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Dating And Relationships - Overview | June 3, 2021, 10:40 CDT

Can Fantasizing About Others During Sex Ruin Your Relationship?
Daydreaming about that steamy barista probably doesn't always mean you're doomed

Written by

Rebekah Harding

Even if you're in a happy, monogamous relationship, you've probably caught yourself thinking about an attractive coworker, that hot stranger you saw at the store or your favorite Instagram model during sex. That's totally normal: 98 percent of men and 80 percent of women admitted to fantasizing about someone other than their partner in a 2010 study in the Journal of Sex Research.

For some, these fleeting thoughts may be a huge source of guilt. But don't beat yourself up: Carefully exploring these imaginary trysts might actually improve your sex life. "Monogamous couples may think that by fantasizing about others they're opening the door to cheating, lying and mistrust," said New York–based psychologist Thomas Whitfield. In actuality, he said, you're creating potential for a deeper connection and a more fulfilling experience.

Both men and women can experience sexual habituation—aka that decrease in desire—after getting it on with only one person long-term. Seeking out new stimuli is a biological urge, and you may hold little control over how your mind and body react to someone who catches your eye. Men ejaculate faster and produce a larger volume of sperm when exposed to sexual images of novel women, according to a 2015 study in Evolutionary Psychological Science.

98 percent of men and 80 percent of women admitted to fantasizing about someone other than their partner.

However, getting turned on by the idea of someone new doesn't mean you're going to cheat. There's no problem with occasionally fantasizing about someone else to help you get in the mood or reach the big O, but if you suspect these thoughts indicate you're growing bored with your bedroom routine, it might be time to have a chat with your partner. Discussing fantasies together—whether they involve another partner or a new kink—can help bring a sense of novelty into a long-term, monogamous relationship, even if you don't act on them.

Of course, if you and your partner are working through insecurities or trust issues, it's probably not a good time to bring up the way your mind wanders to other people when you're being intimate. Think about your partner's feelings before going into extreme detail about last night's wet dream, too. "Is it a close friend, an ex or even a coworker? If so, it's possible a partner could view the fantasy as a real threat," Whitfield said. "One of the keys to a successful conversation about fantasies is being able to view them from your partner's perspective, too."

To put your partner at ease, help them understand that you're trying to improve your relationship, not start a new one. "Fantasies shouldn't be examined as though they are actual wants or needs that an individual has," Whitfield continued. "The most important factor for couples to consider is the increased connection that can happen when those in a relationship share their deepest thoughts and emotions with their partners."

No matter how hard you try, there's a decent chance your mind will wander through a cast of third parties during sex. As long as you maintain sensible boundaries, these inadvertent cameos can help add spice to your sex life. Even if you keep them to yourself, it's OK to lose the guilt—after all, your partner is probably thinking about getting sweaty with their personal trainer, too.

Written by

Rebekah Harding

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