Even if you are madly in love with your spouse, there may come a time when you find yourself fantasizing about someone else. It could be that the thoughts happen unexpectedly during sex or in a dream, or maybe you've met someone who has piqued your interest and you start to imagine what it would be like to be with that person instead (or in addition to) your current spouse. Some people don't take these thoughts seriously, but if you worry about why you fantasize about other people when you're married, you'll be glad to know that there is nothing wrong with you.
Psychologist Dr. Elyssa H. Barbash tells Romper that despite many individuals’ initial reaction, it is very normal and healthy to fantasize about others, even when you are married or in a committed relationship. "Being with one person does not mean you don’t find others sexually attractive," she says. In fact, according to HuffPost, a survey by The Normal Bar found that 61 percent of women and 90 percent of men have sexual fantasies about people they meet.
Additionally, a 2003 study in Spain found that individuals who fantasize about others tend to have more open personalities, be more open to new experiences, have lower levels of conscientiousness, and more positive attitudes towards sexual experiences overall. "As long as you feel connected and stimulated in your primary romantic relationship, fantasies are a functional part of a long-term relationship," Barbash explains.
Sometimes, though, these fantasies can become prevalent when you are going through a difficult time in your relationship and this can be dangerous. Mental health counselor Ally Chase tells Romper that she strongly believes humans are creatures who strive for happiness, and you can get caught up in falsely believing that happiness can be manifested by altering your external experiences and environment. She explains:
"In marriage, we become comfortable and complacent, and then our imaginations run wild, thinking of things that would make us happier in our marriage. We get stuck in the 'grass is greener' mentality. True happiness in marriage lies in the comfort and familiarity of a companion, and in working together to cultivate happiness from experiences, some new and some mundane."
Chase tells her clients to "water the grass they're standing on", which is a metaphor for being mindful of the positive things existing within their marriage.
Barbash believes that fantasies can be strong indicators of deeper psychological desires at times when you're unhappy or yearning for something you are not currently getting in your relationship. It is important to assess and communicate those wishes and desires effectively to your partner. She warns that "living in your fantasies to fulfill your needs rather than openly expressing these in your relationship can lead to resentment, negative assessment of your partner, and acting out."
Having fantasies and acting on them are entirely different, explains Barbash. "Having fantasies is healthy and 'normal,' but acting on your fantasies is maladaptive." If you're worried that you may act on your fantasy, consider speaking to a marriage counselor. This can help in preventing an act that can impact your marriage forever.