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

Gurit E. Birnbaum, Yaniv Kanat-Maymon, Moran Mizrahi, May Recanati, Romy Orr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-476
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • extradyadic
  • fantasies
  • relationship quality
  • sexual desire
  • sexuality


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