Ask A Sex Therapist: I fantasise about other people even though I’m in a relationship. Is that bad?


Is fantasising about others when you’re in a committed relationship wrong?

Laura Miano is a sex and relationship writer and sex therapist in training based in Melbourne. Her mission is to help those with sexual concerns as well as support individuals who might like to enhance their sex lives beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

“I fantasise about other people even though I’m in a relationship. Is that bad?” – Sex Fantasiser

Hey Sex Fantasiser,

In short, no. But I don’t blame you for asking! Fantasies are one of the most misunderstood sexual phenomena in our modern-day society, especially when they involve people other than our partners. Labelled ‘extradyadic fantasies’ in scientific terms, chances are you might have felt shame or guilt after ‘indulging’ in one, and in some cases, you might have even questioned whether it constitutes cheating.

This, my friend, is the product of living in a sex-negative culture. One that is still subtly, and by no means rid of, the burden from past generations’ ‘sex is sinful’ mentality. Even though we know this isn’t true nowadays, we still find ourselves feeling guilty about a simple thought, a thought that derives us pleasure and really isn’t hurting anyone (unless you act on it, of course).

Let’s think about this a little deeper. When you fantasise about someone other than your partner, what do you get out of it? I’m sure pleasure, arousal, or excitement spring to mind. What you might not have realised, is it also serves as a platform to explore your desires and let your (sexual) creative juices flow. In this respect, sexual fantasies can help your relationship by providing a resource for sexual inspiration – tune in, get creative, share that thought with your partner and try something new!

It’s important to remember we are sexual beings, tuned for reproduction and we haven’t evolved to be in monogamous relationships. Our minds aren’t wired to switch off our external sexual desires the moment we have the ‘let’s make it official’ chat with our new partners. It just doesn’t work this way. Of course, we can control our behaviour, just like we can wait patiently for our food at restaurants despite being desperately hungry, so I’m not trying to endorse cheating here.

In fact, many people have erotic thoughts about scenarios they would never want to experience in real life. There’s a big difference between fantasy and behaviour so no, you’re not cheating by thinking about an innocent extradyadic fantasy. In the safety and privacy of your own mind, tapping into these erotic processes can serve a very natural and functional purpose.

These purposes might include increasing sensory focus, quietening self-critical thoughts, enhancing arousal, facilitating orgasms, overcoming performance anxiety, heightening pleasure, and adding another layer to your sexual experience. You might have noticed that some of these processes occur during partnered sex, which brings me to my next point. Not only are extradyadic fantasies okay, but it’s also okay to have them while you’re having sex with your partner. You might even use it as a narrative for some dirty talk or simply as a way to share your deepest sexual desires.

This is all depending on whether your partner can handle this kind of stuff (and not all can, for obvious reasons). Of course, you also don’t have to share them with your partner, but just remember our behaviours (i.e. monogamy) aren’t consistent with our evolved psychology so these things are just the little quirks that our primitive minds living in our highly developed world will naturally experience. What I want to emphasise is you should not be feeling guilty or ashamed for this, just view it through a matter-of-fact lens – it is what it is.

In saying this, use your discretion with the advice I’m giving. If you find yourself tuning into your fantasies from start to finish during your sexual experience, in an effort to mentally escape during sex with your partner, this rings alarm bells. If this is you, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed, you might just need to unpack things with a sex therapist.

So, take some time to reflect on how much you rely on them. Fantasies are a sexual tool but not a means to escape. What I’m normalising is the former. Put simply, the take-home message here is: enjoy sex with your partner, tap into those fantasies when you feel like them and just keep being your fabulous shame-free sexual self.

See the other instalments in our Ask A Sex Therapist series here.

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