Understanding your sexual fantasies

December 17, 2008 5:07:20 PM PST
Dr. Joshua Coleman, author of "The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony," shares some advice on sexual fantasies.

Tips:

  • Consider sharing your sexual fantasies with your partner. This can be a good way to keep the passion alive if it's a fantasy that your partner can either accept or participate in.

  • Don't try to rid yourself of your fantasies-try to understand them. Fantasies don't make you good or bad, it's what you do with them.

  • If your partner reveals a fantasy that bothers you, try to understand what is at the heart of it. Remember, fantasies are a way to resolve conflicted feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame, or fear.

  • You are never obligated to act out your partner's fantasy, but you should be careful not to criticize or shame your partner for his or her fantasy. Fantasies don't make a person good or bad.
Q&A with Dr. Coleman:

Why do we have sexual fantasies?

There are many reasons; to combat loneliness, to feel more powerful, more secure, for fun. But, what's interesting about us as humans is that we don't fantasize about the same things. What's exciting to one person may be a big turn-off to someone else. What we fantasize about says a lot about our core conflicts. Why? Because we can't get excited when we feel too guilty, too worried, scared, or too fearful of rejection. So the kinds of things that, overall, turn us on say a lot about where we have conflicts.

What goes on in the minds of say, a dominatrix?

Someone who likes to dominate has a need to be in control. This often means that they feel scared about someone else having too much power over them. They may have been someone who didn't have much control or were abused as a child. Tying someone up or being in complete control reassures them that they're not in any danger.

How about the person who likes to be dominated? The submissive?

Being dominated is a very common sexual fantasy for both men and women. For men it may be with a dominatrix whereas for women it might be with a bad boy. Here the fantasy may combat the feelings of guilt or shame about sex: can't blame me for having sex- I was made to do it. It may also be a way to not worry about hurting the other person since you can't hurt them when they're in complete control. In both cases, we have to distinguish fantasy from reality. People who are engaged in sado-masochistic fantasy or play don't really want their partner to truly be frightened and in a lot of pain.

Can your fantasies be changed?

Probably not. What we like to fantasize about is part of our unconscious mind. You're better off trying to understand the underlying conflict you're trying to master than to change your fantasy life.

Is it dangerous to fantasize?

In general, fantasizing can be a healthy outlet for boredom, loneliness, etc. Even aggressive fantasies can be useful as a way to discharge in fantasy so you don't do it in person. But, it may also point you to unmet needs in your real life that need to be more carefully addressed.

Should you tell your partner your fantasies?

You should know your partner. Some fantasies are less threatening to reveal than others and may make a sex life more exciting, like role playing, for example. On the other hand, if you're a man and you like to dress up in women's clothing, that might frighten your spouse or girlfriend. So, you should consider how they might respond and make sure you're okay with whatever reactions they have to it.

Does viewing pornography increase the chance of acting on the fantasies?

There doesn't appear to be any good evidence that it does and this includes a whole range of unusual fantasies.

Dr. Coleman Bio:
Dr. Coleman is a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, The BBC, and San Francisco's View from the Bay. He has also appeared on ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, America Online Coaches and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. He is a psychologist in private practice with offices in San Francisco and Oakland, California and is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families. He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. His advice has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, The San Francisco Chronicle, Parenting Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and many others. He is also a contributing editor for Twins Magazine. Dr. Coleman is the author of four books and his books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.S., U.K., and throughout Europe.


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