Dear Rachel,

I am happily married to a wonderful man, but for some reason I find myself sometimes thinking about other men, and people I dated before meeting my husband. I know I will never act out any of these thoughts, but I still feel terribly guilty for thinking them. Is there anything I can do to stop? Thank you.

Orlando, FL

Dear G.R.,

Firstly, you are not alone in the difficulty that you describe but what is amazing to hear is that you are so very aware that it is a problem.

Many people are quick to write off thoughts as something that is not important, especially if there is no real chance of acting on it. However, thoughts are unbelievably important, whether or not they actually manifest into action, as they are so powerful in their raw form.

This is so much the case that we are taught that there are three main times when a couple is not allowed to be intimate (outside of the times that apply to couples in general). This is if either partner is drunk, if the couple is contemplating divorce, or if either partner is thinking about someone else.

This third aspect seems very strange that there could be a law regarding how we think. Because ideally, we are not sharing these thoughts with our partner. But yet, we are shown that we are most definitely responsible for what we think, and even more importantly, that we have the power and ability to control our thoughts and to overcome our thoughts. The only way we can be told that something is not allowed based on our thoughts is if we have the ability to change that situation.

So, here is your real question. How does one rid oneself of improper thoughts? For starters, it is very important that you realize how destructive they can be, and hopefully just knowing this will make you that much quicker to try to fill your head with something else.

For the most part, we are only able to think about one thing at a time. Which means, if you are thinking about something you shouldn't be thinking about, the first thing you must do is replace the thoughts with something else. Sometimes this is easier to do, other times there is no other thought that can compete with the intensity of the inappropriate thought. If this is the case, try to find something to do that requires complete concentration so that you cannot just let your mind wander. Try building something or answering emails or calling someone, something that will ensure that you stop thinking about someone in your past.

If you find that you have a lot of free time on your hands and that you keep lapsing into these negative thought processes, try doing something that will make you feel fulfilled and productive. Start volunteering or spending time at the hospital or an old age home. If you are busy thinking about others, you won't be able to start thinking about yourself and your past.

Lastly, I would recommend trying to actively not only think, but verbalize how happy you are with your husband and how much you love him. Try to make yourself focus on how fortunate you are to be with him and how happy he makes you. Ideally, you will be able to eventually get to the point where the only man you think about is your husband. Until that time comes, you want to ensure though that if you start to think of anyone other than your husband, that you take yourself out of that headspace and into another situation so that your thoughts can be redirected.

May you be blessed with a happy and healthy marriage, with the proper thoughts that then lead to proper speech and proper action!