Is She Enough for Him?

Q: I am newly engaged to a wonderful 22-year-old man with whom I live. (I'm 32.) We make love about twice a week. He works hard and does not have a high sex drive. I am okay with that. I enjoy that he sets aside two evenings a week to be romantic with me. My problem is that he masturbates more often than that, sometimes even when I am at home and he is back in his office. Is this normal behavior? I bug him about how I feel like he does not want me more often and if he has such a low sex drive, then why masturbate? He said that it has nothing to do with me or his sex drive and that he enjoys "alone" time, that it's great for stress relief. He also told me that he does not have the energy or stamina for a lot of sex with me. Am I worried for nothing? I want to enter into our marriage feeling secure and happy, but I've been treated very badly by men in my past, namely an ex-husband who cheated on me. -- Katie, 32

Dr. Susan: Young men of your partner's age tend to have extremely high sex drives, and I suspect his is not so different from the norm. That said, two evenings a week devoted to romance and sexual intimacy would be quite satisfying to many people of whatever age, especially if the man was loving and generous and never made the woman feel she required an unreasonable amount of time or energy. Setting out your love life in such a scheduled way is a little unusual, though, especially if you don't have little kids getting in the way.

As for your guy's masturbation habits, they're normal. People take care of themselves, rather than involving their mate, for a number of reasons. Stress relief is one of them, as your fiancé has said. Another, as he has also admitted, is that it's simply less "work" than sex with a partner. I can understand your fear of future infidelity, and you need to talk about that with him. Just because he often likes to take care of himself doesn't mean you're not enough for him in all the important ways. Still, it might be nice if the two of you could vary your sessions so that sometimes less effort is required on his part. You both would still enjoy yourselves but you'd take some shortcuts through the whole sharing-the-soul mood. In other words, a little less romance and a little more getting down to it. Bedroom toys can be a help here. Meanwhile, tell him frankly about your uneasiness without accusing him of wrongdoing.

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