I'm a wife dealing with her husband's addiction to pornography. I hope to be a resource for wives (and family members) dealing with similar struggles. Please join in the conversation and leave comments--even if you are here for curiosity's sake and are just learning about this kind of struggle! You can read my story here and the 4 things I think every addict's wife should know here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On masturbation

My opinions on this topic have been all over the board in my life. I've become quite accustomed to being "all over the board" on a lot of topics as I work through things. I've decided that's just fine and probably healthy.

When I was young I stumbled upon masturbation somewhat by accident, as I'm sure many young people do. I had an understanding that it wasn't right and I avoided it for the most part, but still did it every once in a while. I never really felt like it was a terrible thing, but I also didn't feel great about it. I'm sure this stems from the idea of sexual purity as taught in my religion. As I've gotten older, I've realized that I am actually glad I had those experiences when I was younger. I have heard my fair share of stories from women who don't love sex in part because they don't usually get much pleasure from it. I would hate sex, too, if that were the case. However, I learned quite young how to please myself, so unless I'm just having a really bad day, I normally climax during sex. This may sound like way too much information for you, but my point is this--I think that knowing our own bodies is important and okay and healthy. In fact, I think young married women who have not explored this should get to know their bodies in order to enhance their intimacy with their husbands. People tend to like sex more when it's something they enjoy. It's hard to enjoy it if you aren't ever getting pleasure out of it.

Now let's venture to the other end of the spectrum. I also have an intense "hate" relationship with masturbation because I associate it with pornography and dishonesty. I want to acknowledge that I use the words "masturbation" and "self pleasure," but you will never see me refer to it as "Mr. M." (If you read Maurice Harker's blog--in my side bar--you will see that some of his patients use this term in therapy sessions, likely because they are not yet comfortable using the word "masturbation.") I have a dear friend who went through chemotherapy for breast cancer. She told me that she refused to call it "chemo." She said, "We are not friends. It's not cute. It does not deserve a nickname." This is how I felt about masturbation. It did not deserve a nickname. If I was going to talk about it, I was going to face it for the ugly thing it was in all its horrific glory. It made me mad. It was a dirty word.

Then one day I had a great conversation with some friends during a girls' weekend. One of my friends mentioned that she and her husband are totally okay with self pleasure. If she or her husband found themselves aroused when the other was not around, he or she would go ahead and please him/herself and send a text to the other with something short and sweet like, "Just had myself a good time! ;)"

At that moment, the light bulb went on in my head.

This is what a healthy sexual relationship between a husband and wife looked like. Open. Honest. Trusting. Playful.

I've heard many times (from my church leaders and others) that what married couples do in terms of intimacy is totally up to them as long as both partners are comfortable with it. And that makes perfect sense to me. Regardless of what the world thinks about pornography and regardless of what my church preaches about pornography, I do not feel comfortable with it. And if my husband respects that, it does not belong in our relationship. Unfortunately, the self pleasure that was going on in our home was so interconnected with the pornography and the hiding and lying that I viewed it as a terrible thing. And because I've known about the pornography since before we were married, it never occurred to me to explore self pleasure as a positive and useful tool in our relationship.

As soon as I separated the two in my mind, I realized that I was really opposed to one but not the other.

My husband and I have discussed this a few times, but it is still hard for him. He still has trouble separating the two in his mind, but I think it's a work in progress. The bottom line is that I wish I had realized a long time ago that self pleasure can be a healthy part of a healthy sexual relationship.

Jane asked me in my last post how I plan to address this with my own children. To be honest, I have no idea. I would like to be open with them. I'd like to have conversations with them about what is healthy and what is not. I'd like to encourage them to see that "what is healthy and what is not" is driven by how those things will affect their relationships with their future partners. To ask themselves, "Will this be a positive influence in my future?" I'd like to think that exploring and understanding their own sexuality is healthy. I think that masturbating uncontrollably is neither healthy nor productive. I think that gaining a skewed understanding of sexual relationships through pornography is not healthy, especially since pornography tends to be addictive, and being addicted to pornography will not be good for their future relationships. Having a clear understanding of sex as a good thing that should be cultivated in an honest, loving environment is healthy. This is what I hope to teach my children.

Like I said, how I see things is a work in progress. I feel like I'm figuring things out in a way that works for me.


  1. I stayed home from work today with a little cough and spent some time reading your blog. I like your wisdom. Seems to me, you have a pretty level realistic out-look on all this garbage.

    I especially love this post. MASTURBATION!!! I feel like the movie "30 days of summer" when they're yelling "penis" in the park. If you haven't seen it, I'd lend it to you.

    I remember being so baffled about my husband and masturbation. He couldn't stand talking about it. He'd turn bright red and walk away. I remember thinking...hello? we're married. This was before I learned about his secret life. And after his secret life was in the open I still couldn't understand the amt of shame he felt with just masturbation. I kept thinking...you can Do it and you can pay a woman to have sex with you...but you can't talk with me about masturbation.

    I agree with you, it is a separation that needs to be made. Yes, it can be unhealthy but it can also be healthy. Pornography and masturbation aren't the same.

    thanks for you clarity

    1. Ha. Yes, I have seen that movie. Loved it. "PENIS!" ;)

      Ugh, the whole concept of not being able to talk about things as a couple makes me crazy. I am convinced that these addictions and problems have hindered what could be (and could have been) a healthy relationship with healthy communication. But healthy communication kind of goes out the window when lying and hiding is involved. Makes me sad. Such a waste.