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Masturbation is one of those topics often shied away from. The act is typically done in private, and it doesn’t often come up as a topic of conversation at the dinner table. In fact, even most couples dance around the subject. When talking about walking in on a partner while they’re masturbating, the word “caught” tends to be used, immediately hinting at something negative.
Friends of mine have viewed their partner’s masturbation habits as a “red flag” and worried about the implication that there’s something missing in the relationship. But the truth is that masturbation can be a key ingredient in a healthy and sustainable romantic partnership. Seriously—seeing your partner masturbating could lead to a good experience. So the next time you “catch” your partner in the act (or vice versa!), first give them some space to finish, but then, use these tips to bridge your way to a healthier mindset around masturbation and better communication in your relationship.
Sex therapist and psychologist Dr. Kate Balestrieri explained that things can step into unhealthy territory when there’s secrecy around self-pleasure and/or if it’s being weaponized in the relationship, but “it is important not to personalize” your partner’s masturbation, and we should instead create clear communication around the topic.
Here are five reasons why masturbation and communication about masturbation are crucial in a healthy relationship and why we should even encourage our partner’s self-pleasure—and embrace our own!
Meet the expert
Dr. Kate Balestrieri
SEX THERAPIST, PSYCHOLOGIST
Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a sex therapist and psychologist and founder of Modern Intimacy, offerring sex therapy and other therapy techniques in Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.
1. There is no better method of self-discovery
Masturbation is a “healthy way to feel embodied and to cultivate a relationship with the self,” Dr. Balestrieri said, explaining that “when we know what we like in our bodies, we can be more vocal with our partner.” Regular self-pleasure not only helps build your self-esteem and connection with yourself, but it also helps you discover what you like and what turns you on. It can be a great time to experiment with things before introducing them in your relationship.
2. It can actually strengthen your sex life with your partner
On that note, learning more about what turns you on will inevitably help enhance your experience with your partner—if you’re open about it! Dr. Balestrieri recommended using masturbation “together or on your own as a source of sexual creativity, inspiration, and education,” sharing with your partner what inspires you during self-pleasure and getting creative with how you can keep things spicy and bring those elements into your shared sex experiences.
3. People masturbate for different reasons
Dr. Balestrieri reminded us that there are many reasons people masturbate: “to help them sleep, to de-stress, and for general pleasure,” to name a few. Communicating with your partner about what compels you both to masturbate can help lessen the shame and sensitivity around the subject and pave the way for open communication. Knowing why your partner masturbates will also alleviate the concerns you have about your preconceived ideas of what it means about the relationship.
4. No one person can be your end-all-be-all
“Even in monogamous relationships, it is unlikely that our partner can meet every need we have emotionally, financially, sexually, and so on,” Dr. Balestrieri emphasized. “We are sold a bill of goods around sex and relationships that create a lot of challenges for a realistic and sustainable sex life,” Dr. Balestrieri said. It would be a mistake to expect to give your partner everything they need or for them to give you everything you need. It’s important to talk to your partner early on about what role masturbation plays in their life and to be clear on their desires around the frequency to be sexual.
5. Everyone’s sex drive is different
Dr. Balestrieri brought up a great point, stressing that “couples do not always have desire at the same time,” and masturbation is a great way to ensure that each party’s desire is being fulfilled. She recommended creating a clear boundary plan with your partner that everyone feels comfortable with and maybe even coming up with a schedule for how often you’ll have sex while being open and understanding about how often you’re masturbating too.
The biggest takeaway here is the significance of communication and the reminder that while many people have unexamined shame around masturbation, it’s a natural and healthy practice that can help improve your relationship with your partner and with yourself. So the next time you “catch” your partner in the act of self-pleasure, don’t jump to any negative conclusions! Instead, usd it as an opportunity to start these conversations and embrace the opportunity to boost your sex life.
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