More Candid Conversation about Masturbation

Q&AOn Monday, Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage and I tackled questions about masturbation in marriage. This is a controversial topic at times with people on both extremes of “Why not?” and “Heck no!” I could be considered somewhere in the middle.

I believe godly sexuality in marriage is focused on one another. If masturbation supports mutual intimacy, it can have a role; if it’s self-focused, not so much. But read on. Julie and I continue our conversation about masturbation today with more Q&A.

To try to keep our answers straight, I have labeled myself “HHHthis time and Julie Sibert simply “Julie.”

Is there such a thing as “too much” masturbation?

HHH: Yes, of course! First of all, if you’re touching yourself right now as you read this, stop it! Now! (Just kidding.)

God created sexuality between a husband and wife in great part for intimacy. I assure you that there are no references to getting off in the Song of Songs. If self-stimulation is used as part of mutual pleasure and is a tag-along to intercourse (the driver), it can increase intimacy.

All too often, though, masturbation is a substitute for being vulnerable with your spouse, taking the necessary time to learn one another’s bodies to achieve orgasm, and engaging in intercourse. Moreover, masturbation is often tied to pornography — a definite no-no.

Listen, no spouse wants to be married to someone with his hand in his pants half the time. So how much is too much? If you’re asking that question, you may have crossed the line.

Julie: Absolutely. There’s also such a thing as too much wine, too much TV viewing and too much “triple-chocolate delight” ice cream.

Anytime something has become an idol on your heart or an obsession or an addiction — well that’s too much!

If a couple has agreed that masturbation is okay within their marriage, then certainly they need good dialogue about this. They need to feel safe expressing any concerns they have. They need the freedom to say, “I was fine with this at one point, but now I’m not fine with it. Can we talk about this?” They need to hold each other accountable.

Open. Honest. Dialogue.

What if my spouse wants to masturbate but I find this disturbing or wrong?

HHH: Express that you are concerned about your spouse’s masturbation. Don’t make judgmental comments; those bring out the armor and shield defenses. Ask why your spouse is masturbating. Are they not fulfilled in your sex life? Do they want greater sexual frequency? Are they unable to reach climax together? Is masturbation related to a pornography problem?

Then deal with the underlying issue. If your spouse is not sated in the bedroom and uses masturbation to substitute for sexual intimacy with you, discuss the problem. Once again, focus on the positives of what you want your sex life to be in your marriage. How can you help?

If the problem is beyond your ability to tackle it, get help. For example, if your husband is engaged in pornography and masturbation instead of making love to you, you may need to talk to your pastor or a counselor. If your wife is more interested in her recently purchased sex toy than you, that’s also cause for real concern.

At the end of the day, however, remember that the only person you can control is yourself. So if your spouse is masturbating and won’t cease, there isn’t much you can do. Your part is to be sexually engaged and supportive and to pray.

Julie: This may seem like the obvious answer, but I suggest you share your concerns with your spouse. What one married couple enjoys in their intimacy may be different from what another couple enjoys.

If your spouse wants to masturbate (or if you “catch” them masturbating), I would use it as an opportunity to discuss why they want to masturbate. Truly listen.

This kind of vulnerable dialogue could reveal that your spouse hungers to experience more sex with you and feels rejected that you are not more sexually available.

Or it could be that you and your spouse have different levels of desire and you need to talk more about how to navigate that and arrive at a frequency level that works for both of you.

Or it could be your spouse is struggling with something and is using masturbation as an escape mechanism, rather than dealing directly with the issue.

Or it could be your spouse is viewing pornography and/or masturbation has become addictive. Your goal should be to encourage your spouse toward finding healing and help, not ostracizing them to shame and isolation.

Nurtured communication where both spouses feel safe and heard is so foundational when it comes to great sexual intimacy. I’ve always believed talking is some of the best foreplay around.

For answers to What about the scripture that talks about Onan spilling his sperm? Does that verse reference masturbation? and What about the scripture that refers to people becoming lovers of themselves? Does that verse reference masturbation? click over to Intimacy in Marriage.

One more thing related to masturbation that wasn’t asked: Have you ever wondered about the etymology of the word “masturbation”? Well, I’m like that — wanting to know about words and language and stuff. So I looked it up! The word seems to derive from two Latin words meaning “hand” + “defile or shame; or sexual intercourse.” Sure enough, how you interpret that second part tells a lot about your own philosophy of masturbation.

Thanks again to my wonderful friend, Julie Sibert. If you do not regularly read her blog, I suggest subscribing to Intimacy in Marriage. She writes wonderfully and openly about God’s blessing of sexuality in marriage.

What other questions do you have about masturbation? What do you believe about this topic and why? Have you struggled with choosing self-stimulation over relationship-building intimacy? Have you incorporated self-stimulation into your marital lovemaking?

4 thoughts on “More Candid Conversation about Masturbation

  1. Anonymous

    my wife and i masturbate alone or together we are ok with it for the last 40 years …..if i want to stay up and wacth tv i say to her have fun and she does and so do i …just tell each other when you do it….it keep love in the air .

  2. Anonymous

    Here’s a poser for ya. So the talk happens, the wife asks, “Why?”, thinking she is open to talking. The husband answers, “frequency”. The response by the wife is, “Why? Don’t you love me enough to control yourself and wait?” All of a sudden it is an issue of self-control for the husband. And you know what? Most times there is a ring of truth there. But how do you get back to an open discussion where both sides change?

    1. J

      Don’t you hate those “if you loved me, you would…” statements?! Ah, we are so prone to use those with our mate because we simply don’t understand what’s like to be them.

      I’ll try to translate her statement: “Isn’t sex really about being with ME and not simply a physical release of tension for you?” Of course, I don’t know your wife so I could be way off, but it is typical for women to want to feel like sex is something more relational and romantic.

      As far as both sides changing, you can’t wait on her to change. If masturbating is causing serious problems in your marriage, and you are getting sex–even if less frequently than you want–then I’m sorry to tell you, man, but you may need to hold off to make the point that you are willing to go above and beyond. Will your eyeballs nearly explode? Maybe. But marriage isn’t about “I’ll do this once you do that.” It’s doing the tough stuff to show your love to your mate, and while that isn’t the reason you’re doing it, you have far greater chance of getting what you want out of that deal.

      Should you wife listen? Should she try to understand your situation? Does she not get how much hubbies desire sex? Yes. And if she were here, I’d address that. But you have to do what YOU can do. I hope this helps. I really am pulling for your marriage and your sex life!

  3. Mrs. Right

    I’ve started a couple times to comment, but can’t gather my thoughts into a concise statement. I shall try again 🙂

    My first marriage ended after 15 years and 6 children. My extremely private nature and lack of ability to communicate my deepest thoughts and needs contributed greatly to the breakdown of the marriage. His childhood introduction of porn and then the arrival of the internet int o our lives broke it down further. I had a vibrator as my “companion” to try and fill some of my needs, and he did his own thing. I’m not sure why I found his choice to masturbate to be worse or more disgusting than mine, but I did. I read several books and practically begged the older women around me to teach me how to love my husband, but my inability to really open up prevented me from explaining my real needs to them, too. I eventually ended the marriage after discovering the horrors of what his porn addiction had led him to, sexually.

    I acknowledged my part in the mess that our marriage became, but never accepted blame for HIS choices. I went to counseling and started working on myself, forcing myself to open up and be vulnerable, because I realized that if I ever were to get married again I had to do things differently. He also went through years of counseling and specialized help, and I believe he is mostly healed from the addiction, though I know he has to continually be on guard and stay accountable to someone.

    As it turns out I did eventually find My Mr. Right. We have shared everything with each other, our past and current struggles. We are both pretty quiet and private, so it’s been a learning process for us both, but so good to do it together. Our sex life is continually getting better, as we learn how to be more free and open with each other. Mutual pleasuring is a part of our marriage bed on occasion, and I am starting to get where I can help myself along in the process and not be embarrassed about it, because I can see that he wants me to at times. As to masturbation alone, it does still exist, but only because we have been at times apart for lengthy periods of time. I think it’s mostly me, and probably because it was a long-time habit previously, but we have attempted it at the same time while on the phone or skype.

    And this relates to other posts of yours, but my husband does have a folder labeled “For Your Eyes Only” of photos I’ve taken of myself to surprise him, as well as a few he’s taken of me, too. I know in our relationship that they don’t take my place by any stretch of the imagination, and he doesn’t have a porn problem, and so I am happy to have provided him with a visual reminder of what he’s missing and longing for when we are apart.

    In my experience masturbation can be a selfish thing, keeping you from really becoming one with your spouse. It can also be a way to learn what you like and need so that you can show your spouse, when you are open to each other. And it can be a way to meet your needs when you can’t be together, as long as your loved one is aware it’s going on. It’s a difficult subject, with many variables, and I applaud you in tackling it.

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