The M Word. We all know it. No one likes to talk about it. And especially hate to admit to it. It stirs up controversy and feelings of guilt. Some people laugh about it and make it the butt of their jokes. It’s been studied by Christian and secular scientists alike, both coming up with opposing views as to its affects and benefits. It’s something that people have debated for and against using Scripture. And in all reality, it’s a very serious matter.
That’s right. My topic this month is on masturbation and does it interfere in our relationships. I know I may catch some flak for my stance on this but my answer is a resounding YES! I can attest by my own experiences and through the Word of God that masturbation not only interferes in our relationships and deeply affects our attitudes towards intimacy with our spouse, but it also dishonors God and His purposes for sexual pleasure. My husband and I both struggled with masturbation in our marriage and it wreaked havoc on our intimacy. Let’s start with me.
I was introduced to sex at a young age through the deviant act of another. It warped my perspective of sex and beauty, and I began to use sex as a tool to validate myself. I felt used and rejected, and so I sought acceptance and love through sinful sexual acts. Which eventually led me to masturbation. Being objectified is never really validating, but as a wounded teen I would often feel as though I were somehow worthy if I could get guys to desire me, to come after me; if I could seduce them. I was quite successful. Unfortunately, this always left me feeling empty and alone. So I began to turn to masturbation as a coping mechanism. I felt used and abused, and so I eased my pain with the momentary pleasure and comfort of masturbation. But here’s the kicker: that pleasure only lasted seconds, there was no comfort found, and I was immediately thrust back into a reality of loneliness, self-loathing, and shame. It was a vicious cycle. This is a habit I brought with me into my marriage. Once I got married, it was never a consistent problem. I was able to have self-control for a while. But my “need” to masturbate grew as my husband’s sexual sin continued to grow. I’m not blaming him at all. My choices were my own. But ultimately, the more my husband isolated himself into his porn addiction, the more rejected and lonely I felt, the more I found myself seeking comfort in masturbation. Again, a vicious cycle.
My husband’s use of masturbation also started at the young age. He began using pornography and masturbation to self-medicate. He was deeply wounded and so would cast his mind and heart into the fantasy world of pornography to escape from the pain of his life. It quickly became an addiction, one that he battled for 16 years; eight of which while married to me.
Our intimacy suffered greatly. My husband would seek self-satisfaction in pornography and masturbation, which would leave him feeling ashamed and full of guilt. He was in constant fear of being “caught” and would avoid sexual intimacy with me. This would leave me feeling rejected, frustrated, unattractive, undesirable, and would lead me to seek comfort and pleasure on my own as well. Both of us were seeking comfort, pleasure, and joy in all the wrong places, and because of that we virtually destroyed our marriage. I confessed my problem with masturbation to my husband four years into our marriage. I told him how often I had been doing it and why. I felt a great sense of relief and a burden lifted when I was able to confess to him how I had been robbing him of something so precious for so many years. I confessed it before the Lord and from that point on, I was able to maintain self-control. My husband, however, was not there yet. By year eight, his sin had grown to the point that it had consumed him. He was no longer recognizable. The man that I loved was no longer there and he was just an empty shell. His hurtful attitudes and behaviors towards me grew exponentially and I felt completely alone. We were so angry, so bitter, so full of resentment and disappointment, so lonely; our marriage was devoid of love and intimacy. And to be honest, we rarely enjoyed being in the same room with each other.
Neither of us realized the affect masturbation would have on our relationship. Something done in private, when no one’s around, no one knows, how could that possibly interfere? Here’s how. It slowly chipped away our ability to appreciate and enjoy genuine intimacy with each other, and it pulled our hearts further and further away from the heart of God. Masturbation is by nature a selfish act, as it is done by yourself, seeking pleasure and comfort for yourself, without the involvement of the spouse God has given you to seek that pleasure with. When you remove your spouse from the sexual equation, you rob yourself of the joy of relational intimacy and you rob your spouse of their God given design to fulfill that role in your life (and visa-versa). People talk about how masturbation is “natural” and “healthy” but the truth is, God created man and woman to be relational. To seek intimacy with Him and with each other. God consecrated the marriage institution when He created Eve and gave her to Adam, and Adam to her. Their sexual pleasures were designed to be fulfilled by each other, not taken into their own hands. Literally.
But above all that, we are to seek pleasure, joy, and comfort in the Lord! Whether you’re single, divorced, your spouse is away for a long time or seriously ill, or even if your spouse is struggling with sexual addictions that isolate him or her away from you, the Word of God instructs us to look to Jesus Christ to find our pleasure, joy, and comfort. When we remove God from the sexual equation, we dishonor Him. We sin. God’s Word tells us in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Our delight should be found in HIM; not in maintaining a so-called “healthy” level of orgasms. Again in Psalm 16:11 we read, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Where is pleasure? In the Lord. Where is joy? In the Lord. We see in 2 Corinthians 12:10 where the Apostle Paul tells us that even in those times when the whole world seems against us, when we are weak, alone, rejected, abused, and neglected, we can find pleasure because we know that in Christ we are made strong. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” No matter what life throws at us, we must first look to Christ. A healthy marriage with a healthy sex life is one that seeks pleasure and joy in the Lord and then in each other. It is not found in masturbation.