Our focus for Relationships Week this year was self-esteem - basically, feeling OK about yourself and being the person you want to be independent of a partner or partners.
But, that doesn’t mean to the detriment of your relationship. We all need to understand that it’s not all about ‘me’ and let’s face it, so many relationships get into very deep water when one partner decides that only their needs and wants actually matter.
Taking time to do something that’s not only pleasurable but actually good for you physically and mentally is surely going to add to your general happiness. And when we’re happy, this usually filters through to those around us - happy self often equals happier relationship.
Speaking of masturbation...
So, given that we know all of this, why is masturbation so tricky to talk about openly?
Everyone tells us its ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, that it releases all those lovely endorphins which lift your mood, ease pain and tension, and generally help us to feel good. Yet it remains one of those things that still gets the full ‘myths’ treatment.
Sometimes that’s to do with family scripts which over time become our own. Sometimes it's beliefs about masturbation betraying the sexual credentials of any relationship with a partner, and occasionally, it’s just plain old not knowing where to start with it (“what do I do – nothing seems to happen”?).
As for actually admitting to others that you have fun with it, do it to relieve stress and tiredness, to relax, or to get a real sexual high (with or without a partner/s) well, that can really feel just a step too far.
The bottom line is that some of us still find it difficult and sometimes impossible to reward ourselves with a bit of the ‘me’ time.
Maybe because we believe its being selfish, takes too long or takes the focus off what we 'should' be doing with partner. That's lots of ‘should and ought’s’ all of which combine to ensure that what can be good old fashioned wholesome meaning pleasure gets lost because we think we don’t actually deserve it.
Let’s face it though, if you know what ‘does it for you’, then you’re more likely to help a partner understand you and your sexual needs.
Generally speaking, most partners in a healthy relationship might be quite pleased to know that you’ve taken ownership of what feels good for you and can help them to understand that too.
Masturbation as relaxation
If you use masturbation as a way of winding down, relieving stress and sometimes pain then you’re helping your body to heal from the rigours of daily life.
If you’re just not sure how to get started, well, that’s probably because all the should’s and ought’s are cutting in and maybe telling you that its all got to end with a blinding orgasm, otherwise ‘it wasn't real or didn’t even happen’.
If those little neg thoughts are lurking in the background somewhere then ignore them because masturbation doesn’t have to start or end in any particular way.
Just exploring sensory pleasure zones which are not necessarily just between your legs may end up with that blinding orgasm of course, but for many, just gently pleasurable, happy sensations and feelings mean and are worth just as much.
Where to start? New to masturbation? Just have a go and see what happens.
Sex toys – vibrators and the like can be useful but don’t scare yourself with some of the more exotic looking items unless you feel comfortable and relaxed with the idea of using them.
Try it in the bath, shower or even watching the TV (not of course if the kids or Aunty Sharon are watching it too – although if it’s just you and your partner, they might find it rather alluring), or you could just it whilst lying in bed on your own. These are all things you’d be most likely be doing anyway so a little extra pleasure isn't actually taking up more time.
If masturbation is something you do and love then, well, do more of it! If it’s something you’d like to try then start small, relax and see what works for you. If you have a partner and want to try stuff out with them then happy days but remember, masturbation is not actually all about sex.
Also, a word to the wise, it's probably best to ignore invitations to masturbate 'to order' if you’re online unless you’re totally confident that what you’re doing isn't going to end up with the whole world potentially viewing it. That is, unless of course, you do want the whole world to have that interesting opportunity...
So, in conclusion, whether you’re in a relationship or not, masturbation does you good. It can be anything you want it to be and can promote those nice warm feelings that can link nicely with feeling good about yourself. All of which adds to a healthy self-esteem that in turn can positively impact on any relationship you’re in, yes, even with Angela in accounts – so, if you think about it like that...
About the author
Ammanda Major is an experinced Sex Therapist and Relate's Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice. She also produces our regular Agony Aunt segment 'Ask Ammnada' where she answers all your relationsip questions. To submit a question to her, email: email@example.com