Masturbation in marriage happens all the time.
One spouse is usually hiding it…
and the other spouse is either naïve and oblivious, or ticked off and hurt.
Doesn’t seem like the best scenario, does it?
As Christians bombarded by the message DON’T DO IT, or just COMPLETE SILENCE, it is easy to feel like all masturbation is bad – even in marriage. However, for some couples, masturbation within marriage can fit into God’s design for sex – making the two into “One” or helping them “know” each other better. This has been one of the huge areas of growth in my marriage. In Awaken-Love classes, I find it to be a topic that can be both surprising and liberating for Christian women.
Certainly, we need to be careful with masturbation because it can and does get out of hand. We don’t want it to create separation in marriage. But what can be powerfully bad, can also be powerfully good within God’s plan. Based on our own baggage or struggles, we must discern with our spouse what God wants for us and step into it. Sometimes that is a couple enjoying a freedom they never knew existed, sometimes it is giving just one spouse permission for the sake of the other, and sometimes it requires taking masturbation off the table to protect the marriage. Whatever your situation, God will provide the answer as you discern together what is best for your marriage at this point in time.
The Bible does not specifically address masturbation but I wrote about the biblical principles that impact it.
1 Corinthians 6:12
“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial.
Masturbation in marriage should not just be OK…
It should be GOOD.
Masturbation in marriage should create intimacy
If masturbation is going to create intimacy between husband and wife, then we must talk about it. Ask yourself the simple question, “Is it hidden?” Secrets don’t create intimacy in marriage. Talking about masturbation is even harder than talking about sex, but it can also be an incredibly intimate conversation. Even though masturbation is not necessarily a sin, keeping something from a spouse creates division and hurt. Conversations need to start with a humble heart that takes responsibility and make things right through full disclosure, respect, and love; and needs to be received with grace and mercy, and humility.
If one spouse is not comfortable with masturbation for whatever reason, they should not be coerced or made to feel guilty for their reservations. Their opinion should be heard with a tender heart and respected. Openness, communication, and prayer are essential in discerning what is good and right for your marriage bed.
The first time I had a conversation with my husband about masturbation was after over 20 years of marriage. I had begun researching about sex, and asked my husband whether he had ever masturbated. I have to confess, I was pretty naive and a little shocked when he admitted he had. He went on to explain that there were times when I was either unavailable, or dead tired from raising 4 babies, and he didn’t even want to make me feel guilty by asking for sex. He knew that if he took things into his own hands, he would be kinder and less irritable – and so he just took care of it.
I felt a little hurt that he had kept this secret, but honestly, if he had told me back then, I don’t know how well I would have handled it. Looking back, I wish he had talked to me, but I also wish I had been more sensitive to his desires and understood how important it was for us to connect. So I extended grace to him for not sharing, and to myself for not knowing his desires, or making it safe to share. And we start fresh striving to be honest and open and grace filled.
I cannot stress this enough – communicating about masturbation is essential. Every time – before, during or after – we should share what we were thinking about or what we learned about our bodies. Communicating every time is also a safeguard. If you feel embarrassed to tell your spouse that you took things into your own hands again, then maybe masturbation is gaining control over you.
So let’s dive into a bunch of examples where masturbation, might or might not, create intimacy in marriage.
Figuring Things Out
Sometimes a wife has a hard time figuring out how to have an orgasm with her husband. The longer they try, the more pressure she feels, and the less likely she is to get there. A loving husband can gracefully encourage his wife to spend time by herself discovering how her body works. When she figures it out, she can show him, and teach him and they can enjoy it together.
They talk about it, they eventually share it, and ultimately it creates intimacy.
Or maybe she knows how to have an orgasm, but asks to do some private research to get better in touch with her g-spot, or become more responsive in a different position. The simplicity of instant feedback combined with no pressure creates an environment where she more easily learns new things. She then shows her husband what she has learned, and they enjoy it together.
They talk about it, and eventually share it together and it creates intimacy. But as she gains confidence, she may need to ask herself, “Is it time to trust my husband enough to include him in the discovery of new things for my body?” Could she allow him to watch as she did some research on her own body? Could she guide him with her words or hands as together they went after new discoveries?
Or maybe a wife has a hard finishing during intercourse and ends up frustrated and filled with tension. In order to protect her husband from feeling bad, she quietly takes care of things while he sleeps.
Even though the wife has good intentions of sparing her husband’s ego or saving him the trouble, they are missing out on getting to really know each other. This is one of those incredibly hard conversations, but working thru the hard things in sex creates intimacy. Could she ask her husband to finish her with his hands or mouth? Could she ask him to stimulate other parts of her body while she uses her hands on her clitoris and they share the experience?
Permission During Challenging Periods
It is not unusual for women to share that as a loving gesture to their husband during dry spells, they gave him permission to take care of things. It might be after the birth of a child, when a wife is dead tired, or when she is unavailable because of health challenges. But I have also had women share that what started as a loving gesture became free reins for him to take care of things and it led to resentment and separation. The wife had no idea how often it was happening, how it was happening, or what he was thinking about while masturbating – and the husband gradually just stopped reaching for her. Because they weren’t talking, it did not create intimacy, and eventually the wife realized the huge disconnect because they weren’t having sex.
I think permission can be a loving thing, but we need to be really careful. We must reserve it for those occasions when we are truly unable, and we must share the experience at least with our words. Would it be better to make ourselves available with our hands, mouth or eyes and share the experience? Are we really unable, or are we just putting other things first? Is it possible that we are not relying on God to help get our bodies on board when we are tired? Does a husband need to stretch himself in how he loves his wife by using lots of non-physical touch and acts of service and wait until she is available?
Long Distance Separation
In today’s world it is not unusual for husband and wife to be separated for extended periods due to work or military deployment. Honestly, I think there are multiple positive directions to go with this….
- Make a conscious decision during this time of separation to focus on your relationship with God and completely abstain. Love each other with your words, rely on God when you are feeling empty and lonely, and share this experience with your spouse.
- Abstain from any genital contact but create anticipation for your reunion by flirting it up during phone conversations, skype and by sending notes. Create tension and excitement that will make sex really sizzle when you reunite.
- Take advantage of technology to have sex in ways that you might not otherwise – sexting, phone sex, skype sex…things that people shouldn’t enjoy outside of marriage but that we ought to take advantage of. You will tap into forms of eroticism that you might not otherwise – like using your words to describe what is going on, or what you wish was going on, or visually devouring each other when you can’t touch skin to skin.
- Give each other permission to masturbate with the agreement that the other will get a full report afterwards. When you reunite, or later over the phone, share a vivid description of what happened as you stimulated yourself. Telling your spouse about what you imagined will bring it to life and create a shared experience.
I have to be honest, I did not handle separation from my husband well in the past. I would freeze him out and become the ice queen – and I missed out on many opportunities to create intimacy that were different from our everyday life. Talk about how you will stay connected during times of separation, and enjoy a new way of knowing your spouse.
Masturbation can create intimacy in marriage but it can also create incredible division.
Because of messages people have heard, the way that it controls some people, and the use of porn or erotica to lust, many people carry incredible baggage around masturbation. I believe in a God that can heal all of that, but I also believe that we must be incredibly cautious when considering anything having to do with our sexuality. Whatever we do, we must decide as husband and wife and God together. There must always be openness, respect, and prayer – and when there is, God blesses us with peace and with freedom.
I have shared just a few examples of when masturbation in marriage might create intimacy or division. Would you be willing to share more, and how you discerned what was best for your marriage, so that you might help others?