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My Husband Prefers Masturbation to Me

QUESTION: I recently found out that my husband masturbates. This has made me feel very hurt and unattractive. I don't understand why he needs to do that when I am here. Is it normal for my husband to masturbate in the bathroom when I am available and waiting for him in the bedroom?

ANSWER: You are hurt because you believe that the reason your husband is masturbating is because you are unattractive to him. Although your feelings are understandable, it is more likely that your husband is having trouble with intimacy in the marriage, which includes bringing his sexual needs to the relationship. This could have to do with marital dynamics, but it could also have to do with his own sexual development.

Begin by talking with your husband about your feelings and what his masturbation has brought up for you in light of your own frustrations with sex. Use "I" statements to express your feelings, rather than blaming him. For example, "I felt hurt when I discovered you masturbating and I imagined that you do not find me attractive."

Let your husband know that you have been wanting more sex, rather than less, and that you had thought you were accommodating his needs. Do not shame him or criticize him for masturbating. It is not a question of normalcy and this complaint is not uncommon in my practice of marital and family therapy. But what is more important than passing judgment is to find out what the emotional meaning of his masturbation is in context of himself and your relationship.

It is possible that your husband has had difficulty bringing his sexual needs fully to the relationship. The fact that you have only recently discovered his masturbation may also be a sign that the two of you have not been as emotionally intimate as you would like to be in your marriage. Use this as an opportunity to create connection rather than destroy it.

One of my couples discovered that some of their most satisfying emotional connection occurred when they were engaged in open and honest communication. They began to label this emotional intimacy "lovemaking" even though it did not always result in sex.

Take this opportunity to expand the definition of lovemaking to include a safe space to explore, discuss and develop an understanding of what is going on for each of you in your marriage. Honestly share your feelings with the intent to consider the tender aspects of your sexual needs.

Develop your marriage by creating an opening for deepening trust and resolving old issues that may have been left hanging between the two of you.

It may be the case that your husband is taking his sexual energy to the bathroom instead of the bedroom. Do not hold back in bringing your feelings to the marriage, and asking him to do the same. But stop short of drawing conclusions with little information. It is more likely that your discovery represents a signal for growth in the marriage rather than a statement of your sexual appeal.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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