Fantasies—Dirty or Spicy?

How fantasies can enliven the marital bed

Posted Aug 24, 2013

Patients often tell me their wild sexual fantasies... sometimes before they become wild sexual escapades. Thinking about illicit, taboo acts can be super-erotic. It's almost the juxtaposition of the erotic against it's shadow, the good against the bad, that makes it come alive and feel enlivening to us.

When do we share fantasies and let our partner in on what's on our mind? What would happen if our partner thought we were dirty, disgusting, immoral or threatening? When to we just keep it to ourselves and just let it juice us up? Which ones do we try to convince our partner to act out?

In answer, some people believe they should shut down all sexual ideas, fantasies and thoughts except for the physical stimulation their partner provides. Here in the South, we're nervous about fantasies. People worry that thoughts outside their partner represents adultery. I think there is a difference between imagination and intent.

We are sexual creatures. I believe that screening so tightly against every thought and impulse could leave us dry and shut down. I know people become so oblivious that they are surprised by the erotic impulse (and suggestion) of another which seems naive and dangerous.

In session, young couples express anxiety about still finding others attractive. But to be sexually alive has got to mean noticing the eroticism, sensuality, attractiveness around us. We can choose to bring that energy back into the partnership. Furthermore, talking about our sexual attractions in secure relationships keeps the erotic energy between the couple. Secretiveness could leave more pull from outside the relationship.

I KNOW women need their minds engaged in order to get aroused. Newlywed women tell me that they've stopped using their favorite masturbatory fantasy because they believe their young husbands should be their sole focus but now have trouble getting going. I remind them how much they've fantasized planning to get together on dates in the recent past. In my therapy practice, I've come to see that one main reasons for female low libido, is a woman who actually has sexier ideas than her husband but out of shame, disappointment, or lack of maturity has decided not to share them.

But I also hear lots of fantasies that cross the bounds of monogamy. Favorite scenarios seem to be threesomes or voyeuristically watching their partner with someone else. One man desperately wanted to watch his wife with someone else and see her inner tigress unleashed. He admitted to extreme jealousy about her former partners before marriage, was anxious about his own penis size, and scorned her for having too many partners (half as many as he had had) previously. His wife was completely willing to talk about this idea as a fantasy with him but was adamantly against a real enactment. I didn't think this was a good fantasy for enactment either. I thought it was a great fantasy for analysis!!!

In treatment, he was able to think about the fine line between his repulsion and excitement of her other lovers, discover how he used this fantasy as a anesthetic against his fears of aging and lack of financial security, and express his terrible anxiety that his penis was inadequate to really please his wife. Thinking about the fantasy was able to reduce some of it's more obsessive features.

All of us age. All of us have reduced sexual attractiveness at some point. But our imaginations can run wild for the rest of our lives. What we think about can make what we do in bed crazy and fun for years to come. "But you can only do so much with one person.. at some point, you run out of new things to do," say some people. I say, they aren't terribly creative.

Sharing the fantasy with your spouse:
  1. Discuss what place fantasies have in your relationship. For some it might be best to leave off any mention of a former lover or a sexy stranger (much less neighbor) and just stick to the acts in mind that felt exciting. For others, they can be more honest about what and who is attractive.
  2. Make sure you and your partner are in a safe place emotionally. Some friends of mine overheard me talk about sharing fantasies with your spouse. He went home and immediately shared his memories of nubile, young lovers with his post-menopausal wife. Without enough reassurance, tact and care, sharing fantasies about others can threaten your spouse's security.
  3. Be clear about what is fantasy and what is a wish - Another man pestered his wife about his wish for anal sex repeatedly for years. She was never going to do it. It became a source of irritation and stopped the natural freedom between them.
  4. Do bring your ideas, knowledge and fantasies to the bedroom. Many of us long for a hint about what turns our spouse on. Strive for the courage to be vulnerable

Think twice about fantasy enactment if:

  1. Your partner is opposed. It's difficult to know when to push for something important to you against something that your partner thinks is unimportant, finds upsetting, or feels is a turn-off. A spirit of willingness to try anything once with your spouse makes for playfulness and it's disappointing to come up against a partner's walls. But knowing your partner's limits, history and deeper feelings can help.
  2. You haven't counted the cost. I had some friends decide to park and do it in another neighborhood. Sexy thoughts of exposure and risk ended with a real police officer interrupting with a flashlight and asking 40 year olds for their licenses. They got off with a warning (every pun intended.)
  3. You don't understand what the fantasy means to you.
    I'm not suggesting the every sexy idea needs analysis but some do. My friend who couldn't let go of his anal sex fantasy with his wife needed to come to terms with why he pushed the agenda to the point of a problem between them. Fantasies are complicated. Some of it was his desire for his wife to be a "dirty girl," some was from the influence of porn that suggested it would really be pleasurable for her—he didn't trust that she knew her own body. In part, it was his feelings of superiority—he thought he knew was was good for her. Another aspect was his disappointment in his wife's vagina after childbirth. He felt resentful too that he was the originator of every new idea; her resistance felt unfair given that she didn't bring new ideas to the bedroom herself.

Link for more help from Laurie Watson with SexTherapy in Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, NC. Laurie’s book Wanting Sex Again is available on Amazon!