Writer and broadcaster

I’m a lesbian in a great relationship but obsessed with the idea of sex with other women. The Guardian.

Dear Annalisa

I am a woman of 33 and have been in a relationship with another woman for eight years. Our relationship is great. She is gorgeous and we couldn’t be more compatible – everything I want in a partner and more. I love her and want to stay together for ever. It is not perfect but I think we have a strong, communicative, intimate relationship. There is nothing I would change.

However, over the past few years I’ve become increasingly obsessed by the concept of having sex with someone new, or rather the fact that I never will again. When I’ve seen problems like this asked before, the answer always seems to be that there must be something missing in the relationship. But I don’t believe there is. Our sex life is good and we try new things. It is literally that excitement of someone new that is taking over my mind.

I don’t want to cheat, and never would, but I’ve got to the point where every time I meet another gay woman, I imagine the idea, even if she’s not my type. Before I got together with my partner, I denied my sexuality. It was only through falling in love with her as one of my friends that I was forced to admit it. I’m not sure if this is because I never dated other women, and that I’ve never even had that experience of noticing who I fancy in the normal adolescent way.

Another possibility is that before we got together, I had some emotional issues and us getting together was the most magical and happy time of my life. Maybe I’m seeking this “new love/new sex” as a form of escapism. I’ve discussed this with my partner (not fully admitting my obsession but saying I feel I would like to have sex with someone new). She’s very understanding and we talked about making sure that our sex life never got dull. So you can see why I’m struggling to understand this feeling and struggle even further to understand how to shake it.

What you feel is normal. There aren’t many people in a long-term relationship – if they are being honest and have any imagination – who haven’t wondered what sex with someone new would be like, or pondered about the fact that they may never have sex with someone new again.

You might find it useful to read this other article I wrote. Although the subject matter (how to get over an ex) doesn’t concern you, it goes into what happens when we fall in love, which explains why new people – or the thought of them – are so exciting.

I contacted family and couples therapist Stefan Walters (bacp.co.uk), who thinks this is “less about your relationship, more about grieving a sense of youth and the new”.

Indeed, often when we are on the brink of new commitments, either about to get married, or moving in together, or have a baby, or just that our relationships go into a new, deeper phase, we can start to panic and think, “Is this it?” It doesn’t mean that anything is lacking, just that we’re adapting to that change.

You’re not looking for permission to have an affair – as some readers do – but Walters thinks you are “looking for permission to make your girlfriend your life partner”.

Fantasy is a wonderful and powerful thing. Nothing goes wrong in our fantasies and everything is exactly as we want them to be. But reality never lives up to fantasy. But, for lots of people it’s important to have fantasies as long as one doesn’t think they’re a premonition.

Walters thinks it is important not to “frame the relationship as the enemy” (not that you are so far). When people do this and seek excitement outside it, they can fracture off and start doing lots of new things on their own, until they become so self-reliant that the relationship is a burden. While it’s important to retain a sense of self and do new things on your own, it’s also important to do things as part of a couple, too. “If you have new experiences together [not necessarily sexual],” says Walters, “You get a massive release of dopamine. So make sure you do new things together.”

Walters also thinks that perhaps because this is your first lesbian encounter, you may feel you’re missing out. This can happen to people who hook up with their first partner, but, reassures Walters, “You may have struck gold first time.”

Also, he points out that everyone goes through lulls in their relationship and that’s normal. So you don’t have to talk up the perfection of it all the time. Real relationships are not perfect.

Here are some other resources Walters and I want to recommend to you: Mating in Captivity by Estelle Perel and the Ted talk that Helen Fisher gave on “why we love and why we cheat”. Both are fascinating and explain how at odds long-term relationships are with human nature.

You might also find useful the feature How to have sex with the same person for the rest of your life, which was published in Family on 16 April.

This article first appeared in The Guardian Family section on 11 June 2016.