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Sexual Fantasies: To Tell or Not to Tell?

Should we share all of our sexual fantasies with our partner?Pretty much everybody has sexual fantasies, and plenty of nonsexual fantasies, too. But should we share those fantasies with our partner? In a previous post (Have Fun with Sexual Fantasies), I wrote about using sexual fantasies to make sex more exciting. I talked about the potential benefits of sharing our fantasies with our partner, as well as that some fantasies can make us or our partner uncomfortable. In hindsight, I skipped over the more fundamental question of whether it’s a good idea to disclose our fantasies. As with so much else in relationships and sexuality, it depends. Let’s talk about how to decide whether this is a good idea for you and your partner. Thinking about your answers to the following questions will help you figure that out.

To Tell or Not to Tell?

Before we address whether one should or could share their sexual fantasies with their partner, perhaps we need to start with a more basic question: Does being in a relationship with someone require that you share all your thoughts, feelings, and desires, sexual and otherwise? Some people would say absolutely not, whereas others would say that they have a right to know, especially if it has to do with sexual desire or attraction.

Do you feel like your partner owes it to you to disclose all their sexual fantasies?

Would you feel comfortable disclosing all of your sexual fantasies?

There are no right or wrong answers to this, but it is worth thinking about. Those who lean towards privacy may do so because they value independence, whereas those who feel that partners shouldn’t hold secrets may value the security of knowing their partner more fully. This balance between independence and security may evolve or even shift back and forth over the course of the relationship, depending on what is going on in each partner’s life as well as in their relationship and sex life overall. One thing to consider about fantasies though is that they can run counter to other values we hold.

How do you feel about fantasies that involve someone other than your partner?

What about activities that go well beyond your current sex life?

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We all have our preferences about which fantasies will be easier to hear and which will make us more uncomfortable. Greater disclosure offers many benefits, but may also carry with it the price of not being happy about everything we hear. In the most extreme cases, this can change how we feel about our partner or the relationship.

Tangible Evidence

Because fantasies are completely mental, one can never fully know what is rattling around inside someone else’s head. It therefore comes down to trust, which is defined as belief in the absence of full knowledge. Basically, we need to take our partner’s word for it that they aren’t holding back on us.

That is, until one of their fantasies gets revealed by their actions. For example, they get caught looking at a particular porn site. All of a sudden, the mental becomes tangible—they can no longer deny that they have a particular sexual interest. Now what?

Some partners may not really care about this sudden revelation, whereas others will be shaken. Some will be hurt that their partner didn’t trust them enough to disclose it before, whereas others will worry about what this new information means about their partner, themselves, their sex life, their relationship, and their ultimate compatibility.

What does it mean about your partner, you, or the relationship if they (or you) hold back some fantasies?

As long as you don’t create any tangible evidence, it is possible to keep a fantasy completely to yourself. Once you act on it in some sort of way, there enters the possibility of being found out—and sometimes longshots do come through. Probably most everyone can agree that it is better to have a direct conversation, at a well-chosen time, to make a revelation, rather than the random bombshell timing of an unintentional discovery. Your partner may still struggle to accept this new information, but it won’t be exacerbated by the sense of cover-up.

If you are holding back on disclosing something to your partner, why is that?

If you have a sense that your partner is holding out on you about something, what stops you from asking them directly about it?

Some couples choose a kind of don’t ask-don’t-tell approach to certain topics which can be a good way to avoid unproductive conversations. For example, they may be OK with their partner reading certain kinds of erotica, but they just don’t want to see it. If there is a mutual understanding here, this can work well. By contrast, simply avoiding the discussion and hoping it doesn’t come up may be tempting fate for when an unanticipated discovery forces the conversation.

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