Living together: with masturbation or without?

Leave your thoughts

You’ve got some time to yourself, you let your imagination go and slowly but surely your hand edges down to the locus of pleasure … And then the question suddenly pops into your head: What would our partner think? Masturbation—daily necessity for some, complete waste of time for others—raises numerous questions, particularly in the context of coupledom. Is it a sexual practice in itself? Is it cheating? Is it even compatible with life in a couple? And does it have anything to do with how often you have sex? Everyone has her own view of solitary pleasure. Here are a few.

“Couple” is synonymous for the merger of sexuality and love. For Ginette, 45, it’s “experiencing these spheres together in the fullest harmony. Sexuality, yes, but it’s to express love.” As hard as it may be sometimes to believe that sexuality is possible without love, a lover can’t always meet every sexual and emotional need. Partners are unique and have different needs and wants that aren’t always on the same wavelength. Karine, 32, is living proof: “I have much more sexual desire than my girlfriend, and masturbation meets my needs.” Sexuality, moreover, isn’t only about having sex. Feelings of love, fantasy, eroticism and a multitude of other elements enrich each individual’s sexual universe.

What are the impacts on the couple?

When it happens in a couple, masturbation can make one wonder how true her partner’s feelings are. Martine, 23, explains: “I have a lot of difficulty understanding why my girlfriend masturbates. I always have the impression of being insufficient, especially when she does it beside me before falling asleep.” In this case, sexuality is seen as proof of love. Yet desire being what it is—generally unequal—it’s not always easy to satisfy each person’s libido, completely, all the time. And this can create frustration and misunderstanding.

Why masturbate?

In society, masturbation is often associated with a sexual act that meets a sexual and genital need, one whose anticipated outcome is orgasm. For a single person, it can also play a role of substitution or compensation in the absence of a sexual relationship. As Charlotte puts it, “I don’t see the point when I’m with my girlfriend. For me, sexuality is the business of couples.”

And yet orgasm is not exclusively about obtaining pleasure. There are all sorts of physiological benefits attributed to it, from stress release to cancer prevention to pain relief to a healthy heart. Furthermore, during orgasm, a volley of hormones, such as dopamine, are secreted into the brain, creating a sensation of well-being.

To reach orgasm, bodily tensions must be built up to increase excitation to the point of no return. And when tensions, in varying degrees of strength, are released, a feeling of relaxation may ensue. Says Kim, “I adore doing it when I’m stressed out. It does so much to help me relax.” (And for many, sleep.)

However, if masturbation becomes the only sexuality or if it becomes problematic in a couple, you might start wonder if it’s the best idea. And don’t forget that it’s always good policy to discuss what makes you squeamish or uncomfortable: it’s all about gaining a better understanding of one another.

A journey of discovery…

Every relationship is different just as every body is different. Partners are often on a journey of discovery in a relationship, exploring each other’s bodies and exploring together what they like in the way of sex. But masturbation can also be a good way to learn about one’s own anatomy, to discover one’s sexual preferences and to understand the mechanisms of the orgasm. And, no, there’s no guarantee all this will make you a sex goddess: so many other elements enter into one’s perceptions of sexuality, such as knowledge, values, beliefs and ideologies. For some, masturbation is experienced as cheating and for others as proof of good sexual health.

Secret gardens and fantasies…

For some, such as Amélie, masturbation is a “freedom for yourself! A moment when I can experience every fantasy possible and imaginable. I don’t have to fulfill these fantasies with my girlfriend or in real life because they’re perfect in my head.” A person’s desire-based fantasies may be hidden away in a secret garden, and masturbation is a way to make them concrete.

Masturbation, a solitary activity?

Don’t forget that masturbation can also be done as a couple: side by side, for instance. But is it the same thing? For some, it’s a moment of intimacy with oneself that cannot be shared and might even be embarrassing to share. For others it’s a devastatingly effective way to show how you would like to be touched.

Finally, masturbation is a variable like any other in the realm of sexual possibility, one that arises from personal choice—to do or not to do. Because, after all, there’s no ideal formula for sexual fulfillment.

But what do you think of masturbation in a couple?

By Marjolaine Landry

All the names of the people quoted have been changed.

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