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My partner masturbates daily, but won’t have sex. What’s wrong?

Insider

Nov 19 · 4 min read

Daily masturbation isn’t always the cause of lackluster partnered sex, and it can even be healthy. Expressing your needs to your husband could help.

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Photo:Crystal Cox/Insider; Samantha Lee/Insider

By Julia Naftulin

I think my husband has a problem with porn and masturbation. Maybe I’m exaggerating and his daily habit is normal, but I’m unsure.

The problem started on our honeymoon. He said he couldn’t be intimate with me because he had been masturbating so much. It broke my heart. I found myself in a very romantic suite crying myself to sleep because the one thing the honeymoon is about (at least in my head) is to be intimate with your spouse, and that didn’t happen.

Now that I know about how often he masturbates, I can’t forget it. I also recently learned that he does it next to me when I am asleep. I have talked about it with him, but he often gets upset and defensive when I do.

He said it’s my fault for feeling this way about the situation, and I don’t have to. We even went to therapy for this and only after six months of that did he apologize, saying he wished our honeymoon had been different.

But this issue keeps happening and I feel our intimacy is severely affected. He doesn’t make the effort to be with me anymore. We have sex probably once every two weeks at most. Every time we are intimate, I feel I am used as a hand, quick and fast. It is so not enjoyable for me.

I don’t want to feel this way. It is not nice that every time he goes to the toilet or goes to bed earlier than me, I have the immense fear I’ll catch him masturbating. What do I do now?

– Holland

Dear Holland,

I’m sorry you feel like you’re being used rather than loved.

Though you’ve already tried talking to your husband about the situation, which I applaud you for, approaching the conversation in a new way may help.

First, it’s important to reframe the issues you’ve been experiencing, because a person’s masturbation frequency isn’t directly linked to their appetite for partnered sex, New York City-based therapist and sex educator Rachel Wright told me.

These two patterns, your husband’s daily masturbation and your lack of coupled intimacy, are occurring at the same time, but “they’re two separate things that need to be tended to,” Wright said.

At the same time, remember your feelings are valid because your husband’s self-pleasure routine is affecting your relationship.

Wright suggested pinpointing the emotions you’ve been experiencing due to a lack of intimacy with your husband. That could be anything from feeling lonely to disconnected to unloved. But it’s important that they come directly from you.

Then, set aside a time to talk with your husband.

Having the conversation

Start by reminding your husband how much you love him, and that you want to find solutions that make you both happy in your relationship. Then, say what you’d like to improve and steps you want to take to get there.

Acknowledge what’s been going on in a fact-focused way. Say something like: “I’ve noticed we haven’t been as sexually intimate with each other as I’d like. I also noticed you masturbate often, and though the two may not be related, I’ve been feeling disconnected from your lately.”

Reduce the risk of your partner becoming defensive by explaining how the facts of the situation play into your emotions, since it’s impossible for him to decide or control how it makes you feel.

You can offer ways to work on the problem together, and then you should also give your partner space to offer his own solutions. Perhaps you’d like to have sex a certain number of times a week, or want to set boundaries so he doesn’t masturbate next you in bed.

If it’s more regular sex you’d like, ask your husband if he’d be open to scheduling a weekly session or two (and before you poo-poo scheduling sex, there’s nothing wrong or unsexy about carving out quality time with your partner!). You could say you want to explore specific sex positions or experiment with toys in the bedroom so your needs are met, if that interests you.

Don’t forget to ask your husband what he needs to feel a more intimate connection and enjoy bedroom time with you. During this conversation he might give you more insight into why he enjoys daily self-pleasure (which, by the way, can be completely normal and healthy, Wright said) and what’s been going on in his head.

On the other hand, he might admit he needs help with an addiction.

Either way, lead with kindness, compassion, and curiosity so he’s more likely to match your tone and be willing to solve the issues at hand alongside you.

As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

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