scorecardMy partner doesn't want sex, but still masturbates. Why does he keep rejecting me?
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My partner doesn't want sex, but still masturbates. Why does he keep rejecting me?

Julia Naftulin   

My partner doesn't want sex, but still masturbates. Why does he keep rejecting me?
LifeScience3 min read
  • There's no single correct libido, and people's sex drives can fluctuate for a variety of reasons throughout life.
  • Masturbation and libido aren't always correlated, so it's important to talk to your partner in a non-judgmental way.
  • It's normal to want to feel close to a partner through sex. Express that and have consistent conversations to find a compromise.

Dear Julia,

I've been in a three-year relationship with someone who's 17 years older than me.

In the beginning, we had lots of sex, but as time went by, the frequency became less and less. My sex drive is much higher than his, so I'm the one wanting to have sex and initiating it. Often, he rejects me.

At this stage, I'm reluctant to even initiate. But if I don't, we would probably never have sex. I feel hurt because of the constant rejection. When I tell him how this makes me feel, he reminds me that he's older and our sex drives aren't the same. Still, he knew from the beginning that I was younger and my sex drive was much higher than his.

I also recently discovered he masturbates to porn about three times a week, but he won't have sex with me. We only have sex once a week, but we used to have sex anywhere from five to 10 times a week.

We recently got engaged and have started planning our future, so I wonder why he rather masturbate and reject me than have partnered sex.

Why does he do this, even though he knows I'm hurting because of his constant rejection of me?

- South Africa

Dear South Africa,

Rejection can sting, especially when it comes from someone you love.

Since you've had this conversation multiple times with your partner, I'm willing to bet you're also frustrated.

That's why, before you go back to him, I'd suggest you take time to reflect. Think about what exactly you miss about having sex more often, orgasms aside, and why your partner's masturbation schedule bothers you.

As New York City-based sex therapist Rachel Wright previously told me, a person's self-pleasure frequency, and the frequency with which they want to have partnered sex, aren't necessarily correlated. Sure, masturbation and partnered sex can both give you pleasure and orgasms. But masturbation is also about relieving stress, and getting to know and take care of yourself.

Partnered sex is about connecting with another person, and perhaps that's what you miss, potentially more than the rejection itself.

For that reason, it's normal that you're concerned at and upset by the state of your sex life. Still, if you want to understand why your partner turns down sex, it's important the next talk you have is as non-judgmental as possible, according to Wright.

She said to focus on curiosity and your love for him, rather than the hurt you feel from the rejection. To do that, give yourself time and space to be upset about the situation, while also remembering it's likely not personal. A person's libido can fluctuate throughout their life due to hormone changes, medication, mental health, and stress. There's no single "right" libido.

Then, ask him why he thinks his libido for partnered sex has decreased over the years, and how masturbating feels different than partnered sex. While he responds, focus on listening to what he says and understanding his perspective, rather than defending your view.

After he tells his side, you can do the same. Wright suggested saying that you've noticed a lack in your sex life, and explain how it makes you feel, like emotionally disconnected from him. You can let your partner know how often you'd like to have sex, while also reminding him that you brought this up because you care about him and want to feel close.

This conversation will have to be an ongoing one, said Wright. But consistent and caring talks are your best bet for creating a sex life you both love.

As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

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