What I Learned About Fantasies From My Trip
Have you ever traveled somewhere new and fell in love with your new surroundings, while at the same time deepened your appreciation for what you do have?
A few weeks ago Emily and I dropped off our oldest son in Virginia for his first year of college. He’s an avid tennis player and attending Southern Virginia University, a small private liberal arts school in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It was my first time visiting that part of the country. We immediately fell in love with the charm of the area, probably because it’s so different!
The landscape is green as opposed to our red and coral desert landscape that we’re used to in Southern Utah. The towns in the area are small and spread out. There’s white picket fences and pastures with horses grazing. The people were friendly and welcoming. Our airbnb that we stayed at was upstairs from a bakery (which is an excellent idea, by the way) on a hobby farm.
It wasn’t long before I opened up the Zillow app and started looking at what real estate is available in the area. Real estate in rural Virginia is a fraction of the cost of where we live. It wasn’t long until we started talking about what life might be like if we lived out there instead of St George.
Fantasies help give you a fresh perspective on what you already have
After being away for a week, we came home with fresh eyes to our home town. The crimson mountain to our east that I see every day all of the sudden took on a new beauty, especially at sunset. The wide open skies and sandstone actually do have their own type of beauty. I also appreciate the familiarity I have with our city, and value how convenient it is for us to live here.
Fantasizing about what it might be like to raise our family in a very different place isn’t too different from sexual fantasies.
Exploring what it might be like living someplace else also simultaneously helped me gain a fresh appreciation for what I already have.
Sexual fantasies can do that for you. They let you explore and try on new ideas to break away from the mundane and ordinary. When used properly, they can deepen your appreciation for what you have as well as take your relationship to new heights!
I hope by the end of this article, you’re convinced of the value of sexual fantasies in your relationship as well as specific tools on how you can use your sexual fantasies to deepen your intimate connection as a couple as well as make sex really fun and exciting!
Along the way today, I’m going to answer questions I’ve received from many of you such as these:
“I’m embarrassed to tell my husband that I fantasize during sex. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“How do I tell my spouse about my fantasies?”
“I asked my wife what her sexual fantasies are. She said she doesn’t have any. I find it hard to believe anyone doesn’t have sexual fantasies. Does she really not have any or is she just reluctant to tell me?”
“I’m embarrassed about my fantasies. They’re inappropriate! What’s wrong with me?”
“My spouse keeps telling me about his fantasies and I’m put off by it! How do I tell him how I feel about it?”
What Are Sexual Fantasies?
Last Sunday while getting ready for church in our bedroom my wife Emily made a one-word comment that made us both laugh. She was playing with me. I was playing too. She knows some of my sexual fantasies and her comment was directed at one of them. It’s not something we were actually going to actually act out, in fact, because we couldn’t do it is what made it a fantasy… but the fact that we can play in that space of “what if” for a moment was enough.
Sexual Fantasies Use Sexual and Emotional Mental Imagery
Sexual fantasies are using mental imagery of sexual activity. Usually sexual fantasies involve an emotional component. Most of these mental images or scenes are enjoyable and arousing, but sometimes the mental images are unwanted and can leave you feeling guilty or ashamed.
Sexual fantasies don’t have to be salacious or gratuitous. They can be “vanilla” (and I say that in air quotes because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with vanilla) or quite spicy. Fantasies can be nice additions to your banquet of sexual experience. Sexual fantasies used well are not about replacing our current experience or spouse, but like those Russian nesting dolls, sexual fantasies add another layer or dimension to the good you already enjoy.
The emotional component of fantasies is important to note. A few months ago My wife and I were looking online to possibly buy a piece of furniture for our home. We came across a photo of a uniquely designed sofa that had models on the sofa, in a provocative pose. The expression on their faces was that of ecstasy and delight in each other’s presence in their intimate moment. My mind went wild with all the possibilities if we had that kind of sofa in our bedroom… I felt an urge to buy the sofa – not because I particularly like that sofa, but I wanted to feel what that model couple was feeling. The feeling of abandon, lost in each other, feeling deep pleasure, feeling desired and the pride I feel in my ability to turn on my wife because of how good I am at doing her – those are the emotions that flooded into me.
So oftentimes the fantasy is the vehicle (in this case, the endless possibilities of enjoying each other on a sofa) to a feeling that you’re really after (in this case, abandon, desire, and self-esteem).
By the way, now I know why they call it a loveseat 🙂
It’s Normal To Fantasize
Our brains are incredible sex organs and probably underutilized in most marriages. The better you can involve your mind in lovemaking the more satisfying sex can become. Sexual fantasies use the creative part of your brain, and the human brain is good at fantasizing.
Really good, in fact. According to a recent study by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, an American psychologist studying sexual fantasies, reported that 97% of adults have sexual fantasies!
Sigmund Freud used to think that fantasizing about sex was considered an illness. The thinking then was that you fantasize because you’re unsatisfied. However, the study shows that those who exhibit the fewest sexual issues and the least dissatisfaction are likely to fantasize to the greatest extent. This is backed up by a review of findings released by the American Psychological Association in 1995 that concludes that sexual fantasy was neither a disease nor a mark of dissatisfaction (thank goodness!). They concluded that Rather, not having sexual fantasies is considered a pathology because having them is so common and natural.
It’s also common to fantasize during sex. According to Sex Educator Lou Paget, most people fantasize during sex for three reasons: You’re using your brain and imagination to kick-start, enhance, and add variety to their intimate experiences that are otherwise routine and regular as a way of remaining committed and monogamous.
She goes on to say, “Many people I speak with feel there must be something wrong or missing if they fantasize during sex about something sexual that 1) they have done before 2) they haven’t done before 3) that involves someone other than their partner turning them on. No, it just means you have a memory of what works for you and there are ways to incorporate your preferences into your relationship.”
If your fantasies become the ONLY condition that enables you to be intimate and sexually turned on, or if you become obsessive or compulsive about your particular fantasy, or if you’re concerned your fantasy could harm someone, perhaps it’d be good to seek coaching.
Kinds Of Fantasies
I would say sexual fantasies fall into one of three categories:
- Fantasies you keep to yourself
- Fantasies you share with your spouse that you’d be willing to act out
- Fantasies you share with your spouse that are just that – a fantasy and should stay in the fantasy world, something you wouldn’t act out.
It’s fun and enjoyable to discuss and play there because it stays in the fantasy world. And it should stay there. For example, you may never actually want to have sex on the beach in the middle of the day (getting caught or sand in your private parts may not be your thing). But this might be something you would love to engage in at least in a fantasy world. You can imagine how it would feel to be bathed in sunlight, with the sound of waves crashing, and how incredibly sexy it would be to feel naughty in the moment (you get the idea). You may choose to keep this fantasy just as a fantasy and play on that.
“What You Can’t Give in Real Life You Can Give in Fantasy”
Sometimes your spouse may want something sexually that you feel like you can’t give them for whatever reason. It’s common in many marriages to have differences in sexual preferences. For example, one person may want to engage in a wider variety of sex positions or behaviors than the other.
I got this tip from a book about parenting young children I read once, and have used it in my parenting to some degree of success. The author said something to the effect of “what you can’t give in real life you can give in fantasy.” The scenario was it’s a half hour before dinnertime and your child asks if they can have a bowl of ice cream. You don’t think they should have ice cream right before dinnertime.
You could tell your child, “No, that’s a bad idea for even wanting ice cream when we’re about to have dinner.” Or you could give them ice cream in fantasy, where you imagine giving them scoops into an imaginary ice cream cone and handing it to them, asking them how it tastes. Sometimes the child just wants the experience of expressing wants in the moment rather than being scolded about their desires.
This principle also works sexually. You can play in the fantasy – this is an opportunity to express acceptance and love of the other’s sexuality by describing what you WOULD do if you could do it. This has worked really well in my own marriage on occasion and we both feel closer afterwards, even if the actual request wasn’t granted.
Men’s fantasies usually revolve around two feelings they’re after:
- Having amazing prowess and sexual skill. Masculine energy, in general, is directed, focused, erect, and about “doing.” Fantasies around being able to “do” better are common for men.
- Doing something to drive their woman out of her mind with pleasure.
In fact, when you read journal accounts of men writing about their peak sexual experiences, 9 times out of 10 the man writes about how turned on the woman was and how pleasurable her experience was. For a large majority of men they find so much joy, pleasure, and satisfaction out of bringing their wife to new heights of pleasure. Even if the sexual act is done on him (such as a woman performing oral sex on him), the fantasy usually involves her enjoyment and being really turned on by his essence in performing the act. So it wouldn’t surprise me that most fantasies that men have revolve around their wife’s pleasure.
Women are more likely to fantasize about these three things:
- Being seduced.
- Exercising the power of her sexuality
- Being so desirable that a man can’t resist her. This is where many romance stories have their plot arc. The Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is appealing because he’s willing to break social norms to pursue Elizabeth Bennett, because he finds her so compelling.
What Do Other People Fantasize About?
You’re now probably curious what other people’s top fantasies are. Researchers have surveyed people on what their top fantasies are. Before I tell you the list, I want to share this tidbit with you that I found comforting and in line with my own experience too:
In practice, research by sex expert, Justin J. Lhemiller, found that most adults fantasize about trying something new with their partners (not other people). This can include role playing or acting like strangers with their spouse. We assume women predominantly want to be romanced but men and women alike also had romantic fantasies, with both expressing a desire to feel loved, wanted, and appreciated.
Around nine out of 10 people surveyed fantasized about their own partners, with over 50% saying that they did so often. Their most common fantasies involved trying something a little out of the book with their partner rather than experiencing ‘taboo’ or ‘forbidden’ scenarios.
That being said, here are some categories of fantasies that people like:
1. The Dominance or Submission Dynamic Fantasy
I heard a story about a woman that’s an attorney and owns her own law firm. Every day she’s in a very masculine-energy world directing others in her company and working with clients and dealing with cases. However, she married a very gentle man that’s not he dominant type, which works well for their relationship most of the time. However, in bed the last thing she wants is to “be the boss” again. She craves to be taken. One day she got the guts to tell her husband that she wants him to tie her up and have his way with him. He was taken aback by this, as it wasn’t in his nature. But because he loves this woman and was willing to try (and fail a few times along the way), he did it with gusto and she absolutely loved surrendering to him.
Dominance and submission need not include tying up your spouse. This could be playing out a fantasy like someone’s in charge of the other, like a hierarchy of sorts, but part of the sexual play. This can include one being in a role of authority (such as a doctor with a nurse, or a teacher with a student).
2. Romance and Seduction Fantasy
These fantasies are high in romance: flowers, gifts, going out of one’s way and maybe even breaking social norms because of a compelling desire to be with the other. It’s about singing love songs, opening doors, and filling a bubble bath topped with rose petals. This is about slow dancing to music.
There’s also the part of seduction in these fantasies, such as dressing a particular part to catch the other’s eye. Or being irresistible.
A friend told me about a memorable wedding anniversary where she and her husband decided ahead of time that they were going to arrive at the Las Vegas hotel at different times, and meet downstairs in the casino. He was going to try to hit on her and pick her up. The idea of being so compelling that a stranger (in this case it’s just a pretend stranger) would stop to talk to her and try to seduce her was super erotic for both of them.
3. Voyeuristic / Exhibitionistic Fantasy
Just a reminder we’re talking about fantasy here, not real life. These two terms mean you’re being viewed or you’re showing off your sexyness somehow. Fantasies in this category might include undressing where your spouse can see you, or showering or bathing and letting them watch you sensually touch yourself in the process. Some people find it hot to be looked upon. Others find it fun to look.
4. The Forbidden Fantasy
Sometimes a fantasy is exciting just because it’s forbidden. In podcast episode #80 my guest Jessica Vaughn shared a story about how she and her husband decided to sneak onto a soccer field in the middle of the night to have sex. The thrill of doing something risky like that was really exciting. Just as they were cleaning up after themselves, two police cars pulled up and… you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out what happened next. But you can see how doing something naughty and forbidden can be exciting because it’s naughty and forbidden. Same goes with certain sex acts or locations that are exciting precisely because they’re naughty or forbidden to do. Some fantasies around two strangers meeting up and having wild passionate sex exciting precisely because it’s forbidden to do such a thing.
5. Group Sex, Such as Threesomes
These are common fantasies that people have. One person explained to me why this fantasy was so exciting to him: the idea that he’s so manly and sexual that one woman at a time isn’t enough.. That he’s so good at sex he can satisfy two women at once. Just for the record, this isn’t something I’m endorsing – I believe sex is to be between a married couple only – but the feelings that this fantasy puts off can be a part of your intimate play with a bit of creativity.
You might have a fantasy that you don’t want to have… that you’re ashamed of it. You don’t like that this particular sexual image pops in your mind. Sometimes you want to un-think something, but struggle to do so.
On the freeway from our home town to Las Vegas, off to the side of the road, is a statue of a large pink elephant. I don’t know how long it’s been there. Once a friend pointed it out to me, it’s impossible for me to drive by now and not look for that unusual pink elephant! If I tell you to try not to think about a pink elephant, you can’t. It’s because our brains only know how to “do”, not “not do.”
The trick then is to focus your mind on something else to DO rather than NOT DO. Can you reframe your fantasy into a version you like? Can you replace that thought with another thought that you are happier with?
Coming Up With Fantasies
What if you are reading this and still think, “Gosh, I really don’t know what my fantasies are, or if I have any.” Not to worry. Just remember that what people fantasize about is not necessarily synonymous with what they are interested in or do in person.
Perhaps you can stretch yourself a bit by pulling out a sheet of paper and begin writing down themes, ideas, movie scenes, memories, and so on of things that you’ve found particularly arousing or sexually interesting. If that’s difficult to do, it might be a homework assignment you give yourself for a week to seek out things you find sexually arousing.
One woman said she tried this exercise for a week. It wasn’t until Sunday after their Church meeting seeing her husband help take down chairs and joking around with another couple in their congregation that she looked at him in that moment with so much desire. “He’s so hot” she thought, standing there looking good in his suit, at ease with that cute older couple. Somewhere in there she found her sexual images that got her excited.
Another exercise you can try is the “Finish this sentence” game. You and your spouse can write your own story. This is where one person writes a line, and the other person writes the next line. Some starting lines could be, “She walked into the room, wearing ____” or “He asked her to meet him at such-and-such a place.” “He walked in the room with ____ in his hand.” and so on.
A little practice can wake up your imagination.
Sharing & Receiving Fantasies
Sharing one’s fantasies with their spouse is one of the most intimate acts you can do in a marriage. In fact, couples might find it easier to have intercourse with their spouse rather than share their minds around their fantasies!
It’s scary to share this deep aspect of yourself. There’s the fear of rejection, or what the other person might think. There’s fear that your fantasies are somehow unscrupulous (and lets get real, chances are that they are unscrupulous!). You might have had past experience with your spouse or others where your sexual desires weren’t respected. Or may know your spouse well enough that you can predict that they’re not going to like hearing your fantasies …. Again.
Any time you reveal your mind to your spouse, and without judgment let your spouse reveal his or her mind to you, is an act of intimacy. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to be honest when it’s uncomfortable to do so. This process, though, as uncomfortable and awkward as it is, is the very path couples need to take in order to forge a stronger version of themselves and become more intimate as a couple.
“You Can’t Handle the Truth!”
I’m reminded of the scene in the movie A Few Good Men, where the character played by Tom Cruise, an attorney, asks the character played by Jack Nicolas, a general in the army, for the truth about what happened in a military court trial. He demands, “We just want the truth!” The general responds loudly, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Sometimes we create a marriage where we can’t “handle the truth”. We stop our own ability to have a more deeply intimate marriage because we freak out when our spouse starts to share their fantasies. Because we’re uncomfortable about their eroticism and afraid of what might come out of their mind, we are quick to shut them down.
Part of growing in love is to develop a deeper capacity to create a safe emotional space for your spouse to share. It doesn’t mean you have to act on his or her fantasies. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or soothe your spouse when they ask if for a moral judgment about a fantasy, at least not yet. A Black Belt move in this scenario is to create a marriage where there’s room for two people in the marriage – two very different people with very different ideas and interests.
Someone once said it this way, “Don’t yuck another person’s yum.”
What If You’re Turned Off by Your Spouse’s Fantasy?
But what if you’re turned off by your spouse’s fantasy, especially when he or she brings it up often? Here are three ideas that might help you in this situation:
First of all, discern if this is just a fantasy or turning into an obsession. Some people, especially driven and successful people, can be a bit obsessive about an idea. I’m not saying they’re clinically OCD, but what I mean is they have an ability to latch on to an idea and drive for it until they get it. It’s part of their superpower that makes them successful. On the other hand, this trait can become maladaptive if they obsess over their fantasy, especially something they want but you don’t want. Take this into account as you watch their behavior.
Second, it’s OK to have hard “nos” and non-negotiables. You don’t ever have to do anything sexually, in reality or in fantasy, that you don’t want to do. You’re the captain of your ship. I once heard about a couple where one person wanted to explore opening up the marriage to other partners. This was a hard no and non-negotiable for the other person. You need to grow a backbone and stand up for the important things so that you stay in integrity yourself.
Third, be honest. Express that the fantasy is a turn-off for you. Being good lovers means knowing what their spouse’s turn ons and offs are, so here’s a good opportunity for your spouse to hear some helpful feedback.
I want to reiterate that there’s so much value in creating emotional safety in your relationship. This trust is formed by being committed to each other, fully choosing each other, and being trustworthy – doing what you say you’ll do, even in the littlest things.
What if I Feel Awkward?
People sometimes ask me, “How can I share my fantasies with my spouse without feeling awkward?” I don’t have a good answer – I think it will always be awkward. In my mind it’s not about it no longer being “awkward” but more about your ability to tolerate that it’s awkward and having the inner strength to share in the darker, hidden parts of yourself.
Honor Your Spouse’s Fantasies, Even If They Are Different Than Yours
It’s also important to honor what your spouse says are his or her fantasies, even if they don’t fit with your fantasies. I once overheard a conversation between a couple where the husband tends to be quite sexually adventurous and his wife more on the reserved side of things. He was asking her to tell him her fantasies. She told him her fantasies, and he responded, “No, that’s not a fantasy. That’s something we already do now. Tell me what your fantasies are!” She again told him again a few ideas and mental images of what she finds sexually appealing. He didn’t like what he was hearing because her fantasy wasn’t his idea of a fantasy. What he was really doing was fishing for her to share something he wanted to hear, not to really open his heart and listen to what his wife was saying. A wiser version of that husband would accept that what she was honestly expressing has just as much weight and value as his fantasies in this relationship, and that just because his fantasies are more adventurous they take precedence or are more valuable than hers.
Want More Coaching on This Topic?
If you or your spouse would like help with this topic, or building a stronger relationship, I want to invite you to work with me through my Next Level program. It include marriage coaching plus resources geared to what you need in your relationship so that you can reach your next level.