ask jake

I’ve been hiding my favorite sexual activity from my boyfriend. Am I cheating?

Hi Jake,

My boyfriend and I moved in together during quarantine. At that point, we had only been together for about six months, but it made sense financially, and it felt right. In the beginning, everything was awesome. We had sex every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and got to know each other really, really well. Now, quarantine is over. We’re still both working from home. But things have changed. The sex is fine but not what it used to be, and I’ve started masturbating, usually at least once or twice a day. The problem is, I feel like I need to hide it from him, as if I’m cheating. We only have a two-bedroom, so keeping it secret can sometimes be difficult. Is it weird that I feel like I’m doing something wrong? I find myself doing it secretly in the shower, behind closed doors, or only when he’s out of the apartment, and I have a fear I’m going to get caught. Is this normal?

Cheating with Myself

Dear Cheating with Myself,

Ah, the age-old question, “Is masturbation cheating?” Cheating usually involves some sort of betrayal, a refusal to be completely upfront and honest about what one wants sexually, or acting out to meet those needs behind a partner’s back. If there’s some sort of rule or agreement in your relationship that each partner is not allowed to masturbate, then yes, I suppose you would be breaking that. But in your case, as in most cases, no one is expecting their significant other to deny themselves such a harmless act of fulfillment.

Sex is something that can be experienced in many different ways, and in many different forms. Masturbation is a completely normal, fun, and healthy part of sexual expression. And watching porn, or indulging in your own private fantasies, is just another way to add a little variety. As sex educator and therapist, Chris Donaghue, puts in in his book, “Rebel Love: Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, and Have the Best Sex of Your Life”: “Would you eat the same dinner every night for the rest of your life?” Sometimes we need “newness”, and as long as you can accomplish that in a respectful and honest way, without shame, what’s the harm?

A common misconception is that masturbation is withholding something from your partner, or rejecting your partner in some way by choosing yourself. This is just not true. Now, if you’re upset that you and your partner have stopped having sex completely, that’s a different story, and you might want to look into LGBTQ couples therapy.

Masturbation also doesn’t signify any kind of dysfunction. Hiding it, however, implies you’re doing something wrong, when you really aren’t. I wonder what it would be like to bring it up to your partner and letting him know that you enjoy doing it? Chances are he feels the same. By speaking about it openly and freely, and not trying to hide it, you can begin to untangle some of the awkwardness. If you struggle with having these kinds of conversations, I highly recommend individual therapy to work through any blocks you might have.

Worrying about what your boyfriend thinks is co-signing that there’s something wrong with this very normal part of sexuality. Instead, make a decision to let go of shame. Instead of locking that door, keep it open. If your boyfriend walks by, ask him if he likes what he sees, or wants to join in. There’s plenty of you to go around.

Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy, and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Florida.

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