Are you constantly watching your partner for signs he is fantasizing about someone else? Maybe he has a reputation for daydreaming about people who are not you. Or maybe, ‘you’ are the partner who is currently wondering, “Why do I fantasize about cheating on my partner?”
Now, we’ve all got our little fantasies. Maybe you find yourself fantasizing about someone you know well, or fantasizing about someone you barely know. Maybe you’ve been having a little think about your next-door neighbor or a celebrity (I like me a little Idris Elba, for instance).
A study shows that 98% of men and 80% women had fantasies outside their committed relationship, mostly sexual ones. Now, there is healthy fantasizing where you don’t have thoughts of “I’m happily married but fantasize about someone else, is that wrong?” or “I’m fantasizing about someone else while in a relationship, is that cheating?” But what do you do when you or your partner can’t stop fantasizing about someone else?
We asked Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, for some insights into the signs he is fantasizing about someone else, when it turns unhealthy, and how to cope.
What Does Fantasizing About Someone Mean?
“Fantasizing about someone can amount to emotional infidelity. You may not be indulging in physical relations, but you are thinking about them nearly all the time, whether consciously or subconsciously,” says Shazia.
When someone is constantly on your mind, and you’re happily married but fantasize about someone else, it may mean you’re not satisfied with your current relationship, or it could mean you’re looking to have your cake and eat it too. While you may not act on your fantasies, it could lead to severe mental stress for you and your partner, and causes a strained relationship.
Signs He Is Fantasizing About Someone Else
Now that we have an idea of what fantasizing about someone means, how do we read the actual signs he’s fantasizing about someone else? What do we look out for, and how do we differentiate between searching for actual signs and overthinking things? Read on to find out.
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1. He mentions someone’s name a lot
In the book ‘The Diary of Bridget Jones’, the heroine talks about ‘mentionitis’ when her partner starts dropping another woman’s name into the conversation. This is definitely one of the signs he’s fantasizing about someone else, since we tend to talk more about people who are always on our minds.
“My partner and I had been together for about two years when he suddenly started bringing up this woman he worked with,” says Callie (31), an engineer from Chicago. “It was always “Alison says this”, and “Alison recommends that brand of cereal” and so on. It was pretty obvious that he was fantasizing about someone else while in a relationship with me. Obviously he couldn’t stop thinking about someone else.
2. He suddenly develops new hobbies
Now, of course you and your partner can and should have separate interests and hobbies, and they’re perfectly within their rights to take up new things to do. But has he suddenly taken an interest in golf after declaring for years that he hates it? Is he suddenly reading science fiction after a lifetime of ‘being bored’ by it?
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It’s possible that the person he’s fantasizing about is the one who has these interests and your partner has been drawn in to them, or is hoping to impress them with conversation the next time they meet. This is certainly one of the signs he is fantasizing about someone else.
3. Your sex life suddenly feels different
A study found that in sexual fantasies, men often fantasize about domination and submission, while women’s fantasies tend to be more mental and emotional in nature. That doesn’t need to be the rule, of course, but it’s a baseline if you’re looking for signs he’s fantasizing about someone else.
“My partner had never been particularly adventurous in bed, and I didn’t really mind. And then, he suddenly wanted to try role play and edible underwear and whatnot. I thought he was just into something new, and trying to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship. But I soon realized it was someone else he’d met who had talked about it, hence sparking his interest. It wasn’t me he was into, as much as his fantasies about this other man,” says Jules, 38, a professor of culture studies.
Fantasies can often be deeply sexual and your partner might want to play them out with you even if he’s got someone else on his mind. So, if things change up in the bedroom, whether for better or worse, it could be a sign he’s into someone else.
4. He calls you by another name
Oh boy, this is sort of a clincher that he can’t stop fantasizing about someone. It might not be during sex that he says someone else’s name, though that’s definitely one of the signs he’s fantasizing about someone else. But even if he absent-mindedly calls you by another name and asks you to pass the toast at breakfast, he’s got someone on his mind, and it’s not you!
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5. He often seems lost in daydreams
“A partner who is fantasizing about someone else is mentally and emotionally absent. They might be laughing and smiling to themselves, blushing at a thought, and so on, showing signs of emotional neglect in a marriage,” says Shazia.
They could be fantasizing about someone you know, or fantasizing about someone you barely know, but a partner frequently lost in their own thoughts and rather too happy about it could be a relationship red flag. Either way, looks like it’s one of the signs he is fantasizing about someone else.
6. He starts hinting at fantasies
Has your partner been talking about things he wants to do both in and out of the bedroom, but not necessarily with you? Maybe he says things like, “God, I’d love to be on a yacht with a beautiful woman at my side.” Even if he’s not mentioning a specific name here, it could be one of the signs he’s fantasizing about someone else.
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7. He resists being with you
“When someone is fantasizing about someone else while in a relationship, they will pretend to listen and be present, but are not. They’ll also be irritated if a partner repeats themselves or tries to make sure that they are listening,” says Shazia.
It’s common for people to get so involved in their realm of fantasy that they forget that their real relationships need them to be present, and practice good and active listening at the very least.
8. He’s not interested in discussing a future with you
“Whenever I tried to discuss future plans with my partner of three years, he would sort of shut down or grumble and say, “Can’t we talk about it later?” I later found out he was in an emotional affair of sorts with someone else at the time,” says Chris, an RJ from Texas. Whether it’s a weekend away or meeting the family or getting engaged, someone shying away from discussing the future of an ongoing relationship is a surefire sign they can’t stop fantasizing about someone else.
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9. He is secretive about his phone
Now of course everyone is entitled to privacy, whether they’re in a relationship or not. You don’t need to know what text messages your partner is getting or who they’re always talking to.
However, if your partner looks startled or guilty when you interrupt a phone call or texting session, or if he’s receiving way too many ‘work messages’ late at night, it could be one of the signs he’s fantasizing about someone else, and acting on it to some extent with some cheating spouse text codes.
“One of the signs that he’s fantasizing about someone else is that he’s constantly scared of being caught red-handed,” Shazia explains. “So, he’s constantly worrying that you’re going to find out and then he’ll have to face up to things.”
10. He wants to hang out with certain people more
Whether your partner is fantasizing about someone you know or fantasizing about someone you barely know, he’ll suddenly want to spend more time with them. If it’s someone you know, there could suddenly be coffee or drinking plans with them that don’t always include you. Or he starts suggesting that you invite them home or to outings. In other words, he’s trying to get more time with his fantasy, either to get them out of his system, or become more deeply involved.
11. He suddenly needs more alone time
Again, being in a romantic relationship doesn’t mean you spend every moment together. Everyone needs their space and alone time, and even things like sleep divorce can actually be beneficial to a relationship. But there’s a difference between needing space and suddenly distancing from a partner. So, if your man is retreating a little too far into his man cave and resenting spending any time with you at all, maybe there’s something going on there.
12. He forgets important dates and plans
Yes, sometimes we’re busy and things slip our minds. But there’s no excuse for constantly forgetting a dinner date or an anniversary or even to pick up milk for the next day. If he’s always forgetting things that have to do with you and your relationship, his focus is obviously somewhere else, and it may not be work. It could be nothing, but it could also be one of the glaring dating red flags that he is fantasizing about someone else.
13. He’s constantly tired
“If your partner is always worrying and thinking, “Why do I fantasize about cheating on someone I love?”, he’s going to be a lot more overwhelmed and exhausted than usual,” says Shazia. “He might tell you there’s a lot going on in the office, or he’s not sleeping well, but in truth, he’s worrying about his fantasies and how he should handle it, or whether he should just ignore it.”
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14. He’s defensive if you ask about his plans
Every time you ask your partner about his day and what he’s been doing or plans to do, he snaps or waves an irritable hand. This could be one of the signs of cheating guilt because he knows he’s going to spend a good part of the day dreaming about someone, or might even be meeting them in secret. Again, he could also be stressed and wondering, “Why do I fantasize about cheating on my partner?”, so the defensiveness could also come from there.
15. He starts comparing you to others
“Two years into our relationship, my partner started talking about this other woman. It was always “Janet dresses so well” and “Maybe you could get the same earrings” and so on. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then he started making comparisons between me and her and that’s when I knew he’d obviously been thinking of and observing her with great care,” says Steph, 29, a production designer from Ohio.
Comparison traps in a relationship are never pleasant and when they start getting into specific differences between you and another person, it’s definitely one of the signs he’s fantasizing about someone else.
When Does Fantasizing Become Unhealthy?
“Anything extreme is unhealthy. A person not grounded in reality, going into a fantasy world they don’t want to return from becomes detached from the real world, which is terribly unhealthy,” Shazia says. “It is hard for them to come back to reality because they have created this world of their own where everything is in their control. If it’s reached that point, there’s no use in then questioning him, “You’re happily married but fantasize about someone else?”
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“If you’re having sexual thoughts about another person, the best thing to do is to confide in your own partner and trust them with your fantasies, to admit that you are trying hard to resist but cannot. The person must reach out, and try seeking professional help. As a partner acknowledging signs he is fantasizing about someone else, you could help them by taking some time off, planning a vacation, and bringing the spark back to their real lives. However they can divert their partner’s mind from the fantasy realm would be helpful,” she adds.
- Fantasizing about someone is when you create a false romantic/sexual narrative about them in your mind, even though you may never have met them, or have no romantic involvement with them
- Signs he is fantasizing about someone else include calling you by another name, becoming distant in the relationship, and becoming secretive about his plans
- Fantasizing becomes unhealthy when you start basing your life and future on the story in your head, rather than your real life
As we’ve said, there’s healthy fantasizing that could actually make your relationship better, and then there’s the kind where you cross over to the dark side and start losing track of an actual relationship that you already have versus the one you’ve spun out with someone else in your brain.
If you suspect that you or your partner have gone there, it’s a good idea to address it immediately. If you’re seeking professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced experts is always there to help. It could be embarrassing to admit that you’ve drifted so far from reality as an adult, but it’s actually far more normal than you think. And acknowledging it and getting help will make things better, rather than repressing it and pretending nothing’s wrong. Good luck!