Q: I’ve been spending a lot of time with my trainer to get in shape and started to think about them a lot — not so much in the romantic sense, but more of an in-between-the-sheets deal, I think. How can I tell the difference between a harmless fantasy and actual feelings?

At first glance, if you find yourself noticing someone and falling head over heels and imagining yourself having a steamy make out session, well, that’s sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is more about who you see in front of you and what they look like. It’s more about sex than marriage.

Romantic attraction goes a little bit deeper. This is more about attachment and creating a bond, oftentimes based on shared values, beliefs, and similar interests. These things can make the bond stronger. Romantic attraction goes beyond sex, whereas having a sexual attraction tends to be more about wanting to get busy. I believe that your fantasy is harmless. It’s for your imagination, and you could do whatever you want there.

However, once you get to know someone better, you may realize that you don’t really want to have a deeper relationship with them. You may realize you were only physically attracted, that you only wanted to have sex, not a dinner date or marriage.

Here’s a simple formula I like to keep in mind: Sexual attractions are more like crushes. They come and go. But romantic attractions take a little bit more time to build. There’s nothing wrong with either, as long as you’re honest with yourself and the other party.


Janet Brito is an AASECT-certified sex therapist who also has a license in clinical psychology and social work. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Minnesota Medical School, one of only a few university programs in the world dedicated to sexuality training. Currently, she’s based in Hawaii and is the founder of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Brito has been featured on many outlets, including The Huffington Post, Thrive, and Healthline. Reach out to her through her website or on Twitter.