When people talk about sexual fantasies, they may be talking about something they've conjured up in their imagination — a tryst with a celebrity crush, something pulled from porn, or a threesome that they may not even want to have IRL. But there's a lot to be said for having many varied fantasies.
"Fantasy is free space," sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein tells Bustle. "It doesn't always make sense and it doesn't have to." Your fantasies should run as wild as your imagination allows, but new research shows that the most beneficial kind of fantasy might actually be something a little closer to home.
Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that fantasizing about your current partner can actually help your relationship. Researchers at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel found that fantasies about your partner help promote "relationship-building behaviors".
The researchers utilized four different students to find out how dyadic fantasies (fantasies about your partner) and extra-dyadic fantasies (fantasies about someone else) affected relationships. In the first two studies, people in relationships were asked to fantasize about their partner or about someone else and then asked to rate their interest in relationship-promoting activities. While some of these actives were sexual and some weren't, the researchers found that those who had engaged in dyadic fantasies were more likely to want to participate in activities that would strengthen their relationship.
It's easy to see why this would be a huge win. Strengthening your relationship is clearly always a good thing — plus it can help protect you against complacency, make you more open to compromise during a disagreement, and help you stay devoted to each other. When you feel connected, everything is better in your relationship.
In the following two studies, the researchers tried to delve deeper into the motivations and understand why people who fantasize about their partner are more drawn toward strengthening their relationship. They asked participants to track their fantasies and their relationship interactions for either three weeks or six weeks, including any feelings they were having about the relationship, positive or negative.
Fantasizing about their partner was found to make that partner appear more appealing, which may not be a surprise. Not only that, it also had another benefit — negative perceptions about the relationship also decreased when participants fantasized about their partner. In that way, fantasies helped create an almost cyclical effect: you start to view your partner as more attractive and feel more positive about the relationship, which gives you more to fantasize about, and the cycle continues.
Plus, it can do wonders for your sex life. “Personal sexual desires and fantasies are normal and healthy, even when we’re with a partner,” Sandra LaMorgese PhD, author, former dominatrix, and CEO of Attainment Studios. “However, for a deeper connection, bringing your partner into your fantasies emotionally and physically can turn sex into an erotic dance between our imagination, emotions, and bodies.”
So keep fantasizing about your partner and, if you feel comfortable doing so, consider letting them know what's going on and helping turn those fantasies into a reality.