Fantasizing never hurt anyone.


  • When it comes to having sexual fantasies while in a relationship, people often pretend like they do not exist.
  • A sexual fantasy is any thought that gives someone sexual pleasure.
  • Fantasizing is the brain’s way of projecting a future scenario or trying ideas on for size.
  • Having an imagination, even a sexual one, is healthy.

Sexual fantasy gets a bad rap. You can fantasize about winning the lottery, acquiring a new physique, or eating a delicious meal. But sexual fantasy? C’mon, you shouldn’t be doing that!

Let’s Start With a Definition

A sexual fantasy is any thought that gives us sexual pleasure. This runs full spectrum beginning with fleeting thoughts that are so rudimentary that we could call them “pre-verbal,” like when we glimpse an attractive part of someone out of the corner of our eye (a person’s hair, clothing, manner of walking, etc.). At the opposite end of the same spectrum, we might fantasize a detailed narrative that includes a memory of a truly wonderful weekend up in a cabin overlooking the ocean with a special someone from our past.

Having Sexual Fantasies While in a Relationship

When it comes to having sexual fantasies while in a relationship, we often pretend like they do not exist. We ignore, lie, and suppress these fantasies as if having them brings in a number of shame-based, irrational, and IF-THEN beliefs. For example, IF you engage in sexual fantasy THEN you don’t really love me OR you want to have an affair OR you’re going to have an affair OR I’m not enough for you OR you don’t find me attractive OR you never really loved me OR you’re going to leave me OR you’re a sexual deviant, pervert, and very bad person.

The Truth About Sexual Fantasy

Just as fantasizing about being a world-class jewel thief doesn’t mean you’re going to become a thief, having sexual fantasies doesn’t mean you’re going to act on them. Fantasizing is our brain’s way of projecting a future scenario or trying ideas on for size. It’s also a way of reliving a wonderful moment or deriving comfort or pleasure from an alternative reality.

Fantasizing vs. Poor Decision-Making

Have you ever played “Cops and Robbers” or a similar fantasy-based game as a kid? Even then, as a 5-year-old, we knew the difference between make-believe and reality. Some of you might be thinking, but some of those kids did grow up to become bank robbers, so the fantasies can be very dangerous for some people, right? No, they can’t. Fantasizing never hurt anyone. Poor decision-making, on the other hand, can lead to hurtful consequences, and the one is entirely different from the other.

Imaginations Are Healthy

Having an imagination, even a sexual one, is healthy. If your partner shares fantasies that are different than yours (or that may not even include you) it doesn’t really mean anything about you. Our imaginations are vastly different from one person to the next and shouldn’t that difference be a thing worth celebrating rather than getting upset about?

Ask Yourself

The main question to ask yourself is, “Are the people you fall in love with going to stop fantasizing about what turns them on?” I’m guessing they won’t, not even if we stigmatize those fantasies and let our partners know that such fantasies, if they ever became known, would spell the end of the relationship. This approach wouldn’t end the fantasizing, but it would likely spell the end to the free disclosure of information and the end of any real chance to know a certain dark side of our partners. (And by “dark,” I don’t mean evil, I mean those private parts of our thought life that we don’t routinely trot out into the light so that one and all can judge us.)

Accept the Challenge

When dealing with sexual fantasy, the challenge is twofold: to understand the context and to maintain a “positive feedback loop.” Reading context is sometimes hard but always necessary. After all, the same fantasies don’t necessarily mean the same thing to different people. Feedback loops are either negative or positive. A positive feedback loop encourages continued disclosure as in, “Tell me more” or “What about this turns you on?” Negative feedback puts the kibosh on further disclosure.

Sharing Is Love

Most often, being honest and sharing your sexual fantasies with your partner is an opportunity to build intimacy and gain a deeper love and understanding of one another. By sharing this part of ourselves with our partners, rather than suppressing our fantasies and keeping them to ourselves, we are communicating in a safe, honest, and intimate way. In other words, we are managing our sexuality intelligently, which allows us to build and maintain the types of relationships we all deserve.

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