“My husband has a sexual fantasy that I’m just not into: He wants to have sex in a public place, where there’s a risk of being caught (like the bathroom of a restaurant). This doesn’t turn me on. If anything, it makes me extremely anxious. I’ve offered to do other kinky stuff—but he says this is the one thing he really wants. Do I need to compromise here?”
While I’m normally a proponent of compromise, this is a rare situation in which I’d advocate for standing firm. Sex, especially between two committed spouses, should always be about feeling comfortable enough to actually enjoy it. And if you truly can’t get there mentally, then his fantasy should stay just that—a fantasy.
But there are ways to talk about it productively. For starters, instead of focusing on the fantasy itself, make sure you clearly state the pressure he’s putting you under, and how unsexy that is. See, while he probably thinks you’ll “loosen up” eventually, by continuing to bring it up (rather than backing off once he realizes you’re not on board), he’s actually making you feel increasingly violated…and spurring more negative feelings about sex, period.
More to the point, you should never feel coerced into sex of any kind, with anybody, ever—even your husband.
Once that’s clear, you and he can focus on the bedroom hotness you are willing to make happen. So, here’s the exercise:
Take a few days to brainstorm five new fantasies each, or even research new positions if that’s more your speed. If there’s anything that either of you knows you’re absolutely not into—public sex, pegging, threesomes, whatever-—then set that boundary well in advance, so you don’t even have to discuss it. Jot down your fantasies in a note on your phone, and keep a running list.
Once you’ve each got five, sit down and go over the two lists, noting which ones you’re mutually into—or at least would be willing to test out. Then, put “sexual fantasy” dates on the calendar, especially if it requires prep. (Costumes! Hotel room! Babysitter!)
Maybe at the end of this adventure, you both decide fantasies are a lot of work, and straightforward sex is more your thing. Or it’s possible that a few weeks of giving it a go will enliven your relationship and make you guys way more experimental than ever. Either way, consider it a bedroom boot camp.
After all, just like marriage is work, maintaining your sex life can also be a labor (of love, hopefully). So make it a priority to spice things up. You just might like where it takes you [insert fire emoji here].
Jenna Birch is a relationship coach, journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love.