Why it’s healthy to masturbate when you’re in a long term relationship
Most people have masturbated before; that’s just a scientific fact.
Written by Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Nationally representative data
from the United States reveals that just 8.2% of men and 21.8% of women say that they’ve never masturbated in their lifetime, which makes self-pleasure one of the most common sexual behaviors.
Despite the fact that most people do it from time to time (and enjoy it) masturbation is often viewed in a negative light, especially when it happens within the context of a long-term romantic relationship. Many people seem to be under the impression that if you’re in a sexually satisfying relationship, you shouldn’t need to touch yourself. Ever.
In other words, masturbation is often viewed as a sign of a sexual deficit or a way of compensating for a lack of sex, or a lack of attraction to one’s partner.
Freud was famous for his embrace of the deficit model of solo sex. He viewed masturbation in adulthood as a sign of immaturity and even said that “a happy person never fantasizes, only a dissatisfied one.”
However, this view (and a lot of other things Freud said about sex) are all wrong. Masturbation is normal and healthy throughout the lifespan, including within our romantic relationships.
Here are some of the key reasons why we need to rethink our view of masturbation in LTRs.
Masturbation is sometimes a sign that you’re really sexually satisfied.
Research has found
that, among women who are sexually satisfied, the more frequently they have sex, the more often they masturbate. By contrast, for women who are sexually dissatisfied, there is no link between the amount of sex they’re having and their frequency of masturbation.
This pattern runs contrary to the deficit model, which would presume that dissatisfied women having little sex would be the most likely to masturbate, so why are the most sexually active and satisfied women doing it more?
It appears that, at least for women, masturbation tends to be a complement to an already active and satisfying sex life. They actually masturbate more when they’re the happiest, which may be because great sex is amping up their libidos, thereby increasing masturbation.
What all of this tell us is that frequent masturbation is sometimes a sign that your sex life is good. like really freaking good.
Masturbation provides a healthy sexual outlet when one partner isn’t in the mood or you can’t physically be together.
In a long-term sexual and romantic relationships, it’s a given that your sex drives are going to get out of sync sometimes, or that both partners won’t always want sex at the same exact moment. This happens (and it’s okay). It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong, unless it becomes a longstanding, intractable disagreement.
When you encounter a temporary discrepancy in the desire for sex (such as when one partner is just feeling too tired or stressed), masturbation offers a healthy outlet for sexual fulfillment. The same is also true when partners are physically separated, such as when one partner is away on a work trip.
Think of masturbation as part of the broader sexual buffet in a relationship; if one item isn’t on the menu tonight, it doesn’t mean you have to go hungry because you have other options.
Masturbation is a way to continue to explore your sexual self and show your partner what you like
One of the best ways to explore your body and what turns you on is to masturbate. Self-pleasure is a way to learn about and expand your sexual self, and you can take what you learn into partnered sex to reach new heights.
Also, contrary to popular belief, masturbation doesn’t just have to be a solo activity—it can be something that you explore together sometimes. For example, when partners masturbate in front of one another, this can be a great teaching tool for showing each other where your biggest erogenous zones are and the type of stimulation that really gets you going.
Make room for masturbation in your relationship
For all of these reasons, it’s important to allow space for masturbation in a relationship. And that starts by setting aside personal insecurities about your partner’s self-pleasure. The real reason many people are uncomfortable with the idea of their partner masturbating is because they feel threatened by it, they’re viewing it through the lens of the deficit model and assuming that masturbation is necessarily a sign that there’s something wrong.
Some may find it helpful to talk things through with their partner and provide reassurance that their masturbation isn’t stemming from a place of dissatisfaction. It can also be worthwhile to discuss how sex and masturbation can fulfill different needs and recognize that each has their own place and that they offer unique benefits.
As you discuss masturbation with your partner, remember that sex is always a fraught topic of discussion, so approach it with care and sensitivity. Treat your partner the same way you would like to be treated, and avoid shame and judgment so as not to shut down the conversation or escalate conflict.
Lastly, recognize that it’s often tempting to blame masturbation when there are sexual problems in a relationship but the key question to ask yourself is whether masturbation itself is really the problem. For example, if you and your partner aren’t having sex at all but your partner is still masturbating, are you not having sex because they’re masturbating, or is there a deeper, underlying problem that needs to be addressed?
Masturbation is an easy target and source of blame in these cases, but it’s often not the right one.