Wake Up or
Break Up

What to do When You're Tempted to Stray

I have never met a man who wasn't tempted at one time or another to have an affair. It doesn't matter if you're in a great relationship or a difficult relationship. Or whether you have a great sex life with your partner or a nonexistent sex life with your partner. The urge will surely visit you sooner or later.

The good news is that this urge to stray doesn't mean you are a bad person or that you're necessarily going to be acting on the urge and creating drama in your life. All it means is that you're alive and curious.

Based on what I've seen during 23 years of counseling can work most successfully for men who are in a committed relationship and who have the occasional urge to stray, here are 4 things to consider:

1) Use the excitement and curiosity you feel about a new person to recharge your excitement and curiosity about the partner you have started to take for granted. That means as soon as you get an urge to flirt with or jump on the bones of someone outside of your primary relationship, you simply need to take a breath, catch yourself, and say, "If I were meeting my long-term partner for the first time at a seminar or a party, what would I find fascinating about this unique individual? What would I find sensual and attractive? What would I find intriguing and mysterious? What would I find to be solid and substantial and of high integrity? What would I find to be a great reason to pursue this individual (who happens to be your long-term partner)?" In other words, use your curiosity and imagination where it can do the most good--by focusing on the person who is already your partner and not by acting out a temporary crush on someone you don't really know in depth.

2) Use the urge to stray as a wake-up call that you and your partner need a tune-up or a major overhaul in your relationship. Just as every garden and every car will need occasional maintenance, so does every relationship. You and your partner might need a vacation together, a date night that hasn't been arranged for too many months, a chance to create adventures and teamwork again. The urge to stray (especially if you don't obsess about it) is a wonderful wake-up call that says, "I need some newness and vitality in my life again. What can my partner and I do that will make us feel young, creative, and energetic again with each other?"

3) If you are a spiritual or religious person (or even if you're not very spiritual or religious), use the urge to stray as a chance to feel gratitude for being alive. In the mystical tradition of Judaism, there is a wonderful prayer that a man is told to say to himself when he finds himself briefly turned on by someone other than his partner. The prayer is, "Thank you God (or creative Source) for all the beauty that you've brought into this world." By quickly turning the urge into a reminder that all of life's beauty comes from a higher Source, it frees you up to make good conscious choices about what is your true purpose in life. Is your true purpose in life to have a messy affair which will probably cause tremendous pain and loss of trust for your spouse and your kids? Or is your true purpose to appreciate the beauty all around you and then to make sure you handle your sexuality in a caring and responsible way?

4) If you find yourself unable to stop thinking about someone with whom you are tempted to stray, make sure you seek counseling to find out what's going on inside you. Many men discover in counseling tremendous wisdom about themselves after an urge to stray. Some find that they are afraid to be truly known by any one person and so they run away from long-term partners in order to try out their moves on someone new who doesn't really know them. Other men find they have had trouble sticking with things in life and this is one more chance to see if they are able to learn how to stay-the-course at something profound and important. Other men find out that they were raised in such a restrictive or guilt-ridden home that they feel rebellious and sneaky about sex, which can destroy any good relationship unless they seek help to break that habit. Other men find out they are still trying to make up for the lack of sexual success they experienced in junior high or high school, which isn't fair to your spouse or your kids who really shouldn't suffer for the fact that you couldn't "get any" when you were younger. Other men discover they have trouble appreciating themselves or others and are always looking for "something better." Whatever your particular reason for wanting to stray, it can be the source of tremendous personal growth if you take these urges to a therapist rather than to a motel.

©2008, Leonard Felder

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Leonard Felder is a licensed psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles. As a popular lecturer and recognized expert on how to improve personal relationships, his books have sold more than 1 million copies. His latest book is Wake Up or Break Up: The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship He has appeared on more than 200 teleivsion and radio programs, including Oprah, The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, AM Canada, NPR, and ABC Talkradio. He and his wife, Linda, have been together since 1980, and they hare the parents of a 12-year-old son, Steven. E-Mail or www.wakeuporbreakup.com

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