Should I Tell My Husband if I Fake Orgasm or Fantasize During Sex?

by | Jul 27, 2020 | Uncategorized | 43 comments

Merchandise is Here!

If you’re faking orgasm or fantasizing while you make love, should you confess to your husband?

Wow. That’s a tough one! We’re getting to the end of our sex questions series, and I wanted to tackle one that I haven’t talked about in a few years. A woman asks:

Should I tell my husband if I fantasize about other guys alone and while with him sometimes? Or will I just hurt him?

Another woman says:

Sex has never felt that great for me, and my husband used to get really upset about that and wonder what was wrong with me. So I started faking orgasm. And I’m tired of faking, but I don’t want to deal with all the fights if I tell him what’s been happening. What should I do?

I thought I’d try to tackle both of these on the same day since they both have to do with honesty about sex. I’m going to ask my husband to chime in on one of these, too! So let’s get started.

Should You Tell Him If You Fantasize About Other Guys?

I asked Keith this one, and asked if he could write this section of the blog for me. He said there was no point, because it would be only one word.

“NO.”

We were speaking at a marriage conference when we were discussing this, and one of the other guys on staff wasn’t sure that one word was sufficient. He said he would need three.

“Are you stupid?”

Perhaps that’s harsh, but I did survey the guys speaking about marriage and they all said the same thing: not on your life.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. It’s just that sometimes disclosure would do so much harm to the relationship without bringing about any measurable good. What you need is real intimacy, where you’re able to focus on him. But you can get that in your sex life without having to tell him that you’re sexually fantasizing about someone else. More on that in a bit.

For now, I’d suggest reading the post on why honesty in marriage isn’t always the best policy. Then, if it’s specific guys you’re fantasizing about, use the steps in that article to get some accountability with some friends and to start praying (you absolutely do have to do that!). If it’s “other guys” in general, rather than some specific “other guys”, then read below for the steps on how to stop dissociating and start concentrating on what’s happening with your husband to train your arousal to respond to him rather than a fantasy.

I have a hard time with this, to be honest, because i tend to think that complete transparency is usually wise. But sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Is telling him this enhancing intimacy or not?” And sometimes by telling him something, we’re simply transferring our guilt and angst onto him. We can feel better now because we’ve confessed, but now he hse to deal with the repercussions. Sometimes that’s necessary (when there have been affairs or porn use or something), but other times I think it’s kinder to your spouse to get your own accountability and deal with this.

I could be wrong on this one, and I think it depends what you feel God telling you. I don’t think it’s a straightforward answer.

Should You Tell Him if You Fake Orgasm?

This one’s a little more straightforward, though, and for this one, there is no option except to tell him. 

If you want a truly intimate sex life, then you’re going to have to learn to experience pleasure, and you can’t learn that if you’ve been faking.

Faking may “work” for a while: maybe the kids are little and you’re exhausted and you just want to get it over with and you want him to feel close to you, and this seems to accomplish that. But one day you won’t be so exhausted. One day you’re going to want sex to be for you, too.

And the longer you make sex just for him, the more resentful you’re going to feel.

You’ll start feeling like he’s absolutely oblivious and likely a little dumb. He thinks everything’s great, but you know it’s not. How can he be that clueless? 

Yet from his perspective, how could he think any differently?

And the longer you go on like that, the bigger your dilemma gets. Do you tell him that you haven’t felt that great for 10 years? For 15?

Please, faking orgasm is SUCH a bad habit to get started.

I know why we start it–we feel pressure to have an orgasm, because he often feels so disappointed and like a failure if we don’t. And then sometimes that disappointment on his part sounds like anger–“what’s wrong with you”? And we figure that if he thinks that we reach the big O, then he’ll feel so happy and he’ll be more affectionate and life will be great again.

And it actually seems to work.

But do that long enough and you’ll build up so much resentment, because you’ll feel like an object, you’ll feel like he doesn’t really know you (because he doesn’t), and you’ll feel like you sacrifice all the time and he doesn’t even see it–and it’s not sustainable.

When you're been faking it with your husband--and you need to start being honest to reset your sex life.

What you need is to experience real pleasure.

But you can’t do that until he first knows that you’re not experiencing it now, or else he won’t be able to help you. And you need his help.

Need more help? Try these!

How Can You Have that Conversation if You’ve Been Faking Orgasm?

Carefully. Don’t have it on a whim, or in the middle of another fight where you’re angry at him for being insensitive about something else.

Explain that you truly love him, and that you truly want to be intimate together.

But say that you made a mistake. You thought this would make him happy, but you didn’t realize how dishonest it was and how it would end up driving a wedge between you, and that’s not what you want. What you want is a really intimate and fun sex life, and you really need his help to get there.

You may need to give him some time now to grieve or to get over the deception. Take care not to get angry. I know it’s natural–“why are you so angry? I’m the one who’s been giving with sex for the last few  years without getting anything out of it!” Let him have his feelings, because you were deceptive, even if it was for what seems like a selfless reason.

Now, You Need a Sexual Reset

Now it’s time to start over, and to start learning how to experience pleasure without dissociating–without fantasizing, or faking, or going somewhere else in your head. Let’s face it: when you fake it, you can also be writing a grocery list in your head or going over your to-do list or thinking of a thousand other things. You’re not really there. And when you’re fantasizing, you’re a million miles away in your head, too.

We need to bring our heads back in the game, because we’ll never be able to experience real pleasure if we’re not fully present, in the moment.

Here’s the thing about a woman’s sex drive: if you’re lying there thinking of a thousand different things, figuring that once he hits exactly the right spot or does exactly the right thing it will bring you back to the moment and cause you to stop thinking of all of those things, you’re setting yourself up for lousy sex. Sex only feels good when we deliberately concentrate on our bodies, because our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. When we think of everything but what’s happening, then what’s happening can’t feel good, even if he’s the best lover in the world. You need to train your brain to stay in the game.

 A sexual reset means focusing on pleasure. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Ask yourself “what feels good right now?” It forces your brain to think about your body and you may realize that something’s feeling good.
  • You be the more aggressive one–climb on top, or manipulate your positions so that it’s feeling the best for you.
  • Take some time and just let him touch you, without you moving, say for 15 minutes. Learn what feels good.
  • Play teacher and order him around, showing him what you need him to do (most guys really like this game!)

I’d also really recommend my book 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s 31 days of challenges that you do as a couple. You read 2-4 pages a night and then you do what it says. And many of those challenges will teach you how to finally talk honestly about sex; how to discover what feels good; how to bring the tension level down in your marriage by flirting more and being more affectionate; how to try different things; how to forgive each other and feel spiritually like you’re one; and so many more! And there’s a big focus on putting the past behind you and moving forward, and you likely need that right now.

What if you’ve just been fantasizing, and you haven’t confessed that? How do you ask him to do all these things now?

Try this:

Honey, I feel like I’ve been missing out on all that sex is, and I’d like to start a big research project where we really figure out how my body works and how we work together. I love you and I’ve had fun, but I want so much more for us. What do you say?

You can also tell him something like, “sometimes my mind wanders to sexy things I’ve seen on TV or in movies” (if that’s what you mean by ‘other guys’ rather than a specific guy), “and I want to stay totally focused on you. Can you help me?”

A Sexual Reset is Possible

It needs more honesty. It means a commitment from you to prioritize sex in your marriage; to think of sex positively; to make love more frequently (since libido is a use it or lose it thing for women). It means being giving to your husband and also giving him time to grieve. But you can get there. And if you keep emphasizing that your goal is to be totally intimate with him and have so much fun, then hopefully he’ll get on board and want to explore with you!

And if you are looking for a bit more help with getting to orgasm, I’ve got the just the thing!

 

The Orgasm Course is Here to Help You Experience Real Passion!

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And it’s $20 off right now for the complete course (women’s edition & men’s edition) until November 2!

Now let’s talk in the comments: What’s the most detrimental thing a woman can do to her sex life? How do you get over this?

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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43 Comments

  1. Anon

    I just want to agree with Keith and the other guys. Do not tell your husband you are fantasizing about anyone else.
    I would never be able to recover from that if my wife told me. I sometimes suspect that my wife is attracted to her cousins husband who sometimes compliments her. It makes me so uncomfortable. I don’t even dare asking her if she is. Knowing that she would fantasize about him would kill me.
    So it’s better to not say anything
    But as you say Sheila, work on it. Confess it to an accountability partner and ask God for help. That’s what I did when I was struggling with my thoughts about a woman I worked with. Thankfully I got over it doing these things.

    Reply
    • unmowngrass

      I have seen enough TV and read enough cheap novels to know a probable scenario here… if you do ask your wife about the other guy, and the answer was “no, don’t be daft”, then over the next two weeks your asking would germinate in a way that leads her to “but actually…” and because a book needs a plot, in a book the person would then do something about that. In real life we are of course responsible to take every thought captive to Christ, so that doesn’t mean that your wife would then have an affair. I’m just saying that if you put the idea in her head, then the idea will be in her head. When it wasn’t before, necessarily. Don’t ignore real warning signs, but don’t let yourself get eaten up by nothings either. Praying for you.

      Reply
  2. Joy

    I totally agree, don’t tell him about the other guys!! You know, sometimes a little omission or even a tiny white lie is not the end of the world.
    The day I came home from surgery, my husband let me nap and made lasagna for the first time in his life. For me. The man hates cooking and looking at meat, but he did it anyways. Because it’s my favorite dish, food is my love language and he wanted to make me feel better. It was…ahem…well, it wasnt good. I told him I LOVED it, because to me that was just the right thing to do. I had SECONDS!
    That’s to say, sometimes honesty is not the best policy. Especially when it’s something sentimental, and where there’s nothing he can do about it. There’s a lot YOU can do (and I think you should, not because fantasizing is necessarily a sin but because I think it can creep in and corrode your intimacy in ways you can’t foresee). Good luck!

    Reply
  3. Active Mom

    So when I first read this and read Keith’s response I had to pause because I started to chuckle but then I read the next one and started to fill out laugh. I love it. That’s how my husband answers questions and it makes me laugh because sometimes other people will look at him waiting for him to go into more detail etc. Can’t be more straightforward than that.

    Reply
  4. Chris

    I have never understood how any rational, thinking woman would arrive at the conclusion that her sex life would actually improve by faking an orgasm.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well, so many books tell us that what a husband really wants is for his wife to be excited and to be orgasmic. And so what we hear is, “if you’re not enjoying yourself, he’s not enjoying himself.” And so we feel like we have to convince him we’re enjoying ourselves. It’s amazing how many Christian books that we reviewed for The Great Sex Rescue (coming out next spring) made it a point of telling women it’s important to your husbands that you enjoy yourself and you must show him you enjoy yourself–without also telling women HOW to enjoy themselves, or telling men that it’s important that she does!

      Reply
      • AJ

        As a man I would agree wholeheartedly with the advice mentioned above. I want my wife to be excited and orgasmic. Otherwise sex feels very one sided. If my wife is not enjoying herself I’m not enjoying myself. However, if she’s not enjoying herself I want to know immediately so WE can make things enjoyable for both of us. This might mean doing things differently or waiting for a better moment. Faking orgasms is a very bad idea. If your husband really knows your body and your sexual response, it is impossible to “fake” an orgasm. Also, unless your husband asks you directly if you have ever faked an orgasm DO NOT tell him you have.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          AJ, I know that’s what most men feel, and I’m so glad that men truly want their wives to enjoy sex! I wish Christian resources stressed it this way more. Let’s help couples figure this out, rather than making women feel they have to convince men they enjoy it. We want REAL intimacy, after all! Thank you for being such a generous guy.

          Reply
      • Happy wife

        This is such utter bullocks to me to think that there is such a man that would not be as invested in his wife’s pleasure and enjoyment or even More invested in hers than his, because remember guys the more satisfaction you bring her the better it is for you. It’s a win win!
        We were each other’s first and have celebrated 13+ anniversaries now. Never once was my pleasure not a top priority, never once was I coerced, good Christian men do exist and they are loving their wives and families very very well!

        Reply
  5. Boone

    Oh my!!!! There are some secrets that need to be taken to the grave. Among those are who actually pulled the trigger, where the bodies are buried, the names of the members of Seal Team Six and the fact that you’re fantasizing about someone else while making love to your husband and the fact that you’re faking orgasms.
    If you tell him you will crush him. It’s that simple. Stop it!!! You’re gearing your marriage up for a kamikaze strike. The damage will be apocalyptic.
    Faking orgasms is worse. If you tell him he will always wonder is it real or is she faking. That nagging question will always be there no matter how really worked up you are. Faking orgasms is like going to work for the mob. It’s very easy to get started but once you’re into it you’ll find its very difficult to stop. It’s ultimately up to you to figure out what puts you over the top. You can’t depend on somebody else to do that for you. It’s also up to you to convey that information to your husband. He’s not a mind reader nor should you expect him to be. He’ll be willing to help but he’s got to know what you need.
    Boone

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Boone, I hear you. But here’s a problem: If a woman’s been faking orgasm, and she’s NEVER enjoyed sex (a scenario for many women), and she actually wants to, then that means that she needs to tell her husband that she needs more foreplay/stimulation, etc. But he isn’t likely to realize how MUCH she needs, or that this is a serious thing, if he doesn’t also realize that she wasn’t orgasming earlier. That’s the problem. How can she tell him that she can’t orgasm just through intercourse or without stimulation and have him believe her if she’s been pretending to orgasm that way for so long?

      Reply
      • Greg

        Let’s not forget that the same thing goes for men. I’ve been faking orgasms for a long, long time and I’ve learned to live with it. As for my wife fantasizing about other men, I’m ok with that.

        Reply
  6. Becky

    Sheila, just out of curiosity, would you advocate exactly the same type of non-disclosure with his wife for a man who is fantasizing about other women while he is intimate with his wife or while he is alone as you would for the woman described above who is fantasizing about other men while she is intimate with her husband or while she is alone?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I just find this one really difficult, because I think you end up seriously wounding your spouse. I think, though, that you MUST confess to someone who can keep you accountable, and you should go through the process of learning not to dissociate during sex but stay focused on your spouse and stay present. And that can be difficult to retrain. But you have to ask yourself, “am I trying to relieve my guilt by simply transferring the burden to my spouse?” I think it’s a super tough one.

      Reply
      • Soup + Celery

        Hey, Sheila!
        What are your thoughts on asking your spouse directly if they fantasize? Even if you suspect something, should you keep your misgivings to yourself?
        Or if your spouse asks YOU directly (assuming you do/have fantasize(d), should you just say “I’m not going to answer that.”?

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think if it’s direct, you have to be honest. But I think focusing on the solution rather than the problem may help!

          Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Not Sheila, but my perspective is that if there is an issue you don’t want your spouse asking about, you should be doing the work to make sure it’s not a problem anymore! If you struggle with fantasizing but have set up accountability and are taking strides to move past it, if your spouse asks you point blank you can say, “Yes, I’ve had a hard time focusing on you while I”m in the moment but I’m doing X, Y, and Z because I care about you and our marriage and want our sex life to be intimate and wonderful.”
          The problem is that often we see our issues as something that isn’t a problem until we’re caught. But in a marriage we need to each be humble and willing to change and grow for the better, actively pursuing wholeness and healing in whatever weaknesses we have.
          Instead of focusing on what to do if our spouses ask, it’s better if each of us simply asks ourselves “What am I doing to safeguard my marriage” so that if anything were to come up or need to be brought up we could do so with love and reassurance that each of us is putting our spouse first.

          Reply
  7. Becky

    Is the woman described above cheating on her husband when she is fantasizing about other men like this?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      If it’s a specific guy, I’d say it’s very dangerous. If it’s generic fantasy (many women fantasize about scenarios more than they do actual people) it’s a little greyer.
      I really think going through the steps to stop dissociation that I talked about in the posts I linked and in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is a good idea.

      Reply
    • Cesar Anino

      I wonder is this verses apply to this situation
      But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye —causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand —causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
      Matthew 5:28‭-‬30 NLT

      Reply
  8. Hopeful

    I have two comments. 1) I guess I’m the one guy who would want to know that my wife was fantasizing about other men. Intimacy is defined by knowing and being known. Sure, it would hurt. And it would be the most vulnerable moment for both of us. It would move us toward greater intimacy. I desire deep intimacy with my wife of 40 years.
    And 2) Accountability is a rouse then the church has foisted on us, it is only good like an emergency room is good. Accountability does not provide lasting benefit or meaningful change. It is helpful for a brief time during an emergency. Accountability is based in legalistic thinking. Accountability as a solution comes from the shame model for successful change. That is, if I can just experience enough shame, then I’ll change. It is an example of the “gospel of sin management.” It actually fuels the problem, it never solves the problem, ever. I’m all for allowing ourselves to be fully known by a few others of the same gender. Then I can receive love and compassion and encouragement, but not “accountability.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying, Hopeful. And I agree–some people would rather know, and that’s why I have real difficulty with this one. I do think that if you’re just transferring your guilt feelings onto your spouse to relieve your guilt, but now they feel worse–that’s not helping. And some spouses will be able to handle things better than others. It’s very hard.
      As for accountability, I know what you’re saying. I think having good same sex friends that are there with you through life and that can challenge you and hold you up, while you do the same for them, is vitally important, and that’s how I see this issue, and that’s what I was picturing. I know in my life there are a few times I’ve had to call a really good friend and say, “I’m struggling with this. Can you pray with me, and not let me off the hook about it? And watch me and see if you see any danger signs?” And they’ve done that for me. I think that’s healthy. But setting up accountability where there isn’t a pre-existing relationship or any kind of trust or any kind of ongoing back and forth isn’t the biblical model. Maybe I should write more on that, because I do think that there is a lot of confusion about it, and the evidence for “accountability” working is very sparse when it’s simply a legalistic relationship like that.

      Reply
      • Hopeful

        In my opinion, what you’re describing isn’t called accountability, it’s called intimacy. Same sex intimacy is very powerful and it’s not accountability. I’m accountable to my boss at work. He/she is “above” me, they have authority over me. In my small and very intimate group of male friends, no one is over anyone. To say, “I need an accountability partner,” is to say I need someone over me because I’m not capable. That is known as shame and it is toxic. I need intimate friends, not accountability partners.
        I’d love to read more from you on this topic, I really enjoy your writings. In doing your research, I really recommend listening to this from John Michael Cusick. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/restoring-the-soul-with-michael-john-cusick/id1120914952?i=1000409387917

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you for that! I’ll take a listen. I do think this needs to be talked about more. When I think accountability/intimacy, I think James 5:16–“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one to another, that you may be healed.” But that’s supposed to be in the context of real community, not false or forced community.

          Reply
  9. Becky

    Sheila, I appreciate your answer. However, my question was pertaining to defining what’s going actually going on here — not diagnosis:
    I wasn’t asking whether the woman you reference above fantasizing about a given guy (real or imagined) is dangerous or not. The way that you used the word “dangerous” is a euphemism.
    I’m asking whether the fantasies in her mind of being sexually intimate with men other than her husband is out-and-out cheating — you know, bonafide marital unfaithfulness as Jesus would define it in the Gospels?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t think it’s an easy answer, because there’s a grey area. It’s very similar to porn. I believe that porn is cheating–but that doesn’t mean that a porn session means that divorce is a good idea. When porn becomes an unrepentant addiction that ruins intimacy–then, yes, it’s certainly grounds for divorce. But someone watching porn for a night, I don’t think, carries the same weight as a one night stand. On the other hand, someone watching porn unrepentantly and repeatedly is likely more than a one night stand.
      The problem with asking the question “is it adultery?” Is that there’s usually a question that goes along with it: “Is it thus cause for divorce?” It’s hard to separate the two. And that’s where we need to be careful. I wouldn’t put that in this category. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not dangerous or that it doesn’t hurt intimacy.

      Reply
  10. Becky

    So to advance your thinking here a little further Sheila, let’s set aside the word “adultery”. It’s seems to cause too much confusion.
    Are you saying that if the mental fantasizing that this woman is doing here is repeatedly, unrelenting and unchanging, then it is cheating?
    I’m trying to figure out at what point you transition this woman’s sexual fantasizing from a “grey area” (a term that you keep using) over to a level of cheating that anyone would understand — especially her husband.
    What if she has always used sexual fantasy to reach sexual arousal and climax every week for several years — is she a confirmed cheater now? What if she fantasizes about once every month — is that not enough to not classify it as cheating in your mind?
    I can’t seem to figure out what your tipping point is. Are your standards that malleable and nuanced? When it comes to fantasizing involving porn use, for example, you come off as being very cock sure of yourself.
    However with this woman’s situation, at one point would you able to call a spade a spade?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Becky, I think you may be missing some key points about fantasies, so this is going to be a long comment, and bear with me.
      Porn involves looking at specific people and masturbating to them. Porn involves participating in sex trafficking, and usually masturbating to women or children being raped. It is a sin against a specific person, and it is wrong.
      Fantasies are not like that on the whole. Yes, someone may fantasize about a specific person, and that is wrong. But that is also very rare when it comes to fantasies. Most people fantasize about scenarios, not people. And most of those scenarios are not things they would actually want to do.
      Fantasies tend to tell us about our sexuality and reveal things about our deepest desires and insecurities. They’re like dreams–they’re often more symbolic than anything else. And the things that turn you on are not sins–they just reveal what’s going on in your heart and mind. And they can be very damaging and very bad, and you may need to work through them because they may reveal something that’s bad, but it’s not a sin to have a fantasy per se.
      For instance, rape fantasies are extremely common (both being raped and perpetrating the rape). Yet almost no women would actually want to live either of those things out. What rape fantasies often reveal is that the woman wants to feel either out of control, or in control. Take out of control for a moment–it seems ironic, but a rape fantasy often means that she wants to feel free to enjoy things without overthinking them, and when control is taken then you can just be. But women don’t really want to be raped. That would be their biggest fear and nightmare. Fantasizing about raping someone can be a desire to feel control, because you feel as if that’s been taken from you. But you don’t really want to hurt anyone. That particular fantasy is very common for abuse survivors.
      Or people may fantasize about BDSM for the same reason–to be freer sexually–but they don’t actually want to do it, and if they ever tried it, it doesn’t turn them on. Or they fantasize about multiple people not because they want that, but because they want to feel super sexual, and sex feels like a lot of work right now where they have to work themselves up to something. All kinds of things like that.
      If people can understand that fantasies don’t tend to mean that you actually want these things, but that your mind tends to associate these things with feeling sexy, and if you can unpack WHY you’re drawn to those scnearios, then you often learn about your own sexuality. And if you can share that with your spouse, that can draw you closer together and you can work at giving you the chance to live out the underlying need. Need to feel more sexual? Help her not have to think so much and just allow her to experience. Need to feel more out of control? In control? Etc. Let’s look at how we can help those feelings come out instead of her feeling as if she has to perform in bed in one particular way, or if she’s nervous about what she does in bed.
      There is nothing wrong with having fantasies; we all do. It really isn’t in the same league as porn whatsoever (since porn is a REAL person and is actual sex trafficking). It’s a window into your sexuality. It becomes a big problem if it’s centered on a particular person, but most of our fantasies aren’t. And it also becomes problematic if you need that fantasy to get aroused, so that you’re not mentally present with your spouse, and all your arousal is coming from scenarios in your head rather than from what your spouse is doing. That’s what needs to stop.
      I think if couples could talk about this more, they could actually overcome a need for fantasies that are shameful/problematic, etc., and free up her sexuality. That should likely be another series of posts. Because a lot of women think they’re horrible because things they hate turn them on. But that’s just because it represents a feeling to them, and if we can explore that, we’d free her up from the power of it and we’d allow her to experience that with her husband. So maybe I’ll write more about that later.
      But that’s why they’re not equivalent. I hope that’s clear.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I should also say this is a MUCH bigger topic than I can write in a comment; there are a lot of problems, for instance, if people want to act out morally wrong scenarios, etc. I’m just pointing out that fantasies, like dreams, usually tell us something about ourselves, and are a way that our minds/hearts have of trying to explain to us what’s going on and trying to work through feelings.
        Actively feeding these fantasies can create sexual problems of their own; relying on the fantasies to reach arousal with your spouse creates problems; trying to act them out (depending on what they are) causes big problems.
        But having a fantasy is simply not the same as watching porn and getting gratification from an actual person being raped.

        Reply
      • Christine

        Hi Sheila, thank you for this response. It was really helpful.

        Reply
  11. Hopeful

    Sheila – I was just reading in Richard Schwartz’s book “You are the One” and noticed this which reminded me of the question about sharing partner replacement fantasies.
    “One aspect of intimacy is the ability to be highly vulnerable with your partner and, while in that state, to receive love and acceptance from him or her. It is scary to reveal to someone, but especially to your intimate other, aspects of your character that you view as weak, unsavory, or shameful. The fear is that once you expose those parts of you, you will be forever seen by that other as having those character flaws. If you both understand that those are just small parts of you – parts that carry burdens of worthlessness, insecurity, distorted sexual impulses, and so on; parts that simply need empathy and acceptance to heal – it’s easier for you to reveal them and for your partner to respond lovingly. There is something magical about trusting that all of you is welcomed in a relationship.“
    That is the type of relationship that I desire and am doing my best to do my part to enable it.

    Reply
  12. Hopeful

    Becky – you didn’t ask me. However one chooses to name this woman’s fantasizing (cheating, adultery, acceptable, normal, whatever…), this woman is a person, a sentient being, who is fully known and loved by God. There is meaning in her fantasy, it can tell her and her spouse some very important things about the inner working of her sexual self. These meanings are important and provide opportunities for love and healing, perhaps healing that cannot be discovered and experienced any other way. She needs love and acceptance, not a diagnosis or label. In my opinion. I’ll shut up now.

    Reply
  13. Becky

    Sheila, I’m quoting you:
    “Fantasies are not like that on the whole. Yes, someone may fantasize about a specific person, and that is wrong”.
    You say that fantasizing about a specific person (not involving porn) is wrong.
    You also dismiss the notion that having a generalized fantasy involving a non-specific person is wrong. In fact, you say that this type of fantasy is not a sin. Rather, it is just an indicator of unmet needs or insecurities:
    “Fantasies tend to tell us about our sexuality and reveal things about our deepest desires and insecurities. They’re like dreams–they’re often more symbolic than anything else. And the things that turn you on are not sins–they just reveal what’s going on in your heart and mind”.
    Okay, let me try this again:
    Let’s say the woman above has had a fantasy for quite a good long time about her next door neighbor or the man who works closely with her on a team in her office. Even though she has these feelings of attraction, she’s never crossed the line and connected with her neighbor or co-worker in any sexual or even subtle flirtatious way. In fact, she has no intention of doing so. This other man is totally unaware of what she is thinking or feeling and has never signaled any interest towards her.
    However, whenever she is sexually intimate with her husband (or by herself), this other man’s face, his body and feeling of his emotional presence is there in her mind as she lets herself become aroused and the stimulation continues until she reaches climax and/or the sexual encounter with husband has concluded.
    What this woman is doing is:
    1. Looking at another man.
    2. Then allowing her mind to use his image and the feeling of him “being there” to sexually gratify herself (whether it involves masturbation or not).
    Wouldn’t this be a form of cheating on her husband?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Becky, oh, certainly, if it’s a specific person, then that’s not just fantasizing, that’s lusting. That needs to stop. Again, though, we’re in the issue I brought up before–why is it so important to know whether it’s cheating or not?Just like I said with porn in the honesty is the best policy, if it’s a temptation, something you’ve used off an on, but you’re dealing with it, it’s not controlling you, and you have a friend you’re talking to about it, then you are dealing with the sin. This isn’t grounds for divorce.
      If it’s all the time and you need to think of him to climax? Then you’ve got a lust problem and you need to stop, as I’ve talked about in other posts about emotional affairs.
      Is there a reason you’re really upset about this one?

      Reply
  14. Becky

    I’ll get to my personal reasons in asking shortly — I promise. If you can indulge me, you’ll find out that I’m going somewhere with all of this.
    You seem to be uncomfortable with the application of the term “cheating”.
    Here’s what you just said:
    “Why is it so important to know whether it’s cheating or not?”
    This prompts an immediate question for me given the many statements you’ve made about porn use in previous comments since you first penned this blog post on July 27th.
    So here goes:
    Is looking at porn (mental fantasy) cheating against one’s spouse?

    Reply
  15. unmowngrass

    If you ever need to tell me anything like this, do you really need to ‘tell’ me? Send me an email. Preferably on the first night of a 14-day business trip. Telling me in person is going to put me under a lot of pressure to have the right response just now, which may lead to fights and the further deterioration of our relationship. In the long run I think I would want to know, providing that in telling me you also commit to praying for my peace of mind as well as to resigning that attitude into the past, but I don’t think I want you to actually tell me in person.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Interesting, unmowngrass. Yes, I think you bring up some great points. This is a hard, hard thing to hear. if you are going to tell your spouse, be very kind to your spouse and allow them space. Really good thoughts!

      Reply
      • Petrina

        What I don’t understand is why women don’t know their bodies. I feel like women are encouraged to believe that they are not sexual beings and that this was a tactic for men to attempt to control women’s sexuality. It backfires, because many women end up hung up and repressed sexually. Not only that, they don’t know their bodies and there’s a bunch of false information floating around on the internet and elsewhere about a women’s “limited” response capabilities. It seems women are content with missing out sexually because I guess if you don’t know what you have, you don’t know what you’re missing and not utilizing. It is a big deal to me because I feel like the enemy has hijacked women’s sexuality and women’s pleasure. If we were not supposed to experience it, God would not have given us our bodies and much of what is unknown is a woman’s internal, not external capabilities.

        Reply
  16. Becky

    An older man named Larry, who is the leader of our church care group, gives really awesomely warm hugs.
    Anyways, a few years ago, I finally admitted to my husband that I was looking forward to them too much. His response towards my admission was big-hearted, forgiving and non-judgmental. This was not an emotional affair because Larry was not trying to stir anything in me — he was innocent and totally unaware of what was happening inside of me.
    You see, my husband and I have a great marriage but Larry’s wonderful hugs were creating images and thoughts in my mind that I didn’t desire but truly did desire.
    Having suffered severe physical abuse from my father as a young girl caused me to not trust people very much nor reach out for help when I’ve needed it very badly in my life. It was only through reading good abuse recovery books with my husband, that I was able to receive the courage to disclose to my husband about the sexual impact that Larry’s hugs were having on me.
    Without this personal, inside work that I’ve been able to do, it’s quite likely that I would have continued to “cheat” on my husband with images of Larry in mind frequently. Whether I chose to disclose things to my husband or not, I still deserved forgiveness and unconditional acceptance whether I ever got to the point of being emotionally whole enough to admit this to my husband or completely stop the fantasizing.
    Then I read this from Sheila:
    “Just like I said with porn in the honesty is the best policy, if it’s a temptation, something you’ve used off an on, but you’re dealing with it, it’s not controlling you, and you have a friend you’re talking to about it, then you are dealing with the sin. This isn’t grounds for divorce.”
    Which implies (indirectly) that you only get so many chances to disclose and stick with flawless behavior until there are grounds for divorce and you are required by your spouse and others to “walk the plank”. What a dreadful, toxic position to inject into our marriages. For a long time, I wasn’t emotionally well enough to disclose and stick with it.
    I wonder if Sheila has ever been sexually or emotionally tempted?
    I’ve read her blog for years and never heard her admit even one time that she struggles with any type of temptation or weakness.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Becky, if a wife were to continuously have emotional affairs, or there was continuous,habitual porn use that was wreaking havoc on the marriage, or if someone was to continuously be imagining other people while having sex with their spouse that is very, very wrong. So in a sense, yes–if you cannot control yourself sexually and cannot stay faithful then there are grounds for divorce.
      Im so glad this was a healing experience for you. But if you are not having an emotional affair, like you said you were not, then obviously this advice does not even apply to you.
      Additionally, this is not about being flawless. It’s about not allowing sin to control you. We are allowed to be tempted, we are allowed to struggle. What we’re not allowed to do is revel in our sin and have it be our secret little sin. That’s what the post is saying. If it’s not an issue for your marriage and it’s not controlling you, then you’re fine and honestly, it may not even be worth bringing up because it’s not a big deal. And if it is worth it, then bring it up. You have freedom to do what works for you.
      But when sexual sin starts having a real hold on you, when it’s controlling you, when you’re not able to keep your head above water so to speak, that’s when we cross into dangerous territory unless you do the work to fix the problem. So of course there are grounds for divorce. But not if you’re in your situation. Again, if advice does not apply to you then don’t be offended when it doesn’t match your situation.

      Reply
  17. Becky

    Rebecca, thank you for your input.
    It’s up to a husband and wife solely whether there are ever “grounds for divorce”. — not you or I. They choose because it’s their decision and their relationship. If they choose to be patient and long-suffering or not be patient and long-suffering, then that’s also their choice as well. What’s works for you and your marriage, may not work for me. And conversely, what works for me and my marriage, may never work for you.
    We don’t live in the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus or even in the Gospels (as foundational as they are). We live as New Covenant believers in the freedom of the New Covenant and the Epistles and the only true “rule” is the law of love. This freedom will not facilitate us engaging in affairs, polyamory or open marriages. Rather, it will protect against it because we are doing it from the heart — not because there are “grounds for divorce”.
    This reality makes us what to do the things that will enrich our individual marriages. Only my husband and I can agree what enriches or detracts from our marriage: no one else. And that’s the same for you as well. Anything else is rank legalism that contradicts our new identity in Christ.
    Truthfully, this reality has been more liberating and freeing to me than any single abuse recovery resource. In fact, it’s allowed me to appropriate the tools of recovery in a way that I can understand. If I can’t understand something, then I can’t truly grow.

    Reply
  18. Don

    Im a widower recently, and plan to marry a widow close to my age (81). Any tips or helps on rekindling our sex lives at this age.?

    Reply

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