The issue of “fantasy” came up recently during a conversation with a Christian man that I know well. To most men, I suppose this might seem like a peculiar thing to talk about, however in my case as a sex expert, this actually happens quite frequently.
My friend talked about having the usual struggles that I have heard countless times before. “How do I stop my sexual thoughts?”
As is customary in my response to this type of conversation, I asked, “Do you mean the thoughts involved outside of the bedroom or inside the bedroom?” I got the usual blank stare after I asked the question and the conversation probed to a deeper level.
Many men were socialized sexually as they grew up, without the necessary information to begin making the right choices about sexuality. If you grew up within the church, you may have clearly become aware and warned not to have sex before marriage because “that’s wrong.” However, you may have quickly learned that lusting after a woman was okay, because it was never addressed!
As a teenager, you may have come to the conclusion that lust isn’t a sin or certainly someone would have told you that it was and therefore you may have believed you could get away with it. After all nobody else gets hurt, right?
I wish nobody did get hurt in these circumstances, but professionally, I know better. What subconsciously does happen is that you are getting conditioned to these inappropriate sexual behaviors. You may begin to measure women by their “packaging.” And often by the time you are 16 years old, you are an expert on how female “packages” are supposed to look.
And so the patterns begin by “checking out women.” Although this behavior may be done so very discreetly since you’re a “Christian.” Of course, you wouldn’t dare verbalize the thoughts you have and seek help for this problem and so your core belief that this behavior might be okay continues to go on unchallenged.
Fantasies now begin to go on unchallenged by you however inside you may feel the Holy Spirit giving you a check in your spirit about this not being quite right. If you obey the Holy Spirit early on you can often turn away from this behavior and never look back. However all too often, He is told the same thing, “It’s no big deal.”
If this new found sexual fantasy life continues on and is combined with self-sex during adolescence, it can make this situation much worse. What many men are unaware of is that when you have a sexual release, you receive the highest level of chemicals, called endorphins and enkephalins, which are sent to the excitement center of your brain. Wham!
You have just received the strongest chemical reward of your life for this sexual behavior. If you received this chemical reward while you were engaged in lust, fantasy, or pornography, you have now taken God’s “sex glue” that was meant for your reward during a sexual experience with your wife, and attached it to the unreal world of fantasy.
A man who has done this repeatedly over a period of time will create a strong neuropathic reward system in their brain for fantasy and will continue to struggle more with fantasies than other men inside and outside of the bedroom.
Furthermore, if you give yourself permission to look, lust, or fantasize outside of the bedroom, it can make life more difficult inside of the bedroom as well. You may have experienced this during a sexual experience with your wife when all of sudden…Wham! You get hit along side of the head with a sexual thought, picture or fantasy!
You may have all kinds of emotions after this experience. You may feel excitement about the thought, or fear that your wife may know that you have left her emotionally in that moment, you may experience shame and guilt that those thoughts could come to you during such a precious moment together with your wife.
In order to have a clear head in bed and win in the bedroom, it will be a double-fronted battle. The first battle is outside of the bedroom. The second is inside the bedroom while you are being sexual with your spouse.
During battle #1, which is outside of the bedroom, you will need to consider some practical tactics. If your brain has been chemically rewarded with endorphins and enkephalins while you were objectifying women, then this practical exercise has been known to successfully shut down over 80% of lustful thoughts or fantasies within one month.
This exercise simply involves placing a rubber band on your wrist. Wear this “weapon” on your wrist for one month or so and each time you have a lustful look, fantasy or image trying to enter your thoughts, snap the rubber band on your wrist—ouch!
Now your brain is beginning to connect the lustful thoughts, the objectifying of women, and fantasy with–ouch, the pain felt on your wrist from the snap of the rubber band. I have used this technique with many clients of mine that are sex addicts and their reports back to me are always a much improved thought life.
A second practical exercise for outside the bedroom issues is considered in the content of your entertainment. The mass media, television, movies, and print media want you to see it.
They are professionals at sexual stimulation. In the Bible, Job said “I make a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” (Job 31:1)
What comes into your mind during a television program or movie presentation goes right past your conscience and into your sub-conscience. Within three minutes of viewing television, you are as close to sleep as you can be while awake. That’s partially why these images, even commercials, lodge so deeply into your thought processes.
I strongly suggest that all men have accountability about their intake of media. If you struggle in this area, you may want to do a “media fast” for a month or longer. If you continue to give yourself permission to lust here, it may cause you future struggles within your bedroom as well. So, be careful!
Let’s talk about the bedroom. When you are being intimate with your wife, there are a few tips I can offer that will help you deal with the impure sexual thoughts that may pop into your head.
Try following these three guidelines for better and purer sex.
- When making love with your wife, keep your eyes open. Maintain eye contact during sexual intimacy with your spouse and it can be a whole new experience for both of you. If you are busy looking at your wife, you are much less likely to have that blank time with your eyes closed. When your eyes are closed it makes it easier for you to lust or fantasize without being caught.
- Keep the lights on in the bedroom while being intimate with your wife. When you keep the lights on, it’s easier to see your wife. It’s also easier for her to see that you are looking at her. This way you “glue” to her sexually, making it harder to find anyone else more attractive to you because she is now in your heart of hearts. Now of course you don’t have to have 100-watt light bulbs. Even candlelight will do.
- Provide nurturing conversation toward your wife while making love to her. When you’re making love with your spouse, talk to her in a nurturing manner. This would exclude dirty-type talk. When you’re talking to your wife, you will be more engaged during the sex act, which leaves less empty time in your head for fantasy. If you do have a thought pop into your head, begin talking to your wife. If it’s hard to talk to your wife, look at her, have her looking into your eyes, and maintain an active fantasy.
You can continue to have a clear head in the bedroom if you take the assignment of not lusting outside of the bedroom seriously. That may mean you need to practice the rubber band exercise and alter your media lust intake. It’s worth it. By practicing the three principles toward better sex you can be well on your way to overcoming those nagging thoughts inside and outside of the bedroom.
To read more about the Fruits of the Spirit in Marriage, purchase Miracle of Marriage by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. While you are reading this book or researching this topic, if any time questions come up we are here to answer any questions. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at [email protected].
Douglas Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including Servant Marriage, Sex, Men and God, Intimacy; and his latest, Worthy: Exercise and Step Book.