Even though I’ve been in a stable, monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for three years, I still fantasize about my exes, male and female. No, not every day, and not during sex, but when I come across an ex on social media or pass by a place we visited together, my mind wanders. Of course, there’s a reason we broke up — sometimes my fault, sometimes theirs, sometimes nobody’s or both — but that spark of attraction that drew me to them in the first place never really died in many cases.
My boyfriend knows I’m friends with some of my exes and is aware of a general outline of those relationships (though he’s never met them). I know who the most important exes in his life are, too. But I haven’t shared my more X-rated thoughts about my exes because, to my mind, it’s not his business. Those fantasies are deeply personal, but he might take them as an affront to him. They’re not, though.
I don’t fantasize about my exes because something is wrong in my relationship. I fantasize about them because they represent the best of both worlds — someone sexy but currently unattainable, yet who I know personally. To me, that’s better than fantasizing about a celebrity because I’ve been there, done them. I don’t have to wonder what they would act like in the bedroom because I have firsthand experience.
At first, I felt concerned that I was fantasizing about myself in some torrid scenario with an ex. What did that represent? Was I unhappy with my boyfriend? If I saw these exes, was I liable to cheat? I would force myself to think about something else — or nothing at all — lest I stray into the category of mental cheating. I’m not even sure that exists, but it felt wrong.
But as with many thoughts we try to suppress, I couldn’t get rid of them that easily. They snuck back in as if determined to regain my attention and force me to acknowledge that they were rooted in something more than just me being a terrible girlfriend riddled with guilt.
Over time, I stopped trying to banish my ex fantasies, and instead, I let them percolate. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Sure, the ex who cheated on me, I didn’t fantasize about. But the others, where things ended mostly amicably, where I’d gotten to know them as people apart from our past history in the ensuing years? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have feelings for them, but those feelings are different than the ones I had when we dated. I’m not in love with them, and I’m not even sure if I’d say I “love” them, but I care about them and want them to be happy.
Naturally, when I interact with exes, whether online or running into them in real life, a tiny part of me wonders, What if? And that tiny part morphs into my private thoughts, and even my dreams. That little inkling takes on a life of its own, and when I give it free rein, sometimes what “fantasy me” and “fantasy ex” get up to is truly hot.
These fantasies aren’t a threat to any aspect of my actual relationship. I don’t want to be with anyone but my current boyfriend, but the ex fantasies play a role just like any of my other fantasies. They let me ponder my bisexuality, for instance, when I think about what it would be like to dive into bed with one of my female exes. They let me reminisce about the kind of sex I used to have, which is different than the kind of sex I have now. Neither is better or worse than the other. It’s not about judging, but about accepting.
I do, in fact, contain multitudes, and so does my sexuality. My actual sexual practices with my boyfriend may consist of certain acts, but I’m open to all sorts of other possibilities that don’t always fit neatly into my monogamous relationship. That doesn’t mean I want to open up our coupledom — far from it — but it does mean that once in a while I get nostalgic. It’s a very particular form of nostalgia because it erases all the bad parts of those past relationships — all the fights, the drama, the stress — and replaces them with pure pleasure. That, in turn, makes me a happier person on a day-to-day basis. What’s wrong with that?