Is Having Fantasies About Someone Else Normal? Relationship Experts Explain

Updated 05/14/19
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images 

Have you ever drifted off to a Fifty Shades of Grey-style romantic fantasy––starring someone who is most definitely not your partner? If you're wondering what that might mean, and whether that's a normal thing or not, read on for expert views on how fantasizing about others might actually be a good thing (plus, a few signs to watch out for).

Having Fantasies Are Normal, and Can Be a Good Thing

The first thing to know is that fantasies are normal and natural occurrences where you can have total control and freedom. By expert accounts, there are a number of reasons why your thoughts might be preoccupied with someone other than your significant other. Dr. Jennifer Freed, a family behavioral specialist told Bustle that, "Our imagination is polyamorous and is the only part of our lives that is truly free.” Meaning, having fantasies is just part of being human, and everyone does it. Plus, in some ways, Dr. Freed says that the imagination is a safe space, free from responsibility where we can explore parts of ourselves that would not be practical in real life.

As a relationship evolves, they can be legitimate way to add variety to your relationship. They can be used to generate more passion and intimacy with your spouse. Studies reveal that people who fantasize frequently appear to have more fun in bed and have sex more often, reveals sex expert Nikki Ransom-Alfred to Brides magazine. She added,"As a sexual being, having fantasies is a normal and natural thing that boosts your sexual desire and arousal." 

However, history didn't always have a more open-minded view on fantasies. In the past, Freudian theory suggested that fantasies were actually true desires of unmet needs. Otherwise known as deficiency theory, the book How Sexual Desire Works, "the imaginary world... reflects unsatisfied wishes." On the other hand, others theorize that not having sexual fantasies might actually suggest something is wrong.

The thing is, when we've been with a partner for a while––to the point where our individual lives seem to have merged into one––therapist Esther Perel explains in her book Mating in Captivity that time can strangle our sense of freedom. At the same time, being coupled long-term tends to unravel any mystery about the other person.

However, Be Aware of These Signs

“[Fantasy] happens as an outlet, a compensation, and sometimes as a warning sign," Dr. Freed told Bustle. That means obsessively fantasizing about others while feeling disconnected to your partner might be a signal that something is lacking in your relationship, like intimacy. On that note, explains Dr. Freed, "If you find yourself avoiding sexual vulnerability with your partner by consistently checking out with fantasies, it is time to get some help for your intimacy issues.”

Fantasies in Context

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, "It’s possible that the people most likely to fantasize about someone other than their partners are simply more likely to fantasize about sex in general," she writes in Psychology Today. Whitbourne points to two studies that suggest that people with more open personalities are more likely to have sexual fantasies. She goes on to explain that rather than trying to bucket these fantasies as right or wrong, it may be more productive to reflect on what is prompting the fantasies in the first place. "By allowing yourself to explore your fantasies instead of fighting them off, you may gain insights that you can share with your partner." 

Where Do We Go From Here?

To echo Whitbourne's thoughts, relationship expert Brandy E​ngler said that when you can understand what it is you are longing for, you can then create a plan to turn that fantasy into reality. Research also suggests that the more couples can keep things new and fresh in their intimate lives, the better chances are of keeping the flames of passion burning bright.

Related Stories