What Fantasies Can Do to Your Relationship: The Effects of Sexual Fantasies on Couple Interactions

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2019 Mar;45(3):461-476. doi: 10.1177/0146167218789611. Epub 2018 Aug 18.


Research addressing the underlying functions of sexual fantasies has mainly focused on variables associated with frequency and content of fantasies. Relatively less is known about how sexual fantasizing affects the relationship. Four studies examined the contribution of fantasizing about one's partner ("dyadic fantasies") to relationship outcomes. In Studies 1 and 2, participants fantasized either about their partner or about someone else and rated their desire to engage in sex and other nonsexual relationship-promoting activities with their partner. In Studies 3 and 4, romantic partners recorded their fantasies and relationship interactions each evening for a period of 21 and 42 days, respectively. In Study 4, partners also provided daily reports on relationship perceptions. Overall, dyadic fantasizing was associated with heightened desire and increased engagement in relationship-promoting behaviors. Relationship perceptions explained the link between dyadic fantasies and relationship-promoting behaviors, suggesting that such fantasies benefit the relationship by enhancing partner and relationship appeal.

Keywords: extradyadic; fantasies; relationship quality; sexual desire; sexuality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Family Characteristics
  • Fantasy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Young Adult