Q. My partner is masturbating, but not having sex with me. What do I do?
A. Rejection, or what feels like rejection is tough. Within a relationship it’s even tougher in some ways, because there feels like there should be more protections against it, or something. My number one suggestion for healing around rejection, I borrow from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: don’t make assumptions and don’t take things personally.
This is not to minimize the sting of feeling like you aren’t sexually interesting to your partner at the moment, but what if it actually has nothing to do with that, or you… to the extent that there is nothing you could do differently? Let’s start there.
People masturbate for all different reasons (see last week’s video post for 3 of them!). But further to that, people masturbate when they have sexual energy to burn off, but not necessarily the physical or emotional energy to give to another person - even people they are partnered with and care for/love. Stress, depression, medication, trauma (retrauma), physical and mental illness, are all some personal factors that can cause a dip in a person’s sexual availability to their partner(s). This could be temporary, short term or long term, depending on the circumstances. And while these factors may have nothing to do with you, their outcome - less sex together - does affect you, and it’s worth addressing. I also think that sex in a person’s life can be habitual to some extent, and if a habit or pattern of not sharing sexual experiences forms in response to certain circumstances, it can be hard to break that pattern, even after those circumstances have passed.
Broaching this topic may be challenging - here are a few suggestions for a constructive conversation:
- Firstly, identify within yourself what it is you care about - what part of you is being affected? Is it that you’re feeling left out? Is your ego bruised? Are you sexually dissatisfied/lonely? Are you judgmental? Do you feel unloved/taken for granted? *It can be all, or none of these things*. No one owes* us sex, even in partnership, but identifying this will help you to separate yourself from the problem.
- Be clear you aren’t trying to police your partner’s masturbation, but you are curious about the cause for the decrease in sexual experiences together.
- If they are going through something, and can identify that, let them know you support them, but also want to come up with a plan for taking your feelings/needs into consideration: this could mean finding ways to have physical/emotional intimacy other than sex; masturbating together; developing a timeline; or scheduling check-ins.
- Remember that it is not you vs. them, but both of you tackling an issue together.
This conversation can stir up sensitive or vulnerable emotions, and may have to happen in parts. A lot of people weren’t raised to be open about masturbation or feelings of sexual inadequacy. I invite you to practice love and abundance!
I know, I know, what if the cause is your partner lacking sexual interest in you/the sex you’re having?! I still stand by not taking it personally and not making assumptions, but next week’s column (part 2) will address how this conversation may go a lilllllll differently, and some strategies for working on rejuvenating sexual interest in partnership.
Have a question for bitty bits?! Holler at me here!