This week I have the privilege of sharing a guest post written by women’s addiction recovery coach and best-selling author Lacy Bentley. You may remember, I interviewed Lacy on Female Sex, Porn, & Love Addiction in March. I was honored to write the Foreword to her new book Overcoming Love Addiction as well. We met in person for the first time last month when we both saw Dr Donald Hilton speak on The Sex Industry and Public Health: It’s Impact on Exploitation, Healthy Sexuality, Empathy and Addiction in Salt Lake City.
I have much respect for Lacy and am grateful for the work she is doing in the world helping women heal from addiction. I hope you enjoy her article on female fantasy addiction and share it with others who would benefit.
Female Fantasy Addiction:
The New Infidelity
By Lacy Bentley
I know, I know, we can’t control every thought that comes into our minds. Temptation is all around, and oh so tantalizing. For some of us, that tantalization comes in the form of a sexy picture of our favorite screen actor, or his role in the latest Rom-Com. For some, it is a scene in a romantic novel, with or without sex. For others, it is the friendly banter or touch of a nice guy at work or church. After the initial thought or emotion (aren’t they pretty much simultaneous?) we actually have a fraction of a second to take charge. But, why worry about it? Why not explore this inner fantasy world a little, and celebrate our inner sexuality? And, if not, how do we lengthen out that fraction on a moment to engage in decision making about the temptation?
American culture vacillates rapidly between free love and prudish terror. The pendulum swing leaves us disoriented and unsure of what healthy sexuality really is. Let’s start there. Sex isn’t a bad thing, and sexual arousal is healthy. In fact, the random noticing of an attractive individual just means your radar is still intact. The hope is that your radar is not always going off, and that you are not distracted from the very real life and relationships right in front of you. This is the “why” part of “Why worry about it?”
So often, women become distracted from what needs to be done by lots of things. Let’s look at a few of these every-day potentials for stray thoughts:
- Other things that need to be done
- Looming deadlines
- Social media, text messages, or email alerts
- A kid’s needs
- Conversations with that really sweet, cute guy at work…
And off our powerfully creative brains go, making up wonderful neuro-cocktails for our fantasizing pleasure.
So, what’s the harm of spending a few minutes (ahem, hours…) in our made-up world? No kids crying, no snotty noses, no deadlines, no burned cookies, just us and Mr. Fabulous. He knows just what to say, how to say it, and he mops the floor! Okay, maybe that’s just my fantasy. But seriously, it’s not like you’re doing anything, right? It’s just a daydream. Nobody even knows, and certainly no one is getting hurt, right?
Not so fast…This kind of fantasy, even if it doesn’t take a turn into full-blown mental porn, impacts every relationship we have. The longer and more drawn out the distraction from reality, the greater the impact.
- Hubby can feel the distance. The further into the fantasy we go, the less and less satisfying the flawed, real man in front of us becomes. Soon, we find ourselves comparing, upset, and thinking about how Mr. Fabulous would handle the kids or play with our hair, or do the dishes without expecting sex.
- The kids feel it. They know when you are annoyed at having to break out of the fantasy world to cook dinner or take them to practice. They start to feel more and more like a burden and less like the valuable souls we have a responsibility to. They also notice when you are not really paying attention to the conversation or activity you are supposed to be engaged in.
- Your girlfriends and sisters feel it. Lust, sexual energy, comparison, it all seeps out of our skin in waves that others may not be able to identify but can certainly feel. For many women, the fantasy spills over into flirting with a waiter or valet. It is manifest in the movies we watch, the conversations we have, and the book on our nightstand. It distances us from the real people trying to connect with us. They may not mind it, as they are very possibly in the same space. Then again, the disconnect and lack of conversational involvement will eventually become apparent. Real relationship connection cannot survive this disconnect. Those around us looking for real friendships won’t stick around long before heading in another direction all together.
- Your target feels it. He may not know what it is, or he might, but he senses something. If he is a man of integrity, he may be unaware of what he’s sensing, and just keep boundaries in place, even distance himself subconsciously. If he is also a man in addiction or fantasy, this energy can easily become detrimental to committed relationships and family dynamics for you both. When we are warned not to play with fire lest we get burned, this is the very inferno we need to avoid. Indulgence in fantasy will make that task increasingly difficult.
- Those around you can often sense unchecked emotion. Again, they might not know what it is, but they feel something is off. This could lead to issues at work, assumptions, and rumors. Even if there is no conscious awareness, disconnection and distraction are off-putting. Plus, we can’t always control how those side glances are interpreted.
So, as tempting as it is to dive into this inner world, and explore what it might hold, the risk is high, and the impact is out of our control. Not to mention, coming back to reality after the distraction is hard!
One last reason why indulging this inner world will not end well: even in our minds, an affair is an affair. Think about it. Are you neutral, or celebratory of your intimate partner spending this much time thinking about conversations, romantic dinners, and even sex with a pretty co-worker? Just because his porn is on the internet, and yours is all in your head, does that excuse it? One woman lamented to me how her husband had recently relapsed into soft-core porn. The following day, she made a comment about an underaged actor taking his shirt off in a then-highly-popular teen romance. Excuse me? Can you imagine the backlash if a 40-year-old man made that comment about a 17-year-old actress? What if he had a seductive photo of her on his phone screen saver? How is that not okay, I asked her, but she can have this young man, who, remember, is still a minor, for her phone’s screen saver?
Women get away with way more than men do, and don’t see the double standard. That does not change the fact that fantasizing about intimacy, even if it is “just” romantic fantasy, is an emotional affair. Your emotions are involved, you’re quite possibly aroused on some romantic or sexual level, and most likely comparing your partner to your fantasy. That will not keep a relationship healthy and deeply rooted for long. Fantasy destroys natural love, the outgrowth of commitment, and life-long companionship. All of this fades as the unchecked sexual desires of an entire generation run rampant, first in the mind and heart, then the streets of promiscuity, sexual indiscretion, and life-altering STIs. Fantasy feeds eventual behaviors. As women, we are powerful creators. We need to be responsible with what we create.
There is hope, and you can navigate this well.
I talked previously about that fraction of a second where choice exists. Jumping into that space takes practice, and I’m not going to lie: it’s not easy to even want to! It does get easier though, the more space and time you get from the distractions. I also want to make one clarification here. Thinking about what style of curtain, what color of paint, or which new car you are getting is not the same thing as fantasy—unless it keeps you from living your real life. That is planning, goal setting, even healthy creation. Visualizations are powerful. That’s why we use them to help us grow into the successful women we want to be. This is all the more reason to be careful how that energy is spent. We do become what we spend time creating in our minds. Create intentionally.
Here are a few recovery hacks I’ve used, then longer term solutions I hope you’ll consider.
- Keep a tally on the back of your hand, or inside of your wrist of how often you think about a certain person. I know this was written from a heterosexual standpoint, but that in no way means targets for women can’t be other women.
- Report your tally to a responsible friend each day, and what you intend to do as you work intentionally to cut back on fantasy (hopefully to zero!)
- Intentionally increase the spirituality in your life. This can be through meditation, the types of books and music you listen to, and the movies you watch.
- Fill your idle time with something uplifting, like a quote or verse of scripture to think about each day.
- Intentionally strengthen the social, romantic, financial and sexual connection with your intimate partner.
- Use a proverbial bucket of ice water by calling it what it is: fantasy. It’s not real, it’s not actual relationship or connection, and it is keeping you from the real people in your life. If you or the individual in your head are in committed relationships, romantic or sexual fantasy about this person is also an emotional affair. Call yourself out and choose honest responsibility.
- Use real ice, or a trinket in the palm of your hand to keep you in the present moment.
Let’s talk longer term solutions now. If your only issue is fantasy, excellent. Get yourself a mentor or coach to help you break the habit. If it is more nefarious, and involves other behaviors that trouble you, you’re going to want professional help from someone who gets what you’re dealing with. A therapist is needed if you have serious historical abuse or trauma. Otherwise you might like a coach or paid mentor. The important part is that you get someone on your team who knows how to help you in the ways you need, and who’s personality you enjoy. You need to agree on fundamentals, like:
- Is God important to recovery?
- Are the behaviors I want to work on also important to this therapist/coach/recovery mentor?
- Do I feel a connection with this therapist/coach/recovery mentor?
- Do they encourage me to build a foundation of support in my day-to-day life?
- Am I willing to pay for the support I need? (Trust me, no one thinks they can afford recovery. If you really want it, you’ll figure this out, then you’ll move mountains to work with the person you know is right for you. Cost is an excuse when you underestimate the need).
Ultimately, this is your decision. Do you want the life-long, deep, honest, full connection available to those willing to learn to maintain it, or not? Then, are you ready to do what it takes to get it, no counterfeits, no self-sabotage, and no excuses? If you answered yes to both questions, you’re probably ready to find your match in recovery support. Who comes to mind? Look at a few options, then decide. In the meantime, I’d love to send you a copy of my women’s recovery guidebook, now an International Best-Seller, “Overcoming Love Addiction.” It’s free, just shoot me an email at Lacy@HerRecoveryRoadmap.com. You can just sign up using the red box at the bottom of the page on my website, www.herrecoveryroadmap.com.
Yours in Recovery,
Lacy Alajna Bentley
ABOUT LACY: Lacy is a women’s addiction recovery coach, best selling author, and mom of four teenage boys. She is also a former pornography and Hentai (pornographic anime) user, who used these sources to help her define what “desirable” and “real” womanhood looked like from the age of 13. Now, she knows better, and wants to help other women heal, while empowering parents to have the tough but necessary conversations with their daughters. For a free PDF copy of her book, email her at Lacy@HerRecoveryRoadmap.com, or sign up on her website by filling out the red box at the bottom: www.HerRecoveryRoadmap.com. Lacy also runs women’s online mentorship and recovery groups, and you can contact her about those through the email above.
Posted by Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: Newsletter, Youtube, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!