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Are Sexual Fantasies Bad for Your Relationship?

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Updated October 31, 2008

Question: Are Sexual Fantasies Bad for Your Relationship?
When my husband and I first got together I never thought of anyone but him. But lately when we have sex my mind wanders and I sometimes fantasize about other men, and women, even when we’re doing it. I feel bad about it but I’m not planning on telling him either. Is it a sign that the sex is bad? Do you think it will go back to the way it was?
Answer:

Former President Jimmy Carter was once famously quoted saying,

“I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.”

If you prefer you can take God out of the equation, but the basic message that sexual fantasies are not the same as sexual realities, and committing adultery in your heart or mind is not the same as going out and sleeping with a stranger, co-worker, or the UPS guy, is worth remembering.

Fantasizing about someone else while having sex also happens to be very common. Survey research indicates that anywhere from 60-90% of women and men have sexual fantasies during intercourse.

And similar research on sexual fantasy points to the fact that a healthy sexual fantasy life goes hand in hand with a healthy overall sex life. People who have sexual fantasies are more likely to be sexually satisfied, and they even have more sex.

The negative side of sexual fantasies seems to be the emotional problems that come with feeling bad either about the content of your fantasies or the timing of them. 25% of people say they feel guilty about sexual fantasies, and it’s this guilt that can lead to trouble. It’s also worth pointing out that your partner might be hurt by the sexual fantasies, but this doesn’t mean they have to stop, just that there may be some working through of feelings and communicating about the difference between fantasy and reality.

To answer your question about bad sex; a sign that the sex is bad is you thinking the sex is bad. Anything else could be a good thing, depending on how you feel about it and what sort of impact it has on your sexual and overall relationship. If these fantasies are getting in the way of you enjoying sex with your partner, then I think there is a problem, and one that you should bring your partner in on. If, on the other hand, you’re still happy with the level of intimacy and connection, and the kind of sex you’re having, I’m not sure you need to see the fantasies as a problem.

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