In this counseling answer:
• If these thoughts become over-powering and intrusive, and interfere with your relationship, your life, and your religion, please consult a therapist for an evaluation for possible OCD or other mental health issues.
• The best course of action is to ignore them and let them pass.
• Do not tell your husband about these thoughts.
• Don’t worry extensively about these images and thoughts. That gives them power. If you are extremely bothered, you may want to visualize a stop sign to interrupt them or engage in a different activity.
Assalamu alaykum dear sister,
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns. As I understand your situation, you are having thoughts that are unwanted and often misconstrued. This must be very distressing and confusing for you to experience.
Diversion from Images
Often when we view things, such as innocent pictures online, our minds may take the image and distort it to something else. While we are not consciously seeking to do this, image association can occur.
When this happens and it is unpleasant or haram, it is best to try to divert the mind back to either the original focal point (i.e. image of a school setting) or engage in a different activity altogether.
Media and Subliminal Messages
In today’s world, we are bombarded by media images and messages. The media often uses subliminal messages to capture one’s attention, especially in the form of pictures. For instance, advertisements for a beverage may show a tall, cool glass of tea with ice cubes in it to advertise their product.
To the average viewer, this seems innocent enough. However, in some advertising platforms sex is imbedded in the image. Sex sells. If one looks closely at the tall glass of tea for instance, one may see that the ice cubes spell the word “sex” or may indeed look like sexual private parts.
This technique is done so subtly that most people do not notice it, however, subconsciously the brain picks up on it. Hence why it is called subliminal. Perhaps what’s happening with you is that you are picking up on some of the subliminal images that media often utilizes to produce a feeling in their audiences. I don’t know if this is the case with you regarding images, but it’s worth mentioning.
Thoughts About Other Men
You said you were concerned about having thoughts about other men. I’m not sure if these are related to the innocent images you view or if they are just random thoughts that come to your mind.
Occasional sexual thoughts about others is normal, sister. After all, you are human. The point is that we do not act upon our thoughts. If these thoughts become over-powering and intrusive, and interfere with your relationship, your life, and your religion, please consult a therapist for an evaluation for possible OCD or other mental health issues.
While I am sure this is just a passing phase, it would be best to get assessed if it continues and you cannot control it.
Intimacy and Thinking About Others
Sister, you indicated that you often think of other men when you are intimate with your husband and you do not want to think these thoughts. That’s understandable as you love him very much and desire to be faithful to him in mind, body, and spirit.
Again, these thoughts may be due to media you innocently viewed and have in your mind, or they may merely be just fantasies. Fantasies can happen during intimacy. For some people it’s disturbing while others just let them pass.
The thing about unwanted thoughts is that the more we think about avoiding them or getting rid of them, the stronger they can get. Often, the best course of action is to ignore them and let them pass.
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By doing so, you are not empowering the thoughts, but dismissing them. Sister, to some extent we cannot control what we think unless we purposefully look at porn, seek out sexual images, or otherwise directly seek this type of stimulation.
Most likely, it’s your mind being curious and active regarding what it may be like to be with someone else. This can be a disturbing thought, especially if you love your husband, as you do, but please rest assured that it is probably just normal fantasies that occur with a lot of men and women.
It most likely is just passing fantasies however as you fear Allah and love your husband, but they are bothersome. If they get too bothersome, don’t hesitate to seek help.
To Tell Your Husband or Not?
Sister, you asked whether you should tell your husband or not, and I would kindly advise you not to tell him. It would only hurt him. He may be aware that it is human nature to fantasize occasionally, but it is not something a spouse wants to hear.
You are not betraying him nor cheating on him as you are not actively seeking these stimuli. Therefore, it may be best to keep this to yourself at this time. Again, the more you worry about it and focus on the content, the stronger these thoughts will become.
If you tell your husband, it may create a situation in which he will be constantly asking you about your thoughts, which could make them worse. He may also feel self-doubt and low self-esteem regarding intimacy.
Therefore, there is no need to tell him as the outcome may be harmful. The only time I would advise you to discuss this with him, is if it does turn out to be intrusive thoughts related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Even then, when discussing it he may not need to know the intimate details as it would not be a benefit to him.
Focus on Your Husband
Sister, I kindly recommend that you focus on your husband as much as possible during intimacy. Try to get more actively engaged with him visually. If an image comes to your mind of another man, don’t be alarmed or get upset, just let it pass and then visualize your husband.
In this way, you are training your mind to associate intimacy with your husband only and in shaa’ Allah after a time, these other thoughts should decrease and disappear.
Please don’t worry extensively about these images and thoughts. That gives them power. If you are extremely bothered, you may want to visualize a stop sign to interrupt them or engage in a different activity.
The more anxious you become, the more they will be feared and reinforced. Let them come and go and dismiss them. In shaa’ Allah they will eventually fade away without reinforcement.
If they do not go away but are increasing or interfering with your life, please seek an assessment and counseling in your area to rule out any anxiety disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Make duaa’ to Allah to help you learn to dismiss these thoughts.
Ask Allah SWT to remove these thoughts from your mind. Get into the habit of reading Qur’an daily as it will strengthen your resolve and provide many blessings in shaa’ Allah.
We wish you the best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.