Why We Fantasize About Others When We’re Attached

by Gigi Engle
Ashley Batz/Bustle

I have a reoccurring threesome fantasy that always comes back to me when I’m masturbating. (Two dudes. I'm not trying to share that attention). Sometimes my partner is one of the guys, and sometimes he’s not. I’ve done a lot of ~self-reflection~ on this, and have come to understand that I really like the idea of being with two dudes, but I wouldn’t enjoy it in practice. Maybe that’s why I like thinking about it, because I know it would never happen in real life.

Of course, then the guilt sinks in. Why am I thinking about having sex with anyone other than my partner, even if he were an active participant in said sex? Why am I thinking about threesomes that occasionally don’t include him? Is that, like, mind-cheating?

I know I’m not alone in this. When I’ve asked other, coupled friends if they ever think about other people, they always confirm that they do. One of my best friends recently told me that the only way she can have an orgasm is by thinking about Idris Elba during sex. Is that normal?

If you’re in a relationship, are you supposed to only want the person you’re dating? If you think about someone else, does that mean you don’t want the person you’re dating? Color me confused, Batwoman.

What is and what isn’t normal or OK to do? Why do we have sexual fantasies about people other than our partners? Let’s get to the bottom of this so I can f*cking sleep at night.

Our Imaginations Are What Make Us Truly Free

Sometimes I wonder if my fantasies are something I want to have materialize. Do I want to be vigorously pummeled by a man in a jockstrap, whilst I wear a ball gag? IDK, you tell me.

"Our imagination is polyamorous and is the only part of our lives that is truly free."

Dr. Jennifer Freed, a family behavioral specialist says that these fantasies are actually completely normal. It’s not your logical brain that is making you think about other lovers, it’s just the way your creative and wonderfully imaginative brain works, “Our imagination is polyamorous and is the only part of our lives that is truly free.” Dr. Freed tells Bustle. “In our imagination we are liberated from responsibility and constraint and we have an outlet for the many parts of ourselves that cannot be safely expressed in real life. As long as you feel closely connected and inspired in your primary relationship, fantasies are a functional part of a long-term relationship.”

I feel so much better about this now, don’t you? You’re not a freak for thinking about other people; you’re a multifaceted individual with a dirty mind, just like everyone else. C’est la f*cking vie.

Why Do We Even Think About This Sex-Stuff?

What happens in the brain when we’re thinking about ramming Ryan Gosling with a strap-on? Or when we're having a sapphic encounter with Dita Von Teese?

Sandra LaMorgese PhD, author, former dominatrix, and CEO of Attainment Studios says that it all has to do with your largest sex organ: your BRAIN.

"Fantasizing gives us a safe, personal sexual space to explore our own desire.”

“Since a large percentage of our sexual arousal happens in our mind, sexually fantasizing while we’re masturbating alone or even while having physical sex with our partner may help us to imagine a sexual experience that we wouldn’t feel comfortable having in reality,” LaMorgese tells Bustle. “Whether we’re imagining an extra-marital affair, a rape scene, a same-sex encounter, or doing it with a celebrity, fantasizing gives us a safe, personal sexual space to explore our own desire.”

Fantasy is lot like making art: It’s something you have to do to stay sane. We create fantasies in our mind to release some of our sexual energy.

Be Aware Of When You’re Fantasizing

Be in-tune with your fantasies. It could be a warning sign that there’s trouble in paradise. “[Fantasy] happens as an outlet, a compensation, and sometimes as a warning sign," Dr. Freed says. "When you obsessively fantasize about others, and feel less and less close to your partner, it can mean that you are drifting away from your commitment. It is crucial to wonder about those preoccupations and what they could signal about your lack of intimacy. If you find yourself avoiding sexual vulnerability with your partner by consistently checking out with fantasies, it is time to get some help for your intimacy issues.”

Hurray for gray areas, right? Instead of feeling guilty about the fantasies you’re having, take a look at your relationship. Are you truly happy? Do you feel emotionally close to the person you’re in a relationship with?

If you do, you have nothing to worry about. Fantasy is just another creative outlet for your brain. As long as you feel comfortable in your primary relationship, you have nothing to stress over.

If You Can Bring Your Partner Into The Magic, Do It.

Obviously, my threesome fantasy is not one my partner wants to imagine. He doesn’t like the idea of me with other dudes. I get that. Now, when I tell him about my robber and housewife fantasy, he is all over that noise. He’s ready to whip out the blindfolds and have at it.

If you can bring your partner in on the action without upsetting him or her, do it. “Personal sexual desires and fantasies are normal and healthy, even when we’re with a partner,” says LaMorgese. “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.”

If you can share some of those intense, sometimes disturbing, but usually hot fantasies with your partner, you can strengthen not only your sexual bond, but your emotional bond. It’s an experience that the two of you can have together and allows for greater sexual exploration.

So, to answer the question: Why do we fantasize when we’re in a relationship?

It’s because we’re human beings with very complicated brains and unlimited sexual possibilities. Enough said.