Sexual fantasies – who hasn’t had one? Whether they’re elaborate or pretty simple, you have to admit, they cross (or occupy!) your mind at least every once in a while. As it turns out, there are lots of answers to the question of what sexual fantasies can do for a relationship.
Maybe you were a bit more confident in your pre-long-term relationship days so you had the chance to explore some of those fantasies throughout the years. If you’ve played out different scenarios and experimented with different ways of having sex – good for you! It’s all with the good cause of sexual exploration and sexual self-knowledge.
But maybe you were shyer, wanted to “save” yourself for the right person. Maybe you experienced the thrill of desire and sexual fulfillment with only a few people you were committed to.
Whatever the case, fantasies are important for keeping desire alive. Even if you’ve managed to fulfill some of them in the past, you’d still want to use their power in a long-term relationship or marriage. Especially when desire wanes over time. Because fantasies are there when you need them the most.
What Counts as Sexual Fantasy?
Well, for starters, fantasies are much more than the orchestrated choreographies, costumes, and role-play that you often see in erotic movies and porn.
You can definitely introduce role-play as a way to freshen up your love life and fulfill a long-desired sexual fantasy. But that’s only a very narrow viewpoint of what sexual fantasy is.
But as Esther Perel says, “everyone has the capacity for fantasy”. If you don’t find yourself in the group of people that have elaborate sexual scenarios in their minds, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have sexual fantasies.
Sexual fantasies are actually a much broader category than what people initially think. They’re daydreams, they’re short or long(er), simple or more complex scenarios. They’re images, brief or extended sexual encounters and actions/activities playing out in your mind.
Basically, whatever helps you get sexually excited, whatever makes sex or masturbation more pleasurable. It can be a look you keep repeating in your mind. Or it can be a particular scene that you find enticing for some reason. Look at it as a story-making mental activity with endless potential.
The Two Main Types of Sexual Fantasies
Science has classified these pleasure-intensifiers into two main types, so let’s look at them briefly.
Turns out, there are two main types of sexual fantasies:
- Dyadic fantasies – these are the ones where you fantasize about your own partner;
- Extradyadic fantasies – fantasies where you fantasize about people other than your partner.
Gurit Birnbaum, an associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and her colleagues conducted a study about the effect sexual fantasies have on relationships. They looked at these two types of fantasies and guess what they came up with?
The results showed that when we fantasize about our own partners, it benefits the relationship. It makes us desire them more and improves our love lives.
But When Does Fantasizing Become Unhealthy?
Many people wonder whether it’s bad to fantasize about someone else other than their spouse/partner. The short answer is no. But, the long answer is that fantasizing about your own partner reflects more positively on the existing relationship, as we saw in the study.
Let’s look at the data, yet again.
Another joint study conducted by Gurit Birnbaum and her colleagues, says that it’s still not very clear whether extradyadic fantasizing, that is, fantasizing about people other than your partner, actually contributes to relationship satisfaction or is a result of it.
But, in the end, they agree upon something that’s the key point of this article – regardless of whether they’re the result of relationship troubles (which they can be), overall, fantasies are still a great aid when it comes to bolstering sexual arousal and satisfaction.
I mean, here’s a pretty straightforward excerpt from the study: “… more frequent fantasizing is associated with more frequent orgasms as well as greater sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction”.
There’s Also Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to refute what I said earlier. But being moderate is another key point here. Fantasies become unhealthy when you’re relying too much on them, instead of what you actually do in the sack.
If you spend too much time fantasizing about a person that’s not your partner you risk losing or sabotaging the intimacy you have with your partner. According to Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford, a marriage and family therapist, “fantasizing excessively can become a gateway for actual infidelities.”
Take it as a warning sign. Whenever you notice you’re too preoccupied with sexual fantasies that don’t involve your partner, address it. Do you notice you can’t get aroused from your partner unless you’re fantasizing about another person? Immediately address it. Talk with your partner about the issues you might be having in your relationship. Try something new, visit a couple’s therapist, or a sex therapist, but makes sure you do something about it.
Leaving this unaddressed can even lead to infidelities and can definitely cause trouble in your relationship or marriage.
What Can Sexual Fantasies Do For Your Relationship?
Sexual fantasies are good for both partners – for the one having them and for the one that enjoys their effects.
Fantasies Open Up Space to Explore Individual Desires
Sandra LaMorgese PhD, a former dominatrix, an expert and an author of two books about communication, intimacy, holistic health, and better sex life, claims that sex is as much of a mental thing as it is a physical one. The brain is as much of a sex organ as are your genitals.
Imagination, or fantasizing, is one of the unique traits of the human species. It’s a remarkable activity that allows for the construction of an endless variety of worlds and scenarios.
And, it’s an ability we all possess. It’s also space, an inner, mental space created by this ability that allows us to explore our own desires, sexual and otherwise.
Fantasies Help You Figure Out What You Want
That’s why sexual fantasies can be a gateway for a better personal understanding of your own attitude towards sex. They help to illustrate the anatomy of your desire – your sweet spots, what you want to be done to you during sex, what you like to do, etc. Once you have a clearer idea of this in your head it’s easier to communicate it to your partner.
What if My Partner Doesn’t Share My Sexual Fantasy/ies?
The variety of sexual fantasies is endless and it’s not uncommon for married people or people in long-term relationships to have unmatched sexual fantasies. And even if the person’s character, personal background, and sexual history have a part in why somebody has a certain type of sexual fantasy, the reasons behind it often remain a mystery.
But, don’t worry, because all is not lost if you have different sexual fantasies from your partner or if you find them somehow repulsive.
First of all, as Esther Perel says as well, fantasies are not reality. It doesn’t mean that whatever your partner wants is the exact same thing they’d like to see or play out in real life.
Fantasies are often a reflection of taboos and prohibitions in a given culture and society – fantasy allows for these to be transformed in the person so they can gain a sort of release from them.
And often, fantasies are not politically correct. That’s where part of their power lies. But, at the same time, this doesn’t mean that fantasies reflect reality as in a mirror. In fact, the ‘reality’ in fantasies is a little bit like in dreams – it’s subverted, it’s jumbled, and what’s more, it’s controlled.
Let’s Take the Classic ‘Rape’ Fantasy as an Example
Let’s look at the example of a controversial, but, as it turns out, a pretty common sexual fantasy – rape fantasy. A study has found that 62% of women have had a rape fantasy in their lives, which is definitely no small number!
But when you look at it closer, what happens in the rape fantasy is not the same as a real-life rape. The fantasy allows for a controlled environment, one from which you can exit at any given time. It doesn’t contain the violence or the fear of the real-life situation. In the fantasy, the experience of rape is transformed – it ceases to be a highly traumatic event; instead, it’s turned into forced seduction from which you can derive excitement and pleasure.
Don’t Ostracise Your Partner for Their Fantasy/ies
So, the next time your partner shares a fantasy that doesn’t go well with you, don’t reject them initially. Instead, remain curious and don’t shame them for having it.
The same goes if you’re the one who’s being rejected for your fantasy. What you can do is encourage your partner to look at it with fresh eyes. Encourage her to try and understand it from a joint perspective. Encourage them to inform themselves better about it – actually, do it together. Read about it – experiences, literature, even see erotic films if possible.
Whenever one of you decides to share a fantasy that the other initially finds disagreeable, you can both try asking each other these questions:
- What do you find pleasurable in that particular fantasy? Is it about control, is it about power and dominance? Or is it about surrender, is it about aggression? Maybe it’s about mercy, about seduction, about danger, prohibition?
This way we create a space where we can get to know our partner better, and have them know us. It’s a space where nobody gets deprecated or censured. Rather, it’s a space that allows you to understand the other person. A space that allows you to open up to new experiences and sexual novelty.
As we came to know throughout this article, sexual fantasies are generally helpful for boosting arousal and enjoyment in long-term partnerships/marriages.
But, it’s also worth noting that not all sexual fantasies need to be played out. They’re revelatory, they make stuff visible, as their ancient greek etymology also tells us. But not all of them need to come true.
This is because sexual fantasies serve different purposes. Sometimes they fulfill your urge to control everything and have every little detail set up in your head. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that will translate well in reality. But they give you the spur, the light, the spark that’s necessary to rekindle the dormant flames of desire. They give you the tools to transform the reality that you’re living.
When it comes to playing out fantasies it’s important to tune them into your reality. This also means communicating them adequately with your partner. And please don’t get discouraged if things don’t go as planned. That’s all part of the game really, and it’s another way to tailor your desires to this new reality you’ve created.