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It’s a hot night. You’re in bed but can’t sleep. Suddenly, George Clooney is next to you, touching your body with an ice cube. Just when things are getting good, you wake up. While you may be sheepish about your sweet dream, many other women are having them, too – quite possibly with the same guest star. So what do your fantasies mean? Read on to find out if they’re healthy… or are harming your real-world relationships.
I have this recurring McDreamy fantasy: I am in a bubble bath, sipping a glass of red wine, when in waltzes “Grey’s Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey wearing a stethoscope… and nothing else. I am usually awakened from my delicious dream by my husband’s snoring or my four-year-old jumping up and down on my bed. But it’s lovely while it lasts.
When I’ve shared it with girlfriends, they’ve admitted to having their own sexual fantasies, as well – some that are much more creative than mine.
“I am dancing the paso doble on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ with Mario Lopez and he accidentally tears my clothes off,” says Jillian R. of Hartsdale, New York. “We wind up having mad, passionate sex and the judges give us perfect 10s.”
“If I am in bed with my husband and I’m not in the mood, I just picture Antonio Banderas as Zorro,” admits Amy C. of Paramus, New Jersey. “My husband, you should know, looks nothing like Antonio – he’s bald and Jewish. If I could just get him to put on a mask or talk with a Spanish accent, oh my God, I’d be so turned on!”
Experts say most women imagine doing the wild thing with someone other than a significant other. Blame it on our sex-fueled entertainment (those racy TV shows and movies), boredom, or plain old hormones. Testosterone, to be specific – it’s what fuels those powerful feelings of arousal and desire.
“It’s human nature to make up stories. Sex is no exception,” explains New York radio host Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul.
“What’s more, fantasies can be healthy and inspiring during sex. Anything that becomes routine, even sex with that same partner you love, can deaden the heart. Let’s say you enjoy a delicious pasta dish: If you eat it every day you will get sick of it. You need a little variety in your menu! In the same way, sexual fantasies can spice up your relationship.”
To Share or Not to Share
Personally, I am sure my husband would not be amused if I told him the last time we made love I was picturing some hot actor in our bed. Experts say to use caution when revealing your fantasies.
“Some partners share fantasies routinely as a part of lovemaking not only because it is arousing, but because it gives the couple a sense of heightened intimacy, explains Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D., a certified sex therapist and director of The Buehler Institute in Orange County, California.
“Partners should probably talk openly about the role of fantasy in their lovemaking and agree upon the boundaries of what should and shouldn't be shared.”
Sometimes sharing can backfire. Andrea L. of Bethesda, Maryland, was shocked when her boyfriend revealed he fantasized about having a threesome. “It made me sick to think of another woman with us,” she recalls. “And it made me feel inferior, like I wasn’t enough of a lover for him.” The lesson: Know your partner and their insecurities.
Other fantasies you might not want to mention: a tryst with your husband’s best friend or big brother; hooking up with your ex; homosexual encounters; or flings with authority figures (your boss, clergy, college professor, etc).
“Some men will say they want to hear a woman's fantasies, but then regret them,” Buehler says. “They may feel turned off or threatened.”
“When sharing a sexual fantasy, a woman needs to make clear that the material is imaginary, and assure her partner that since she is with him in reality, he shouldn't be particularly concerned about her thoughts. And if he isn’t liking what he’s hearing, edit or change the subject,” Buehler suggests.
Fantasies That Go Too Far
Occasionally, a fantasy can lead to out of control or obsessive behavior, Buehler says. Case in point: One 20-year-old Penn State student admits she had a fantasy about her English professor, a man 25 years her senior. “He was all I could think about,” she says. “He looked like Dennis Quaid. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t date any other guys. I was convinced if he knew how I felt, he’d feel the same way about me.”
So she poured out her heart in a poem. “He asked me to withdraw from his class,” she says. “I was devastated, but looking back – and after a ton of therapy – I see that I was being delusional.”
Some women might also engage in aggressive or dangerous fantasies – like being dominated, molested or even maimed. “These may be initially stimulating, but they can also be disturbing and can cause the woman distress rather than pleasure, Buehler says. “In the long run, they can wind up turning a woman off to sex.”
If you’re feeling threatened or overwhelmed by a fantasy, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist who can help you analyze what the fantasy represents and why it’s there. “What is it that’s erotic about the fantasy? What is your real life missing that your fantasy supplies?”
Another clue you are living in a sexual dream world: The fantasies dominate you to such a point, that you are suddenly avoiding any mature, real connection with your partner. One Los Angeles mother of two fantasized – a la “Desperate Housewives” – about having sex with the hunky gardener who mowed her lawn.
“I was so ashamed of what I was thinking, I couldn’t even look my husband in the eye,” she says. “I appeared to be guilty without ever even doing anything guilty. I eventually fired the gardener – he was just too distracting. But, I admit, I do have the occasional dream about rolling around in fresh-cut grass.”
At the end of the day (or the wee hours of night), sexual fantasies are an opportunity to deepen the intimacy with your partner, to learn more about yourself, or to be clued into underlying emotional issues. Just remember to play it safe.