September 4, 2008

Masturbation In Marriage: Part IV

This is Part IV in a series about masturbation in the marriage relationship. Make sure to check out Part I, Part II, and Part III.

One of the habits I got into when I was younger was masturbating when the house was empty. If the whole family took off somewhere, that would be my chance. This pattern developed even further when I got older and moved out of the house and had roommates. No People = Help Yourself. I also used masturbation as a simple stress-reliever during hard times; it was a break I could take that I new would help relieve stress and any sexual tension that may have been contributing to that stress.

In part three of this series I wrote that “what we look at before and during ejaculation has a very profound affect on our sexual conditioning...many of us come into marriage with our minds already locked on something else (porn, fantasies, situational conditions).” In my case, my sexual fulfillment had been defined by my situational conditions — at home and alone or stressed out by things in life. (Yes, in a small way, I had trained my brain to get turned on by stress.)

After I got married, I quickly found out that just because our sex life was great and we were having sex frequently did not mean that I suddenly stopped desiring to masturbate when the house happened to be empty. I spent years training my brain to sexually desire that environment, and it did not want to change. I would also get pretty frustrated during stressful times knowing that before marriage, I could just slip into the bathroom and relieve a little bit of that stress. After marriage, however, I forced myself to press through and simply hope that she would be in the mood that night. Though she was always willing, I knew she would not be up for it as often as I wanted it, and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to talk to her, but didn’t know what to say.

What Does Your Wife Know About Your ‘Personal Time’?

I am of the strong belief that there should be no areas off limits between a husband and wife. I believe that the moment I said, “I do” my body became her body, and that she was allowed to say what I did and didn’t do with it.

Doug Weiss compares the idea of “equal ownership” of each other’s sexuality with the illustration of a couple sitting in a restaurant when the husbands announces to his wife, “I’ve decided that 70% of our savings belongs just to me.” The idea is ridiculous; both were saving for the trip to Europe – and both want the trip to Europe – but the husband feels he’s entitled to take a part of what they share for himself and his personal desires.

Imagine that same couple in the same restaurant, Weiss describes, and the husband announces, “From now on, Honey, 30% of my sexual expression belongs just to me.” What does she say? Does she have to convince herself that it’s “normal” to only receive 70% of her husband’s sexuality? If we’re honest with ourselves, insisting on our “right” to masturbate in marriage is saying just that.

Are you honest with yourself and with your wife about your sexuality? Many men think that their wives are fine with it, but they don’t have a single conversation to back up that theory. Doug Weiss writes in his book, Sex, Men, and God:

“You may say that she has never asked you about your masturbation habits; thus you have never lied. Unfortunately, only men think this way. If you never told her, why didn’t you? If you’re really okay with what you’re doing in private, why not tell her? If both of you sit down and agree that it’s okay for you to have a sexual behavior without her, then she should be fine with knowing the truth...

“If this sounds too strange for you to do, then you might have made a sexual decision for yourself that is not mutually agreed upon and is secretive. This can lead to marital and personal problems down the road. If you can’t be honest with your wife about your total sexual expression, then you probably need to evaluate the reason for the ongoing lies to your wife.”

When I finally did get the guts to sit down with my wife and explain to her my sexual frustrations with my desire to masturbate, she expressed that she was still very uncomfortable with me engaging in it, as it made her feel less desirable and more like I wasn’t satisfied with her. Though this wasn’t the answer I was looking for, we did come to a solution: She chose to be overly-aware of my natural need for release every 48-72 hours, and she also gave me the freedom to be very up-front with her about my “unexpected” needs. Now, if there’s ever one of those afternoons where I just want to relieve some tension, I go to her and say, “I really need you tonight.” I’m more connected to her because of this agreement.

I don’t think that connected, “Type B” masturbation is a bad thing in marriage (especially during travel, sickness, etc.), but I do think it is a bad thing if your wife isn’t comfortable with it.

And I believe that she has the right to choose whether or not she’s comfortable with it.

On Saturday we’ll conclude this series with a discussion of practical ways to re-teach your brain what and who to desire so that we can truly love sex with our wives more than we do sex with ourselves.

Make sure you check out the previous articles in the series on masturbation in marriage:

Part I
Part II
Part III


  1. My friend, you are doing great things as a husband, for which I commend you. And in many ways your family life is a brilliant example of how beautiful a love can grow between a married couple. But you must realize that any masturbatory action, be it inside or outside of marriage, is inherently unloving and is an action unworthy of a human person.

    For the good of your marriage and your soul, please rise to the call of total self-mastery and give up masturbation. What we do sexually with our bodies is sacred, absolutely sacred. And unlike the other faculties of the body, the sexual faculty is a portal into the innermost sanctuary of the soul. Sexual expression has invisible but real spiritual consequences, either for good or ill. Even if your masturbation is "Type B" as you call it, your physical actions speak the following spiritual realities: you are declaring yourself to be unsatisfied with your wife's total gift of her self; you need to look elsewhere for the satisfaction for which you long; you reduce the sexual act with your wife of fulfilling an urge.

    To forget that sex is an exchange of entire persons and to reduce it to an orgasm says that your wife is a mere means to your own end of sexual satisfaction. A unique and irrepeatable soul is not necessary to satisfy an urge; ones hand will suffice in this regard. But only your wife in her uniqueness can give a gift of herself to you. By abstaining from masturbation, you will communicate to her that she is still worth waiting for. And moreover, you’ll speak volumes when you show that you value the giving of your own self in sex far more than the satisfaction that you receive from her in return.

  2. I 100% agree with everything Geoff said. Sexual activity is not a meaningless physical exercise that only has emotional meaning because we ascribe it such; the physical element (and the associated explosion of hormones) is inherently meaningful.

    Self-mastery is something that we should demand of ourselves as men, both outside of marriage (in investment of respect for our future wives) and inside (out of love of the wives we swore exclusive sexual allegiance to.)

  3. Geoff, I have to disagree. I do agree that sex is about a spiritual connection to your partner; but if for some reason your partner isn't available, I don't think it takes anything away from the relationship if you masturbate while thinking about your partner. Maybe you're really in the mood, but your partner has the flu. So rather than have sex with them, you think about having sex with them, while masturbating.

    I think the issue we're getting stuck on here is that some people in this discussion are equating masturbation with being disconnected from your partner. But if your masturbation is focused ON your partner - if it's brought about by love of, and desire for your partner, then I don't see it as "unloving". Sure, having sex with them is better, but that's not always possible.

    And regarding sex being a means to your own sexual satisfaction - reducing it to an orgasm - I think that within the confines of a committed relationship, you can explore that aspect in a positive way. Hard to explain, but as an example, maybe spoiling your partner one night by having it be all about them, encouraging them to do whatever feels good for them without worrying about you. Having it be purely about sexual satisfaction, but since it takes place within a loving relationship, it's not a disconnected experience, and in fact it brings you closer together, because the person being spoiled has maybe gotten to live out a fantasy, and as a result feels closer to the partner.

  4. Jordan, thanks for your comment. But please allow me to suggest the following:

    Regardless of the amount of connection you foster with your partner while masturbating, it cannot ever be justified. In so doing, you'd be directing your efforts and energies towards pleasing yourself, not your wife.

    It’s remotely analogous to sitting on the couch and watching football but thinking of your wife, only much worse because it involves the most profound way in which we communicate with our bodies. If your wife is tired and not 'in the mood', then might I suggest you rub her feet, rather than rubbing anything else. The former is clearly a loving response, while the other is totally lacking in love. Sexuality, like love, is *always* about giving. What you may receive in return is a free gift and a happy consequence of a healthy loving relationship; but what you hope to receive is not the reason for the love you give. The promise you made to love is the reason for the love you give.

    To put it even more dramatically: if your wife had a medical condition which would render it impossible for her to express sexual love, not even then would you be justified in masturbating in front of her, while thinking of her, etc. Every instance of this would be training your body (and your mind) that your wife is there to give you pleasure. We as men should be training our whole selves to learn the very opposite truth: that our pleasure is of no consequence in comparison to our mission to love our wives unconditionally.

  5. And to add to Geoff's comment: what sort of message does it send to our wives if we say to her "I have a need, and I know you can't fulfill it right now, but that's okay, I'll just fulfill it myself." It tells our wives that sexual needs are not things that only they can fulfill.

  6. Maybe I need to clarify something here - I'm female. Now then:

    I have to say, it looks to me like there's some guilt and repression floating around here. How can masturbation while thinking about how much you love your partner be considered "totally lacking in love"? It sounds to me - and I'm not judging, I'm just saying this is what it sounds like - is that some of you have a lot of guilt because perhaps in the past you HAVE "used" women.

    But what if, within the context of a loving relationship, someone wants to 'be used"?

    Maybe I can clarify by explaining how it works for me - if I'm not in love with someone, I have absolutely no desire to have sex with them. Therefore, any time I'm in the mood to have sex, it's about love. So for me, masturbation is about love. Now if I was thinking about someone else, then yes, it would be taking something away from the relationship.

    So continuing that line of thought, as a woman, I don't have a problem with my partner thinking of me as being there to give him pleasure, as long as that's not the only way he thinks of me. Actually, I really enjoy the idea of being able to give him pleasure with my body, so therefore if he wasn't enjoying it, I'd be hurt. What's the pleasure in giving if no one's receiving?

    Maybe this doesn't occur to men, but most women would be thrilled to know that their man was so excited just thinking about them that he needed to masturbate. The only reason women are threatened by masturbation is because we worry you're thinking about someone else.

    As for not ever being justified in masturbating in front of her... what if she likes to watch? If that turns her on, would it be right for you to deny her that pleasure?

    As a woman, I don't feel threatened if my partner wants me, but doesn't want to wake me up, so he masturbates instead. Although being a light sleeper, I'd probably wake up and insist on participating. :) But if he rubbed my feet, I'd be irritated that he woke me up for that!

    Frankly, any woman with a medical condition causing her to be unable to express sexual love, who expected her man to remain totally celibate the rest of his life, is incredibly selfish. For one thing, unless she was comatose, she could probably participate in some way. Unless, of course, you belong to the school of thought that the only acceptable form of sex is "missionary and she just lies there waiting for him to finish".

  7. I'm 95% with Jordan - the exception being the stuff about guilt and repression.

    What a_husband and Naomi Wolf are talking about is real. It's conditioning, and men have to be aware of it. But there's also a glorious variety in humanity, and an even greater variety in relationships. No need to prescribe one absolute solution for everybody and every marriage.

  8. I just don't know where to begin.

    First, why does masturbation have to be such a big deal? Men are not the only ones who masturbate - within a marriage or not.

    Second, why does pleasing oneself take away from the relationship? I don't understand this. If I happen to be in the mood and my partner is not in the mood - why in the world is it bad for me to self service that desire? Sure, I can ignore the desire - overcome my own personal desire to reach an orgasm - but what harm really comes from masturbating? I just don't get it.

    I just don't understand why women (or men) get upset about their partner masturbating. It's a normal, natural activity - not an insult to the partner.

    1. I just read section IV of "Masterbation," and I thought it was very interesting, mainly the idea that he encourages a guy to not do it while married in order to focus on his wife. There seems to be a lot of validity in that idea. I would not take it as absolute if I suggested it to my husband. Also interesting is how it would apply to myself. This gives me some ideas about my own behavior.

  9. Mom - it's the same Puritanical nonsense that's corrupted the Church for centuries. Idealistic stances trump healthy sexual expression, usually resulting in fractured personalities and sexual disorders. The human body is designed for sexual release throughout - and often beyond - procreative viability. The end result is so devastating to a person because sexual expression is fundamental to who and what we are as humans. Suppressing that expression in absolute terms is as disastrous as attempting to stop any major bodily function.

    As a side note, obsessive self-mastery (usually found in the form of self-deprivation) is often a sign of a deeper disorder. Anorexia, self mutilation and even compulsive exercise all indicate a need to dominate a 'weak' body with a superior mind or spirit - to literally will away what we see as our flawed humanity. This is neither normal nor healthy by any objective standard.

    Geoff, I'd encourage you to look at why a total sublimation of your own needs and desires is a good thing. Perhaps one way to start is to reverse the roles, and see how your own advice sounds when applied to women. This advice is what's been given to women in every repressive social construct since the beginning of civilization. It's no more destructive to demand the same thing of men.

    1. I am annonymous from above. Yes, this self-mastery stuff can be extreme, but a loose application of the idea might serve to translate one's patterns back to a person when sex has not been enjoyed for a long time. Also in reading these replies, I immediately get a reinforcement of the idea that people are different. "Know yourself," is something that can come through some masterbation, through interaction with others, and with self-reflection gained with the help of outside sources like this blog. You know, this honesty is new. It didn't even exist 25 years ago and it is

  10. Geoff your statements are beautiful words but are based on false assumptions. "Sexuality, like love, is *always* about giving." That is just not true, sexuality, just like love has many forms. What you are saying goes against human nature. If love and sexuality would be just about giving then there wouldn't be jealousy, rape, etc. A quick fact check before you deliver vague generalizations would be great.

  11. Love in a marriage relationship is not just supposed to be a "feeling." Love is an action. It is the things that you do to put your partener first and care for their needs. The way many of you are describing it, just thinking loving thoughts about a person is a loving act. If that broken way of thinking was true, then any act, accompanied by loving thoughts, would be an act of love toward that person. By this logic, a husband could spend all day at the golf course and if he had loving thoughts toward his wife every time he swung his club, the act of golfing would be an act of love toward his wife. I definatley understand the need for men to masturbate to releive sexual tension. But it is not a loving act. It is completely self-focused and self-serving. Masturbation conditions a man to see sex as a means of self-fulfillment instead of seeing sex as a means of mutual sexual gratification and intimacy that comes from sexual intimacy with his spouse.

  12. I just started reading tonight and the part 3 link does not work. Is this a glitch or something I am doing wrong?


  13. All fixed. I'm not sure how that happened, but it's working now. Thanks for the info!

  14. Jordan, your post made my day.
    I especially like and agree with this part:
    "Maybe this doesn't occur to men, but most women would be thrilled to know that their man was so excited just thinking about them that he needed to masturbate. The only reason women are threatened by masturbation is because we worry you're thinking about someone else."
    Cheers to that!

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  16. What about when the wife is in her monthly and she physically just cannot have sex with her sexually frustrated hubby? Then what...

    My husband doesn't seem to want to wait for me to get off of it and he thinks it's ok to do it cause I am unavailable, despite all of my hugh gripes about it. I don't understand why it is sooooo hard to wait 5 days!

  17. "I am of the strong belief that there should be no areas off limits between a husband and wife. I believe that the moment I said, “I do” my body became her body, and that she was allowed to say what I did and didn’t do with it."

    Wow, I was having trouble with the theme of this series and this statement clinched it. So your wife's body is your body and you are entitled to tell her what she can and can't do with her body????

    No thanks. I have no desire to go back to the 19th century and before.