Q. My partner is masturbating, but not having sex with me. What do I do?
A. Last week’s bitty bits unpacked how to approach checking in with a partner who is masturbating, but not participating in sex in the relationship, where the ‘cause’ is personal and not a reflection of a lack of desire. Part two of this query will look at how to work through when it is masturba-shun.
Firstly, there are SO many variables that lead to a well of desire drying up in a partnership. It’s not a great time for anyone trying to discuss it, but it’s most certainly worse speculating about it. This means there needs to be some courage and hard honesty from both you and your partner. There may be some things that are tough to hear or say. There may be hurt, anger, resentment, even accusation. My hope and belief is this conversation can be had lovingly (which, side note, being “in love” isn’t a requirement for acting with love). I won’t speculate in this response about potential roots of issues, because the variables can be unique to each situation. The only non-variable is: are both partners willing to work on things to bring the jush back to the relationship?
If yes, I have the following suggestions.
- Start with a foundation that acknowledges both partners are responsible for their pleasure, and all parties have a role in rejuvenating sexual interest. This means no matter the circumstances which lead to one’s interest fading, effort must be made on everyone’s part. I strongly urge that no “score keeping” is done, but it’s ok to discuss milestones or ideals and having individual or collective accountability to them.
- Talk about what it looks like to be more intentional about sex: what areas need more effort? Are there patterns that have stopped or need to start - like sexting, kissing casually, doing chores together etc?
- Share masturbatorial fantasies! Maybe there is new stuff you could be incorporating, to bring that masturbatorial interest into sexual experiences together! *Note, I am a big proponent of erotic privacy as well, some stuff can be just for one’s self*
- If an issue is desire discrepancy, such as timing or one partner having kinks the other isn’t into, talk through ways to have healthy strategies/boundaries about getting needs met. This goes back to not taking things personally and not making assumptions. Sometimes we can’t be all the things sexually to a person, so what does negotiating that look like for you? Try to imagine solutions as if anything is ok and possible so long as it works for you. Don’t get stuck in “shoulds”. Like “I should be able to please my partner in X way” or “we should be having sex X times a week”.
- Right-size expectations. Check in about where ideas about your ideal sexual relationship come from. Are you weighing desire in your relationship against what you see in movies, porn, instagram? That’s not to say limit what you both want from passion, pleasure and connection. All things are possible. But try to be realistic about when those things are possible.
- Seek counselling! Couple’s counselling, or individually. If this is cost prohibitive, look into workbooks or online courses you can take together. Keep an open mind, but make sure the sources are grounded in abundance and intersectional feminism whether your relationship is same-sex, queer, hetero etc (there’s lots of messy stuff out there).
- Be honest. This can be tough, especially when we care about someone. But honesty is ground zero for meaningful, sustainable, and fruitful change.
We live in an immediate gratification era. We all want a quick fix. We all want the tips and tricks and shortcuts to spicing things up. But the truth is this often takes time, patience, communication, and work. Masturbation is definitely easier, true, but reflect on what’s important, and what it is to be in relation-ship, and you’ll both find your way!
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