What you need to know:
- Sexual fantasies range from stories to thoughts of sexual or romantic interactions.
- They can be realistic and involve memories of past encounters, or completely imaginary experiences.
- Fantasies might be common where one partner’s needs are not met or where the woman has been listening to her friends talk about how good their partners are in bed.
Sexual and romantic fantasies happen more often than many sexual partners will want to admit. According to Dr. Seth Meyers a psychologist and author of Love Prescription, fantasies happen because no one person can fully meet every sexual or romantic need of the other.
“You should know and accept that your partner may fantasise about other people,” he says.
Why and how they happen
According to Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, a professor of psychology, sexual fantasies will include any mental imagery that is sexually arousing. “Sexual fantasies range from stories to thoughts of sexual or romantic interactions. They can be realistic and involve memories of past encounters, or completely imaginary experiences,” she says. People who fantasise the most tend to enjoy sex more. “These fantasies are used to intensify arousal and mostly involve making love to a past, present, or imaginary partner. They are also used to imagine sexual ideas that go outside the box without the risk of rejection,” says psychologist Dr. Chris Hart.
Fantasies might be common where one partner’s needs are not met or where the woman has been listening to her friends talk about how good their partners are in bed. Couples who have been together for a long time may also fantasise about being with other people. “This is natural. What is unnatural is to have such a fantasy while you’re in the act with your partner on a regular basis,” says Meyers.
Types of fantasies
A study on sexual fantasies that involved 4,000 participants in 2018 established seven main fantasies. This study was conducted by Dr. Justin Lehmiller and the results were published in the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life.
Erotic flexibility: This involves role-playing and exploration of different personas. It is meant to allow partners to inject something new and different into their sex life while subverting sexual and cultural expectations.
Passion and romance: This involves the good old romance. From candle-lit dinners to bubble baths, eye contact, flirtatious, intimacy on flower beds.
Multi-partner sex: This involves sexual intercourse with more than one person.
Taboo and forbidden sex: This often borders on illegalities such as voyeurism and exhibitionism, and applies to a smaller group of people.
Non-monogamy: This involves open relationships, swinging of partners (exchanging partners), and polyamory.
Power and control sexual intimacy: This involves the unconventional bondage, discipline, and dominance, and submission type of intimacy.
Adventurous: This involves spontaneous sexual intercourse in adventurous places such as the beach, on a safari, in the forest, or on a mountain top. This type of fantasy is meant to achieve the thrill of trying something new and the risk of being caught doing it.
The most popular reasons people have sexual fantasies according to the study include to experience sexual arousal, curiosity to have different sexual sensations and experiences. The need for sexual fulfillment was ranked as the third reason why people have fantasies. The lowest ranked reason for fantasies was to compensate for an unattractive or undesirable partner. This was followed by the desire to block distractions during sexual intercourse, unfulfilled emotional needs, the need for sexual confidence, and boredom and anxiety.
The flip side
Psychologist Patrick Musau cautions that there are forms of fantasies that should never be converted into actual acts. “Certain forms of fantasies are illegal and downright immoral. They should not go beyond the realm of the fantasy,” he says. In the same vein, untamed sexual fantasies could turn into forms of emotional cheating. This may include regular and conscious instances where your thoughts are totally diverted to another man when having sex with your main partner. “A lady in such a situation could be – in her mind – having sex with the other man and not her partner. This is a form of cheating,” says Musau. There are partners who fantasise about sex with people they admire outside their primary relationship to achieve an orgasm. “This shows that whereas fantasising is normal, there could be a defect in your relationship and sex life,” says Musau. This defect could range from unmet sexual needs and boredom to an unskilled and rigid partner.
Don’t fight your fantasies
Sexual fantasies could be the key that will unlock better intimacy and more varied ways of realising sexual satisfaction in your relationship.
“Sexual fantasies need not be criminalised if they don’t infringe on basic morality and legalities,” says Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach and the author of A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. Instead of fighting your fantasies, learn to explore what they are saying about your sexual needs. “If you’re constantly fantasising about the same man, what qualities does he have that you feel your partner lacks? Is there something about your partner’s appearance, mannerisms or behavior that is driving you away mentally?” says Susan Krauss, the author of The Search for Fulfillment. Your response to these questions will give you insights that you can share with your partner. “This does not require you to table your fantasies, but rather discuss what they might represent,” she cautions.