Sometimes fantasies of sexual or romantic scenarios might seem more fulfilling than actual sexual intercourse.
For many adults, fantasy can even be a crucial element during sex. So when does checking out with fantasy in the middle of sexual intercourse become a problem? Sure, your partner probably wouldn’t like to know the full details of your every fantasy, but what they don’t know can’t hurt them, right? If inner fantasy remains undetected, what’s the problem with focusing on a dream lover rather than… the real lover in your bed? This widespread condition almost warrants a proverb for this pornographic age: “One in the bed is worth two in your head.”
Why does fantasy feel so good?
In or out of bed, we generally rely on fantasies or daydreams to boost our egos with magnified feelings of desirability, bravery, and mastery. After all, the ‘mind’s eye’ of imagination is the last refuge of the burdened, and we’re all burdened by the demands of our present, the fears of the future, and layers of known and unknown past traumas that seem to want all our attention, all the time. Personal fantasies are those sole properties which, in the words of Virginia Woolf, truly are “a room of one’s own.”
Fantasies can also be dissociative coping mechanisms learned in childhood to prevent the ego from being overwhelmed. The pattern is established to such an extent, that we might not even be able to fully realize the degree to which fantasy dictates our daily experience. When such pleasurable escapism is unwanted and unstoppable, this is a form of fantasy addiction, which itself is often a symptom of sex addiction or love addiction ( More on why do men and women have affairs ?… and is my wife or husband a sex addict?).
What’s the harm in fantasy?
Here are some of the potential fallouts from losing oneself in fantasy rather than staying present with reality:
1. Destruction. “What goes up must come down.” If it’s to build the ego up with grandiose feelings through ‘inflation’, there follows a period of ‘deflation’ that can be devastating where feelings of worthiness give way to feeling worthless.
2. Distortion. Wearing glasses with the wrong prescription will impair one’s vision over time. Similarly fantasy impairs the ability to discern and adapt to reality, although it may give the illusion that one is actually ‘practicing’ to be better-adapted to reality.
3. Disconnection. It’s dismaying that attempts to connect with others through shared experiences like sex and conversation can seem to create so much disconnection. When relationships feel draining or unfulfilled, chances are that we’re not actually experiencing the relationship itself rather we’re experiencing how we experience. Underneath any fantasy, communication is usually rooted in isolation and longing, which can only create further isolation and longing cloaked in fantasy.
How can we control our fantasies?
We’ve probably all had the experience of “checking out” during unpleasant or uncomfortable experiences – such as tedious conversations or boring activities. Even stimulating conversations may inspire one to check out, if only for a moment, in order to focus on personal goals, feelings or anecdotes to share next.
When do we stop listening to what is actually going on?
How can we be present with reality even when we are uncomfortable, annoyed or just plain bored?
These are lifelong questions to which there are no ultimate answers except for individual understanding. Through the help of a trained sex therapist, we may begin to develop a process for asking and answering these same two questions phrased another way: what are our triggers, and what are the tools for self-regulation that work for us? When we can ask and answer these questions, we will begin to experience emotional presence.
There is no substitute for meaningful connection with a sex partner than… building a meaningful connection. This requires a certain risk to face the unknown and the certainty that all will be okay. Being ‘okay’ can mean that we will receive a pleasurable experience, it can also mean that we will give a pleasurable experience. The ability to give and receive pleasure really requires that we are present with ourselves first before we can be present with others.