Is It Okay to Cheat on My Husband (in My Fantasies)?

Inviting, say George Clooney, into the bedroom can be a boom for our sex lives.

Posted Feb 14, 2019

By Guest Blogger Cathy Alter, author of CRUSH

It was the occasion of my niece's bat mitzvah that outed us. After the last of the guests had left my brother David's house, he and his wife, my sister-in-law Abby, my cousin Stephanie, and my husband Karl—middle agers all—sat around talking about the recent death of Anthony Bourdain. It was June, just days after the news broke of his suicide, and we were all still wrestling with this particular circle of life: one person entering adulthood; another one leaving the planet.

Courtesy of Cathy Alter
Source: Courtesy of Cathy Alter

"I have something to admit," said Stephanie, whose husband Mark was back in Maine tending to their dogs. "He's my celebrity crush."

"Who?" we all said in unison, "Bourdain?"

Stephanie spoke of Bourdain's hearty wanderlust, his sensitivity, his sexiness. I noticed Abby nodding her head in sisterhood. It wasn't long before she came clean with her own famous crush: Wentworth Miller, the stubble-headed star of "Prison Break." My brother rolled his eyes. He had heard this one before.

My husband Karl became visibly anxious, bouncing his leg like he had a baby on it and giving me the once over. "Who's yours?" he asked.

It's no secret that Karl prefers to think that I dropped from the sky a virgin and has a don't-ask-don't-tell policy when it comes to our exes. I wasn't sure how he'd react upon hearing about my current crush on Mark Duplass, actor, director, producer, writer, and unshaven everyman of my college career.

"He's first," I said. ("First?" said my husband. "There's more than one?!") I also admitted to being obsessed with the ugly-beauty of Adam Driver. After searching for his name on IMDB, Karl looked absolutely horrified. "That yutz?" he said, staring at his phone in disbelief. "Him?"

What Karl doesn't know and what every teenaged girl knows is this: Having a celebrity crush is not only a rite of passage, it's a way of making sense of ourselves. It's a phenomenon my co-author and I examined in our anthology, CRUSH: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush. In essays by writers like Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, and the object of one of my many crushes, Andrew McCarthy, we discovered that, in addition to being our ideals in love, celebrities can also be our best friends, our parental proxies, our creative muses, and more. They give us hope—that we are popular and pretty and worthy enough to be hand-picked by them. Who among us hasn't fallen victim—whether it was writing a love letter to Donny Osmond every day of first grade (guilty) or kissing a poster of John Travolta every night before bedtime (me again)? During those fragile years, there's something about celebrities that makes them the perfect repository for our own passions and unfulfilled real-life relationships. And, because our objects of affection are at a safe distance, there's no chance of being embarrassed, mortified, or worse: heartbroken.

There's also no chance that our affections will be returned by the objects of our obsessions. Which is why having a celebrity crush as a grownup can still be a way of exploring the options we didn't take in real life. For example, Adam Driver, at least in his role on "Girls," was unpredictable, explosive, and a little off-kilter. Pretty much the opposite of my husband, who is forthright and steady and shows up when he says he will. Conversely, Mark Duplass, a menschy intellectual and bonafide standup guy, is the antidote to every single jerk I dated in my twenties. In other words, Duplass, for me, is a metaphoric smudge stick in a rumpled cashmere sweater.

For those of us in long-term relationships, inviting, say, Tom Hardy, into the bedroom can be a boon for our sex lives. And, according to experts, there's no reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, a celebrity crush can heat up the action between the sheets. "Having a thing for someone like George Clooney is a common and fun fantasy," says Patricia Anderson, a licensed psychotherapist in Washington, DC, who often counsels couples as part of her practice. "Thinking about your crush slowly undressing you with his eyes, for instance, truly engages the brain and our brain is probably the most underutilized sex organ in the body." Plus, she adds, "Telling your real-life partner about your fantasy can give your current relationship some zing since the mental image of your crush can actually stimulate physical changes in the body which can greatly enhance a sex life that may be going through a slump." Unless your real-life partner happens to be anything like Karl, in which case I suggest you keep your mouth shut.

Which this leads me to the potential downside of all this daydreaming. Had I not told Karl about my crushes, he'd remain happily oblivious, allowing me my fantasies in peace. Now, he told me, he'll never be able to watch Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in all future "Star Wars" movies without thinking of him using his massive lightsaber on me. Which is just fine. I have a new man occupying my fantasies, a singer with floppy hair and a penchant for natty suits. Just don't tell my husband.