In the last series, I wrote a post on fantasy and, at the end, mentioned a question I have been asked, “Is it OK to fantasize about my husband?”
First, I’m assuming the husband in question is 1) your husband 2) your actual husband and 3) your real-life actual husband. And when I refer to “fantasy” I’m referring to sexual fantasy, not that daydream where you come home and find the house is vacuumed and he’s done all the dishes and cooked a 5-star meal. For some, those may be one in the same. (After all, the saying goes, “sex starts in the kitchen.”)
In other words, this question is being interpreted as: “Is it ok to have sexual fantasies involving my real life husband” not “Is it ok for me to daydream about my future, potential, maybe, hopeful, as yet unknown husband?”
I think part of the reason this question even comes up is because so many women have been raised to believe that even thinking about sex is bad.
As a teenager in the “purity movement” I got the distinct impression that I, as a woman, should not think about sex, talk about sex, ask about sex until I got married. When I did get married, my husband was going to think about sex every six seconds and demand sex whenever he wasn’t eating, sleeping, or working.
I’ve mentioned this before, but what is wrong with us? What makes us think this is a good strategy?
Why do we think couples can meet and marry and not have major misunderstandings regarding sex? We’re trying to train women to essentially be sexless while simultaneously telling men to be sex-crazed and we think that’s going to work. We think women can just flip a switch from “sex is bad don’t even think about it” to “sex is great.”
As a woman, I can assure you there is no such switch.
When my husband and I were honeymooning in New Zealand, we took a tour through the countryside on our way to Milford Sound. We passed by some deer farms. Yes, deer farms.
Herds of deer were corralled inside relatively short fences which I found odd because I know deer can jump up to eight feet. These fences were maybe 5 feet tall. Maybe. Why were they staying?
“Do you know how they get the deer to stay inside those fences?” our bus driver asked. “They keep them in pens with tall fences first so the deer can’t jump out. When they stop trying to jump out, they move them to the pens with shorter fences. The deer could clear those fences easily, but they’ve stopped trying.”
I feel like this is the approach we’ve taken to sex in Christian circles.
We tell women “don’t jump! don’t jump!” and are only content when they stop trying to jump. That’s “purity” we say. Then, when they get married we say, “Ok, you can jump now” and they look at us like, “Jump? What’s that?! We’ve never been allowed to do that. It’s not safe!”
And that’s where you get questions like this:
Is it ok for me to think sexual thoughts about my husband?
And the answer is yes, absolutely. In fact, I’d argue that you should think sexual thoughts about your husband.
That can be a major jump, especially when you’re a woman who has struggled with fantasy. If your method of achieving victory and freedom was to tell yourself that any sort of thought about sex is bad, then it makes sense that you would be struggling to come to grips with fantasy within marriage.
I recently got an email from a young woman struggling to break free from pornography and masturbation. She’s doing so by trying to avoid any sort of arousal at all and has, of her own admission, turned herself into a anxious wreck.
She avoids anything remotely sexual because she believes arousal is the problem. She believes she should not, under any circumstances, become aroused. But arousal isn’t the problem. In fact, treating arousal like the problem is only going to create problems later when you want to be aroused.
Likewise, you may have convinced yourself that you should not, under any circumstances, ever think about sex. Even with your real life husband. So when your mind wanders down those paths, you feel guilty and sinful instead of feeling connected and drawn toward your husband.
I’d say there are a few instances where fantasy is not ok, so let’s break this down. First, the good stuff.
Do you remember the first time you had sex with your husband? Of course you do. When that memory pops up unprompted, how do you react? Do you feel dirty for thinking about sex or do you soak in that moment and smile?
It is completely normal for us to recall memories. You need to stop feeling guilty when you recall memories of your wedding night or anniversary or the special night in celebration of your birthday or the great time you had last night. I’d argue it’s no different than remembering the birth of a child or a special event with family. It’s a memory. It happened.
Our minds are designed to store memories and recall them from time to time. We take walks down memory lane, take photos so we can capture moments for forever.
It’s insanity to consider one of the most intimate and powerful experiences you can have- sex with your husband- would somehow be off limits to remembering. What is sinful about remembering something good, holy, sacred, and beautiful?
In fact, if you’re using Philippians 4:8 as your standard, recalling a sexual union with your husband checks all of the boxes. We just feel like it doesn’t because so many of us have been conditioned that sex itself is bad, so thinking about it is thinking about “impure things”.
But it isn’t the presence of sex that makes a thought impure.
If you are getting ready to throw a dinner party for friends, don’t you imagine what it’s going to be like? You plan out the menu, pay attention to the settings, think about the laughter and the conversation that is going to be shared. As the time gets closer, your excitement grows. You have been looking forward to this for weeks and now it’s finally here. How exciting!
As wives, we can have this same anticipation when it comes to sex with our husbands. But too many of us feel guilty and so we suppress that. (To be fair, we also can be busy chasing toddlers, doing dishes, or getting dinner ready.)
But I firmly believe our hearts should be drawn toward our husbands. It is good, even healthy, for our bodies and minds to long for them in anticipation. Not necessarily for sex itself, but for connection and intimacy.
Too many of us bury those feelings because “fantasy is bad” and then have major gears to shift when it comes time to make love. Some people say “men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots” but I honestly wonder if part of the issue isn’t men start off in the oven and women start in the freezer.
If your husband has been thinking about your body all day and wanting to connect with you, then of course he’s going to grab you and be ready to go when he gets home. But if you’ve spent all day shoving those feelings in the blast chiller because you don’t feel they’re appropriate, you aren’t going to have time to “thaw out.”
Want to have sex with your husband? Tell him before he goes off to work in the morning and, I’m serious, spend all day thinking about it. Yes, I am telling you to think about it… all day.
Look forward to it like you would a dinner party with friends. Let your palms sweat in anticipation. Text him throughout the day to let him know how excited you are. Set the room up all pretty. Think about how you want it to play out. Write a menu even. First course, back massages!
It may feel awkward at first, especially if you’ve been raised to feel sex is something women aren’t supposed to enjoy or initiate. But it is and you can.
Where Does Fantasy Cross a Line?
All of that being said, can fantasy cross a line and, if so, where is it?
In general, you need to examine your own heart and your own journey to know if fantasy crosses a line for you. If your husband is out of town or deployed or you’re getting a divorce, then dwelling on sexual fantasies of your husband may not be the healthiest choice for you. If your tendency is to turn toward pornography when you are aroused then it makes sense that you would want to limit the amount of time you spend in a tempted state while you work on your self-control.
Fantasy has to be bounded by self-control. If fantasizing about your husband is going to cause you to struggle, the issue isn’t the fantasy, it’s the struggle beyond it. The struggle has corrupted a good pathway.
That takes time to “clean up” if you will. In the meantime, you may find it helpful to control even good and pure thoughts about your husband.
Self control is a fruit of the Spirit that is grown. And if you’re in a place where you feel fantasy is a trap, that’s ok. Respond as you need to, but know that it isn’t ultimately “thinking about sex” that is tripping you up. It’s when thoughts of sex are corrupted that becomes a problem.
Let’s look at Philippians 4:8 yet again to be a bit of a guide.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things. (CSB)
True– Is this your real husband? Your actual husband- as he is? Or are you fantasizing about your husband being someone else? Are you picturing him fitter? Younger? Are the thoughts you are thinking of him true?
Honorable– Have you essentially taken your husband and inserted him into a porn video? Are you imagining him doing something he would never do? Are your thoughts of your husband honest?
Just– The word here can carry the meaning “wholly conformed to the will of God” or “righteous.” Are the thoughts you are thinking in line with God’s will for sex?
Pure– Are you fantasizing about your husband plus someone else? Are your thoughts about you and your husband doing something immoral? Sex is not impure, but we can have impure sexual thoughts.
Lovely- The root of this word is “friendly toward.” Are your thoughts of your husband lovely? Are they friendly toward him? Are the thoughts you are thinking drawing your heart toward your husband?
Commendable– Are you fantasizing about things that would belittle or humiliate? Are your thoughts toward your husband holding him in esteem?
Having sexual thoughts about your husband can be a good and healthy thing for your marriage. There is no need to feel guilty about thoughts about sex. However, we do have a responsibility to control those thoughts, keep them in line with God’s word, and not allow them to lead us into temptation or sin.
We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 HCSB)
Resources for Married Couples
As we wrap up this series, I want to leave you with some resources for married couples. Check out that new resource page here.