Thursday, June 9, 2011

Too Impulsive in Relationships?

Has any one ever driven you away because they called too frequently and left messages everywhere like pigeon droppings? How about the girl/guy who is always “accidentally” running into you? Do you find these things romantic, or do you feel stalked and grossed out?

You know it’s icky when it happens to you - but have you ever, acting on impulse, done something similar?

Are you currently with someone, or were you in the past, who’s e-mail you read when it was left unattended? Do you check up on him/her via Facebook? And of course there is the wallet or purse, object of snooping temptation through the ages. He or she is taking a shower, so it’s safe to look - do you?

I don’t think that there isn’t anyone alive who hasn’t committed an impulsive act when in love, and hasn’t regretted it later. We know instinctively that it demeans us, and if repeated often will do great damage to our self-image and esteem. We make ourselves pathetic in the eyes of the one person we want to impress.

We know (and they know) the truth, which is that people who feel secure and confident within themselves don’t chase after anyone or spy on them. We know that real liking, loving and faithfulness happen organically and in their own time, and that we should trust that process.

When I was 12 years old I liked a boy in school a little more than he evidently liked me. My mom noticed that I was making quite a few calls to his house, and I felt humiliated when she caught me doing it. I remember hating the anxious feelings that made me pick up the phone again and again. After the inevitable mom-talk, she gave me what was probably the best advice she ever gave me (I have a very generous amount to choose from here! Sorry Mom!)

She said, “The next time you feel you have to pick up the phone, call me instead, no explanations necessary.”  I gave it a try. From my own phone in my room, I remember calling downstairs - probably only a few times. The agitation I felt that made me pick up the phone in the first place was getting weaker and passed more quickly. Soon I just switched my attention to something else all by myself. It was over.

If you have repeatedly acted on an impulse in love, and promised yourself afterwards that you will never ever do it again, know that for most people that almost never works. On the bright side, you have come to Step 1: Realizing You Need To Stop, and that is big.

All you need now is to complete Step 2: Deciding Which ACTION You Will Take Instead.  Going back to 12-year old Heidi, the action I took instead was calling mom.
There is a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that replacing bad habits with good ones  is the most successful way to change impulsive behavior.

So, if calling and leaving too many messages is your impulse problem, call a good friend instead.  For running “accidentally” into someone, decide in advance where you will go, or what you will do to occupy yourself instead. When his/her e-mail, Facebook account, or wallet are tempting you, decide in advance that you will turn and walk away, and say to yourself proudly, “This is not who I am!”

You will find that these temptations and impulses will lessen more and more, and your self-esteem will noticeably grow. Eventually, you’ll feel like you’re just not “that” kind of person anymore, you’ll be free!

Good luck with your goal!


  1. nice one Dr. I liked the part of replacing it with a good habit. :),it works.

  2. I needed this. "This is not who I am!" I love your advice on the "if/then" approach to being more successful with our goals. Thank you.

  3. Little Heidi was 12year-old girl, but sometimes it happens to adult and there's no mom to switch you.I like the article v much but for general personality.