On 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 “HH&H" this time and Julie Sibert simply “Julie."
Is there such a thing as “too much” masturbation?
HH&H: 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?
HH&H: 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?