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Boyfriend Likes Masturbation More than Sex

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Boyfriend Likes Masturbation More than Sex
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My boyfriend are I are both in our 20s, not married, neither one of us has kids. I can't get past the point that he masturbates while I'm in the house without wanting to have sex with me. For example, this morning I was in bed...he got up and went to the bathroom. He locked the door and was in the shower for almost 30 minutes. He never locks the door. I asked him why the door was locked and he said he had to go to the bathroom. I know he lied about locking the door.

This really makes me feel like I'm not good enough for him anymore. I don't feel sexy. I'm two years older than him and I feel like I want sex more than he does. Is this weird??  I feel like I shouldn't be mad about his masturbating. But I also feel like I shouldn't have to beg him to have sex with me. Please help! My self esteem is a disaster :(

Answer:

There's a lot in your question and your story, and as always, without more details I'm going to do my best to respond with ideas that may be helpful. But I want to start by encouraging you to know that you have a right to your feelings even when they conflict with your politics. You say you know that masturbation is healthy. And it's true that we all have the right to sexual expression, including masturbation. But the fact that the way masturbation is happening in your home is upsetting you is absolutely OK, and you are right to want to address it. 

In the end, the solution may or may not include your boyfriend masturbating less, but that doesn't mean you should ignore your feelings simply because your politics tell you that you "should" be cool with it.


Partner Sex and Masturbation Are Different
You say that most of the time you don't masturbate because when you have sex with your boyfriend you orgasm, so you don't feel the need to masturbate. Aside from the fact that it sounds like that decision isn't working out so great for you right now, there's also something that strikes me as worth thinking about. Masturbation and sex with someone else are different things. We get different things from them, they are kinds of activities that we can do very differently (the things you can do while masturbating could be difficult to do with a partner, and vice versa).  Masturbation and partner sex feel different and can evoke different thoughts, and emotions in us.

It may be worth thinking in greater detail about what it is you want when you want sex.  In those moments are you wanting to connect sexually with your boyfriend? Are you wanting sexual release? Are you bored or anxious or need to get to sleep? Are you horny in some diffuse way that isn't attached to anything else?

There's a relationship between sex with your boyfriend and masturbation, I'm not saying they are unrelated, but since you're identifying that part of your difficulty is in what the masturbation means or represents, it's probably worth taking some time and thinking about what it is you think about masturbation, and do those ideas match your feelings?

Who Is Responsible for What?
Staying just for a few more minutes with the idea that you aren't masturbating because you think your boyfriend should be available to you, it sounds like one of the issues here is a question of responsibility in the relationship. It would be great if your boyfriend wanted to have sex when you wanted, too, but that's not always going to happen. And it isn't his job or responsibility to be sexually available to you when you want anymore than it would be your responsibility to satisfy his sexual urges whenever they appear.

For lots of couples masturbating in relationships offers a way to bridge different sex drives and also the very regular way that two people in a relationship won't always be in the mood to have sex at the same time (any more than they are always in the mood at the same time to see a funny movie, or do their taxes, or clean their home). But, that doesn't mean there isn't a commitment or responsibility to care for each other. The fact that you are feeling stressed out, angry, and bad about yourself is something he should care about, and in a healthy relationship it is something he should be willing to deal with. The outcome may or may not include him masturbating less, but it should include you having a clearer sense of how he feels about you and about the level of his sexual attraction for you.

Taking Responsibility for Yourself
I don't only mean this in a double entendre way. The first thing you can do is try to figure out what exactly you are feeling, and what those feelings are about. It is completely reasonable for you to feel rejected if when you want to have sex with him and he doesn't want to have sex with you. And it's reasonable for you to expect him to be willing to talk about this and figure out a way that you can both get what you want. But it sounds like you aren't that clear about what specifically is difficult about this situation.

Are you mad about his masturbating, or about the fact that you have to beg him for sex? Ask yourself this: If you were having as much sex as you want (and I'm not saying you'll be able to have that with him) would you still be mad?

Or maybe you're mad because he's not being honest with you. Maybe it makes you wonder if there are other things he isn't being honest about? This would also be a pretty reasonable response. And it is one that is worth checking in with him about. But along those lines I'd like to remind you of something: It can be very hard for any of us to talk honestly about our sexual desires and behaviors. Most, if not all, of us, carry around some shame about our sexuality. From your perspective, I can see how this story about the bathroom feels like he is lying to you. But when I read the story I also wonder about his feelings about sex and about what it is like to feel you have to literally lock yourself off from the people you love just to be able to be sexual in ways you want. I'm not saying this to inspire pity in you, nor to suggest that you not talk with him about it. But if the goal is to work together toward a mutually satisfying goal, each of you needs to consider the others position, and doing so before you start a conversation can sometimes let you start that conversation is a less antagonistic place.

What Does He Want
It sounds like you are clear about what you want sexually. You want more sex. But is he clear with you or himself? This would be one conversation I'd encourage you to broach. Maybe he just wants less sex than you? Maybe he experiences your sexual desire as an obligation and is feeling guilty or ashamed or angry or scared by what you want from him. It's easy for us to forget that men also experience sexual coercion and violence in their lives, and if that is a part of your experience, then having even a loving partner who has a strong sexual desire, can feel threatening. Of course I have no idea what's actually going with your boyfriend in particular, but it's worth keeping these possibilities in mind, or at least not making assumptions about why he's doing things the way he is doing them.

What Next?
So those are some thoughts, but what should you do next? I think it's good that you're already aware not only of how this is making you angry but also how it is effecting the way you feel about your body and yourself. We live in a world that's kind of constantly telling us we aren't good enough physically, so anything that adds to feeling crappy about your body is something worth addressing, since this stuff can affect way more than just our sex lives.

It's not necessary, but you may want to spend a little more time on your own thinking about the meaning of masturbation and the meaning of sex in your life. Clarifying for yourself how you define sexuality or thinking about how you're own sexual history ties to your current responses to his masturbating, maybe be helpful for you, and also they are things that your boyfriend may be completely unaware of, and may need or want to know. This is not to say that it's your responsibility to figure it out on your own, just that doing some introspection now may help later.

If you haven't yet talked about the situation it seems like that's a good first thing to try. If you expect him to feel on the spot or attacked, think about setting some ground rules before you talk. And do your best to open open up a conversation in a way that isn't about attacking him and that respects both of your needs in terms of communication. So, for example, maybe sitting down face to face isn't the way he communicates best, or maybe it is too intense to start with. Some people write letters, or use Skype, or email, or even IM. There's no right way to do it.

If you can find a way to talk about your sex life that feels safe for both of you, I'm sure lots of ideas will emerge. Knowing that most people continue to masturbate while in relationships may be important, and if you're both interested in having more sex together, but masturbation is something that feels like a better fit for him, there's the option of masturbating together! That may or may not be a compromise, but I mention it as just one of thousands of ways that people do figure out how to stay in their loving relationships and get their often divergent sexual needs met.

As always, if you have any comments or questions about what I've written just let me know.

 

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