Consider the following two sentences:
Many of us have experienced the oddity of the emotional affair. We may have even been guilty of indulging in one.
I itilicize that word because our choice of predicates radically impacts how we feel about it. Language is powerful. Consider briefly how different you feel as you read the following sentences to yourself.
It is wrong to indulge in something decadent
It is good to soil yourself with something good.
Do you see the mixed messages in each? In English, we often consider predicates like indulge, decadent, forbidden, taboo, naughty, and so forth as exciting. In most cases, we might, putting our Puritan hat on, agree that they are wrong, wicked, negative (and let’s face it, the Puritans do have great hats!). Though these words radically affect how we feel about the subject of our sentence.
Sometimes a simple shift in word choice can make all the difference. In the example above, for instance, how do you feel about “indulging” in something? If you’re like many of us, an “indulgence” is something naughty, something you know you just shouldn’t do…but will be so wonderful that it’s worth just about any downside I could mention! This is not a new idea, as in the field of NLP we have been doing “submodalities” work for several decades. That is, carefully adjusting the aspects of our sensory perception to influence how we feel. Likewise, certain words have common submodalities or even anchored responses. Some call this an “emotional charge”, the effect the word has upon us as he hear or read it. Biologists and behaviorists are more apt to call it a conditioned response, but whatever you choose to call it, this is a powerful agent of influence that you can use in your own life, as well as in your daily communication with others.
How? Though the world around you will provide you with its own predicates, and if you pay attention when TV commercials come on, you might not that advertisers are hardly oblivious to what we’re talking about here, you can always shift the language in your own mind. That is, though I provide you with a frame of reference, leading your mind where I want it to go, you don’t have to follow through. Rather, as soon as you catch on, you can alter the language to suit your own purposes, instead of my own. While advertisers might prefer that you “indulge yourself” by purchasing their product, “luxuriating” in its wonder, and the moment the sticker shock occurs to you, they might urge you to consider, “aren’t you worth a little extravagance?”, you don’t have to leave it at that. Rather, you can challenge that statement or amend it. For instance, take the following three pitches and note the rephrasing or addition I’ve added in bold text:
Life is short. Have an affair. After all, stress, guilt, and broken hearts are what make a full, well-lived life, right?
Indulge yourself with a ______. (Now try substituting the word “indebt”, “impoverish”, or “punish” for the word “indulge.)
You deserve it! Treat yourself to a _______. Don’t you deserve it? Haven’t you been a bit of a shit lately? Go ahead, you deserve a little _____.
Just a couple of examples, but if you pay attention, examples crop up all around us. This is a pretty savvy world we live in, and a lot of smart people have made it their business to manipulate us. Whether they are after our buying power or our personal attention, others have a vested interest in influencing our decisions. How does this pertain to intimate relationships? Consider that the media is trying all the time to sell us a “better”, “more exotic”, “sexier” life. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by playing on our own expectations of what we deserve. Sure, there will be exceptions for those among us with esteem issues, but by and large, don’t most of us feel that we deserve the best?
Let’s say you’ve put decades, years, or even months (it’s all relative, remember, and every great lifetime-spanning relationship began with a single date) into our relationship. We’ve learned to blend our life maps and create a Relationship Map. We now have a relationship in which we can both be ourselves and be part of something larger than ourselves. In addition to always being you, yourself, you are now part of a…WE! You have someone to tell your silly stories, someone who will appreciate you, share intimate moments, to share, potentially, everything. Sounds wonderful until someone reframes that as “routine” or “boring”. Sound familiar? To someone in the business of selling exciting, new experiences, it might be quite a nuisance that you have this great relationship! Consider one of the examples above – Ashley Madison, who tried to convince us that “life being short” was some sort of good reason for “having an affair”. For someone selling that product, your stable, committed, strong relationship would be quite a nuisance indeed.
So as a smart consumer, to stick with the metaphor, you must make a decision. Is that product truly worth the price you would have to pay? And we’ll go ahead and state the obvious just to get it out of the way – an affair is not the answer if your relationship is waning. Ever. We can deal with that topic another time, but we mention it so our position on this topic is unambiguous. We view those “selling” an affair as being counter to our own interests. Simply put, purveyors of affairs are trying to steal something from you. Whether they’re running a web site to facilitate infidelity, actively trying to seduce you, or merely voicing support for the idea as you ask their opinion. Such people are trying to take something from you. There’s a litmus test that simplifies this and we offer it to you if you’re skeptical. When facing an action, a thought, anything at all, ask yourself: Is this bringing me closer to my partner or creating separation between us? You can ask it of anything, and if it’s innocuous, it will have no effect at all. For instance, if the question is your spending an hour organizing your prized collection of widgets, baseball cards, antique spoons, whatever the item might be, that hour might have no impact on your relationship at all. If not, and you’re sure of it, (your partner might not agree!), then it truly is harmless. Of course, if your partner needs some personal time, your choosing to organize your widgets might in fact bring you and your partner closer together. But let’s say the question is whether or not you will have a one night stand. NOW ask whether it will bring you and your partner closer together or create separation between you. Notice the difference? And if you are one of those people who thinks the deciding factor is whether or not your partner discovers your infidelity, you have, sad to say, much to learn.
Resolve today to focus on bringing your partner and yourself closer. Every action, every word, every decision, has the potential to affect this. Make it wisely and lovingly.