Sex

Sexual Fantasies During Sex

How can fantasizing about another person during sex affect your relationship?

Posted Jan 28, 2020

Photo by Sabina Tone on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Sabina Tone on Unsplash

Sex with your partner can be the most sublime experience if done with the intent of connecting with your spouse. However, in my work with people who struggle with sexual compulsivity and compulsivity more broadly, oftentimes sex is devoid of connection. What does this mean and what does it look like?

First off, at a base level, sex is just that, a physical act of copulation between individuals lacking any desire for intimacy besides two bodies colliding. This usually occurs between strangers, hook-ups, and sex workers. But surprisingly, it can happen within steady relationships where one partner becomes so emotionally disconnected from the self that the act of sex is purely a means of physical relief and satisfaction. Some partners with strong intuition can sense this disconnect and verbalize it to me by saying, "It seems I'm being used or I'm just a sexual receptacle."

Part of the disconnect can be the result of one partner either self-medicating physically (drugs or alcohol) or behaviorally (pornography or sexual fantasy). Individuals who use pornography or make it a habit to fantasize about others during sex are more susceptible to struggling emotionally. Critics may think this is being prudish and that having fantasies can "spice" things up. But what I've seen over the years is that relationships don't heat up but they get colder with time, even if the sexual frequency is high. So why the paradox?

Simply put, when you fantasize about another person during intercourse, fantasy becomes reality. In other words, you are no longer emotionally with your partner, and instead you have substituted him or her with your fantasy. The sexual desire, passion, and intensity may all be amplified, but what's lost is emotional and spiritual intimacy. If this is habitual, there's a possibility that the relationship is only standing on one leg (i.e. the sexual leg) and is vulnerable to being knocked over without the strength of the relational component.

It's not uncommon for clients who want a better "sexual" relationship with their partners to ask therapists to "fix" something sexually or physically. But what many aren't aware of is the need to strengthen connections both individually and between the two.

My belief as a therapist is that sex is the manifestation of not only our physical selves but also our emotional and spiritual dimensions. We might try to separate the physical from the emotional and spiritual, but our souls yearn for the integration of wholeness made even more evident in our attempt at sexual gratification through fantasy.