The occasional fantasy can mean a healthy sex drive, but what if it\’s a habit?

Let\’s start with two cases. In the first, a couple is making love, and one experiences a spontaneous erotic thought about someone very attractive, who was observed and fantasized about earlier in the day—at work or out at lunch. In the second, a couple is making love, and one has had difficulty feeling sexually aroused and intimate with the partner for quite some time. In the latter case, the mind turns to a habitual fantasy, a friend or associate constantly and secretly held in mind, or a person recently met, or maybe an image viewed more than once on a porn site.

Both of these scenarios can be unsettling to the fantasizer. Few people want to be conflicted within their relationship. But I am suggesting here that a little spontaneous fantasizing from time to time can simply mean you are a sexually normal person. And that habitual fantasizing can indicate a serious relationship problem that likely needs attention sooner rather than later.

Fantasizing during lovemaking can have several immediate sources. These are a few of the most common ones:

  • Daytime fantasies. Once-in-a-while fantasizing about another person can be healthy. It can happen any time, in fact, most often when a person is not with a partner, but simply interacting in the world individually, as happens during the workday. It simply means you have a healthy sexual response to the opposite or same sex, as the case may be. People don\’t suddenly relinquish their full spectrum of sexual attractions when they form a committed relationship. They simply commit to not act on them and to work to make sure that intimacy thrives in the relationship. However, if once in a blue moon, a daytime fantasy (especially a particularly sensuous one) makes it into the bedroom at the end of the day during physical intimacy, don\’t worry. If this is not a frequent occurrence, it\’s simply part of your sexuality. If you have no problem responding to your partner\’s erotic attentions most times, you have a healthy relationship, and the fantasies can just mean that you have an active sex drive. And, as a bonus, that active sex drive can make you even more attractive to your partner. What a great combination that benefits both partners—to be sexually responsive in the world and to be solidly committed to the relationship!
  • Past relationships. Have you been spending lovemaking time thinking about a previous marriage, live-in, or affair partner? If it\’s just the once (maybe something reminded you that day of the good times in that relationship) there may be no problem. But this can be a red flag if it becomes a pattern. It can mean that you see your current relationship lacking something that you had in the earlier relationship. Whatever the underlying meaning, if you habitually fantasize about an old heart throb, it may indicate that you need marriage and couples counseling or relationship counseling.
  • Friends. Have you become attracted to, even obsessed with, a family or work friend? It\’s one thing to enjoy the beauty, presence, and attention of an attractive friend during family visits. It\’s another thing entirely to become preoccupied with this person or look for ways to have more contact, with or without your partner. If you feel this way, this is another indication that there may be an underlying problem, and a good reason to seek counseling to address the issue.
  • Books or movies. Did you read an engrossing book, with an attractive character, in which a scene of physical intimacy was described sensuously. Or did you see a movie (I am not talking porn here) that had such a scene with an actor or actress that you admire, and, just coincidentally, you think is hot. If a character or actor that made a big physical impression comes into your thoughts during lovemaking, it is not necessarily cause for concern, unless it becomes a habit. If it does, think about addressing the issue.
  • Porn images. If your fantasy images come from frequenting porn sites, that is a big red flag for two reasons. First, you should be concerned about the health of your marriage. And second, you should be concerned in general about your ability to maintain a strong and consistent intimacy with a real person. Often, porn addiction is associated with anxiety and/or depression. If that\’s the case, a good place to start may be counseling on your own in a safe, discreet setting. Couples counseling can follow sometime in the future when you have made progress on your own.

If any of these fantasy sources are familiar, it might be time to take stock. If you fall on the side of the occasional erotic thought about someone else, but your partner still delivers the most powerful and intimate erotic experience, just keep doing what you\’re doing. And feel lucky (both of you) that your libido is in full throttle.

However, if you see one or more of the habitual patterns I described, there is something wrong and your marriage or relationship probably needs immediate attention. If you are clear you value your relationship highly and feel you can communicate that well, you can start with honest communication between the two of you. Counseling or talk therapy can also help as you move forward. Alternatively, if you are having difficulty communicating this issue to your partner, start with counseling or therapy on your own. That step can help you get to a point in the future where you can work directly with your partner to build a lasting intimacy and an exciting sex life.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.