Why Monogamous Couples Should Still Fantasize About Other People
If you're in a monogamous relationship and occasionally find yourself drifting into a sizzling fugue (about somebody hot on TV, for instance, or a person you've just met), you may absolutely freak out. Does this mean you're unhappy? Are you going to be tempted to cheat? Are you sexually unfulfilled? Is everything going horribly wrong because your brain can't keep its hands to itself? Short answer: no. Longer answer: sexual fantasies are actually a healthy part of a long-term monogamous relationship, and in no way guarantee you're going to get in bed with anybody else.
There are, as we'll discover, significant differences between being comfortable with experiencing fantasies, sharing them with your partner, or acting them out. The key component to take away, though, is that sexual fantasy is, by and large, completely harmless, and pretty beneficial when it comes to libido and continued interest in your partner. You've pledged not to bonk anybody else; that doesn't mean you don't have eyes, or an imagination.
So if you're worried about those recurring fantasies involving several of the characters from Game Of Thrones, read on for some reassurance. You are neither crazy nor a cheat.
Sexual Fantasies Don't Necessarily Mean You're More Likely To Cheat
There's not a lot of science about any link between fantasies and cheating, but it's certainly not a straight line. A survey by sex toy company Lovehoney found that the correlation between fantasy and fulfillment is actually pretty small, and it also didn't identify whether people who did the fantasized deed (like sleeping with their boss) were single or not, so we can't hypothesize about cheating from that. Meanwhile, The Normal Bar, a worldwide survey of romantic relationships, discovered that fantasy is no reflection on the happiness or unhappiness of a relationship. No, you aren't desperately wishing to get out of dodge.
In addition, the benefits of having fantasies for long-term monogamous sexual relationships (namely, that they provide novelty and sexual stimulation) seem to far outweigh the potential that you'll act on your non-monogamous fantasies. Sex therapists prescribe it regularly for struggling couples as a new flavor to help poor or fading sexual connections.
One psychologist in Psychology Today pointed out that it's actually aggressive over-control of your partner's fantasies, in the form of jealous forbidding, that can lead to "resentment and rebellion," in the form of infidelity. In other words, trying to damage or limit a partner's fantasy life can seriously backfire. Healthy fantasy and monogamy, it seems, are much more comfortable bedfellows than you may think.
They're An Important Part Of Maintaining Sexual Desire
Desire and fantasy are not the same thing. Fantasy is a completely imaginary space in which you can pursue anything with anybody; desires are those things you wish to carry out in reality, in your physical sexual life. Some fantasies are best left just that (and remain healthy and legitimate): erotic experiences with strangers when you're monogamous, for instance. Desires can feature aspects of fantasy that convert into reality. And it seems that fantasy is actually a pretty vital part of sexual desire in general.
A 2007 study made this link particularly clear, by discovering that fantasy is actually an integral part of how adult humans experience desire. The study from the University of Granada looked at 608 people between 13 and 43, and found that there was a clear correlation: the more sexual fantasies people had, the more sexual desire they experienced. Crucially, whether the fantasies were "realistic" or not (i.e. whether they'd been converted into desires) was not assessed, but it's legit to think that quite a lot of them were never going to be fulfilled. So it turns out that fantasizing about a Hemsworth brother is actually directly feeding into your libido, not "intellectually cheating".
The fantasy-desire link was also the same in both sexes. Women's sexual desire has been the subject of many daft myths over the years, and many people still find it surprising that they experience both desire and fantasies in high quantities. The scientists did point out, though, that women tended to be more anxious about sex, and that could inhibit their fantasies and, in turn, their desire levels.
... And They Can Be A Way Of Examining Your Relationship
Fantasies, it turns out, don't only fuel desire levels and libido: it's also a possible key to diagnosing intimate issues and ideas that might be hurting your relationship. A study in 2013 found that there's actually a link between the type of fantasy you have and the type of attachment style you exhibit towards your relationships. Attachment styles, some psychologists think, emerge when you're a baby: that's when you either become needy or rejecting of intimate attachment.
The scientists found that people who had anxiety-related sexual fantasies (like being humiliated) also followed those patterns in their relationships, while those with avoidant fantasies (like being aggressive to other people) were also avoidant in love. It seems pretty straightforward, but it's also an interesting potential clue: if you don't seem to be connecting to your partner on a level that satisfies either of you, the fantasies you like may be the key to identifying what you need and how you approach relationships.
However, experts do warn against sharing all your fantasies willy-nilly with your partner. Part of the point of a fantasy world is that it's private and intimate; not all of has to be shared with your partner, particularly if there's a strong chance they'll be hurt or jealous about its contents. Fantasies that you desperately want to convert into desires are definitely a good thing to consider discussing; but all of the drifting thoughts that happen when you're horny? You can keep them to yourself without feeling guilty.
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