Science has shown that masturbation is very beneficial for men. It reduces stress, can prevent prostate cancer, and can make men better lovers. But in relationships, how does male masturbation impact an intimate, romantic relationship? Does it cause problems, or does it cause more orgasms? Here’s a look at the side effects of masturbation when it comes to relationships.

Male Masturbation: The Pros

1) It helps men learn about their bodies and sexual responsiveness through masturbation. Men who masturbate are more in tune with their bodies and can experiment with new stimuli in a safe, nonjudgmental environment to see what they like and what they don’t. This leads to…

2) Better sexual performance. Men who masturbate know what works for them, and so they then can give gentle guidance to a partner, which increases pleasure, but also increases connectedness and communication, making it a place where both partners can express their needs and desires and more often have them fulfilled (or at least attempted).

3) It provides a sexual outlet for people who have partners who are less interested in sex than they are or are just temporarily unavailable. If a partner has a lower sensual drive, is busy or stressed out regularly, or is just away on business, masturbation offers a safe way for a man to get sexual gratification while staying committed to his partner.

4) Improves mood and reduces stress. Orgasm leads to the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. Men who are more relaxed and less stressed are just more fun to be around. Some men are also more outwardly affectionate and sweet after a bout of choking the chicken. That means more help around the house and maybe more romantic moments as well.

Male Masturbation: The Cons

While most scientific studies have shown that masturbation is integral to a successful, happy, healthy relationship, some couples still face several issues or perceptions that lead to the erosion of their union. Here are a few issues that rear their head in relation to male masturbation while in relationships.

1) Feelings of betrayal or cheating. Some partners feel that when their partner masturbates it’s akin to cheating. Use of pornography, pictures, fantasizing, or thinking of ex-lovers, could be considered infidelity to some people. Couples need to have clear and open communication about this issue because it often results from a deeper, more intense issue like feeling unloved, insecure, or undesirable. It may be time to talk to a professional to navigate through this rough patch.

2) Addiction. Recently in his latest comedy special, Chris Rock admitted to having a porn addiction in the past that contributed to his divorce. Like this or any other pleasurable experience, masturbation can be addicting. The more a man masturbates, the more he has to “evolve” what stimulates him. He also may use a death grip, which can further de-sensitize him down the road. Addiction to porn and masturbation are becoming all too common since technology and easy access to porn entered the societal structure. Men suffering from this addiction need to seek help separately and then also may want to seek help with their partner to chart a road back to the relationship (which is entirely possible).

3) Feelings of dissatisfaction in partner’s sexual performance or attractiveness. One of the side effects of masturbation is that partners take their other half’s interest in solo sex as a slight on their performance, attractiveness, or ability to give their partner pleasure. Sometimes it’s true, but often enough it isn’t. Fantasy and pleasure are as normal as having a piece of chocolate cake. If those are the feelings that come up, the couple should make time to have an honest conversation about the state of their sexual relationship and take steps from there.

Tips for Penis Health

Regardless of how masturbation is affecting a man’s relationship (hopefully in a good way), he needs to keep penis health front of mind. Get an annual exam, do monthly self-exams, eat well, exercise, and try to have erections, even if they go unused, often so that the member stays limber and on-alert for fun times.

Some men also find that using a specially formulated penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which has been clinically proven safe and mild for skin) helps nourish and rejuvenate the penis. It should be applied regularly for supple skin and to decrease friction and nerve damage that can occasionally accompany frequent male masturbation. Look for crèmes with a natural base like shea butter or vitamin E and include other vitamins that promote penile wellness, such as A, C, and D. Routine moisturizing with a special crème promotes skin elasticity and boosts blood flow for strong erections.