Erotic Fantasy Reconsidered: From Tragedy To Triumph



Tell me how you were loved, and I’ll tell you how you make love.

Our emotional history shapes our erotic blueprint and is expressed in the physicality of sex. Accordingly, there is a strong connection between our attachment map (defined as our expectations, conflicts, hopes and disillusionment with intimate connections) and our sexual feelings and behaviors: Tell me how you were loved, and I’ll tell you how you make love.


Were our parents or caregivers responsive to our needs or were we expected to monitor theirs? Did we turn to them for protection or did we flee to protect ourselves? Was pleasure celebrated, suspiciously tolerated, or simply dismissed? Did we feel safe to trust? Were we rejected? Humiliated? Abandoned? Were we held? Rocked? Soothed? Did we learn to receive or to be denied; to dare or to be afraid? Did we figure out not to expect too much and to hide when we were upset?

In our family, we sense when it’s okay to thrive and when others might be hurt by our zest. We learn how to feel about our body, our gender and our sexuality. And we learn a multitude of other lessons about whom to be and how to act that seep straight into our erotic life. All these experiences shape our beliefs about ourselves and our expectations from others. They are part of the dowry each man and woman brings to the unknown continent of adult love. Part of this emotional scorecard is obvious, but much of it is unspoken, concealed even from ourselves.


Fantasies are a valuable creative resource. They transform our emotional and existential quests into sources of pleasure. They offer us an imaginary pathway to repair, compensate, and transform. Even when they might seem dark or taboo, if we find the courage to connect with them, they may bring us healing.

Subscribe to YourTango's newsletter to keep up with us for FREE

- Our best articles delivered straight to your inbox
- The latest in entertainment and news
- Daily horoscopes and love advice

A couple is a gathering place where we bring these imaginary elaborations to bear. There is a dialectical relation between the power and dominance, the surrender, the dependency, and the care that we toy with in our sexual fantasies and the reality of a couple’s life. The same power imbalance we fight about in the kitchen may incite our sexual excitement after dinner.

This article was originally published at Esther Perel. Reprinted with permission from the author.