George Faller: Today, we’re going to talk about fantasies. Last few episodes, we spent a lot of time, heavy conversations around problems in chain. Today we’re going to lighten the mood and get into the world of fantasy.
Laurie Watson: Hey, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio for Couples and Sex Therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller: I’m George Faller, your marriage therapists.
Laurie Watson: We want to take a wide lens on sexuality and talking with you about what we’ve learned as experts in the field on how you bring your body, your mind and your brain to the sexual experience.
George Faller: We want to expand people’s perspective of just talking about sex. That it’s not something to be avoided, it’s actually something to embrace and to lean into with an openness to be changed by what you hear.
Laurie Watson: So exciting today that we have a new sponsor, uberlube.com, which is a great lubricant and I want you all to remember that lubricants are not just for the act, they’re especially important during foreplay.
George Faller: So I guess the first thing I’m thinking about with fantasies is assessing. Does this fantasy … either partner’s fantasy, is it something that strengthens their emotional bond, their connection? Or is it something that creates more distance? I’m always trying to keep it simple. Does it increase the levels of engagement between the couple? Or does it actually decrease the levels of engagement? Is this fantasy a bridge that brings them closer together? Or does it become a block that actually leads to further separation?
Laurie Watson: Okay. I like that. I like that distinction because fantasy can do all of those things. I think the fear that comes up when people hear the word “fantasy” is there’s a lot of fear about is this immoral? Is this adultery in their mind? I mean, there’s tremendous amount of worry that if they have fantasies that first of all, it always means that they’re fantasizing about somebody else and I don’t think that’s true. I think that people can have fantasies that are aligned with how they see their commitment. I also think that people sometimes have fantasies that are not necessarily aligned with their commitment and use those to enhance sexuality in a way that still enhances the partnership. So in your world, that would be a bridge, not necessarily a wall. I know that that’s dicey and I’m not telling people how to fantasize, they have to make their own decisions about this. But certainly fantasy I think happens whether we want to talk about it or not. Once we open ourselves as sexual creatures to the world, we’re going to have sexual ideas. We’re going to have thoughts about others other than our partner.
Laurie Watson: I know that when people are first married, they think, “Okay, that’s the end of any sexual attraction.” And then they’re at a party and it’s like, “Oh, that person’s still hot.” Or, “Is hot.” And they can be surprised by that, that they still have that ability to see that. I mean, I just think it’s natural. You can’t shut it off if you’re going to be open sexually to the world.
George Faller: And how many couples never have this conversation? I love that we’re trying to make this conversation more explicit, that what are your values around the fantasy? We’re not coming from a moralistic point of view saying it’s right or wrong, it’s for every couple to decide what feels safe about the fantasies? Are they using it as a bridge or is it something they’re keeping to themselves that’s leading to further distance?
Laurie Watson: Right. And so many people don’t share fantasies. They don’t even think about sharing it. And I’m not saying they absolutely have to. I mean, I think there can be something very exciting about sharing fantasies. As we’re married for a very long time, your essential object changes, right? I mean we’re all going to age minimally. So the fantasy of what you find sexually attractive isn’t necessarily going to be the 90 year old partner. You could still have in your mind an idea and an ideal that if there’s enough safety you can share that with each other about what sexually exciting, whether it’s in youth, whether it’s another. I mean, I think within safety there’s a way that we can use fantasies to enliven our life. But I think it’s really dicey and I think there has to be, like you said, an explicit conversation around what’s going to be shared. I was in a group and I talked about that I think sharing fantasies is something that can lead to better sex, and can lead to a sharing of our sexual preferences and ideas, and talking is sexy.
Laurie Watson: And so when I shared this, I know that one of the husbands went home and told his wife about some sexy fantasies that he had from when he was young and she was older and she was very, very threatened by that. I think he didn’t have much tact. He didn’t take into consideration how she would feel about that, that she … Her worry of course was, it was comparative. I think for him, he was sharing the excitement that he had and thinking hopefully that the excitement about these experiences would liven them up. I don’t think he had a bad intent. I don’t think he was [crosstalk 00:05:28].
George Faller: So how could he have done that differently? Instead of hitting it with a sledgehammer that led her to actually shut down, how could he have said it differently?
Laurie Watson: I mean, at first I think it’s the conversation about what he’s going to share. It’s like, “Would you be interested in some of my memories and some of what has turned me on about why it’s turning me on or why it has turned me on?”
George Faller: I think it might be better to just use that we versus I language. I was thinking as a way of spicing it up that we both could talk about things that made us feel engaged in a way that was more playful and freeing. I mean, I think if it’s inviting-
Laurie Watson: Better. Better.
George Faller: … her into a conversation instead of him unloading his experience on her, just makes more room to see if, hey, can that part of her engage instead of already feeling threatened?
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I like that. That’s better. So maybe beginning it that way, I think too realizing your partner’s vulnerabilities. If your partner is menopausal and you’re fantasizing about the 20 year old, how do you bridge that with some intelligence that says, “If this is going to threaten her, how can I edit it or present it in a way that feels to her that she’s still included in what I find sexy?” So I think some of that … I mean, I’m always all about tact. I don’t think that honesty in marriage is preferable, I think tact is weighted over honesty. That we have to be careful, especially in this arena, because it’s so hard to take back something that has been said that, “Well, yeah, I prefer this lover who had this kind of anatomy.” It’s like, “Oh, well that’s kind of unchangeable.” And so if you’re talking in terms of comparison and preference with something that your partner can’t ever live up to, that’s going to be too painful. So I think we have to care first about it.
Laurie Watson: But I also think a lot of people do have space and room to hear and capture the sexual excitement that a person has felt with others or with what they imagine with others. I mean, our mind is infinite, and our mind can always be sexual, and our mind can always be more sexual. So I think to shut ourselves off from our partners fantasies or our own fantasies really limits in a committed relationship, how exciting it can be. So I think that’s what’s good about fantasy.
George Faller: I love the word “tact”. You’re trying to get people to be more intentional that, this is something that potentially they could harness to bring more energy into their relationship. But if they’re reckless with it, it actually can create some harm. So we want to be explicit and intentional about this conversation and getting your partners to see the benefits of it as opposed to just putting something out there quick with impulsively not thinking about it, and that partner has to carry that.
Laurie Watson: Just saying, “Hey, I’ve always fantasized about X.” Is not a good start to that conversation. If you’re not having that as a regular part of your sexual life together, not a good way to start. Yeah, absolutely.
George Faller: And you were saying earlier that porn is what kind of fantasy?
Laurie Watson: I think that porn is a borrowed fantasy.
George Faller: Borrowed fantasy.
Laurie Watson: It’s we’re using somebody else’s imagination, the visual image as a fantasy. And same with, I think, erotic stories for women. It’s a borrowed fantasy. I tend to think that what we can create between us in our partnership is going to be the most exciting fantasy because our minds are free and we’re playing off of our partner. And so that’s always the most tailor made fantasy. But I mean, I think bringing the ideas that we get from other people’s fantasies, whether it be porn or erotic stories and talking to our partner about that can make it exciting. I think porn is pretty threatening to women. I think that porn can be separating because it’s so idealized in terms of how little work it requires sex to actually take. I mean, it’s genitally focused. I think for women because sex is not as generally focused for them, it’s like, “Okay, it doesn’t feel right.” So let alone whether you think porn is right or wrong. What I hear mostly from women is it doesn’t represent her, it doesn’t represent her needs sexually. I mean, porn is not a great instrument of female fantasy overall.
George Faller: Well, I like how we’ll using porn just as a springboard into two different scenarios. So say scenario one, couple puts on pornography. Husband really needs that to get aroused, wife is feeling ashamed as it’s going on, right? They start to make love. Husband’s not present because he’s in the fantasy, wife’s not present because she’s worried about the fears and what’s happening. And that porn didn’t enhance their emotional bond, it actually created a little distress and more distance in it. Scenario two, the couple is both using the porn as a launching point to just get them aroused. It’s not triggering the shame, it heightens their wanting each other.
Laurie Watson: It turns on their bodies.
George Faller: It turns on their bodies.
Laurie Watson: And they are looking now at each other.
George Faller: They’re looking at each other.
Laurie Watson: Uh-huh (affirmative).
George Faller: And it heightens their presence to be with each other. So porn in that second scenario is something that actually strengthens their bond. So it’s not the porn is good or bad, it’s really what the couple is going to do with it. And what we’re trying to empower our listeners is to just do an honest assessment with how are they using fantasy in their relationship? And can they incorporate in a way that’s going to strengthen what’s happening between them or is it actually something that’s creating more of that distance?
Laurie Watson: So say a few words about men using porn. I think that some men maybe could use porn in a way that it does still excite them and they bring and capture that energy into the marriage. I think that’s a possibility. I think it’s not as much of a probability because that’s not usually how men use porn to just to get aroused. I don’t know. Maybe we need to just talk about porn another time [crosstalk 00:12:07].
George Faller: I think it is important. Men are very visual. So if you’re making love to your wife and the lights are out and you’re not seeing anything, and it’s the same thing each night. Having that visual that just allows your body to get more arouse, and then you can turn the porn off and you’ve used it as just like a boost. I don’t think that’s really going to interfere with … it’s actually might increase your ability to … But if you’re going to try, it moves on or you’re going to trigger your wife shame, then it could go down a whole different road.
Laurie Watson: Right. And I think the problem with women in porn actually, sometimes women do … their bodies do get turned on, but they’re not very wired up in terms of their minds and bodies. So a woman can be physically aroused and not mentally aroused, she’s not turned on in her mind. Her body is. And men say that sometimes to me. They’ll say, “But we’ve used porn before and her body really gets into it and I can tell she’s turned on.” And it’s like, “Okay, but you can’t tell unless she tells you she’s turned on. Her mind for whatever reason, doesn’t see it as a turn on.”
George Faller: I really like your idea of a borrowed fantasy. If you’re reading a novel or you’re watching porn, I think what could be healthy about it is it’s getting you to anticipate and to expect. You’re being much more intentional about putting some time aside to allow your body to wake up, ready to serve. You’re using that to be more … Your brain, your body, your heart are more paying attention to what’s about to happen. You have a better chance of success. So well, what I’d like to do, we’re going to take a break, but come back and let’s hear about some different types of fantasies.
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Laurie Watson: It’s really a very, very fine product, something that I think you will enjoy and will bring you more pleasure. Hey, I want to let you guys know all about George. He’s written and contributed to several books and I’d especially like to draw your attention to his book Sacred Stress: A Radically Different Approach to Using Life’s Challenges for Positive Change. His book is about a mission on how you adopt new strategies and turn stresses into a positive force in your life. And who among us doesn’t live with a lot of stress these days? We’ll keep you posted as to all he’s doing. But George and other EFT therapists all around the country and the world hold couples retreats called Hold Me Tight, which is developed by Sue Johnson, and it helps secure your own relationship. If you’d like therapy with George, find him at georgefaller.com.
George Faller: Okay, I’m excitedly waiting. Laurie, let’s hear about these different types of fantasies.
Laurie Watson: That is definitely a male response.
George Faller: All right, girl.
Laurie Watson: We’ll talk about what most people talk about, right?
George Faller: Yes.
Laurie Watson: So I would say men, top fantasy is threesomes. I think the way I’ve understood it … Well, I have lots of different understandings about it, some which will not be very exciting to you. Mommy, daddy in bed kind of thing.
George Faller: Next fantasy. Next.
Laurie Watson: But I think it’s most men, straight men are fantasizing about two women and it’s just this incredible experience of two people interested in him at once. I can understand how that heightens the whole idea, that’s sounds exciting. I probably have talked to umpteen people who have done it, and they do it with their neighbors and it’s a pretty complicated experience. So it’s not something I’m saying to act out, but I think in fantasy … I think almost anything in fantasy, if both people can not be threatened by it could be very exciting to share why and what and how it goes in their mind in this scenario and the story. I mean, that could be a real way to maybe feel things that they wouldn’t necessarily block their intimacy, their commitment or change their commitment to fidelity. I think talking about things is a way to do that, to talk about what they are excited about. And the threesome fantasy for men is big. I think for some women it leads to the part of them that is gender fluid, that not everybody is completely 100% straight.
Laurie Watson: And so maybe they have a fantasy of bringing another woman in the bedroom with their partner. Or a lot of women do have fantasies about being with another woman once. I think there’s something different. The variety of that, the softness, the gentleness of that. I always say I’m 100% straight except for Melissa Etheridge, I think she’s totally hot. I love her music. And I get it, I totally get it. There’s some video that she’s got out that is super hot. But yeah, I think all of us are on some continuum of gay and straight and I think being accepting of that is fine, and then sharing that with your partner about who’s hot.
George Faller: Well, again, I think it’s everyone’s choice and what they want to share. If they want to go in certain areas with their fantasy or not. If you don’t want to fantasize about sex with the same partner, then that’s totally your call to make. I think some of the men fantasies you’re talking about, threesomes or being submissive, or … I mean, there are a lot of couples I’ve worked with where the husband fantasize about the wife having sex with someone else. But in all these scenarios, I think that the female is showing high levels of engagement, high levels of passion-
Laurie Watson: Yes. Yes.
George Faller: … high levels of initiation, which is so often what the turn on is for them in the male fantasy.
Laurie Watson: Right. I agree. That’s true. That’s the fantasy of her with another guy is that some other man, he’s feeling incapable of turning her on, but there’s some magic that lives inside her that he would be very excited to see whether it’s another man that turns it on in her or what. But that’s exciting. I think women also have fantasies about being submissive as well. I think some of this is about the lack of agency in a woman sometimes, she doesn’t feel the right to own it herself and so it has to be turned on. I mean, most of the erotic novels are about that, that she is the object that is suddenly turned on. And I think a lot of women feel that like that, and that’s partly how she needs a partner to be really excited about her in real life.
George Faller: Both fantasies have that theme, that the other person is so into you. So in starting off without arousal, that’s a big turn on.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I think for most people, married sex that starts after you put the groceries away, there’s some disappointment in that. And fantasy is a way to feel again, that sense of wow, being turned on at the beginning. I had some friends who used to roleplay. She told me about this, she was a girlfriend of mine. That they role-played everybody from famous people, to god forbid, the neighbors or something. And she said she would get out of bed and she and her husband would make the bed and it’s like, “Okay, okay, we’re back to ourselves.” But it was a way that they could act out all kinds of different parts of their sexual self by having a fantasy that they were actually … This is not just in their minds, not just sharing, but they were acting it out in a role play.
George Faller: So you haven’t seen fantasies where each partner says … Well, one partner turns and says, “Well, what do you think? Maybe tonight?” And then both of them undress their own, take their own clothes off. There’s no ripping clothes off.
Laurie Watson: “You want to do it?”
George Faller: And then there is, “You want to do it? Let’s turn the lights off. Let’s just … We only got a couple of minutes.”
Laurie Watson: “Just a minute, I got to go get cleaned up.”
George Faller: I mean, to me, that’s always … In a fantasy, you’re not taking your own clothes off. So how do we tap into that energy as a couple who’s been married 25 years?
Laurie Watson: I think this is one way to do it, is by sharing what you think about, what you want. I mean, sharing the fantasy leads to some sense of what we can do for the partner too, right? I mean, what they like.
George Faller: And it’s so necessary to have that conversation beforehand. If I’m thinking about me and my wife, it’s a lot less threatening to role play a famous couple.
Laurie Watson: Sure.
George Faller: You’ve never met them, who really cares? That’s kind of fun-
Laurie Watson: Sure.
George Faller: … and you’re both involved in it together. But when you start talking about the next door neighbor or someone else, and it brings in a different level of concern I guess.
Laurie Watson: I think there’s something different between a fantasy that you’re exploring with your partner and intention. Like if you continue to have fantasies about one person, let’s say the guy at the desk at work or something, to me, you’re setting your direction. And that to me is going to be a wall between you and your partner because you’re ima … First of all, you’re imagining how hot it is. And secondly, continuing to think that about any particular person, I think your body’s going to lean that way.
George Faller: I like the description of a wall lens. To me, it’s like having a drink. If you have a drink to loosen it up, it’s great. But if you have 12 drinks, you’re going to get into some problems, right?
Laurie Watson: Right.
George Faller: So if I have to fantasize about somebody I know to orgasm with my wife, then that’s certainly going to weaken our bond. What’s the function of that fantasy? Is it keeping you engaged or is it actually … And I think unfortunately there is a slippery slope for fantasy with a lot of people, that their brains need the fantasy to reach climax and it actually stops them from being president and engaged with their partner. And that’s when fantasy starts to really become a block.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative), when it’s a threat to the partnership in some way.
George Faller: Or you become dependent on the fantasy, which is it means you can’t really stay present in the moment in your body, emotionally connected, feeling your heart connected because your brain is elsewhere thinking about someone else.
Laurie Watson: I hear you, but I work with so many women that feel slightly differently than that. Like I’m thinking of this one woman and she just had a particular fantasy. It was the fantasy essentially she used to masturbate to throughout her young years. I mean, she needed that fantasy to get over the edge.
George Faller: Of?
Laurie Watson: I can’t remember, I think it was probably of her early partner. But symbolically, I think the way that we understood it as the couple is it wasn’t about him, it was about what she felt with him as a new lover. All that thrill, the mystery, the sense of, “I don’t know what I’m getting into.” That risk, that’s what made it come alive to her. And so she needed that feeling to really be aroused and reach orgasm. So I don’t know that the repetitive fantasy is necessarily going to produce a wall.
George Faller: Well, we were talking about this in our earlier podcast around trauma. I mean, I think if you needed to get over the edge, when you quickly can get back into your body with your partner and cuddle afterwards and experience the afterglow of oxytocin and a connection, then it’s not that big of a deal. But a lot of times when people have to exit, they don’t come back. So they need the fantasy, they get over the edge and then they feel-
Laurie Watson: And then they’re wishing that they were with the partner or something.
George Faller: Or they just, “All right, that’s done. Now let’s go onto the rest of the day, or go to bed and roll over.” And they don’t experience the-
Laurie Watson: Connection.
George Faller: … that afterglow that’s so critically important for strengthening that emotional bond. So again, for me, the proof is in the results. That if you fantasize, but it’s strengthenes that afterglow and you’re in each other’s arms and you feel great then, hey, go for it.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. And regarding the way this woman used her fantasy, I mean, I think women need their minds engaged. I just don’t think there’s enough gas in her body of testosterone that simply sensual touching works. I mean, it did work. But when you imagine, let’s say early in a relationship, there is plenty of fantasy that’s actually going on all the time. Her mind is engaged, and I think that that’s how women have libido is they engage their mind. I don’t know very many women who can in partnership, not have some projection or direction in her mind when they start sex. I agree that she can be willing. I mean, she’s probably not wanting yet, and she’s willing. But I think the way that she somewhat gets there is, yes, to be touched, to be aroused, but she has to let her mind go a little bit in that direction or I just don’t think she’ll turn on. I mean, women tell me all the time when trying to teach them how to have an orgasm, maybe they’re using a vibrator. And I’m like, “Well, what did you do?” And it’s like, “Why use the vibrator?”
Laurie Watson: I’m like, “Did you think about anything?” It’s like, “No, I just use the vibrator.” Okay. Well, you’re not going to get there. I think a woman just needs engagement, and I think in some ways that could be fantasy.
George Faller: True. So is that fantasy? I don’t think it has to be either or just because you’re having a fantasy means you can’t be present.
Laurie Watson: Right. Right, that’s what we’re saying.
George Faller: What you’re saying is I need the fantasy to prime the pump, to get me into it. But then I could be present with my partner, and if I feel like I need a little bit more, I go back to that fantasy, but then I come back to my partner. It’s the coming back, it’s the being present that’s what’s so critical to it being healthy for the bond. I think we’re all responsible for our own desire. We have our own inner worlds, so you don’t want to lose that. It is about sharing your world and going back into your own world and then coming back to your partner, and it’s that dance between the two that’s so exquisite and beautiful and you don’t really know what’s going to happen. So we don’t want to just eliminate fantasy because that’s not going to work so well, but we also don’t want to get lost in a fantasy. How do we do both?
Laurie Watson: Yeah, how do we keep it so that it enhances what we have with each other, but it also enlivens our committed partnership over time?
George Faller: It’s good news if you’re even thinking about a fantasy because it’s pointing you in the right direction.
Laurie Watson: So tip of the day, don’t take your own clothes off. Thanks for listening to Foreplay Radio. Keep it hot. Hi Foreplay fam, the biggest support you can give us is sharing our podcast with a friend. You can find us also on socials, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And we’d love your questions and feedback, and really do use these to guide our show. We’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. If you’re interested in learning more about us and our mission, look us up on our hot new website, foreplayradiosextherapy.com
Speaker 3: Call in your questions to the Foreplay question voicemail, dial 833-MY4PLAY. That’s 833, the number 4, play. And we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes.
George Faller: All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.