Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

The Art of Relationships

with Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

There is an art to maintaining the intimate relationships in our lives. Read on to explore our experts' perspectives, and learn new techniques to improve your own relationship skills.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Toss Your Unfaithful Thoughts in the Garbage

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Woman Throwing Paper Away

I just read about an interesting study (Brinol, Gasco, Petty, and Horcajo) that will be published in the journal Psychological Science. Subjects in their study were directed to write down what they liked or didn’t like about their bodies. By throwing out a list (either one), people were less influenced by the thoughts on that list. And, by placing a list in their pocket, people were more influenced by that list. So, for instance, you might write “big nose” on a paper and throw it out, leaving you to think less about this physical characteristic. Then you might write “beautiful eyes” to encourage you to think more, and positively, about them.  When I read this, my mind was clearly preoccupied with the topic of relationships because it immediately occurred to me that this might help people who struggle with unwanted thoughts of infidelity.

Many affairs begin with unwanted and guilty thoughts of desiring someone other than your partner. At this stage, you haven’t done anything and don’t think you will. Yet, the thoughts keep returning. Of course, one good way to handle this is to stay away from the person who is occupying your thoughts (assuming there is one person you are focused on). But this may not be possible (e.g. a coworker) or it may not help. So, what then?

Next, I would strongly suggest working on your current relationship. Your urge to stray is a clear sign that it is failing in some way. Think about what is missing. Look for ways to build in more time together, more fun, or to address unresolved issues. Talk with your partner about wanting to strengthen your connection and how the two of you might go about this.

And, finally, it might be worth giving the above exercise a try. Write down your unfaithful thoughts (not in too much vivid detail, since you don’t want to build a stronger fantasy). And then carefully construct a detailed list of your thoughts related to staying faithful. You might want to include specific ways that your partner makes you happy and the ways in which you respect your partner. List various times when you were happy together and what you would look forward to doing together in the future. (I suggest you label it something positive like The Many Ways Cindy Makes Me Happy, just in case she comes across it). Then shred the first list into small pieces and throw it in the garbage. Carefully fold the second list and place it in your pocket. Read it each day as you place it in your pocket for that day.

I suspect that physically throwing away unwanted thoughts and physically keeping wanted thoughts close is no miracle fix. However, it might be an effective tool in helping you to remain faithful and build a happier marriage.

If you would like to join a general discussion about this topic on the Relationships and Coping Community, click here.

Photo: Comstock

Posted by: Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD at 1:00 am

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

Sex & Relationships

Sign up for the Sex & Relationships newsletter and get relationship tips, diet and exercise tips to rev-up your sex life.

Archives

WebMD Health News