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Health & Sex

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Masturbation: Healthy for a Relationship

How should you react if you see your spouse masturbating?
By
WebMD Magazine - Expert Commentary

Claire headed off to work one morning just as she always did, leaving 30 minutes before her husband, Mark. No sooner did she pull out of the driveway than she realized she’d left her favorite lipstick on the bathroom sink. When she ran into the house to grab it and go, she accidentally saw Mark in the shower -- masturbating. She had always assumed that he pleasured himself, but she’d never actually seen it.

Claire’s feelings were all over the map that morning: Should I pretend I saw nothing? What should I do? Is it normal?

Masturbation was once vilified as a perversion. All sorts of efforts, ranging from extreme guilt to diabolic contraptions, were made to discourage both single and partnered people from doing it. Yet sexologist Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking data, first reported in the 1950s, had plenty to say about the subject, including that women who masturbated before becoming sexual in a marriage had a much better likelihood of achieving orgasms during sexual contact with their husbands.

Still, mental health experts were not particularly vocal about the health aspects of masturbation until the 1970s. Even though masturbation’s benefits have been regularly proffered since then, many people today still feel extremely uncomfortable about doing it or discussing it -- much less allowing their partner to see them in the act.

What’s a healthy way to view masturbation? It’s appropriate, and a valid option in a relationship, when one’s partner is unavailable due to physical separation, fatigue, recovery from childbirth, or illness. It also helps balance discrepancies in frequency desires. Since there is no formula bestowed during a marriage ceremony that magically aligns two people to have the same level of sexual interest, masturbation is a good thread to weave through a relationship’s tapestry.

Most couples have a “higher frequency partner” and a “lower frequency partner.” This desire discrepancy puzzles many couples. They struggle with having sex when they don’t really want to. Some wrestle with deeply held feelings that they should be everything their partner desires sexually.

This is a nearly impossible task, and I counsel people to let go of that goal. Masturbation helps with an imbalance and helps couples avoid being coerced up or down in frequency by their partner. It’s an aid to a relationship over the long haul.

Claire has a couple of healthy choices when she discovers Mark masturbating. She can grab her lipstick, respect his privacy, and -- saying nothing -- go. Or she can tap on the shower door and say, “Wish I could join you! See you later!”

Reviewed on April 02, 2007

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