Sexploration, Israel and Cathie Helfand, Cabot Vermont, 1-800-707-4566
Fantasy Can be Fun
More than half of the couples we work with have had an affair. They are more apt to experiment sexually outside the marriage than within. Uncomfortable to let themselves go within the marriage, and half committed to a boring, even puritanical love life, it is easy to see why they feel erotic, lustful, and aroused as they fantasize outside of their marriage. While affairs and porn can spice things up, in the long run, they are not the answer to sexual boredom in a marriage.
Recent research indicates that in over 90% of couples who stopped having sex it was the man's decision. Surprised? The reason given was because he found sex to be frustrating or boring. Quite honestly, we would add that he was probably embarrassed to share his deeper desires and dreams with his wife. Affairs are often a rebellion to a range of feelings from feeling trapped and anxious to feeling under stimulated and dull as perceived by a spouse. The crisis that accompanies the affair and "stirs things up" offers an opportunity to go deeper and change the status quo. Obviously, it is more useful to work on the relationship instead of having an affair.
It is not surprising that so many people are infatuated with cybersex, pornography, prostitution, and phone sex. Though some may be embarrassed with their behavior, access is easy and therefore it is quite common. Like affairs, they offer an outlet for sexual and erotic expression that is currently unexpressed within the marital relationship. Finding a balance between what is new, exciting, erotic, and mysterious… with what is safe is worthy of the time and energy required. While sex with an anonymous stranger may be temporarily exciting, it may hinder the more essential and spiritual rewards that a commitment to a life of sexual pleasure with a loved one offers.
Use of Fantasy
Most therapists, and the therapy culture itself, assume that there is pathology when they are allowed into their clients' private fantasy lives. Why this assumption? The truth is that our culture defines what is kinky, wild, and wrong. No wonder it is often those exact taboo fantasies that are such a turn-on.
Twenty-five percent of the couples that come to our retreats are themselves therapists, and are not tolerant of their own erotic fantasies. However, erotic imagination is not the enemy here but a useful part of human nature and sexploration. Part of the problem is that in our current goal-oriented society, people are often afraid that if they imagine it...it will become reality. There is a difference between fantasy and reality.
The medical community and therapy culture have sterilized sexual expression by trying to quantify and qualify the great mystery that surrounds our sexual life, such as erections, ejaculation and other performance statistics. It is a complicated subject, but even the layperson understands that you can blow the mood by talking too much about it, diminishing the importance of the flirt, the gesture, and the tease.
Couples must learn that their biggest sex organ is between their ears. It is their brain, or rather their thinking, that can create the turn-on or the turn-off. It can be used to image something exciting or it can be used to sabotage sexual pleasure. "He wouldn't need fantasy if I were enough for him" is a self-defeating thought, and never a useful one. Worry, anxiety and compulsive thinking are states of mind that are the very antithesis of an satisfying sex life. Fantasy can be healthy, and some spouses need to challenge their assumptions that safety is inside their marriage… and adventure or excitement lies outside with someone else. Why not have it all in one place!?!
While the fear of intimacy is a real issue in marital happiness, it is blamed for far too many marital problems. How about the fear of letting go, being open and playful, being naughty or good, being lusty or adventurous? Entering the erotic world can be a powerful, mysterious and even a spiritual experience. Couples can enjoy the excitement of the attraction dance or mating game, such as "meet me at the bar and I will try to pick you up"… or "let's pretend that you are the babysitter and I am the dirty old man". When experienced within a marriage and with good intention, fantasy role plays can be very pleasurable, safe, and fun, as long as we realize that fantasy is just that... fantasy!
Without professional guidance, couples fear opening a Pandora's Box. However, we have successfully helped many couples claim their sexual freedom, increase their fantasy life and accept the lust that sexual adventure has to offer. Most importantly, we help them realize that they do not need to feel threatened by breaking the unconscious rules of proper adult sexual behavior. Rather, they can feel free to take their marriage to a new level. The pleasant paradox here is that in doing so, they cement their marital bond even more. What used to provoke jealousy and anxiety now feeds their libido and desire, as couples learn to "bring it home."
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