Thinking about someone else during sex

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen starred in <i>Take This Waltz</i> about a woman who fantasised about one man while ...

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen starred in Take This Waltz about a woman who fantasised about one man while married to another.

Is it wrong to think about someone else when you’re having sex?

There are reams of scientific paper dedicated to a subject called “extradyadic sex”.

What is it exactly?

According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, the term refers to a wide range of behaviours occurring outside of a committed relationship, though (probably because most academic research is carried out by men) it’s most commonly understood as vaginal sex outside of marriage.


Cheating, in other words.

However, there is mounting research into other forms of extradyadic sex, ranging from intense emotional relationships or close friendships, to kissing, oral sex, or other sexual behaviours.

In fact, in some cases, the primary dyad need not be married – a fact which reflects changing social norms pertaining to long-term relationships. And the interaction doesn’t necessarily have to occur in the flesh - extradyadic relationships conducted online are now also being examined by the academy.

Most of these internet-based relationships are characterised by their secretive nature – something we associate with affairs of the stock-standard, flesh-and-bone variety.

But if you never actually touch or smell or have physical sex with the person you’re extradyadically involved with, is it really that wrong? Or is it as wrong, at least, as the more traditional version of infidelity?

A report from the Kinsey Institute paints extradyadic relations as a huge threat to a couple’s happiness.

In Western countries, it has been estimated that between 25 and 50 per cent of divorcees cite a spouse’s infidelity as the primary cause of their marriage breakdown, with around one-third of men and one-quarter of women in heterosexual relationships likely to engage in extradyadic sexual relationships at least once.

Yet the report also offered insight into the types of people more likely to engage in extradyadic behaviour. For example, a strong tendency to lose arousal when facing possible risks is a personality trait with a protective effect for engaging in infidelity.

So can this be read as reason to the rhyme of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’? If a quirk of someone’s character is behind your lover’s extradyadic behaviour – a person you’ve professed to love, warts and all - then can you really find fault with their actions?

Well, yes. Yes of course you can. You can because we know humans to be creatures capable of making reasonable, informed and educated decisions. It doesn’t take a genius or moral puritan to know that committing physical, emotional or intellectual energy to someone outside the well-defined bounds of your relationship may have a negative impact.

Of course, just how negative that impact is depends upon those aforementioned boundaries, and the nature of the decision made to breach them.

For some people, maintaining very close friendships with people outside the partnership is fine, for others it’s not. Some people don’t mind their lover having sex with other people. We’ve discussed this before.  

But who’s actually ever had a discussion about whether it’s acceptable to think of someone else while having sex? Is it ok if the person is, say, someone with whom sex is actually very unlikely (a celebrity for example)? Is it definitely not ok if the dyad’s fantasy is about an ex-lover?

On one hand, arousal is arousal – if you’re both enjoying the sex, what’s the problem? On the other, lovemaking is heightened the more each party is ‘present’ in mind, body and spirit – if you’re partner’s thoughts have turned to someone else, the sex will be diminished.

Is it wrong to think about someone else when you’re having sex?

For me it is. How about you?



  • "Is it wrong to think about someone else when you’re having sex? For me it is. How about you?"

    For me it is too.

    Lake Tahoe
    Date and time
    April 13, 2013, 5:27PM
    • Come on, there's a difference between fantasy and reality. Clue - fantasy is not real. Therefore, how it can be cheating? And what's with this dyad business? What's wrong with the word "couple"? It's gender free, simple and accurate.

      Date and time
      April 13, 2013, 6:08PM
      • Yes it is wrong!

        Date and time
        April 13, 2013, 7:42PM
        • We've all imagine life without our partners from time to time. Allowing our minds to drift occasionally to some sexy hunk or starlett during the heat of passion is no different. Occasional fantasising is healthy, harmless, and enjoyable. So long as it's done with appropriate subtly. Not only isn't it wrong, it's inevitable.

          Date and time
          April 13, 2013, 10:46PM
          • If thinking about another during sex is fine, then shouldn't the truth be told ? By one or the other or both ? Woody Allen certainly made an the open admission to Diane Keaton after sex in 'Annie Hall' - but that had more to do with baseball technique than the baseball player ! Methinks making love and sharing intimacy connects most deeply when based upon an open, honest and mutual relationship.

            Date and time
            April 13, 2013, 11:34PM
            • Thoughtcrime.

              John May
              Date and time
              April 13, 2013, 11:56PM
              • If you keep it secret because it might hurt the other person, then it's wrong at least from that other person's perspective. If you can't discuss it honestly, or you just don't care about their feelings, then you've got relationship issues.

                Personally, I have a polyfidelitous relationship with 2 wonderful mono partners, I'm not sure where that fits in the extradyadic view. I stay in the moment with the partner I'm with, but will happily fantasy role play if my partner wants it.

                St Kilda
                Date and time
                April 14, 2013, 7:54AM
                • This is a very Anglosaxon self-indulgent angst thing, not a discussion that is held by "people" in general. I would say it is a non-topic because what I or my "dyadic partner" think about during sex is our own respective business. Asking him would be impertinent and an invasion of his privacy, like asking if I can open his mail, but if I chose to indulge and do so, I would be well aware that he has a right to think about whatever he wants and I could not hold his answers against him. Imagine making an issue out of such trivia.

                  Date and time
                  April 14, 2013, 9:44AM
                  • Each to their own I'm sure there will be heaps of women thinking have tucked the kids away ,did I switch off the light , I need a girls weekend away or Blokes I wonder how the footy will be tomorrow but to be fairdinkum the best sex / love is the passionate engagement that unfolds between 2 lovers that end up hours later saying to each other wow what happen there, Its always the level of intensity and if your are thinking about something its not intense

                    Date and time
                    April 14, 2013, 10:36AM
                    • I've never done that. I've given 100% to my exes. In saying this, if I found out that they fantasized someone else during sex, might as well do a threesome it, just to spice it up. That's all in the name of self gratification over cheating.

                      In a nutshell, it is wrong.

                      Date and time
                      April 14, 2013, 2:01PM

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