Woe Is Me! “I Dream About Cheating On My Partner. What’s Wrong With Me?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I’ve been dreaming about having sex with someone other than my partner. Not that it happens every day, but every now and then, I fantasize about someone else. I’m not sure if it means anything, but I feel guilty, still, for ‘betraying’ them. I don’t want to tell my partner, though, because it’s not like I’ve done anything in real life. But I can’t stop thinking if there’s something wrong really with me that I would dream about cheating and hurting someone I care about.”
— A head full of dreams
RN: Well, to quote the venerable scientist and father of modern relationships Adam Levine — monogamy is not in our genes. As unfortunate as the circumstances of that revelation are, there’s definitely something to be said for how monogamy has a hold over our lives, thoughts, and even dreams. You’re not betraying anyone by simply dreaming or fantasizing about someone else. I’d argue that it’s actually quite normal; your body and mind aren’t going to automatically fuse to another person just because you’ve committed to being with them. Relationships are monogamous because you make a promise to someone to be faithful to them. It doesn’t mean that your mind is forever bound to thinking about them alone, and it shouldn’t mean that either.
That said, there is such a thing as emotional cheating — and it’s when you actively pursue feelings for someone other than your partner. The occasional dream or fantasy, however, is not it. In fact, it’s the imposition of compulsory monogamy that’s making you feel guilty for a natural human tendency: finding more than a single person hot.
DR: I’m not sure, here, whether you’re having “dream sex” with people other than your partner while you’re asleep, or if you’re actively fantasizing about sleeping with others while you’re awake. You don’t have much control over the former, but you can exercise control over your daydreams, I reckon.
I think that the things we dream of while we’re asleep often have to do with our brain processing things it couldn’t get to while we were up and about. Personally, I wouldn’t read too much into it — especially if I’ve no information to suggest that you do want to have sex outside of your relationship during your waking hours too. However, if you find yourself slipping into daydreams about having sex with people other than your partner, do you think there’s a possibility that you may have certain unmet needs in your sex life with your partner? Do you think you aren’t appreciated enough, or that you’d like to experiment more, or even that you’re somehow unsatisfied? I’d urge you to ponder over these and see if you do indeed have one — or more — of these grievances. In that case, you could consider talking to your partner about ways to make your sex life more fun for you. Alternatively, upon introspection, you might even realize you’d like to be in an open relationship.
Honestly, I don’t think my response has been able to capture even half of the possibilities behind what you’re experiencing. Frankly, it might turn out to be nothing worth much deliberation. But if these experiences are bothering you a lot, I’d suggest you speak to a sex-positive, trauma-informed therapist who might be able to help you understand and work through this.
AS: I know fascist governments are springing up everywhere, but fortunately, thought crimes are still a little distance away. What I am trying to say is that it’s okay to have fantasies and imaginations that involve other people; it’s okay to have dreams involving taboo ideas. A lot of people have them. That’s what they are for.
As long as you have a healthy relationship with your partner, as long as there is trust and love in practice, as long as you can stand with and for each other during good times and bad, you’ll be okay.