Does His Sexual Fantasy Signal Abusive Control
When His Sexual Fantasy Signals Abusive Control

When fantasizing is about control, it will be harmful to any relationship. Discover the effects of your husband's sexual fantasies and why they're hurting you.

In an informal survey of sex addicts, they relayed that fantasy about sex was mainly about control. They admitted that when they couldn’t control sex, it was frustrating. If you’re married to a man like this, here’s what you need to know.

Manipulative Men Enjoy Fantasy Because They Can Control Every Detail

Any domestic violence expert will tell you that the heart of abuse is control. Abuser’s are more interested in a specific outcome than their wife’s well being. So as they’re likely to use manipulation and control to achieve the type of sex they fantasize about.

If your husband is fantasizing about sex in such a way that he finds mutual, loving sex to be frustrating, here are some key points to consider:

  • Manipulative Scenario: In fantasies, individuals can dictate every detail of a sexual encounter, creating unrealistic expectations that can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction in real-life interactions.
  • Lack of Mutual Experience: When one partner imposes their scripted fantasies on the other, it diminishes the mutual aspect of intimacy, turning it into a one-sided performance rather than a shared connection.
  • Coercive Nature: Expecting a partner to conform to specific sexual scenarios without regard for their desires or needs can create a coercive dynamic in the relationship, eroding genuine care and mutuality.
  • Deceptive Patterns: Concealing the influence of pornography or unrealistic expectations in sexual encounters can undermine trust and lead to hollow and unsatisfactory experiences for one partner.
  • Addiction and Control: Sexual addiction can fuel a need for control, manifesting in manipulative behaviors that prioritize self-gratification over mutual respect and emotional safety.
  • Recognizing Abuse: Understanding the link between addiction, control, and abusive behavior is crucial for individuals in relationships where manipulation and coercion are present.

If your husband is frustrated after sex, it’s likely fantasy is a factor. And if fantasy is a factor, it’s likely control is a factor.

The problem is that women who experience hollow, unsatisfying sex with their husband might not know it’s because it’s because he’s spending a lot of time in fantasy about sex.

Why Fantasy is Generally About Control

When someone is addicted to sex (ie pornography), there are other elements at play that harm healthy sex because . . .

  • sex addiction is abusive.
  • addicts often seek control for self-gratification, leading to a reality versus fantasy clash, causing anger towards a partner.
  • control in addiction often comes from feeling out of control in life; both exerting control and feeling controlled are unhealthy.
  • women are still often conditioned to prioritize an abusive partner’s satisfaction over their own emotional and sexual safety.

Abusers Gain Control Through Manipulation

Many people want healthier, happier lives, and they make plans to change up when they wake up, when they go to bed, and how to prioritize their time. Many victims, for example, feel ashamed and sad, and want some control in their lives and they begin working out, going to therapy, or talking with friends about their feelings.

Many women enroll in The BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop to learn how to live free from the effects of this type of betrayal.

If Your Husband is Using Manipulation to Play Out His Fantasies, It’s a Sign He’s Abusive

Anne (00:00): Kathy Kinghorn’s the co-owner and CEO of therapy, Utah. Kathy’s an expert in sex and pornography addiction. Welcome, Kathy.

Understanding Why Sex Addicts Use Fantasy

Kathy (04:11): Active sex addicts have specific traits. If you ask them, what’s the best thing about your last relapse?

The lust hit of course, but that’s not accurate. It’s the control. Let me explain this a little bit more.

(05:17) We have two reward centers in our brain. We have one that’s called anticipatory. So right now, if I said, “Hey Anne, do you wanna go to lunch tomorrow?”

I have more saliva in my mouth right now just broaching the subject of getting one. When I’m anticipating, my body’s already going.

Once we get there and I take that first bite of my hamburger, the Consumer Reward Center kicks in. I’m consuming it in the moment, enjoying it. Two different reward centers. Once you get into an addiction, the hit from the lust and the hit from the acting out really diminish over time. The quality isn’t there, the intensity isn’t there. So the Cons, conservatory Reward Center can actually go completely offline in an addict’s brain.

An Psychological Abuser’s Desire for Control

(06:22) They can say in all truthfulness, I hate looking at porn. I hate it. I mean, I do it to get off. But Kathy, I promise you I’m not getting anything out of it. All that’s telling me is that Cons, conservatory Reward Center has gone completely offline.

So the anticipatory one, that’s the one they wanna hang on to as long as they can’t. As I’m anticipating, going back to my analogy, if I’m gonna anticipate that burger, it might be the best burger I’ve ever had, and I can make that burger out to be anything I want as I’m anticipating it. 

So I wanna lengthen this time as long as possible. Oftentimes you’ll get a spouse who sees an energy shift, and they may use a different word, but they see a shift in their spouse, they’re detached, they’re disconnected in maybe a different way or maybe the same way, but because it happens so frequently, what’s happening is that Anticipatory reward center is part of the addiction cycle.

Anticipatory Reward and Abusive Behavior

(07:37) They’re starting to get really into that fantasy, trying to enjoy it, and trying to let it slowly percolate for them. They want to control that moment as much as possible.

The interesting thing to me on this too, Anne, is that when you’re dealing with somebody with an active addiction, there’s a lot of things they don’t know. There are a lot of things that are confusing to them. Empathy. There’s no way an active addict understands empathy. There’s no way they understand boundaries. Genuinely, I’m not letting them off the hook. I’m just saying hard concepts for them to understand. There are a few topics, and this is one of them where when I say it’s control, boom, they get it.

They know it. It’s a truth for them. If they weren’t conscious of it before, they are now, and they’re like, yeah, actually it’s the control. I like having that control. It’s not that they just like it. They’re using it as much as they can in the hopes that when they actually do consume it, it’ll be better than ever.

When Sex is a Fantasy, Reality is Miserable

Anne (09:04): Here at BTR, rather than calling sex addicts, sex addicts, I just put them in the category of abusive. The reason I do that is because their actions are abusive. It’s interesting to me that in you saying this, control is what abuse is.

Coercive control, control of how someone views you, making sure that you’re controlling the narrative. So the gaslighting, the manipulation, also being able to control how sex works. They’re super abusive. It’s interesting to me that they know they’re controlling and they know they’re an addict, but they don’t know they’re abusive. Do you know what I’m saying?

Kathy (09:55): The control there’s for their own pleasure,

Anne (10:00): Right? Right. If the scenario doesn’t take place the way they plan, then it’s not as pleasurable to them. So whether they’re gonna do it with someone else, like act out with porn or act out with a prostitute, or if they’re gonna abuse their wife in order to do it, if it doesn’t go the way they want, it’s not as enjoyable to them. But because they can’t feel empathy, they’re also gonna be pretty angry.

Identifying Control in Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Kathy (10:30): It can’t go right. And I think it’s important for the spouse to know that because let’s say that a husband comes to one of your followers and he says, I’d kinda like for you to show up in lingerie at the front door and I don’t know, just spice it up. And the spouse goes, I’m okay with that. Why not? That aligns with my values. It’s between me and him.

So he opens the front door and there she is, and she’s in a red lingerie, and she says, Hey, baby, instantly you’re gonna see anger usually, and here’s why. It’s because they’re in fantasy. They fantasized about this forever. You can’t be in fantasy. In reality, at the same time, he might try to tap the anger in, but what happens is a real person can’t be a fantasy. If they have a problem with fantasy, it’ll show up in their anger.

Anne (11:33): Well also, if they have a problem with control, it’s gonna show up. Right? They’re not controlling because they’re angry. They’re angry because they’re controlling. They expect that things should go a certain way and that really that their wife’s not a person, but sort of an extension of their own fantasy, and she’s not doing what she’s supposed to do.

The Relationship Between Fantasy and Anger

Kathy (11:58): I’m sure you’ve heard people say you’re just in denial, but I think it’s better to finish the sentence. You could say, I think you’re denying reality

Anne (12:08): When you say, I think you’re in denial. Are you talking to the addict when you say that?

Kathy (12:12): Yeah. They’re denying reality, and there’s two ways to move in the world. You can be in reality or not.

Anne (12:23): It’s pretty clear. I love that. Yeah.

Kathy (12:26): Think about in fantasy, they’ve control, but here’s the problem with it, Anne. They don’t just have control. They’ve perfect control in fantasy. It’s perfectly scripted. They’re the director and the editor, and it’s perfect. Once you get into reality, now you’re the creators and it’s messy and complicated and unpredictable.

But what happens is for a lot of different reasons, they’ll have a fantasy, and obviously we don’t have time to unpack all the reasons, but the fantasy’ll be their favorite and they’ll go back to it again and again and again. And if you interrupt them halfway through it, let’s say they’re kinda driving down the road and they’re in their fantasy and they get a phone call.

They hang up the phone, they don’t go back to where they got interrupted. They have to go back to the start, and they want that perfect script, and then they’ve perfect control, right? Within the fantasy, whether they’re pleasing 10 women or the victim of 10 women, they’ve perfect control in how that plays out

Anne (13:42): In their own heads. And then real people get hurt in the process

Fantasy is a Struggle for Control

Kathy (13:50): For sure.

Anne (13:51): Why’s control the most important thing rather than truth or

Kathy (13:57): Because by definition, if you’re an addict, you are out of control in some area of your life, potentially all of it, you’re out of control. You don’t know when you wake up, if you’re gonna stay with your stated values or if you’re gonna end up being three hours late back from lunch because you’re cruising around downtown Salt Lake, you really genuinely don’t know.

What happens is you’re out of control. So you wanna take unhealthy control because you know can’t control yourself. I know that doesn’t make sense. It’s like

Anne (14:36): The reason it doesn’t make sense is that if they need to take control because they don’t have control, then why don’t they take control in a different way? Why do they act out with control instead of being like, “Okay, I’m going to wake up every morning at five and work out”? There are other ways to be controlling. “I’m going to make sure that my house is clean. I’m going to help my kids get to school on time.”

Kathy (15:00): Problem is, I think there’s dark forces involved and they wanna control us in a super unhealthy way.

Anne (15:09): I agree.

Kathy (15:10): You’re not gonna have a healthy solution when you’re involved in unhealthy behavior. You could think, you know what? I need to do X, Y, Z, and that’ll help me move away from it. And oftentimes men do. Men do make the choice to control themselves. But think about it. When we’re in victim, it’s also because I’ve lost all control and everybody’s picking on me. Control shows up in a lot of interesting places. So I’m either a victim of not having any control of my life or I’m gonna control everybody in my life, but either end of the spectrum is unhealthy.

Fantasy Enables Unhealthy Control and Resentment

Anne (15:55): Let’s talk about that one end of the spectrum for a minute. I have no control. When they play the victim and they’re playing the victim in that case, but they are actually not the victim, and they are actually the opposite.

They’re trying to control things, but they’re claiming that they’re being controlled. “My wife is so controlling when she’s saying things like, ‘Hey, this isn’t fun for me. I don’t enjoy it. If you’re gonna act this way, I don’t wanna have sex,’ which is a totally reasonable thing to say.” And then he comes back with, “You’re so controlling. You wanna control sex.” So why do they claim to be controlled when their attempts at control are not working?

Kathy (16:39): It’s because they just have an unhealthy relationship with what healthy control looks like. And again, I’m not justifying their behavior, but I do see individuals who believe here is how it is to be a man in the world.

Anne (16:56): If your wife tells you, ‘Hey, it really, really hurts me when you look at porn,’ someone has told them, at the very least, your wife, does she not count as someone?

Kathy (17:06): Absolutely. If they continue either lying about it or looking at it, then it’s likely at some point they’re gonna lose that relationship.

Anne (17:16): I think the reason I bring that up is so many wives, they think maybe he doesn’t know that it’s bad. And one of the questions I ask is, well, have you told him it is? And they’re like, yeah, multiple times. And I’m like, and has he gone to therapy? Yeah, he’s been multiple times.

And has he ever been to church? Yeah, he has. Has he ever watched a TV show where someone got put in jail for lying or committing fraud? Yeah, he has. So the idea that they didn’t know that that is wrong, lying to your wife, it’s almost should a wife really have to tell her husband, ‘Don’t lie to me’? I mean, it seems like that’s pretty basic.

I just worry that women will spend more time educating their abuser rather than getting to safety when he’s already had so many opportunities to be educated about it. It only keeps her in the abuse cycle. It doesn’t really help her get to safety because that’s what keeps her stuck.

Maybe because people tell women that they can say something 17 times, but if they say it the 18th time, it’s gonna make a difference. I worry that women will focus more on how can I get him educated rather than how can I get to safety? So in that case, if a woman is focused on safety, how would knowing that this is all about control, help her to get to safety?

Misconceptions About Communicating with Abusers

Kathy (18:44): I think to understand that an active addict isn’t an active addict just when he is looking at pornography or whatever his sexual behavior is, that’s not the only time. It comes out in a variety of ways. It comes out with resentment, anger, control, instead of just thinking, well, he said he’s always had an anger problem.

It’s like connect the dots and go, okay, controlling and anger are part of an addiction. It’s not his personality. It’s not other things. It’s part of having an addiction. Resentment is part of having an addiction.

Identifying Safety for Victims of Men Who Use Fantasy to Control

Anne (19:30): So how does that help her get to safety?

Kathy (19:35): Everything needs to be unpacked and looked at? And oftentimes, more often than not, he’s going to need professional help in some way to understand what safety is for her and him. It’s highly likely that neither one of ’em knows clearly what safety feels like.

So for example, she might go, I feel safe when I know he’s happy. So that’s not her understanding safety, right? Any more than when he says, well, I feel safe when my wife goes to bed at nine and I can just be up at night. I’m not hurting anyone.

Anne (20:15): So how does it help her get to safety?

Kathy (20:18): To have her examine what is safety for her? Who taught her that that is safe? I have so many clients that say, well, my mom’s just said to just have sex with him. And basically mom’s saying, keep yourself safe. Keep having sex with him.

Anne (20:36): I’m like, Kathy, it’s 2024. And people are still saying this.

Kathy (20:43): Oh yeah, for sure.

Anne (20:44): Really?

Kathy (20:46): I literally just had a client over the Christmas break. Yes. That’s not uncommon. And if it’s not out and out said, it’s certainly implied, but it’s still said.

Challenging Outdated Advice and Recognizing How Fantasy Can Harm Victims of Emotional Abuse

Anne (21:01): It’s like shocking to me that people are still in the mode where they don’t recognize it as abuse and sexual coercion and sometimes flat out rape. Right. That their mother-in-law is sexually coercing them. Is crazy.

Kathy (21:17): Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes.

Anne (21:18): Kathy, thank you for being patient with me. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and my goal is to get the word out to everyone that this is sexual coercion. It is emotional and psychological abuse. It hurts my heart when I get past my anger and my annoyance.

I think the thing that really is happening is that I’m actually devastated that there are still women that don’t know, devastated that women are still trying to get emotional safety and psychological safety and sexual safety, but they don’t know what that means. They think, oh, if I have sex with them more, I’ll be safe. But they don’t know what it means.

They don’t even really know what they’re looking at or experiencing. That’s what hurts my heart. And I think that’s kind of like today I’m like, why is this still happening? Why is this a thing?

Kathy (22:10): Well, I love your heart and your listeners love your heart.

Anne (22:13): You’re awesome. Kathy, thank you.

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