Tag Archives: masturbation in marriage

Q&A with J: “Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?”

Today’s question is from a wife who struggles with postpartum blues. At the time she wrote, she was physically and emotionally unable to engage in sexual intimacy with her husband.

I just had baby number 4 . . . I have really struggled with postpartum blues this time. I’ve been trying to communicate my needs and when I’m feeling down so I don’t get too lost, and I think I’m doing okay with that, but some days I am so overwhelmed. This has really really impacted my connection with my husband. I haven’t been able to be close to him much. A couple times the first week or two I did please him with my hand. I don’t like doing it that way but I know he needed it. But then the blues kicked in and I haven’t been able to please him in the last 2 weeks.

Now, he needs his touch, and he has tried (so he says) to be close by hugging or kissing me. Sadly, I don’t respond the way he wants. And just the other day I realized, though, that he hasn’t really strongly pursued intimacy like he usually does. Selfishly I’m okay with this because I don’t feel like I am emotionally able to engage in anything (I can’t have intercourse yet, but there are other things). But then I feared that he was getting it somewhere else. So I asked him. He said that at work he will go to the bathroom and please himself, while thinking of me.

I just don’t know what to think about this. It hurts, yet I now pushed him to it because of my stupid hormones and the inability to get close to him. Is this okay for him to do? He has a past of porn use, before we got married, and so it just brings up bad feelings for me. At the same time, I can’t give him what he needs, so I guess it’s better than porn use or infidelity. There are many other little things that are contributing to our disconnection, but this area of intimacy is tearing us apart right now. And honestly, most of the time lately, I don’t care to do much to change it.

I know that’s the blues talking — how do I fight that?? So I guess my main question is how can I trust that I am not betraying myself and my emotions and that he will care for my heart so that I can give him what he needs physically and not push him to please himself?

Q&A with J: "Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?"

I see three main issues here:

  1. Her struggle with postpartum depression, which is a very real and very difficult road for some new moms.
  2. Her inability to engage with her husband in physical intimacy or affection.
  3. His choice to masturbate on his own to relieve the buildup of sexual tension.

Let’s tackle these in turn.

Postpartum depression. The answer to this one is get help. I’ve written about my own mood problems postpartum and how they affected my sex life. They affected everything else in my life at that time too — my marriage, my ability to parent, my health. Looking back, I didn’t need to wade through that swamp of blues alone.

I appreciate that you’re speaking up with your husband. I wonder if you’ve also talked honestly with your doctor. You may need to look at your hormonal balance or consider a temporary antidepressant to get through this difficult time. Some balk at such measures, but when you begin to feel more like yourself, I think you’ll be glad you reached out and sought answers.

You probably need help in other areas, like housework and childcare. Are there family or friend resources who could help you? Be willing to explain the situation and ask for assistance. Over and over again, I’ve seen that when people are honest with their church community about their needs, godly people come to the rescue. But too often someone is faced with a genuine struggle, and friends have no idea what’s going on. See if you can get someone to help you temporarily while you recover.

Of course, your husband should provide help as well, by doing double-duty for a time. He’s in this parenting thing with you too, and when those kids are little, it’s time to step up and handle whatever gets thrown your way together.

Inability to engage. I appreciate that you tried to satisfy your husband’s needs with your hand. I’m sure he also appreciated your efforts! But you followed with saying that the blues hit and you stopped being sexually intimate. I get that, I really do. It’s a struggle to do much of anything when you’re in the throes of deep depression. However, we have a tendency to withdraw when we feel bad, while the better thing for our marriages is to connect. Your postpartum blues aren’t just your challenge; he’s married to you so it’s his challenge too. And you can walk through this together.

I encourage you to read my post on Is Depression Impacting Your Sexual Intimacy? I give specific tips for dealing with depression or dysthymia and the marriage bed.

What’s most important is to understand that you must find some way to maintain physical closeness. It doesn’t have to look like what he expected, but it shouldn’t be absent.

Talk to yourself regularly about your husband, his affection, and your sexual intimacy in positive terms, so that your mind can warm back up to the idea. Make time together a priority. With all those little ones, I don’t mean that it has to be time with just the two of you — you may need to snuggle up together on the couch with a child in each of your arms. But be close when you can.

And sometimes, yes, you may do something sexual for your husband that you aren’t all that interested in doing at first. However, there can be great joy in satisfying your spouse in the marriage bed and you may find that you enjoy the experience once you choose to engage.

His masturbation. I don’t believe what your husband did is a problem. In the Bible, masturbation is not condemned as a sin, although God clearly designed sexual intimacy for married couples. What I find to be a good barometer is whether the masturbation takes sexual energy away from the marriage or supports the marriage.

Your husband attempting to deal with his sexual tension while you are unavailable by thinking about you and masturbating to climax seems supportive of your marriage. He isn’t engaging in porn. He isn’t making this a habit. He isn’t masturbating when he could be making love with you. He isn’t thinking of someone else. He isn’t even hiding what he did, since he admitted it when you asked.

This obviously shouldn’t be the new norm — with an absence of intimacy in your marriage bed and him reaching climax alone. But I get why he did it, and give the poor guy a break.

How about suggesting he bring that activity back into the marital bedroom where it best belongs? For instance, he could go ahead and take care of himself while you snuggle up to him naked and/or stroke his testicles. Or consider other activities you could do to enhance your connection while he reaches climax. Then you know you’re the one on his mind and it’s part of a mutual experience.

This is a tough time. But it really is a season. Please pursue answers in the meantime to make things as good as they can be. Resentment can build, for either spouse, when issues like this are not addressed and handled.

However, know that you can reaffirm your sexual love and enjoy many, many years of intimacy in one another’s arms. I pray for healing and blessings for your marriage and for your marriage bed.

Masturbation: Hands On or Hands Off?

Q&AWe’re getting toward the end of readers’ questions for me from my Q&A with J at HHH post. If you want to ask something I haven’t covered, click over there and leave a comment.

In the meantime, here’s today question about masturbation in a Christian marriage:

What about masturbation in a Christian marriage? Is it ok? Is it a good way for the spouse with the higher sex drive to deal with the times when their spouse isn’t in the mood and doesn’t want to be sexual? What about for husbands after their wife has a baby, is it serving her to not impose on her with his sexual needs?

I covered this topic in more detail with Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage. You can head over the following posts for more information:

Two Wives & Candid Conversation about Masturbation at HH&H

Two Wives. Talking about Masturbation. at Intimacy in Marriage

More Candid Conversation about Masturbation at HH&H

More Masturbation Talk. From a Couple of Wives. at Intimacy in Marriage

Briefly here, though, I have concluded from my study of the Bible and sexuality studies:

1. Masturbation can serve a positive purpose.

2. Masturbation is often negative because it draws energy away from the sexual relationship between the husband and wife.

From the Bible, we don’t have specific mention of masturbation. Some have presumed that masturbation is sinful based on God’s rebuke of Onan for spilling his semen on the ground. However, a study of that passage in Genesis 38:9 indicates that the sin was that Onan had sex with his widowed sister-in-law but refused to fulfill family duty of giving her offspring in his brother’s name. He wasn’t fulfilling the express command of the Law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Besides, he didn’t pleasure himself; he got pleasure through intercourse and then pulled out.

Since there is no “you may” or “thou shalt not” in the Bible regarding masturbation, we turn to its principles — which are often our guide for making daily decisions that honor the Lord. What was God’s design for sexuality? Sex was intended for a husband and wife to reproduce children (Genesis 9:7), increase relational intimacy (Genesis 2:24; Song of Songs 6:3), and experience physical pleasure (Proverbs 5:19; Song of Songs).

Then we ask whether masturbation in any particular moment fits that bill. Can pleasuring yourself ever help reproduction? It might if a couple is undergoing fertility treatments and the doctor needs a semen sample. So can a hubby take care of biz in that case? I’d say yeah. Most of the time, however, reproduction is most decidedly not the motivation for masturbation.

Can masturbation increase relational intimacy? Mutual masturbation, if agreed by both partners, could. It might be an option for couples when a woman is unable to engage, such as post-childbirth. There are also couples distanced by job or military demands who might feel closer by talking to one another provocatively and engaging in masturbation at the same time.

Can masturbation give physical pleasure? Yep. In fact, most people can achieve climax faster through masturbation because, as both the giver and recipient, one can adjust placement and pressure more quickly to bring about orgasm.

However, that last one can become a problem too. Because it’s not okay to seek your own physical pleasure and sexual release without regard to your mate. We are to act with love in marriage, which is patient, kind . . . not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Here are some concerns:

  • Many who masturbate do so to pornography or visualizing another woman or man, and this is most certainly not okay. Third parties of any kind — real or imagined — get a “thou shalt not” from God.
  • Frequent masturbation primes your brain and body to expect release in that way. In fact, men who masturbate very frequently can experience difficulty climaxing in intercourse.
  • Higher drive spouses who use masturbation as a way to fill in the gap between sexual encounters with their spouse are merely sending a signal to their bodies to desire release more frequently. Climax every day, and your body may protest when you skip a day. Our bodies are built to adapt to the habits we form.
  • Intercourse provides things that masturbation cannot.

Essentially, masturbation can be part of your repertoire as a married couple. However, I’d advise that you partake infrequently. Also, it isn’t the best way to handle a difference in sex drives. Oftentimes, the lower drive spouse can choose to engage and become aroused as foreplay begins. The higher drive spouse can also hold off a day or two and build up anticipation. I’d suggest leaning to the say-yes-far-more-than-no side because, as discussed above, God’s design for sexuality includes increasing relational intimacy, and the more frequently you touch and kiss and make love, the more connected you can feel to your spouse (especially for men).

Masturbation should not replace the more challenging, but ultimately more enjoyable, goal of finding ways to sexually arouse and satisfy one another so that you truly represent one flesh when you make love.

But it can be incorporated for positive impact in marital intimacy. For instance, a wife can self-stimulate while her husband is inside her and increase the likelihood or intensity of orgasm. A wife could masturbate and allow her husband to watch as part of foreplay that leads to the shared big event. A husband could masturbate while his wife is off limits (perhaps on her period, post-childbirth, etc.) with her kissing and touching him. A couple could simultaneously masturbate when time and distance separate them (hello, phone sex?).

So whether masturbation is okay or not, I believe, relies on whether it meets God’s plan for sexuality in marriage. If we’re honest about it, probably 95% of the time people masturbate, it doesn’t meet that plan. However, it can. Just ask yourself some questions about the purpose and goal of masturbation when you are considering it. That’s a good way to decide whether it is selfishly-motivated or marriage-focused.

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?

Two Wives & Candid Conversation about Masturbation

Q&AOn a sexuality blog, it should be no surprise that I would eventually get around to discussing masturbation. There are heated opinions all along the continuum from “What’s the big deal?” to “Never, never, no, never!” I realize that I’m wading into potentially deep water here.

So what better way to face a possible tidal wave than with a friend? Thus, Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage and I have decided to pair up and deal this touchy topic (no pun intended). We’ll brace ourselves and try to withstand the undertow together. We are answering the same nine questions regarding masturbation to see if we can enlighten this subject a bit.

Remember that both Julie and I come from a biblical point of view, but we hope to speak to couples from all backgrounds. My moniker is HHH and Julie Sibert is listed as Julie. (Or simply remember that she’s the smart one and I’m the snarky one.)

Is it wrong for a married person to masturbate?

HHH: First off, I’m going to not allow my love for Cyndi Lauper and the dance-inducing rhythm of “She Bop” to sway my answers (she was good in concert!). That said, I don’t believe that is always wrong to masturbate. The purpose of sexuality in marriage is reproduction, intimacy, and pleasure.

While masturbation does nothing for reproduction, it can be incorporated by a couple for intimacy and pleasure. Unfortunately, most masturbation by married persons is not lending itself to those goals but rather hindering or replacing healthy sexuality.

Julie: It depends. I’m not just riding the fence on this issue. I truly do believe it depends. There are circumstances where it would definitely be wrong for a married person to masturbate.

In particular, it would be wrong if they are doing it to withhold sexually from their spouse, if it has become an idol on their heart or it has become addictive, if they are doing it while visualizing someone other their spouse, if they are doing it while viewing pornographic or explicit material, and/or if they are doing it secretly — meaning they are purposely hiding the activity from their spouse.

Additionally, if one spouse has specifically asked the other spouse to not masturbate, then it would be dishonorable, hurtful and disrespectful to ignore this request, in my opinion.

So obviously there are reasons — many reasons — when it would be wrong for a married person to masturbate.

Are visualization and fantasy always part of masturbation?

HHH: I have heard through the grapevine that men cannot climax without conjuring up a visual image of a woman. Yet, my two direct sources of information (thanks, guys) say that it is difficult but not impossible. Moreover, is it a problem if the husband is imagining his wife?

I think it’s definitely possible for a woman to masturbate without thinking about a specific guy (yes, gals get to it as well). However, women may imagine another man without a specific picture in their head — like words another man said or that titillating thing the hunky guy in the romance novel did when he brought the main character to climax.

Yet, if visualization and fantasy are a part of masturbation, they must focus on the marriage partner, not the muscle-rippling actor or curvy actress in the last movie you caught.

Julie: Usually when people have strong opinions against masturbation, this is one of the main arguments they stand upon — that it is impossible for someone to masturbate without visualizing someone else.

This usually then is translated that the visualized fantasy involves a person or people other than one’s spouse (or that it always involves the viewing of pornography).

I understand the concern, but I question the absolute nature of the argument.

In other words, I think there are plenty of women who would argue they could masturbate without thinking of anything but the pleasure itself (Yes, women masturbate). And while I do think fewer men would be able to say the same thing, it’s a stretch to say it’s impossible that a man cannot masturbate without visualization.

And the argument totally disregards the possibility that a married person masturbating could be fantasizing about their own spouse in a completely healthy and honoring way.

For example, is it wrong for a man away on business to masturbate while fantasizing about his wife, who he loves and adores? I don’t think that’s wrong, especially if they’ve had open discussion as a couple and have found that masturbation in these circumstances strengthens their closeness.

Are there circumstances in which masturbation would be beneficial to a marriage?

HHH: Knowing that plenty will disagree, I say yes. Self-pleasure can be incorporated into a couple’s lovemaking; for instance, a husband may penetrate his wife while she stimulates herself and the result is an orgasm they both enjoy greatly. That increases, not detracts, from intimacy and pleasure.

Also, couples apart from each other for long periods of time could talk to each other by phone and use sensual flirtation and self-stimulation to mutually enjoy a time of sexual pleasure. Be careful to ensure privacy with phone sex, though; if your darling kid listens in on the other line or discovers a suggestive picture of mommy on daddy’s cell phone, you might find it easier to converse about quantum physics with your children than the inner workings of your marital life.

Julie: Absolutely. Certain guidelines, though, need to be met first.

For one thing, a couple needs to agree that they both are comfortable with when and why the masturbation is happening, that it is not being done to withhold from a spouse or as an excuse to get out of having sex, and that it truly does endear the couple to each other — not cause distance or strife in the relationship. For great insights on this, definitely trek over to Mrs. Gregoire’s post.

I cringe when I hear a wife suggest something along these lines… “Well, I just assume he take care of it himself. That way I don’t have to have sex with him.” Yuck. This clearly would not be an appropriate use of masturbation, because it is doing nothing to endear the spouses to each other.

I can, though, think of circumstances where masturbation is a positive part of a marriage. What about when a couple is separated by military deployment and either spouse masturbates while fantasizing of their spouse who is far away? What about in the latter stages of pregnancy, where sexual intercourse is uncomfortable and a couple incorporates masturbation into their intimate time together?

I definitely think there are circumstances when masturbation can be beneficial to a marriage.

For answers to What if my spouse cannot adequately bring me to orgasm during lovemaking? Does masturbation have a place during sexual intimacy? and Is it okay for someone to masturbate while their spouse watches, if this is acceptable to both of them and is a turn-on? click over to Intimacy in Marriage.

Thanks so much to my lovely friend, Julie, with whom I have chatted about mommyhood, baseball, and most definitely sexuality! Both of us have a passion for passion — that is, we want to help marriages by addressing sexuality openly and honestly and helping husbands and wives foster marital intimacy.

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 at the same hot time, same hot channel on Thursday!