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Surviving Affairs and Infidelity Article

When Images are an Obsession

Dr. Frank Gunzburg
Baltimore Maryland

In some cases people become completely consumed with thoughts about the affair. This is a little different than the negative thinking we have explored up to this point, although it is related.

Obsessive thinking is marked by an ongoing stream of negative thoughts that carry on even when you are trying not to have them. These thoughts seem to have a life of their own. When people are bound up in obsessive thinking after an affair, they are only able to put thoughts or images of the affair out their head for a short time. In some instances, they are unable to put these thoughts or images out of their mind at all. In this case, I am not using the term ďobsessive thinkingĒ in a clinical sense. That would denote someone whose thinking is so unmanageable that the person would be diagnosed with an obsessive or compulsive disorder. In this case, I am using the term the way a layman might.

If you are obsessively preoccupied with an abstract thought, I recommend that you put the 3-step program for overcoming negative thinking that you just learned to work for you. You have to focus on continually keeping records of your thoughts, challenging the believability of them and replacing them with self-affirming statements.

In the case of obsessive thinking, you must engage in this process more rigorously than with other kinds of negative thinking. Each time you have a negative thought, counter it as much as you can. Each time it creeps into your mind, replace it with a self-affirmation. In this way, over time, you are likely to reduce the impact it has on your life and eventually eliminate it altogether.

If you are plagued with visual images of the affair, such as disturbing movies or slide shows that run in your mind, then you are dealing with a slightly different monster. As human beings, we often run movies or slide shows in our minds to bring back a pleasant memory or to anticipate a future event. Here, I am referring to those disturbing images that are specifically related to the affair or its aftermath. This horror show also can be overcome, but it requires a different exercise than the one we just did.

It is important to note that these kinds of obsessions are not uncommon for people who go through an experience like what you are going through. After all, you are traumatized by an experience you never expected to happen.

In many cases, the injured person in an affair will imagine aspects of the affair and then play these images over and over in their heads until they tend to harden into a rigid pattern. The same images occur again and again the same way, without end.

The problem with consistent, incessant negative fantasies of this nature is that on an emotional level they operate as if they are real. You respond to them emotionally, the same way you would if it were actually happening.

You know that they arenít real; you might even try to talk yourself out of responding to them. Nonetheless, they remain, continuing to haunt you and causing you serious psychological distress.

Even in the event that they do reflect some form of reality (for example if your partner has told you the details of the affair and you personally know the paramour), these images are still creations of your mind and, hence, not actually real. Images of this nature should be treated the same way you treat images that are completely fictional: simply as images.

If you want to be free from the distress these images are causing you, the first thing you need to do is to be sure that you are ready to give up your haunting fantasies. It may sound ridiculous to say, but one of the reasons that you likely havenít given up these fantasies already is because they justify your pain in some way. You hold on to them because they show you that you are right to feel as hurt as you do.

You must be willing to let go of these obsessions, and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Holding on to negative thinking as a means to justify your pain isnít very valuable. Your pain is justified by itself. Clinging to negative thinking only serves to keep you in pain.

Once you check in with yourself to make sure you are ready to give up the fantasy, use the following visualization techniques to help unlock the rigid pattern that the fantasy has developed and overcome the pain it is causing you.


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Dr. Frank Gunzburg is a licensed counselor in Maryland and has been specializing is helping couples restore their marriage for over 30 years. He is also the author of How to Survive an Affair, a step-by-step healing system that can help a couple repair their relationship after it has been shattered from an affair.

If your relationship has been damaged by an affair and you would like a step-by-step system for repairing your relationship, then please visit Dr. Gunzburg's site for more information:

This article was used by permission from How to Survive An Affair:
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