How Sexual Fantasies Can Actually Strengthen Your Relationship
The term "sexual fantasy" usually conjures up images of Fifty Shades–style erotica—uncommon secret fetishes, taboo crushes on your friends or co-workers, and probably something based on the last saucy scene you saw on TV. In reality, however, research shows most people are actually curling their toes over a much more familiar face: their own partner's. Some 90 percent of Americans say they've fantasized about their own significant other, and over half of them say they do it often.
And that's actually great news for couples, according to a new paper published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Researchers found fantasizing about your own partner can actually have tangible effects on your relationship: It makes you value your S.O. more and makes you more likely to want to invest more time and energy in the relationship.
Over the course of four separate studies, the researchers tracked the ways members of couples responded to sexual fantasies about each other. One of the experiments directly asked each member to imagine either their partner or another person in a steamy situation and then to indicate their interest in "relationship-promoting activities" like complimenting their partner and being more considerate. Those who thought about their partners were more interested in those small displays of affection.
Another one of the experiments sought to test the theory out in a more natural setting, asking people to journal every night for three weeks about what they fantasized about and how they'd behaved toward their partner that day. That study also found that those who'd fantasized about their partners tended to engage in more of that connection-building behavior in their relationship afterward. Yet another one of the experiments involved journaling for six weeks and found that a person's negative views of their relationships also tended to decrease the more they fantasized about the other person.
In other words, not only does imagining your partner in sensual ways tend to make you more attracted to them—it can also make you want to do things that'll make you healthier as a couple and quell bad feelings you have about the relationship. And, of course, the cherry on top of all that? It turns you on.
"Sexual desire is among the strongest forces in human nature, one that can induce ecstatic pleasure and a profound connection between partners," writes Gurit Birnbaum, Ph.D., a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology in Israel and the study's lead author. "Even though fantasies are experienced in an imaginary world, they have their favorable grip on the real world."
Birnbaum suggests this seemingly lighthearted, independent habit could be used as a form of relationship maintenance, so to speak. That isn't to say you need be imagining your spouse in bizarre scenarios that don't feel true to you or your relationship. As mbg Collective member Esther Perel writes, fantasy simply means storytelling.
"Sexual fantasy is simply anything that enhances excitement or pleasure, whether it's the time of day, the way the breeze drifts across a field, or a story you create about the way someone looks at you," Perel says. "If you know how you want to experience sexual pleasure, even if it's simply the way someone strokes your hair, you are already in the realm of sexual fantasy."
It might seem silly, but if you're looking for ways to feel more excited about your relationship, maybe spend some time daydreaming about your person in a particularly intimate scenario—whatever that might mean for you. You might be surprised what kind of positive, loving urges your ruminations stir within you.
Did you know sexual fantasies can even have the power to heal us emotionally? Here's why.
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