Hey Yana,

I’ve been in a serious relationship for almost two years now and am only now feeling strong flare-ups of intense insecurity around sex. My partner and I have been having sex every day at least once a day, if not two or three, consistently for the majority of our relationship.

Recently, we’ve been talking about masturbation and she’s told me that she does masturbate while I’m out of the house and she does watch porn. In my heart, I know that this has very little, if not nothing, to do with her desire for me but I can’t help obsessing about it. It’s to the point where I don’t want to leave the house because I feel like she will just be masturbating while I’m gone. I’m obsessing over the “kind” of porn she’s watching, who’s in it, what do they look like, etc.

I feel like if we’re having this much sex, why does she need to masturbate? What am I not giving her? These are truly embarrassing feelings, but I feel trapped by them and the insecurities they bring up.

I’m wondering if you have any advice to get out of these thought patterns? How do I release control? How do I reconceptualize her masturbation as something positive or better yet, sexy?




Tense Masturbation Relations



Dear Tense,


Though “a lot” or “not enough” sex is truly in the eyes of the beholders, my first thought when reading your question is — “Damn, 1-3 times per day for two years + masturbation on the side?! These people are sex-rich!” If you were my couples therapy client, I would be really interested to explore what role sex plays in building relational security between the two of you and what it would mean emotionally if this frequency were to shift. This also makes me think that your partner’s sexual habits (either solo or partnered) are more about her than about you, motivated by a variety of factors.

My curiosities aside, the only way to know the answers to any of your above questions about her is to ask her. Clients often attend sessions saying that they just don’t know how to figure out what their partners are thinking about their sex life and then they promptly list a bunch of questions such as yours: Why does she masturbate? What am I not giving her? What kind of porn does she watch and why does she like it? These are all great questions to ask your partner as I won’t have her answers for you.

But, before you do I think it’s important that you address your own thought patterns so that your questions can come out with more curiosity and less shame. For many, masturbation is less about “filling in the gaps left by my partner” and more about self-exploration, a personal sexual relationship, indulging in fantasies that they don’t want to bring to reality, or just getting off in an economical, non-relational way. Solo masturbation is a self-contained fantasy space, a place to explore sexuality that isn’t tied up in another person’s own limits, desires, and projections. Is there a stressful cycle in your partnered sex life that she might be avoiding?

Really, your partner could be masturbating for all kinds of reasons that aren’t about you but something within you is scared that somehow they are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so tempted to monitor and control it. The thought-thread I would pull for you would be around your wonderings about what kind of porn she’s watching and what the people look like. When you think about this, what is the “worst case scenario?” What kind of porn or “looks” would you be most threatened by and why? Do you yourself masturbate? What do you watch or who/what do you think about and is it perfectly in line with what you and your partner do together? Chances are, no.

Use your feelings as a launch pad for self-exploration and further conversation (with her!) about the implications this has on your partnered sex life. But ultimately, her personal sex life with herself is hers whether you think it’s sexy or threatening, so go ahead and leave your house and let her have it — it’s not yours to control.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com. Get her book “Hot and Unbothered” wherever you buy books.