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If you give yourself permission to look, lust or fantasize outside the bedroom, it can make life more difficult inside the bedroom. You may have experienced this during sex with your wife when suddenly you're hit with an extramarital thought, picture or fantasy.

What many men don't know is that during a sexual release the excitement center of the brain receives a rush of pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins and enkephalins. If you receive this chemical reward outside the bedroom while engaged in lust, fantasy or pornography, then you have just received the strongest chemical reward of your life for inappropriate sexual behavior.

Worse yet, you have now taken God's "sex glue" that was meant to be your reward and a bonding experience with your wife and attached it to the unreal world of fantasy. A man who has done this repeatedly over a period of time will create a strong neuropathic reward system in his brain for fantasy and will continue to struggle more with fantasies than other men.

To have a clear head in bed, you will have to fight the battle on two fronts: (1) outside the bedroom; (2) inside of the bedroom while you are being sexual with your spouse.

A good practical exercise for outside the bedroom is to consider your entertainment choices. In the Bible, Job said, "'I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl'" (Job 31:1, NIV). What enters your mind during a TV program or movie goes right past your consciousness into your subconscious thoughts.

Did you know that within three minutes of viewing television, you are as close to sleep as you can be while awake? That's one reason why these images, even commercials, lodge so deeply in your thought processes. For those of you who struggle in this area, you may want to try a "media fast" for a month or longer. If you continue to give yourself permission to lust here, it may cause you future struggles in the bedroom as well; so be careful!

Now, let's talk about life inside the bedroom. When you are being intimate with your wife, there are a few tips I can offer that will help you deal with the impure sexual thoughts that may pop into your head:

1. Keep your eyes open. Maintain eye contact during sexual intimacy with your spouse, and it can be a whole new experience for both of you. If you are busy looking at your wife, you are much less likely to have that fantasy time with your eyes closed.

2. Keep the lights on. When you keep the lights on, it's easier to see your wife. Even candlelight will do. This way you will "glue" to her sexually.

3. Speak in a nurturing way. When you're making love with your spouse, talk to her in a nurturing manner—no dirty talk!

If you talk to your wife you will be more engaged during the sex act, which leaves less empty time in your head for fantasy. If a thought does pop into your head, begin to talk lovingly to your wife. If it's hard for you to talk to her, look at her instead and have her look into your eyes. By practicing these three principles, you will enjoy better sex and be well on your way to overcoming those nagging fantasies.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author and sex therapist, and the founder and executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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