Are our bedtime fantasies healthy - or some kind of warning sign about your relationship?
- April Daniels Hussar, BettyConfidential.comA few weeks ago, my husband and I were driving somewhere, and something reminded me of the dream I'd had the night before. I shared it with him and then, almost as an afterthought, said: "And Clive Owen was there at the end, flirting with me!" I laughed. My husband did not.
I couldn't believe it. He was miffed that I'd dream-flirted with Clive Owen. "Oh come on… it wasn't anything racy," I laughed. "And don't tell me you never dream about other women?!"
If he does, he wasn't telling me.
I decided to change the subject, but it got me thinking. Is it normal to dream about other men when you're in a committed relationship? Or is it equivalent to having a wandering eye when we're awake?
A quick survey of my friends, colleagues, contacts and experts backed up my feelings on this subject: not only is it totally normal to be dreaming about people other than our partners, it's quite common and basically harmless.
Most of the women I talked to seem to enjoy their dreams, but prefer to keep them to themselves:
Alice*, 22, has been with her boyfriend for about seven years. She confesses: "I've had a couple crushes while we've been together and these men always end up in my dreams. It's usually someone I met while out with friends or an old friend I ran into that I never thought was attractive in that way. I tend to forget most of these dreams, but usually they're pretty intense."
Does Alice tell her boyfriend? "It's not that he's insecure, but I think things like that aren't necessarily something to discuss. Truthfully, if it was the other way around, I'm not sure I'd want to know either. It's only a dream."
As psychotherapist and relationship educator Dr. Gilda Carle says, "It's absolutely natural for us to fantasize about other men, even while we're having hot sex with our regular honey."
But, she cautions, "Whatever the case, do not, under any circumstances, tell your sweetie. He may already be intimidated by your gawking at Brad Pitt or even Dexter, so don't rub salt in his wound. Keep your fantasies to yourself."
Sounds like good advice for me, but I was surprised to discover that many women feel totally comfortable sharing their naughty dreams with their husbands - who, in turn, have figured out how to enjoy some fringe benefits.
Phoenix, 31, has been happily married and monogamous for eight years. "I'll have a dream of making out or having sex with another man and then wake up very turned on," she says. "I climax the hardest after these dreams." In fact, her clever hubby reads her short stories from porn books to help trigger those dreams.
Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona says Phoenix and her literary soul mate are onto something. "Dreaming about other men can actually be a powerful way for women to use their minds for better sex with their own partners. Like many things we do, practice makes perfect."
Margaret*, 36, says, "When I was pregnant with twins I had very erotic dreams. In one, I was 'with' George Clooney and my husband at the same time. I shared the details with my husband. He was intrigued that I was having such uninhibited dreams, and he used them to his advantage."
But does all this dreaming with special guest stars mean that we secretly desire other men in real life? "In some cases yes," says dream expert and author Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, of thedreamzone.com. "You can't help the attraction. Better to keep it safe and in your head than the alternative! But in most cases, naughty dreams of other men actually have nothing to do with sex at all."
In other words, while our dreams probably don't mean we really want to cheat, we shouldn't necessarily just laugh them off and look forward to the next slumber party with Clive or George (or both!). Our dreams come from our pretty little heads, which, according to Loewenberg, means they have something to tell us.
For example, Paige, 33, (with her husband for six years, married for nearly three) has had sexy dreams about Brian Williams and Eric Dane (which she describes as "very McSteamy"). But she also once had a dream about President Obama. "There was no funny business, but our relationship was very intimate - kind of like he was my husband," she says. "He was taking care of me, but no sex."
In this case, says Loewenberg, Obama most likely represents Paige's own power and ability to "preside" over her life: "He was taking care of her, which suggests she has a good relationship with her inner boss."
Hmmm. Now if I could just figure out what Clive Owen represents to me. Maybe I should go take a nap ....
Do you dream about men other than your partner?
*Name has been changed.
April Daniels Hussar is BettyConfidential's Deputy Editor.
To read more from BettyConfidential:
5 Tips for a Long-Lasting Relationship
10 Things I Miss About My Ex-Boyfriends
What Guys Really Talk About