Masturbation and Your Marriage

Woman relaxing on bed, Masturbation
Brand New Images / Iconica / Getty Images

Masturbation is a common and healthy behavior, but it can be a challenging topic to discuss. Even adults who are in close sexual, romantic, or other intimate relationships might feel embarrassed about bringing up the topic. The subject of masturbation can even feel "taboo" for married couples to openly talk about.

One reason people may find it hard to discuss masturbation is that there are many misconceptions that persist despite evidence that masturbation is normal, healthy, and can be beneficial regardless of relationship status.

A person might also feel differently about masturbation when they are single versus when they are partnered or married. For example, you might worry that your partner's desire to masturbate means that you are not meeting their sexual needs—but this is not necessarily the case.

Likewise, if you want to continue or start masturbating once you are in a relationship, it does not necessarily mean that there is anything "wrong" with you, your partner, or your sexual relationship.

Masturbation and Marriage

It is not unusual for people to masturbate in addition to having regular sex with their partners.

It's healthy to masturbate if you are partnered as long as the behavior does not interfere with the sexual intimacy that you have with your partner. In fact, masturbation is part of many couples' sexual repertoire.

For some couples, however, one partner might become worried after finding out that their partner masturbates. The discovery may result in feelings of sexual inadequacy as they worry that their partner's desire to masturbate is a signal that they are not giving their partner what they need sexually or that their partner is not attracted to them anymore.

For other couples, masturbation is both an enjoyable solo and shared activity with some people reporting that they would be aroused if they found out that their partner was masturbating. Others share that they would be turned on if their partner watched them masturbate or that they would enjoy watching their partner masturbate.

Facts About Masturbation

Despite masturbation being a perfectly healthy behavior, people are often embarrassed to talk about it. These feelings may be partly a result of the negative, mixed, or even completely false messages people receive on the subject of masturbation.

If masturbation is part of your sexuality and sexual expression, it's important to have the facts:

  • Masturbation does not cause acne.
  • Masturbation does not cause cancer.
  • Masturbation does not cause hairy palms.
  • Masturbation will not "make you go blind."
  • Masturbation is will not change your sexuality.
  • Masturbation is not self-abuse.
  • Masturbation is not infidelity.
  • Masturbation is not unnatural.
  • Masturbation will not cause the penis to shrink.
  • Masturbation will not give you a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Masturbation will not hinder your social or emotional development.
  • Masturbation does not cause mental illness.
  • Masturbation will not make you sterile.
  • Masturbation will not "turn you into a pervert."


Masturbation can be beneficial for individuals and couples. Research has shown that masturbating can improve a person's sense of sexual wellness, lead to feelings of sexual empowerment, and even reduce stress. Masturbating alone and with a partner can also have an overall stimulating and positive effect on libido.

Some people find that masturbation leads to self-discovery. Masturbating can help you learn about what you like and don't like sexually. It can also help you figure out how you need to be stimulated to achieve an orgasm.

Understanding your sexual preferences is ultimately beneficial to your mutual sexual encounters. Research has shown that masturbating while you are in a relationship is healthy and can prompt more mutual sexual activity.

Masturbation can also be a helpful and healthy tool for couples who have different levels of desire for sex—especially in terms of frequency—providing the partner with the higher libido a healthy outlet for their desire.

While masturbation can fill a void if one partner is unwilling or unable to engage in a mutual sexual activity, people also report masturbating when they are in sexually satisfying relationships.

In fact, those who masturbate might even be more satisfied with their sex lives. In a study of college students published in 2002, those who reported masturbating also reported having sex more often and with more partners.

People often feel better after having gratifying sex—whether solo or mutual. Masturbation can ensure that each partner is able to enjoy the many benefits of sex and are getting their needs met in a healthy way.


While there are a number of benefits of masturbation for partnered people, there are also some potential drawbacks, starting with the potential for misunderstanding.

The topic becomes more complicated by the fact that people in relationships may define masturbation differently. Some people consider masturbation to be only a solitary act, while others consider it to be something partners can do together. Additionally, studies have shown that some people do not consider self-stimulating sexual acts to be masturbation if orgasm does not occur.

Partners might have different and even conflicting thoughts about what constitutes masturbation. To prevent misunderstandings, these definitions should be openly discussed and clarified.

Feelings of Inadequacy

A partner who does not engage in masturbation may report feelings of disappointment, worry, or fear upon learning that their partner is masturbating.

A non-masturbating partner might blame themselves or make assumptions about their partner's feelings or motives (for example, thinking that they must be bored, unhappy, or dissatisfied with their sexual relationship if they feel the need to masturbate).

Substitute for Intimacy

While masturbation is most often a healthy behavior, there are times when it is or can become unhealthy. For example, if a person is unable to function in their day-to-day life, unable to attend to their responsibilities at home, school, or work, or experiences a health problem related to excessive masturbation, the behavior would no longer be considered healthy.

Additionally, masturbation can be an unhealthy behavior when someone is using it to avoid their relationship, as a substitute for intimacy with their partner, or when it is a symptom of sexual addiction.


When partners feel that they cannot speak freely about the subject of masturbation, it can feel secretive or even shameful. The partner who engages in masturbation might feel guilty if the behavior is not openly discussed.

Likewise, if a person discovers that their partner is "secretly" masturbating, they might feel that something has been kept from them.

If a partner's worries go unvoiced and unacknowledged, there is no opportunity to discuss the reality (or truth) of the situation.

A person might simply need reassurance that their partner is not masturbating to fulfill needs that are going unmet in the relationship. However, when one partner is unsatisfied and it is motivating them to engage in masturbation, that also needs to be addressed and discussed.

What's Right for You

The research, opinions, and advice about masturbation and its possible effects on any relationship, including marriage, can be conflicting, confusing, and even totally inaccurate.

With regard to your marriage, it really comes down to personal preference. What works for one couple might not work in your relationship. You and your partner will need to have an open and honest discussion about masturbation—everything from how you define it to how you feel about it.

Many couples find that masturbation only becomes a problem if it interrupts the sense of trust or intimacy in their relationship.

If you or your partner have questions or concerns about masturbation or any element of your sexual relationship, you might find it helpful to work with a sex therapist.

A Word From Verywell

Many people masturbate—even when they are in a long-term relationship or are married. While you might have apprehensions about discussing it with your partner, it can be healthy for your relationship.

Having open and honest discussions about sexual desire, which can include the desire to masturbate, can help prevent concerns or feelings of inadequacy. If one partner is masturbating but keeping it a "secret," it can cause worry, feelings of betrayal, and misunderstandings.

Masturbation can be part of any sexual relationship, and in a satisfying emotional and physical romantic relationship, masturbation can be a healthy and positive aspect. However, if it becomes excessive or interferes with someone's day-to-day or sexual functioning, it can become unhealthy.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Das A. Masturbation in the United States. J Sex Marital Ther. 2007;33(4):301-317. doi:10.1080/00926230701385514

  2. Velten J, Margraf J. Satisfaction guaranteed? How individual, partner, and relationship factors impact sexual satisfaction within partnerships. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(2):e0172855. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172855

  3. Regnerus M, Price J, Gordon D. Masturbation and partnered sex: Substitutes or complements?. Arch Sex Behav. 2017;46(7):2111-2121. doi:10.1007/s10508-017-0975-8

  4. Kaestle CE, Allen KR. The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults. Arch Sex Behav. 2011;40(5):983-94. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9722-0

  5. Lidster CA, Horsburgh ME. Masturbation--beyond myth and taboo. Nurs Forum. 1994;29(3):18-27. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6198.1994.tb00162.x

  6. Meiller C, Hargons CN. “It’s happiness and relief and release”: Exploring masturbation among bisexual and queer women. Journal of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness Research Practice and Education. 2019:3-13. doi:10.34296/01011009

  7. Das A. Masturbation in the United States. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2007;33(4):301-317. doi:10.1080/00926230701385514

  8. Pinkerton SD, Bogart LM, Cecil H, Abramson PR. Factors associated with masturbation in collegiate sample. J Psychol Human Sex. 2002;14(2):103-121. doi:10.1300/J056v14n02_07

  9. Kirschbaum AL, Peterson ZD. Would you say you “had masturbated” if … ?: The influence of situational and individual factors on labeling a behavior as masturbation. J Sex Res. 2018;55(2):263-272. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1269307

  10. Haus KR, Thompson AE. An examination of the sexual double standard pertaining to masturbation and the impact of assumed motives. Sex Cult. 2020;24(3):809-834. doi:10.1007/s12119-019-09666-8

Additional Reading

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.