Does Masturbation Harm Relationships?

  • Author: Ummer
  • Published: March 31, 2023
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Masturbation is common in relationships, but it can be hard to talk about.

Even people that are sexually active may feel like it’s a “taboo” subject.

One reason for this is the myths that make masturbation seem immoral.

Also, many people feel differently about masturbation depending on their relationship status.

Let’s say you’re in a relationship and your partner’s masturbation habit bothers you. How do you bring it up?

Moreover, is masturbation bad for your relationship?

It’s rare to find studies of masturbation that answer big questions such as this. That’s because it depends on many factors.

It also hinges on the maturity level of the people involved, and the strength of their relationship. If you choose to continue masturbating there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with you, your partner, or your sex life.

Trying to decide if masturbation belongs in your relationship? Or maybe you want to peacefully resolve the tension caused by masturbation.

Either way, keep reading — we’ll answer these questions and more.

Is It Cheating?

Is masturbation considered cheating?

Cheating is subjective. It has different boundaries based on your relationship.

An act may be “cheating” if it breaks these boundaries. A violation can include physical or emotional acts such as:

  • Sexting
  • Physical affairs (kissing, sex, cuddling)
  • Emotional affairs
  • Online affairs
  • Micro cheating

Masturbating may be considered a breach of trust if partners have agreed it’s unacceptable. We recommend having an open conversation with your partner about it.

This brings up another question. Is masturbating with porn cheating?

Many sources online will tell you that masturbating with porn isn’t cheating. It’s a betrayal of trust at worst. In reality, you and your partner decide. Here are a few conditions that’ll help you with this:

  • If it negatively impacts or replaces your sex life.
  • If porn use and masturbation are being hidden or denied.
  • It violates the boundaries you and your partner agreed on.
  • If your porn habit becomes problematic.

Regardless of if it’s considered cheating — you may want to quit your porn habit for a healthier relationship.

Masturbation Myths in Relationships

Many of the assumed “dangers” of masturbation come from a few common myths. They can range anywhere from infertility to hindering sexual development.

Of course, too much masturbation is guaranteed to cause harm.

Let’s dispel the confusion and examine some of these myths.

Masturbation Can Ruin Sex

Masturbation can actually help your sex life. Masturbating lets you explore your body in a safe way. By doing so, you discover your sexual tastes. This makes it easier to communicate what you like and dislike to your partner.

You’ll also be better at receiving communication from your partner. You’ll be less likely to be hurt by criticism, and you won’t shy away from suggestions to spice things up. This can enrich your sex life greatly.

Masturbation Can Make You Infertile

This myth hinges on the idea that ejaculation lowers your sperm count. And if you ejaculate too much, you’ll run out of sperm. However, this is far from the truth. Most of your sperm regenerates within a 12-24 hour period.

Furthermore, your body maintains the production of sperm at a rate of 1,500 per second!

If you want more information about how often you should be releasing sperm, check out this article.

Masturbation Stunts Sexual Development

A study from JAMA Pediatrics including over 800 teenagers found that 74% of boys and over 48% of girls masturbate.

Many fear that this will stunt their sexual development by giving them the wrong idea of how to seek sexual satisfaction. Masturbation with porn will do this. But masturbation without porn is okay.

In fact, it’s a safe way for teens to sexually explore their bodies without the use of porn. Masturbation has no risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. It can also benefit your sexual and emotional health.

When Does Masturbation Become a Problem?

Picture this, you’ve walked in on your partner masturbating.

What are you thinking? What are you feeling?

Many people find it hard to answer these questions. Moreover, they might think their partner shouldn’t need to masturbate. After all, their sex life is “healthy”… or is it?

Others avoid this thought because it opens up Pandora’s box of dreadful questions. What are they thinking about while masturbating? Are they watching porn? Am I not enough for them?

Ultimately, is masturbation problematic for my relationship?

Here are a few indicators that’ll help you answer this question:

  • If you prefer it over intimacy with your partner: Your partner may feel starved for affection if you prefer to masturbate.
  • If you masturbate through self-injury: If you’ve masturbated so much that you’re injured, it’ll be difficult or painful to have sex.
  • If you feel shame: Many people associate masturbation with shame, and it’s a taboo subject. Many religious and cultural authorities preach this message.
  • It gets in the way of work: People who masturbate at work usually use it for stress relief. However, if this means holding in feelings from your significant other — it’s a problem. A healthy way to relieve stress is to share your feelings with people who care about you. When masturbation becomes an escape from these feelings, it promotes an unhealthy behavior pattern in your brain.
  • It erodes trust: If you’re hiding your masturbation sessions from your partner, it’s not a good sign. Being unable to talk about masturbation habits will take a toll on trust.
  • If it makes your partner feel inadequate: A partner who doesn’t masturbate may be upset at their partner for masturbating. They may think their partner is dissatisfied with the relationship — and put the blame on themself.

How to Resolve Conflict

You and your partner may disagree about masturbation. It’s essential to address conflict in a healthy way. If you don’t it could harm your relationship in the long run.

Here’s what to do when conflict arises:

  • Communicate:  Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you think masturbation is a problem in your relationship, voice it. Let your partner know how it’s impacting you. If you’re the one masturbating, be sensitive to your partner’s concern.
  • Rebuild trust:  Trust issues can arise from masturbation conflict. For example, you may feel betrayed when your partner chooses masturbation over sex. Or, you’ll feel like they aren’t attracted to you. You need to set clear expectations surrounding masturbation habits — and work to meet them.
  • Establish boundaries: Have a clear line in the sand for your limits. Talk about your preferred sexual frequency, and what defines a betrayal of trust. Are any behaviors off-limits?
  • Discuss your goals as a couple: Revisit your values as a couple, and figure out what you’d like to change. Intimacy is more than sex. It’s also about connection, safety, and desire. Relationship satisfaction depends on meeting these goals consistently. Consider couples therapy to dig deeper into this area.

Benefits for Couples and Individuals

Masturbating alone or with a partner has benefits. Research has found that it can improve a person’s mental health, sexual satisfaction, and confidence.

Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.

Improved Mental Health

More people are starting to view masturbation as a part of “self-care”. They claim to use it for relaxation, boosting their self-image, and having a better connection with their body.

The chemicals released in the brain during sexual activity reduce stress hormones. And a relaxed, stress-free person is likely to have a healthier relationship.

Additionally, masturbation has been known to aid sleep. Contrast this with sleep deprivation, which is known to hurt your mental health. An orgasm can act as a tranquil pathway to a restful night’s sleep. Plus, good sleep boosts your libido.

Better Sexual Satisfaction

Sexual satisfaction depends on knowing what to do in bed. It also relies on knowing your sexual preferences. This is helpful because it lets you communicate effectively with your sexual partner. And if you’re more satisfied during sex, you can shift your focus to satisfying your partner.

Studies have shown that masturbating with your partner is healthy. It can also lead to more sexual activity.

Masturbation is helpful when one partner has a higher libido than the other (in terms of frequency). It’s a healthy way to take care of urges that arise when your partner isn’t in the mood.

While this can seem like you’re filling a “void”, people still masturbate in sexually fulfilling relationships. Moreover, a study from 2002 found that people who masturbate have sex more often, and with more partners.

Masturbation Is a Confidence Booster

Confidence in your body is important in a relationship. If you’re not confident, you’ll have a harder time being vulnerable during sexual encounters.

Vulnerability is a key ingredient in a relationship because it allows us to form an authentic connection with our partner.

Masturbation helps you connect with your body in a new way. You realize that your body is more than just something to please other people. You learn to accept your physical imperfections. In doing so, you feel free during sex — and both you and your partner enjoy it more.

Adverse Effects of Masturbation on a Relationship

Masturbation has many benefits for people in and out of a relationship. But there are also clear drawbacks.

First, the definition of masturbation can get hazy. Some people don’t consider self-stimulation to be masturbation if they don’t orgasm. Others say that edging counts as masturbation. Edging is the act of stimulating yourself and stopping before orgasm.

You and your partner may have differing opinions of what counts as masturbation. Be sure to clarify with your partner what you consider to be masturbation.

This brings us to the next issue, inadequacy.

Some people worry that if their partner masturbates, it’s because they’re not satisfied during sex.

This isn’t always true. People in a relationship may masturbate for many reasons. Here are a few:

  • They’ve always used it to reduce stress.
  • It helps them experience sex differently.
  • They may have a higher sex drive than their partner.
  • They want to pleasure themselves without being vulnerable.

Masturbation can replace partnered intimacy in a relationship. This happens when one partner prefers to masturbate instead of having sex. Another way masturbation can be negative is when it replaces daily activities such as attending work or school.

Keep an eye out for symptoms of sexual addiction. They’re tell-tale signs that masturbation is problematic.

If your partner’s masturbation habits concern you, ask them why they masturbate. Work through the issues with your partner and/or a professional sex therapist. And lastly, don’t blame yourself for their choice to masturbate.

The Healthy Approach

How do you decide if masturbation belongs in your relationship?

Even with research, anecdotal evidence, and professional advice, you might still be confused. And the information you find can be inaccurate or conflicting.

To make matters worse, masturbation affects everyone differently. What works for another couple may not work for you.

If you decide to keep masturbating in a relationship, here are some guidelines:

Note: These aren’t “hard rules” by any means, feel free to pick what works for you.

  • No porn: Porn wires you to prefer pixels instead of intimacy.
  • Masturbate with your partner: This is also known as mutual masturbation. It helps you and your partner discover each others’ sexual tastes.
  • Put a limit on masturbation: Stick to a tight masturbation schedule if you’re in the mood more often than your partner.
  • Communication: There may be trial and error before you’re satisfied. Communicate all aspects of your intimacy. If your partner masturbating without you makes you jealous, consider asking them to masturbate with you. If you think they’re gratifying themselves too frequently, tell them.

A healthy approach is not only possible, but it can strengthen your relationship. Conversely, it may not work for you, and that’s okay. Don’t force something neither you nor your partner wants, despite the benefits.

A Final Word From Mr. Mind Blowing

Let’s revisit our question. Does masturbation harm relationships?

Here’s the quick and dirty on it:

Masturbation helps or maintains the relationship quality of secure couples. These couples don’t associate sex with shame and have healthy communication. They learn more about themselves and use that newfound knowledge to improve their sex life.

In contrast, masturbation can harm insecure couples. This often includes narcissists, control freaks, and people who view sex as a taboo.

Their pain isn’t caused by masturbation. Rather, masturbation triggers feelings of low self-esteem, which is often brought about by a lack of communication.

In answering our big question, it comes down to how strong you are as a couple — namely, how developed you are psychologically. Communication and trust are the building blocks of intimacy. If they’re missing, masturbation is sure to cause harm.


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