It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up in the comments!

Okay, ladies. Today I’m going to get embarrassing. This post may be a little more graphic than some of my other Wifey Wednesday ones, but I think it’s important to talk about.

Last week in the comments one reader asked this question:

Reader Question

My husband’s job requires him to be away from home for extended periods of time (as in one to four weeks). During this time he obviously still has needs and I know he often ‘takes things into his own hands’ (pardon the pun). He is open about this and I don’t feel this is a problem as I would rather him relieve the tension than put himself into greater temptation because of strong tensions that have not be relieved. Could this be a dangerous thing for our relationship? He is pretty open about this to me and I don’t feel that there is an addiction since I feel that our sex life is pretty normal in terms of frequency (although I know ‘normal’ is different for different couples). Just wondering your opinion in this area.

That’s important to discuss, so if it embarrasses people, well, if we can’t talk about it here, where can we talk about it?

Let’s get real for a moment. There are going to be times when making love for a significant period isn’t possible. Maybe he’s away on a business trip(or you’re away). Maybe you’re in your latter stages of pregnancy and it’s too difficult. Maybe one of you is suffering from an illness for a time. So is it okay to “take matters into your own hands”, so to speak? And this isn’t only a male problem. I have known women who felt the same thing.

So where to start? I believe that sexual release is something which is really supposed to be saved for your spouse. When you start obtaining that release away from your spouse, that can lead to a lot of problems, including the fact that sometimes people start to prefer masturbation to pursuing relationship. Let’s face it: most of us could pleasure ourselves a lot more quickly than our spouse could, and if sex involves having to communicate first, and be nice first, it can be a big hassle, especially if you’re stressed or already distant. So I really don’t think it’s good to get into masturbation, even as release when you’re away from your spouse. It can lead to greater separation.

That being said, the main harm from it comes from the fact that it is in secret and divorced from relationship. If it can be incorporated into relationship, I really have a hard time saying it’s wrong. So I guess what I’d suggest is “joining him” on the phone, so to speak. I’ll let your imagination do the work. But if you can insert yourself into it, if he’s gone for a few weeks and it’s just really difficult for him, then that can bring another level of intimacy. But I don’t think sex is ever supposed to be something that is a secret between spouses. Remove the secrecy and insert relationship, and I think you can still have some fun. But again, this isn’t optimal, and it’s only a stopgap measure if you’re just away from each other too long.

The marriage bed is just for the husband and wife together.

In this case, it sounds like he’s open with his wife, and it isn’t affecting their sex life when they’re home, so perhaps there’s no real harm. But I just have a hard time saying that it’s a good idea to pursue release completely separate from each other. Once you’re married, your sexuality really belongs to your spouse, and vice versa. They should be a part of the whole thing. That’s what having a “pure marriage bed” really is–the marriage bed is just for the husband and wife together.

The other worry that I have is that masturbation can become a tool to help with the fact that you may have differences in libido. If you want to make love once a week, and he wants to make love once a day, I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to masturbate the other six, even if he’s doing it out of supposedly selfless reasons (“if I’m not frustrated, I won’t be grumpy towards her, and we can get along better.”) I think this is an area where God just wants you both to grow. You need to adjust to him, and learn to make love more than once a week, and he needs to learn maturity and how to handle his sexual frustration by pursuing friendship and more intimacy with both you and God.

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Again, I don’t think there’s any sin, once you’re married, in the actual act of masturbation. The marriage bed is pure, after all. The problem and danger comes from the secrecy of it, and the selfish nature of it. If it can be incorporated into your sex life at times, I do think it’s okay (though not optimal). But please be careful of too much reliance on it, because it can grow.

And remember: there’s nothing wrong with fasting from sex for a time! It can be a tool God uses to bring us closer to Him.

Now, these are my opinions; I don’t want to claim to speak for God. In my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I talk openly about a lot of issues like this, and I’ve wrestled with them and tried to come up with answers that I think reflect the whole of what Scripture says about the body and sex. But I’m not God. This is just the best I could do. So if you feel differently, or have a different slant on it, let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Please read the comments! They’re good, and I’ve elaborated more on my position on this!

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