Has this ever happened to you?
You’re walking down the street. Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a strikingly beautiful man or woman.
You turn your gaze toward them and, without knowing why, you find yourself drawn to the sight of this person.
Seconds later, you may even find yourself lost in a mental daydream, a spontaneous fantasy where you're seducing this innocent bystander in a chaise lounge by a pool. Or perhaps you just feel the tingling sensations of sexual energy as you pass by.
When you're young and single, this natural human experience can be exhilarating. But when you're married, it starts to get more complicated. It can instantly turn to shame and embarrassment -- to thoughts like, “I shouldn’t think these things," “I did something wrong," or “better keep that secret."
In short, this natural biological reaction can incite a cascade of self-criticism that shuts down the flow of sexual energy and keeps you from experiencing the deepest forms of connection and intimacy with your partner.
So how can you work with instead of against these sexual thoughts about other people?
If you get caught in this self-criticism spiral, the first step is to change your relationship to these thoughts. It's the the simple recognition that you're not having these thoughts because you're “bad" or “shameful." You're having them because you're human. These thoughts are what psychologists call"automatic thoughts." They're instantaneous and totally beyond our ability to control. They're nothing more than a relic of human evolution, where sexual energy played an essential role in the survival of the species.
You can use this recognition to bring you closer to acceptance: to help you embrace rather than repress these natural thoughts and sensations.
Now let’s get a little more edgy. At its core, these thoughts and sensations are just sexual energy. It's an energy that is initially attached to this random other person. And yet it's also an energy that can be redirected back toward your partner.
How do you do that? It starts with the brave and vulnerable act of sharing this experience with your partner.
It sounds something like, “I saw this guy today who looked like a younger version of Brad Pitt and got totally turned on. Want to explore a fantasy around that?“ Or like this, “When I was standing in line at the grocery store, the woman in front of me was insanely hot, and I got so turned on that I couldn't wait to see you."
The shift here is simple: all you have to do is reveal your experience. But it's not always easy. It's a radically vulnerable act that requires a high degree of trust and curiosity from both of you.
When you make this shift, however, you move from repressing and pushing against this natural human energy to embracing it and bringing it into your intimate life with your partner.