I Feel Guily When I Fantasize About My Ex During Sex

 Ken was stooped over in his chair with his head cradled in his hands.  “Doc, I’ve got a confession to make. You know I love my wife and would never consider cheating on her.  But lately I find myself fantasizing about other women while we’re having sex― my neighbor, my hot sister-in-law, and celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie. I’m not doing anything wrong, but I still feel guilty.”

Ken’s conflict is not unusual. It is the oldest known to man (and woman). He is caught between the comfort and stability of a loving marriage and the desire to have thrilling sexual escapades with new illicit lovers. Many couple’s sex lives fall into the doldrums of routine with a level of excitement that rivals dental flossing.  A buddy of mine used to play golf Sunday mornings rather than making love with his wife. He said, “There is nothing there that I haven’t seen before.”

Couples tend to be most sexually active in the initial infatuation stage which can last for the first two years of a relationship. As infatuation wanes, so does the intensity of sexual arousal and frequency of lovemaking. Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of getting couples to return to the other significant aspects of their lives like paying the bills and showing up for work.

Day-to-day domesticity dulls sexual attraction while it creates more intimacy, lessens feelings of alienation, and leads to deeper connection. Couples give up the excitement of a new sex partner for the deep connection and stability of mature love.  It is an inevitable trade-off.

Given how dailiness and familiarity dampen sexual ardor, couples need to be creative to rev-up and preserve sexual vitality in their relationship. I suggested that Ken consider tactfully talking with his wife about some of his sexual fantasies and encourage her to do the same. The sharing might relieve his guilt and open new avenues for sexual exploration in their relationship. I also encouraged him to spend more time being present to physical sensation and emotional connection with his wife while sexually engaged rather than focusing on the fantasies in his head.


Jerry is a patient, warm-hearted therapist dedicated to guiding couples to breakthroughs. He has counseled individuals and couples for over 40 years, in a variety of settings. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Antioch New England University. Jerry co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mary Ellen Goggin — and they were married by chapter 3. Jerry brings a great depth and breadth of expertise to his work, and distills nuanced theories into actionable simplicity. He loves The New Yorker, dew-laden fairways, and dusty delta blues. His revolution: changing the world, one couple at a time. Read more about the retreats