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Is it cheating to fantasize about someone else while in a relationship?

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 10, 2022 12:33 pm

Admit it or not, everybody has sexual fantasies.

But what if someone is having such bouts of fantasy with a dreamy idealized other, all while being in a relationship, à la Kelly Rowland in Dilemma (Even when I'm with my beau / Boy, y'know I'm crazy over you)? Can these thoughts be considered emotional cheating, at best, or an act of evil that deserves condemnation, at worst?

Not exactly, according to the speakers of the Twitter Spaces session "Let's Talk About Sex" hosted by PhilSTAR L!fe on Feb. 5.

Rica Cruz, sex and relationships therapist, said having sexual desires about somebody else even if one's already in a relationship is completely normal.

"You can't stop (it)," Cruz said. "Fantasy is okay."

Ava Daza-Zanirato, who hosts with her sister Isabelle Daza The Sexy Time Podcast, agreed with Cruz, saying hidden sexual desires are "so hard to stop."

"The show I'm watching pa lang, I'm obsessed with the guy," Daza-Zanirato said. "And my husband's there beside me" she added.

"Even when you put it in real life, there are so many hot people around you," she continued.

Sexual healing

Dawn Michael, a clinical sexologist based in California, even told Cosmopolitan in 2017 that fantasizing about someone else during sex can help make the steamy encounter better.

"Especially for men if they're having problems maintaining an erection," Cosmopolitan quoted Michael as saying, "or if a woman is having a problem having an orgasm, it's ok to think of something else that turns you on."

The iconic car sex scene from Titanic (1997)

In 2015, British sex toy retailer Lovehoney found in a 1,300-people survey that 46% of women fantasized about someone else during sex. As for men, it's apparently a notch below, at 42%.

Another study, published in the United States-based Journal of Sex Research in 2004, found that men's fantasies primarily deal with dominance and submission. Women’s fantasies, meanwhile, are more emotional and romantic in nature.

Ari Tuckman, a certified sex therapist from Pennsylvania, wrote on Psychology Today that while sex is a physical act, it's also "very much a mental process."

"[L]etting your imagination roam can enhance the physical sensation and make for a richer overall experience," Tuckman said.

"Fantasies can make sex fun and playful, especially when they aren’t bound by the restrictions of reality. We can fantasize about anything we want, including things that we only want in fantasy."

Different story altogether

Cruz, however, warned that it's a different story altogether if one chooses to do something about the naughty thoughts they've been flirting with in their mind's eye.

Instances such as finding a match on a dating app or hitting on an acquaintance with an ulterior motive to sleep with them constitutes cheating in the relationship, and as the age-old internet adage goes, cheating is a choice.

"Unless you're thinking of doing it (sex) with someone else and you're thinking of acting on it," Cruz said. "Unlike if, let's say, 'Oh, sorry, si Brad Pitt ang nasa utak ko.'"

Michael also told Cosmopolitan that it's problematic if an individual thinks of one particular person, especially an ex, or someone else every time during sex.

"It also becomes a problem if you start feeling emotionally distant during sex by using the fantasy as a way to escape," she said, "rather than to enhance your current experience."

Cruz noted it may get even more complicated if the subject of sexual fantasy is the partner's friend.

Inka Magnaye, voice actress and social media personality, said it's especially crucial depending on the friend's level of closeness with the partner with hidden sexual fantasies.

"Proximity is what makes it different," Magnaye said.


It may get difficult to not feel guilty about having sexual fantasies about someone else. In the spirit of honesty, one mulls over confessing it to their partner, especially that one about their friend.

For Cruz, the sexual fantasies that one may have other than their partner are better off staying as fantasies.

"If it's just in your head, I'd suggest that you just keep it in your head," Cruz said. "You need to weigh the consequences of opening up about it to your partner."

Regardless of one's relationship status, if the sexual fantasy would occasionally trigger a lipbite here, a soft moan there, and one thing leads to another—the Big O, if not la petite mort—it's most probably still okay, especially if it's exclusive to you and your lonesome. Everybody has their rights to have one (or more).

But if one becomes too preoccupied with the dirty, damp, and deep thought that it causes mental distress and interferes with the daily life—to the point that it already takes its toll on one's real interpersonal relationships—then it may be better to just perish the thought, no matter how seemingly delish.