I am a 22-year-old lesbian. I have been having a real issue with fantasizing about exes while masturbating. The fantasies become so realistic that I feel like I'm back there with them. I've been masturbating more and more lately and now I've started to lose my sexual appetite for my girlfriend. Sex has been occurring less and less frequently and when we start messing around, I usually get distracted and we stop or we continue and I literally have to imagine having sex with an ex to get to orgasm.
I love my girlfriend. We've been together for two years and are so compatible emotionally. But physically I feel like we're starting to drift because of my wandering mind. I don't want to leave my girlfriend; she hasn't done anything wrong. What can I do to get these thoughts about women from the past out of my head?
— Fantasizing in Fabulous Norcross
Let's try an experiment: Picture a rabid, snarling, barking Rottweiler on the stage of a Teabagger rally. True, it takes the crowd about 20 minutes to realize he's not a speaker, but that's not the point. This is: Try to stop thinking about the Rottweiler. You can't. It only works when you stop trying.
It's the same thing with your fantasies. Resistance isn't just futile; it's fuel. The more you push against them, the stronger they'll become. And if you want to add a primary fuel-delivery system, you can't go wrong with guilt or shame. They'll give your fantasies the kind of mileage that electric-car builders get hard for.
Carl Jung once said, "What you resist persists." He meant that by opposing an intrusive thought, you draw it closer to you. Take smoking, for example. You might think, "I'm not going to have a cigarette today" or "I'm never going to smoke again." Far from moving your thoughts away from smoking, you're actually focusing all your attention on it.
So, instead of trying to put the brakes on your fantasies, get to them faster than a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. Welcome them. Fantasies are your friends, not your enemies. They're trying to tell you something about yourself. Saying no to a fantasy is tantamount to saying, "I don't want to know a big part of who I am."
Once you can experience the fantasies without shame, guilt or alarm, I promise their intensity and duration will be cut in half or more. Then you have some emotional work to do: identifying the reason for the fantasies. You didn't give me enough to go on, but here are my guesses in descending order:
• You're in a kiss-your-sister relationship. You love your girlfriend, but she simply doesn't turn you on sexually, so you fantasize about the last women who made your nipples so hard they could cut glass — your exes.
• You're protecting yourself from your girlfriend. Your fantasies are virtual walls that keep you safe. The closer you let your girlfriend in, the more power she'll have to devastate you if something goes wrong. Your subconscious can't tolerate that possibility so it creates a diversion (your fantasies) to keep your girlfriend from having too much power over you.
• You can only be turned on by what you can't have. Your fantasies might be a version of the classic "I'm only interested if they're not." This approach gives expression to desire without the risk of vulnerability.
• You have unresolved issues about your past girlfriends. Something went wrong in your past relationships that you haven't addressed, so your subconscious plays it out as an endless loop of fantasies.
Did someone say "therapy" or are there voices in my head? Start dialing for one if the fantasies persist even after you've learned not to put any judgment on them.
Mike "The Sexorcist" Alvear hosts HBO's "The Sex Inspectors," blogs at mikealvear.com and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie. Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at email@example.com.