It is the epitome of temptations: cheating on your mate.
Sex in the copy room, a long-term clandestine affair, the mile-high club, hotel keys passed surreptitiosly at the bar, or a stolen kiss that leads to more. Despite being in a committed relationship, married, seriously dating, whatever the case may be, at some point, you start chatting with someone at the office, or texting silly cat videos. And, cheating it’s effortless.
You’re on a business trip, you’re lonely. There are client dinners with drinking, and flirting, and late nights. It’s all so damn tempting.
We face it every day: temptation even in little things, and we resist because what we want may not be good for us, in many ways, financially, physically or otherwise. There is chocolate decadence this, french-fried that, bottles of ice-cold Corona, nestled neck-in-neck in a rustic metal bucket on a sandy beach. And, don’t forget the rugged and devil-may-care Marlboro Man. He’s cliché, we know the risks, smoking kills, nobody smokes anymore, except that they do and they’re huddled outside in a haze of intoxicating albeit repulsive plume.
Part of the issue with temptation is this: you’re tired, you’re not thinking straight, you’re hungry, you’re buzzed, you’re lonely, you may or may not be missing something in your relationship. Seduction is everywhere. And no one is looking. You’re an adult, you’re not being chaperoned. But, you’re an adult, shouldn’t you be able to say no?
How do you walk away from an affair, even if you are unhappy in your relationship, even if you’re bound for divorce? If you’re in a committed relationship and you’re monogamous, then it’s cheating. It’s as simple as that.
In 2011, Northwestern psychological researchers Loran Nordgren and Eileen Chou looked at brain chemistry—aka visceral state—and its impact on willpower in resisting temptation. We may be adults, but our brains don’t always respond as such when under stress.
The study was a breakthrough. And it didn’t just apply to relationships. The same study also looked at smokers proving the temptation response to be similar there too. To lead a happy life where you accomplish your goals, build good habits, stay married and don’t smoke, overeat or overspend, you have to be in a cool visceral state. A cool visceral state means avoiding situations that get you worked up just before being confronted by temptation.
According to the study, the key is to know your triggers, and to avoid them.
If you are tempted to cheat: don’t expose yourself to media with a strong sexual charge before spending time with attractive colleagues, and avoid arguing with your partner before leaving on a business trip.
If you are tempted to spend recklessly: don’t wander through malls when you are feeling financially stressed and want a “pick me up.”
If you are overly hungry and feel the urge to binge eat: don’t get in the drive-thru lane at McDonald’s. Stash a protein bar in the car and get yourself home.
If you are tempted to smoke: don’t hang around the outdoor smoking areas at work, bars, and parties.
These are practical behavior modifications you can make that will help adjust your responses to tempting situations. Remove the temptation and it will be easier to resist.
While limiting access to temptation is important, I believe if you are hell bent on getting that thing, whether it be a cigarette, a shake and fries, or your new neighbor, these tips may not work, or they may only delay the inevitable. And, if the compulsion is that strong, there may be something else going on, and I would posit that you need more than behavioral modification.
Specifically, if you are obsessed with the urge to cheat, or are already cheating, there are likely issues in your relationship unrelated to a cool visceral state. And you need to face them. And yes, I speak from experience.
If this is a new relationship, it’s likely an easy fix. You’re just not that into her, or him. Move on. Make the phone call, set up the coffee meet. Do not send a text. Or ghost. Be a grown up. Even if it was one or two dates, let the person hear your voice, if not see your face.