Q&A: Is It Unhealthy To Fantasize About My Ex When I Masturbate?

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QUESTION: I recently left a serious long-term relationship. Is it unhealthy to still fantasize about my ex-girlfriend when I masturbate?

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Masturbate to Thoughts of Your Ex

Photo: WolfS♡ul (flickr.com)

You will likely find other people to fantasize about over time, but perhaps for now, your ex is who you think of when you try to get or stay turned on.

Thinking of an Ex

Many people fantasize about former partners when they masturbate, perhaps especially if they were together for a long time. With time, this often decreases in frequency or even goes away.

Because you were together for a long time, you and your ex-girlfriend probably shared many sensual and/or sexual experiences together. Over time, you may have come to associate strong feelings of sexual excitement or arousal with your ex-girlfriend.

It’s not unusual, then, that when you masturbate, you draw upon images of your ex-girlfriend or perhaps think of sexual things that you used to do together or that you may have wanted to do together.

Living With the Thoughts

People have different reactions to dealing with masturbating about their ex. Some men and women try to stop thinking about their ex at all costs and may actively try to think of other people while they masturbate, or to focus on others by watching porn or reading erotica, to help them imagine sexual situations that involve other individuals.

Others allow themselves to experience sexual fantasies that involve their former partner, and may experience those fantasies until time moves on and, for any number of reasons, they eventually don’t experience them often anymore.

You will likely find other people to fantasize about over time, but perhaps for now, your ex is who you think of when you try to get or stay turned on.

Moving On

If you find yourself obsessing over your ex or your former relationship in ways that interfere with your happiness or with your work or school life, you may want to try to re-focus your energies, including your sexual fantasy energies.

Some people, after they’ve had a breakup, find it helpful to read a book such as How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

Others find that spending time with friends and getting out to meet new people, even just as friends or activity partners, helps them to think about things other than their ex. Counseling and therapy can be helpful, too.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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