What Cheating Fantasies Really Mean

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a licensed sex psychotherapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: what to do if you have cheating fantasies — and why you might be having cheating fantasies in the first place.

Q: My partner and I just had “the talk” and are now officially a monogamous couple. Things have been going great, but lately I’ve been having fantasies and even dreams about cheating on him. Even weirder, sometimes the fantasies are with men, and sometimes they're about women, which is confusing to me, since I've never been with a girl. I feel guilty about it, but I keep having the fantasies when I sleep, and even during sex. What do all of these dreams and fantasies mean? What should I do? Does it mean we should break up?

A: Thanks for your question! Fantasies are tricky, and dreams about cheating can be even more complex. Let’s dive right into six possible explanations for your cheating fantasies, and what to do for each.

Possibility #1: You’re Scared of Commitment

The Reason: I’m not positive about the timing of events in your question, but it sounds like you may have started having these fantasies after the two of you became official. That’s interesting timing. Even if you’re excited to start a new relationship, there could still be a part of you that feels scared of commitment. That fear may be surfacing in your fantasies by making cheating look tempting.

What To Do: It’s perfectly natural to be a little afraid of commitment; most people are! But being scared doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with your partner, or that you need to end the relationship. If you notice fear coming up, say to yourself, “it’s OK to be afraid. My partner is worth taking this risk.” Allow yourself to acknowledge your feelings, and they’ll dissipate in time. If they don't, well, then, you need to talk with your partner. (More on that below.)

Possibility #2: You’re Just Fired Up

The Reason: This relationship is relatively new, and you’re probably still in the “honeymoon” phase with each other. For the majority of couples, this is the most sexually-intense period of the relationship. It’s possible that you’re having fantasies simply because you have so much sexual energy right now.

What To Do: Let yourself to get turned on by the fantasies, and bring all of that intensity and passion into your relationship. If you wake up from a sexy dream, roll over and pounce on your partner. If you catch yourself daydreaming, send your partner a dirty text.

Possibility #3: You’re Interested In An Open Relationship

The Reason: Have you ever been in an open relationship, or ever considered non-monogamy? Are you having threesomes or orgies in any of your fantasies? You may be fantasizing about multiple people because you’re curious about having multiple partners.

Is your partner present in any of your fantasies or dreams, but not participating in the fun? One particular twist on this explanation is that you may be turned on by the idea of having your partner watch you have sex with another person. The hetero terms for this fetish are hotwifing (a woman who has sex with another man while her primary male partner watches) and cuckolding (a man who enjoys watching his female partner hook up with another man). These are surprisingly common fantasies.

What To Do: If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, keep in mind that people don’t always need or want to act out all of their fantasies. It’s perfectly fine to keep them as part of your internal fantasy world. Spend some time considering whether you’re happy keeping these fantasies in your mind, or if you’d like to experiment with them in real life. If you are curious about trying them out, start introducing the idea to your partner now. (Here's how.)

Possibility #4: You’re Upset About Something

The Reason: Sometimes people cheat as a way to hurt their partner or get revenge against them. Dreaming about cheating can be a sign of unresolved frustration or anger. You’re early in your relationship, but there still might be something that you’re upset with your partner about.

What To Do: If it feels like you and your partner have unresolved conflicts, or if you’re not letting your partner in on how you’re really feeling, the only thing you can do is talk to them and try to fix things between the two of you. You may even want to consider couples therapy to iron out your issues before you get more serious.

Possibility #5: You’re Feeling Unfulfilled

The Reason: One of the most straightforward explanations is that you’re fantasizing about other people because you’re feeling sexually unfulfilled in your relationship. Maybe the two of you aren’t exactly having a typical sex-filled “honeymoon” period. Perhaps you have a higher sex drive than your partner.

I also see this come up occasionally with bisexual people. When you’re attracted to both genders, sometimes getting into a relationship with one gender feels like you’re leaving part of your identity behind. It can feel hard to identify with your bisexuality when you’re in a homosexual or heterosexual relationship. (Please note that this does not mean that bisexual people are more likely to cheat.) If you’re bi, or might be bi, having fantasies about people who are the opposite sex of your partner might mean you're feeling unfulfilled.

What To Do: There are lots of possibilities here. It may be that you and your partner aren’t sexually compatible. It’s always sad to be compatible in every other place except the bedroom, but sexual compatibility is important to the health of any relationship. As a sex therapist, I can assure you that you don’t want to be in a sexually incompatible relationship.

If your partner isn’t meeting your sexual needs, there’s also the possibility of opening up your relationship. There are lots of different arrangements to consider.

If you are bi but want to be monogamous, it may be useful to acknowledge the sadness that naturally comes along with being in this relationship. Validating your feelings can go a long way.

Possibility #6: You’re Human

The Reason: It’s really important for you to know fantasies can be just that — fantasies. Sometimes our fantasies are clues or signals to something deeper, but sometimes they’re just something that turns us on. A lot of people fantasize about cheating because the idea of being “naughty” and “breaking the rules” can be arousing. It doesn’t mean you want or need to cheat in real life.

What To Do: Give yourself permission to fantasize! Don’t buy into temptation to over-analyze them or turn them into anything more than they are. You might just be human.

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