Let’s backtrack. One of my biggest fears has always been the thought of the person I’m closest to cheating on me. I think that’s fairly common. But I started noticing that when I had my “intimate” moments with myself (read: masturbation), the thought that got me off the most was picturing my partner having sex with someone else. I was never directly involved in any of these fantasies. But good lord, was I turned on. It seemed like such a crazy extreme: How could my biggest real-life insecurity also be my biggest fantasy turn-on?
I decided to have an open, honest conversation with my partner about all of this. (Bold, I know.) It turns out, what started as an internal struggle was able to blossom into one of the most fulfilling physical relationships I’ve ever had.
He was into it! Not only that, it was a secret fantasy of his, as well. A match made in Caligula’s palace?
"So many people and couples come in [to my office] and say that this is something they're interested in," says Dr. Holly Richmond, somatic psychologist and AASECT Certified sex therapist. "They feel like they're weird or super kinky. It's a pretty normal experience that a lot of people look for."
Step one in exploring our shared fantasy was having the conversation and affirming that we really did want to please each other sexually as best we could. But even though we were both turned on by the thought of us sleeping with other people, we didn't jump right into cuckolding, threesomes, or orgies. There has to be a natural progression because, at the end of the day, turning fantasy into reality isn’t as simple as phoning up your five most attractive friends and asking them to have sex with your partner.
So we had a long, long talk about why we liked the idea of watching the other person have sex, but we also discussed why the idea freaked us out.
Why I liked the idea
It’s simple. I like the idea that someone else finds my partner sexy. I like the idea that my partner can turn other women on, and I want to see that. It’s pure validation. I also like when my partner is turned on. I used to think that I was the only one allowed to get him aroused. But that notion is a fantasy itself. We are humans. We have eyes. We will find other people attractive, so instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, I decided to embrace it.
"Part of this is evolutionary biology. It's very 'he's mine, she's mine.' Possessiveness is all about procreation," says Dr. Richmond. "When we challenge that and get to feel that jealousy, there's a tinge of eroticism to it."
"We can't discount the power of voyeurism," she adds. "This is why porn does so well. We love to watch other people have sex."
Why the idea freaked me out
What if I saw that he was more turned on by someone else? What if his sex with someone else was different from our sex? What if it made me look at him in a different way and we couldn’t recover? All of these things made me nervous, but the more we talked about our fantasy, the more normal the idea became, and the more excited we were to explore it.
"When people learn about their [partner's] erotic preferences and accept them, it becomes another part that is introduced and has to be fallen in love with," says Doug Braun-Harvey, sexual health author, trainer and psychotherapist. "We're living in an era now when this is a new relationship skill that is really an important one for long-term couples."
So my partner sent me a short video he took of himself and his ex-girlfriend. I braced myself, took a deep breath, and pressed play.
And my whole world changed. In the best way possible. It was one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. I absolutely loved watching it, from the way they sounded, to the way her face looked, to the way his face looked...every angle. It was hotter than any porn I’ve ever watched. And it’s all because I was emotionally invested. I know how having sex with him feels, so I could imagine how she was feeling. I know how he sounds when he’s turned on, so hearing him make those sounds turned me on. It was all a swirl of sexy imagery and erotic sounds and I knew that our sex would never be the same. But, again, in a good way.
As cheesy as it sounds, the best part of the whole experience was how close he and I became, because you have to be incredibly honest with each other to take a sexual relationship to this level. Not only did we have to talk about it beforehand, we had to check in during and after. It showed me that my feelings and levels of comfort were of the utmost important to him, because he kept asking me how I felt during the whole experience. It showed me that we can do things sexually as a team, and that he values my sexuality and sexual preferences. When we take sex to this place, it feels like a safe space. It feels like we are having an adventure together. That, I discovered, was the line between jealousy and eroticism. Betrayal and lying equals losing the foundation. Being sexual with someone else, as long as it’s communicated about and we’re doing it as a team, solidifies us.
"The reason this works is when a foundation is solid," Dr. Richmond says. "When the foundation is rocky and a couple is insecure and they think that this will save the relationship, I do not recommend this. You need a base."
Ultimately we decided that videos is where we want to draw the line. For now. Threesomes or cuckolding may be on the agenda down the road. Forever is a really long time, and you have to have a place to grow with your sexuality, not max out in the beginning. But for where we are as a couple in this moment, discovering this side of our sexuality has reinvigorated our sex life, drawn us closer together, and has eliminated many insecurities that have haunted us.
After doing some research and speaking with other couples and professionals, it seems like we’re actually not as wild and outlandish as we thought. This is a common fantasy, and one we should be talking about and normalising. Why? Because if it’s consensual and no one gets hurt, who cares? Sex is about owning what turns you on and having the confidence to ask for it—not defend it. ENJOY.
"So much of sexuality still lives in cultural shadows," says Dr. Richmond. "That is changing, but not fast enough. Just own what you like and figure it out."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health