest problems with the common thinking about infidelity is that we tend to see it in very dualistic, black-and-white terms. We tend to think that cheaters are bad, and those who are cheated on are victims. We tend to think that people who have been cheated on deserve sympathy and support, and people who cheat deserve to be vilified.


I don’t think this way of thinking helps anyone very much. We’ve got to recognize everyone’s humanity in the infidelity equation. Of course people who have been cheated on deserve compassionate support. But so do people who are doing the cheating.


What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?


For one thing, I basically created the perfect job for myself. This job didn’t exist before I invented it for myself. I get to do things that I find incredibly interesting and enjoyable every single day. Simply getting to do that is great, but knowing that I created this role for myself is pretty satisfying, too.


In addition to that, it’s an honor and a pleasure to be able to provide a service that people deeply appreciate and derive value from. Helping people resolve their infidelity situations in a way they feel great about is amazing. Helping people live more of the life they want to be living is a role that I cherish.


What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?


I am the proud doggie parent of a West Highland White Terrier, and I spend a lot of time walking him – or being walked by him, as it sometimes happens. I love making art, particularly collage and jewelry, although I don’t spend as much time doing these things as I’d like to. And my yoga and meditation practices bring me great joy.


Visit my website for more info!

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