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August 31, 2015

Stay Faithful: A Cognitive Strategy



When an individual or a couple presents for therapy because of infidelity, the unfaithful partner often says they weren't "looking" to have an affair, that the unfaithful partner felt content in the relationship. The cheating partner sometimes reports that a chance meeting or newly assigned co-worker is what sparked the affair.  So what to do when you find yourself attracted to a forbidden someone?

Telling yourself to "stop thinking about" the romantic interest doesn't work.  Conventional wisdom tells us this and a 2008 study* confirms it.  Instead, researchers recommend that you think about the love you feel for your partner instead.  Think of a time you felt close and connected to your partner.  In the experiment, loving thoughts and memories of your current partner decreased thoughts of another person. Interestingly, thinking sexual thoughts about your current partner wasn’t nearly as effective.

 *Gonzaga, G., Haselton, M. G., Smurda, J., Davies, M. S., & Poore, J. C. (2008). Love, desire, and the suppression of thoughts of romantic alternatives. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 119-126.

Sandy Andrews, PhD  is a Clinical Psychologist / Therapist who provides CBT in Austin, Texas