By now, we all know the health benefits of masturbation. From a boosted immune system, to self-exploration and body awareness, to stress relief—the benefits go on and on. Yet, there's still this myth that masturbating while in a committed, monogamous relationship is somehow wrong or unhealthy. That for some reason, once you start dating someone seriously, having sex with them should fulfill all of your sexual needs and theirs

The fact of the matter is, masturbation and sex shouldn't be in competition with each other, and can actually be complementary. Jealousy is a normal emotion, but our partner’s masturbation habits and fantasies are not a reflection of their sexual attraction (or lack of) to us, and not something we should try to control.

Here are a few of the reasons why masturbation should always be on the menu when it comes to your sex life—whether you’re shacked up or not—and why it might even make boning with your boo even better.

Pleasure and orgasms are good for your health

For starters, masturbation has a plethora of health benefits, both mental and physical. According to sexuality educator, Lindsey Michelle, masturbation can improve sleep, lower stress levels, alleviate pain, encourage a healthy prostate, strengthen the immune system, elevate our moods, and so much more. “Your partner wouldn't get insecure about you doing yoga, so masturbation shouldn't be any different,” she adds.

While all of those benefits are real and great, the simple fact that masturbation feels good—and we all have a right to pleasure in our own bodies—is also enough of a reason for us to honor that desire.

Solo sex is a form of self-love and self-exploration

Connecting to our erotic pleasure by ourselves through masturbation can be a powerfully intimate experience. It offers us a chance to get to know and appreciate our bodies and also experiment with different types of touch, words, toys, fantasies, and other stimuli.

Plus, setting aside the time in your day to attend to your pleasure and yours only, can help you stay connected to it. The more we disconnect ourselves from sexual pleasure, the harder it will become to find pleasure in other things (like food, a massage, or other sensory experiences) and vice versa. Sex therapist and coach, Danielle Simpson-Baker, suggests finding time to make a date out of it. “Set the mood, play some music, take a bath, light a joint,” she adds.

Masturbation improves your partnered sex

Solo sex and partnered sex fulfill different needs and desires, so masturbation doesn't diminish or take anything away from partnered sex—on the contrary.

Masturbation can actually benefit our partnered sex. Knowing our bodies, our turn-ons and turn-offs, our kinks, our desires, and our paths to orgasm, will translate to improved partnered experiences. If we don't know what we like, how can we expect our partners to know? “It’s an opportunity to teach them and rally for our own pleasure,” says Danielle.

Another way that masturbation improves sex with our partners, is the confidence that masturbation can provide us or help us access more easily. The more comfortable we are touching ourselves, and the better we feel about our bodies in a sexual or erotic sense, the better our sex will be.

Desire discrepancy is real—and super common

Especially if you and you’re partner are together for a while, it’s likely that at some point you’ll experience a difference in desire levels, also known as libido. These changes are absolutely normal! Our libidos can be pretty sensitive and there are A LOT of things that can either increase or decrease it, such as menopause, medication, and stress or anxiety, to name a few.

It isn’t appropriate to expect a low libido partner, who is uninterested in having sex (for whatever reason), to just bite their tongue and do it anyway. And it also isn’t fair for a high libido partner to not have masturbation as the perfectly reasonable sexual outlet that it is.

Fantasy is important to your sex life

The last benefit we’ll mention is the aspect of fantasy in relationships. Masturbation can be an effective tool for unearthing and developing intimate fantasies. Fantasy is a powerful aspect of our erotic lives, allowing us to safely explore our sexual horizons both internally on our own and in our intimate relationships.

Not only can discussing your fantasies with your partner be incredibly hot and act as a form of foreplay, but it can also lead to experimenting with new dynamics or experiences in the bedroom. “Opening up the conversation about something so intimate can help you feel closer to your partner and allow you both to check in about what your needs and desires are,” offers Danielle.

The bottom line

The obligation to only seek sexual pleasure from your partner and fully refrain from masturbation is simply unrealistic and unhealthy. Masturbation, watching porn, listening to erotica, having fantasies—none of these things take away from the sexual relationship you have with your partner or diminish your attraction to your partner.

It’s important for all partners to maintain a healthy solo sex life, and to encourage each other to seek those pleasurable experiences. After all, the longest sexual relationship you will ever have is with yourself.

Sometimes, it can be hard to fit masturbation into our busy schedules, and when we do, we're not always in the mood. That's where Dipsea comes in. Switch up your routine with Self Touch: Glow Up or slow down with Self Touch: Edging. Sit back, relax, and let our sexy narrators tell you exactly how to touch yourself.

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Jamie J. LeClaire (they/them) is a sexuality educator, freelance writer, and consultant. Their work focuses on the intersections of pleasure-positive sexual health, queer and transgender/gender-nonconforming identity, body politics, and social justice. You can find more of their work at their website, and follow them on Instagram and Twitter.