Dear Neil: Would you address the subject of having lustful fantasies about others while being in a stable, long-term monogamous relationship? Is there a place for sexual fantasies about others in a healthy committed relationship? The two of us are divided on this subject, and my partner is upset with me, accusing me of mental infidelity. Please help.
Divided in L.A.
Dear Divided: How would your partner know about your sexual fantasies unless you were talking about them? And why would you be talking about them with someone who doesn’t want to know?
Some people find that fantasies help their sex life by adding variety to the encounter, while others think that sex between two loving committed people is sacred, and it cannot tolerate intruders.
But the world is big enough for both of you. Just keep your fantasies to yourself. And make sure your partner feels loved, cared about, attractive, sexy and special to you.
In order to verbalize sexual fantasies in a relationship and have it work, both people must be interested, and both must be equal co-participants in talking about their respective fantasy images. Otherwise, you’re likely to trigger all sorts of insecurities, jealousies, fears of abandonment, hurt, anger and expectations of betrayal and rejection.
Dear Neil: My boyfriend of one year and I live some distance apart, and find it difficult to spend a lot of time together. We have talked about commitment, but he is too unsure of his own feelings to make a commitment before he has lived with someone, and I don’t want to live with someone until I have a formal commitment.
I am unsure how to approach this without looking like I am trying to push him into marriage. I want him to propose only when he’s ready.
Catch-22 in New Zealand
Dear Catch-22: If your boyfriend is too unsure of his feelings to explore a deeper commitment, assume he isn’t ready to make such a commitment at this time.
But there is nothing wrong in asking him what he is feeling about the relationship, where he sees the relationship heading, and what does he think each of you can do in order to build the best relationship possible—other than living together first.
Explore these questions together until you reach an agreement about what future goals you are shooting for together, and what plan of action the two of you are agreeing to take in order to meet those goals.
Dear Neil: Here’s a problem about the very thorniest issue I have. I emotionally shut down during sex, and feel terror when I—or my partner—get sexually aroused. As a result, I lapse into a “no feeling” state when things get going. I dissociate, and therefore feel nothing. Therapy has not healed any of this. How do I make meaningful sex a part of my experience?
Not Having a Great Time In Portland
Dear Not Having a Great Time: What goes on for you when you emotionally shut down and feel terror by your (or your partner’s) arousal? What exactly are you feeling? What do you fear will happen? When was the first time in your life that you remember having this feeling? Be willing to look at what you feel so vulnerable about.
You’re having this reaction for a reason. Finding out what that reason is, is the first step in overcoming the problem. You’re eventually going to have to allow yourself to feel your vulnerability and not flee from it if you want this problem to lessen.