Masturbation: What’s a Wife to Do?

Kate says . . . Reading the comments on Brad’s post, “Take Matters Into Your Own Hands” I have been encouraged over and over to remind the wives to initiate sex more often with their hubby, so that masturbation will not be an issue. I am choosing not to go that route with my reply! The reason that Brad and I chose this topic was because of the many wives who have written us sharing that their husband has low desire and that they are the ones who want more sexual intimacy in the relationship. I hear you wives out there; I know there are many of you, I have not forgotten you and I am certainly not forgetting the pain and struggle you are going through.   As Brad said in his post communication is the key! I know ladies, you are thinking, that is not so easy. You are right. But without communication, you have no ground for discovery, growth and healing.

If you have been able to establish, through communication with your hubby, that he greatly desires you, but his body does not respond with him, I encourage you to check out my post “Sex: When Your Hubby Is Lacking the Desire”. True, low libido tends to be a women’s issue, as we have written about before, but there are also many men who have low desire/low libido issues in their marriage. Uncovering those reasons will be the key to moving forward and growing past this time of challenge.
If, on the other hand, you have been able to figure out that your hubby is turning to masturbation to fulfill his needs and you are feeling left out of the equation . . . what should you do???
Masturbation is one of those subjects, which for many women is a mystery of sorts. Not the actual, how does it work, but more, why is it such a big deal among men? While the number of women masturbating is on the rise, I still think the topic is somewhat confusing to us females. “What’s the big deal, why do men want to do that?” and “eww that is just nasty!” are just two of the comments I have heard from women sharing their thoughts and questions on this controversial topic. Some women I have talked to think it is no big deal, their main reason in saying so is simply because, “well, every guys does it”.  While these women are ok with men and masturbation I still think they are a bit baffled.
Since it is a bit of a mystery to us, we need to have some understanding of why men and masturbation usually go hand in hand! (Pun intended)  Most boys in puberty find the world of masturbation and think they will never be the same. Lets be honest, it feels good to have an orgasm. God designed orgasm and all that leads up to it to be incredible, to feel so so good. As for the reasons that men continue to masturbate even after marriage, well it still feels good and they have a high sex drive. As for other reasons, I will leave to Brad’s posts!
Before I go on, I am talking here about male masturbation and how wives can address the issue. The topic of a wife masturbating is for another post. So if you are looking for my to include this as well, it is too much to cover in one post.
As for whether or not the masturbation is a sin, I don’t really think that is the issue. The issue here is simply that your sexual connection, created by God to be very special, is being affected. No matter what, that is not ok! You have a right to want to remove the roadblock! Whether or not you and your hubby feel that the act is sinful is something the two of you will be able to explore further on down the road, when healing is taking place.  For right now, the focus is communication and figuring out how to get back on the same page with your sexual intimacy.
If you feel that your husband’s masturbation is hurting your one flesh sexual intimacy, how do you proceed? What do you do?
My suggestion to you ladies would be to first find a quite time for sexual intimacy together. Slow, with no interruptions! It will soften you both, it allows for grace to be extended (as my friend Julie over at Intimacy In Marriage always says) that is a good thing! Once you have shared that time together, share with your hubby your desire for sexual intimacy to continue. Share that you feel sexual intimacy has been lacking in your marriage. Open up about your fears; ask your hubby what is keeping him from that connection.
Are you opening yourself up to a possible world of hurt? Yes!
Are you opening up a can of worms that could turn into an argument? Yes!
I am not going to sugar coat this ladies, this is a tough one. You bringing this topic up will be tough to do and it will be a tough conversation for the two of you to have. But the way I see it, you have two choices:
1. Sit back and continue to live in a marriage where your one flesh connection is threatened or
2. Take the initiative and talk with your husband about your sexual intimacy.
When there is porn/lust involved, I know it is hard to focus on anything else. There is great hurt and mistrust that will threaten to consume your every thought, if you let it. You have every right to feel this way! But it is also a choice how long you stay in this place. The healing process will be very hard if you cannot look past those hurts. And yes in a perfect world, your hubby would be the one to make amends, initiate and show his desire for you, despite his lust/porn issues. Sadly we are no longer in a perfect world and we women need to fight for our hubby’s and our marriages. Our one flesh connections are always being threatened. Satan loves keeping it that way. With God’s strength, grace and peace you can move forward in the healing process.
Lastly, I know that many woman are hurting by their husband’s lack of desire.  Regardless of the reasons I know it is a big hurdle! I also know that you would love for your hubby to make it all right again. To take away all the pain and rejection. But the only thing he can make better is the future. It would be truly amazing and wonderful if he did this on his own and without prompting. I truly hope that he does. If he doesn’t, consider standing up and taking a stand for your marriage. Be the change you want to see in your marriage. Talk with your hubby! Be open and honest and vulnerable!
Brad and I are not immune to these issues. We are just like all of you out there! We have had to learn to talk through these very issues and draw boundary lines for our one flesh connection! Wives, prayerfully consider stepping up and talking with your hubby about masturbation, lust and porn. Even if you have a great one flesh connection, it is always good to dialogue about these issues. Then if an issue ever arises in your marriage, you will have the openness that communication fosters and provides! We would love to know your thoughts and would be glad to pray for you as you open up these doors of communication!
12 Responses to Masturbation: What’s a Wife to Do?
  1. Strong Man
    June 28, 2011 | 7:31 pm

    I wonder if you could do another post with more specifics.  You have some good ideas about starting the conversation, but I feel some more direction would also be helpful.

    But–what exactly do you say in that conversation?  You want to be very careful making any accusations if you have no evidence to go along with it other than a seeming lack of desire.

    You might suggest asking about what you  as a wife can make intimacy more rewarding?  Just saying you want more sex and asking what you can do to make it more interesting and fun for him, then listening closely and acting on what you hear would go a long ways.  I feel that line of questioning is much more likely to improve the situation than directly asking him how he can stop this bad habit that he's surely embarrassed about and might deny.  If you've rejected him or criticized him or shown an unwillingness to listen to him in other ways, it might take several tries and some real convincing to help him be willing to share.

    Also–from a wife's perspective, while you're getting him to share, remember that you can only change yourself–can you have a bit of your own introspection and try and think what you might possibly be contributing to the problem that is resulting in reduced intimacy.  Are you making time for it?  Are you willing and available when he is?  Do you criticize or nag or treat him like less than an adult who is your hero?   How is your weight and physical appearance?  Do you buy and wear skimpy clothes just for him?  

    I can almost guarantee that masturbation is a weak and unsatisfactory substitute to the real thing.  He would way prefer to be with a real woman.  

    Keep your eye on the ball, not on the myriad distractions–remember the goal is better intimacy–focusing on getting rid of something bad is not as productive as focusing on what you really want.

  2. lilwildflower
    June 29, 2011 | 1:56 pm

    Hello Kate (& Brad),

    Thanks so much for your posts as they are inciteful and challenging.  Strong Man, I agree that Kate has a lot of great ideas.  I think the problem with being more specific here is that each couple's situation is different…the make-up of personalities, experience, and readiness to discuss something like this.  I think you are right in sharing that accusations and fault-finding missions are only going to cause more of a divide.  Humility and grace go a long way in restoring intimacy and closeness in a marriage.  In my own experience, I have found it more constructive to offer how I am feeling coupled with what I miss or desire, what (& not how it) is presently lacking (i.e. intimacy, sex, conversation, rather than pointing out the issue(s) that I believe might be standing in the way of attaining what I or we want ).  My husband has found this helpful as it also places us on equal ground in solving a problem.  It also invites his feelings and incite into the matter.  This has been no less true for issues or intimacy and sex for us. 

    Kate makes a great point…that taking some time to be intimate, have sex, and remove some barriers to conversation is important.  If this is possible, it is a great way to start.  It takes the risk of being vulnerable and will potentially involve hurt, although with Lord's help the yield in our marriages can be much greater.

    Thanks for sharing, Kate & Brad!

  3. Paul Byerly
    June 29, 2011 | 8:18 pm

    Kate – good stuff, thanks!

    One good way for a wife to deal with this is to use this article as a jumping
    off point. Don't accuse him, rather say you realise he might sometimes feel the
    need when he does not think you are interested or willing. Tell him you want
    the right of first refusal. If he tells you he needs something, you have three
    hours (or whatever) to do it for him, after that he can do it. Yes, a few guys
    may take advantage of this, but most men will gladly take a wife up on such an
    offer.

    As to the whys -

    One big issue for men is having sex consistently. Our drive
    does not change over a month long cycle, and it takes a lot more stress,
    tiredness, lack of sleep or whatever to kill our desire and need. There is some
    level of sex that a man needs to feel balanced physically and mentally. Having
    this level met by his bride also makes him feel understood and loved. Beyond
    this minimum level, there is a desire for far more, and it is in that desire
    that you find his more emotional and relational needs and desires.

    What he wants beyond the minimum is not just about orgasm and release – it's
    about intimacy, and the woman loves. His hand can't give him that. But his hand
    can take care of that minimum. So, take for example, a man who would gladly have
    sex daily. That is what he wants, what he could and would like to enjoy. However,
    there is a lower level that is what he needs to feel balanced.  That level
    might be every other day. If a wife meets that lower level fairly well (things
    happen, we understand) most guys will not turn to masturbation (unless there is
    ongoing porn, which is another issue).

    If, on the other hand, a man's wife regularly fails to meet that minimum need,
    then he will struggle in a number of ways. Trying to explain this to a woman is
    like trying to explain birth to a man – you have to experience it to really get
    it. Please trust me that it is a real problem in many ways, and not something
    anyone who has experienced it would wish on anyone. I'm not saying it's right
    for a guy in this situation to DIY, especially if he has not explained the
    situation to his bride, but it is understandable why a man would choose this
    route.

    If you are thinking ""I've never failed to meet his needs",
    please rethink. Do you meet his needs the vast majority of the time, or just
    when you feel good and things are going well? If you let it go for a few weeks a
    couple of times a year, your husband has learned that he can't count on you.
    (It's just like the places where you have learned you can't count on him.) Once
    he starts to take care of himself, it becomes easy to just keep doing it –
    especially if he can justify it by looking at your past “failures”.

    Another very real possibility is that he has failed to be honest with you about
    how much he needs. If you’re having sex twice a week, and he feels his minimum
    is double that, he may fear telling you he wants more will put the twice a week
    at risk. I suggest a good talk with him about this – ask what he thinks would
    be the max he could enjoy, and then what his minimum is. (Having this talk
    right after you have done “something just for him” may encourage him to be more
    honest.)

    Guys also choose masturbation over their bride because they don't want to take
    the time or energy needed for love making. A couple of minutes in the shower
    and it's taken care of. That's not nearly as good as making love, but if a guy
    is tried, stressed, short on time, or just selfish, it can look like a better
    choice. In this case, dealing with the root issue is the way to go.

  4. Lea Hartman
    June 29, 2011 | 11:06 pm

    I wish it were that easy – to have a conversation. I've been trying to have this conversation for three years and he shuts me down every time. It affects our marriage as a whole, not just our intimacy. Especially when I find he's been engaging in porn and masturbation while I'm sleeping down the hall. I have never denied him sex. It doesn't matter if it's 1:00 in the morning and I know I have to be up at 6:00 with the kids. I'm always there for him, even though he treats me no better than one of those 'actresses' thinking I'm only there for his pleasure. I'm tired of trying to have a conversation that ends in him yelling at me and making me feel somehow like it's my fault. I'm not pretty enough, I'm not thin enough, etc. There's no conversation that's going to change someone who doesn't want to change.

    • April
      February 21, 2014 | 10:07 am

      Lea, I am right there with you. I have been with my husband going 3 years and this had been a problem the whole time. We talk then in a week or so he is back at it. After I found the porn on my computer he started deleting the history so I can’t find it. He also does the same thing with masturbating when I’m in the other room asleep. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough for him and it hurts our marriage. I’m sick of having the talk for it to not change anything. I’m lost with what else to do.

  5. Brad & Kate Aldrich
    June 30, 2011 | 1:58 am

    Hi Lea!  Thank you for writing and sharing your story.  I hear great pain in what you say.  My post was directed towards wives that know there is a problem and just keep ignoring it.  They are too embarrassed or scared to approach their hubby.  It sound to me that you have tried to have this conversation many times and I applaud you for that.  You have stepped up and taken a stand for your marriage and one flesh union.  You also have made yourself available to your husband where intimacy is concerned.  That is huge and something many woman

     struggle with!  And you are so right, no one can make your husband change.  It is a heart matter, between him and God.  And as much as we may want change in our hubby's, it is not our job, nor can we bring it about! 

    Is counseling a possiblity?  Would your husband be willing to sit down and talk through any of this?  Only knowing what you have shared about your situation, I would say that you need to keep being the wife God wants you to be, to the best of your ability.  

    The other thing to keep in mind while you are frustrated with your husband (rightfully so), is that he is accountable to God for the way he treats you and the way he honors God's word for husbands.  We cannot make our spouses change, but they ARE still accountable to God! 

    Please contact me if you would like to talk further!  I am always here to listen!  I will be praying for you and your hubby!  There is great hope and healing in God's plan for marriage.  Hold on to that hope, even if there does not seem to be any left!  Kate 

    • April
      February 21, 2014 | 10:12 am

      How can we privately contact you?

      • Brad
        February 21, 2014 | 11:49 am

        Yes, please do! You can email either of us. Email Kate or Email Brad. Or you can find out more about our marriage coaching here.

  6. Brad & Kate Aldrich
    July 6, 2011 | 12:35 am

    Thanks so much Paul for sharing all of the "whys" above.  Good stuff to think about for us wives out there.  We appreciate you both so very much!  Blessings, Kate
    Be sure to check out Paul and Lori's website at http://www.themarriagebed.com and http://www.the-generous-wife.com and http://www.the-generous-husband.com!  They are amazing and have been doing marriage ministry for over 20 years!   

  7. MA
    July 6, 2011 | 8:57 am

    But what if the situation is reversed?  I crave intimacy with my wife.  It's been almost a year since we last had intercourse.  I've tried everything I've been so humble, I'm beginning to loath myself.  We have gone the non-sexual touching route and it's nice.  We are going to counseling, but only sporadically due to our busy schedules.  Early on, when we discussed her low feelings towards sex, the topic of heath and whether it may be a physical problem came up.  She had no problem declaring that masturbation worked just fine.  Talk about a crushing blow.  I'm at my end.  To be clear, I have not handled this well at all.  There have been fights and I have said some ugly things to her so now, it is a matter of trust between us.  I just don't know how to get the feelings back.  I do suspect that she is taking care of her own need for sexual release and that makes it all the more difficult to work things out with me.  I'm not sure that she sees the benefit in it.

  8. Edwardo
    December 29, 2013 | 10:50 am

    Masturbation is a pattern learned in one’s teens or before. If married later in life, it’s a difficult habit to break, especially with the easy access to images on the internet. Wives must be prepared to deal with it forcefully as it represents a form of infidelity.

    • Edwardo
      December 31, 2013 | 9:00 am

      Should have mentioned in our defence, male hormones are produced 24/7/365+. There are entire industries depending on our urges; not the least being fashion, advertising, entertainment, pharmaceutical, legal, stores, etc. My wife knows my internet viewing habits, they’re all computer logged. She responds accordingly on “those days”! Hang tough guys, no one said it was going to be easy!!

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