marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reader Question: Mormons, Masturbation, and Maternity

 WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Reader discretion is advised.

Anonymous said...
I have a question....I am a new convert to the church. (my wife was born into it) Ive been a member for almost a year and my wife and I are planning to seal in the temple next month. My wife is 5 months pregnant. 2 months after we married we concieved a child.She is now 5 months pregnant. During courtship we were often very affectionate and close however we maintained the law of chastity. After marriage for the first couple of months our love life and sex life was great and then we conceived a child. She is now 5 months pregnant and she doesnt want anything to do with me in the form of any intimacy. I am trying to be supportive and I know she is uncomfortable, often tired and she doesnt feel good. I also know she is self cautious of the changed in her body to a small extent. I have expressed to her both a physical and emotional need to make love to her but she ends up feeling guilty when she turns me down. I try and remain patient but sometimes get frustrated. I want to put her first and I love her so much. I try and show support and be patient and try my best to help her to feel beautiful and let her know these things in more ways than one. I find lately a lot of tension building up in the fact that we have a lack of intimacy and there is no release for me. Is masturbation in this case considered a sin? I know it wont fulfill my full needs because it is without her and it will feel as if something is missing. Most of all I have a desire to feel connected and close to her. I have two young boys from a previous marriage that ended due to infidelity (on the wifes part) and she has a child she brought into the marriage too so it is added pressure and stress on her - it isnt as if she just gets to lay around and do nothing all day. She is a great mom and wife all around. I just want to be the best husband i can for her and put her needs first...but lately my sexual frustrations are getting the best of me. 

Dear Anon Dec. 28

Thank you for your question and for reading. Congratulations on your marriage, expected child and sealing in the temple. I also commend you both for trying to be thoughtful of each other’s needs at this challenging time in your lives.  That gives me a lot of hope for the both of you.

Is masturbation a sin in marriage from a gospel perspective? That depends. When it comes to masturbation in marriage, we really don’t get into the realm of “sin” against God and/or your spouse until we are talking about solo masturbation. This article by Laura M. Brotherson has some helpful ideas for husbands with a wife who is struggling sexually called "Help for Husbands Stranded in the Sexual Desert"

As I mentioned in my previous articles, masturbation only becomes a problem in marriage when you do it alone and/or without your spouse’s knowledge and consent. Sex is intended to bond a couple together in marriage. If you are masturbating alone, you’re not bonding with anyone but yourself. It often tends to come back later with negative consequences to the relationship.

What can happen is that you start training the brain to prefer masturbating over vaginal intercourse. Repeating an activity over and over again with dopamine reinforcement programs the brain to associate sex with that activity, and it can make it more difficult to become aroused for intercourse if masturbation is done over a long period of time. Neurons that fire together tend to wire together, making it into a regular habit.

A lot of what we do is habit-oriented…tasks such as driving, brushing our teeth, etc. Over time, these activities get easier, and we think less and less about the details involved. Our brain’s natural tendency is to find the quickest and most efficient solution to any circumstance we encounter regularly. Sex is no different. We develop sexual habits over time.

In the ganglion, our brains stores information of repeated activities that we do. This gives the brain a more direct route to action, so we don’t have to think as much about a task. These habits consist of cues that run the habit routine, which gives us the reward we seek. (For more interesting insights on how habits are formed and broken, try Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. Random House, NY. 2012)

If we apply this to your situation…if the reward you’re seeking is sexual release…and the cue is when your wife refuses to have sex with you…then every time she says no, you go and masturbate, and your logical mind says that this will solve the problem.

Each time you receive the cue to have a sexual release, you go masturbate. Your ganglion stores that routine as a habit, until you reach the point that your brain associates sex with masturbating, and not so much with having sex with your wife. Over time, your efficient brain begins to tell you that there is no reward for having sex with your wife, or even attempting to do so, since there is pain in the rejection.

You stop approaching her, and simply take care of yourself, leaving her feeling disconnected and lonely, wondering why you don’t want to be intimate with her. You don’t talk about sex, because it’s emotionally painful. Sometimes masturbation may become augmented with pornography for a greater rush, and then the spiritual and psychological problems only grow from there.

Lack of intimacy is actually the root of your challenge. Men and women die without intimacy with another human being. People have affairs because they’re starving for intimacy. They want another person to know them deeply, to care whether or not they’re alive or dead, and to tell them they’re loved. No ones dies from lack of ejaculation.

Avoiding coercion and cultivating good communication about sex is really your best tool in the long run to meet each other’s intimate needs. This is especially true during periods of difficulty such as pregnancy and young parenthood. Problems tend to develop when the couple stops talking and expect the other to read their minds. Men and women don’t always think the same, and they need to verbalize what they’re thinking and restate for understanding in order to keep connected to each other. My article on avoiding gender prejudice may help in this case 

Masturbation, under some circumstances, can help when you’re going through a period where sex is not possible. But pregnancy doesn’t have to mean going sexless for months. On the contrary, there are a multitude of positive health reasons to continue having sex during pregnancy, if you both feel up to it.

I don’t know any more about your situation than what you’ve already shared, so I’m including some tips here for you to consider. Some may apply to you, and some might not. Feel free to use or discard any of these as you choose:

  • Your wife may be under the belief that sex will harm the baby, but this is unwarranted as long as her pregnancy is normal. In fact, sex during pregnancy can actually strengthen the uterine and vaginal muscles which will help your wife to tolerate delivery better. The hormones in your semen can help keep the cervix soft and may also help during dilation of the cervix during delivery. This is according to Dr. Robert Bradley, who founded the Bradley Method of childbirth .

  • When she has her next prenatal visit, ask the doctor or nurse if there is any reason why she should not have sex. If she is healthy and not at risk of going into early labor, this may help alleviate some of her concerns. She may have fears that were instilled in her from her parents or friends. Talk to her to find out what her beliefs about sex during pregnancy are. This article from the Mayo Clinic website may help to spark some conversation.

  • Discuss with each other what you both might enjoy doing. Help her to understand that sex is something that will keep you feeling close to her and strengthen your relationship. Having young children and infants around is the hardest time to have sex, but sex needs to continue through this period in order to be good later in life as well….and it does get better with continued practice.

  • Pregnancy and caring for small children is absolutely exhausting. Ask her what would help her to have the energy to have sex with you. Does she need a nap? Does she need a relaxing shower? Does she need time to think, or just be alone for a little while? Find out what you can do to give her a break to have time for her, to get some rest, and to mentally prepare herself for sexual intimacy.

  • If sex is painful for her because of dryness, try using a lube such as Astroglide or KY jelly to make things more comfortable for you both.

  • Experiment with positions where you are not lying on top of her, or her on you if the extra weight bothers you. The spooning position would likely be a comfortable position for you both. You may also want to try having her lay on her side while you (in an upright position) enter her is a kind of sideways doggy-style. There are lots of other positions to try. Find something comfortable. Here’s a link to a website of different positions that use CGI models . Best to view this one together, as the figures are anatomically correct.

  • If intercourse is out of the question, there are different ways she can masturbate you and you her. Intimacy doesn’t always require intercourse. The point of intimacy is to get emotionally and physically close. Cuddling and pillow talk can increase intimacy. Mutual caresses and massages feel good, and can create intimate feelings. Mutual masturbation is an option. Oral sex is an option if she’s open to the idea and can’t have sex for a time. Taking a bath or shower might be a good time for some sex play that wouldn’t involve intercourse, or it could get her in the mood for it.

  • Allow her to serve you. Be a gracious receiver – even if she is not technically very good at first. Don’t get impatient. She doesn’t have a penis of her own, and most likely has no clue what you feel sexually or how you want your penis stroked.  Gently and lovingly show her how you prefer to be touched, and tell her how good she makes you feel. Don’t tell her she’s doing it wrong, but redirect her to something that makes you feel good, and tell her what she’s doing right.

  • Have you considered the use of a vibrator? Vibrators are not sinful as long as you both agree to their use, and are respectful of each other’s feelings and bodies. If she uses a vibrator on you, that would be an easy way for her to bring you to orgasm without wearing out her arms or mouth. Because of the upper body strength and stamina needed to masturbate you, she may not be very good, or have the energy, or may become frustrated easily when she’s trying to please you. This can especially be the case when she’s pregnant and tired.

  • She sounds like she wants to be accommodating because she loves you. Talking to her is the best way you can show you care and will help her to be more open to you sexually. Talking with her about sex is also a turn-on, because it stimulates curiosity. If she allows you, let her know you will take it slow and be prepared to stop if she expresses discomfort. You can then troubleshoot from there to try and identify what is causing her discomfort and make adjustments. Love can find a way. J

  • Abstinence is also an option, but be careful. No one has died from failure to ejaculate, but she does need to know (gently and lovingly tell her) that going sexless for many months to years is undesirable. Few men and women get married to be celibate, and going without sex can become a destructive habit. For short periods (short being a month or less), abstaining from sex for a time can increase your desire for each other and keep the passion fresh when you are both physically able to have sex again.

Let me know if you have any additional questions. I’m glad to help you troubleshoot and have a happy and healthy sex life. As endowed members of the Lord’s Church, it’s not only possible to have great sex, but a successful sexual relationship is what God wants for us. It’s worth the work to get there.


Strong Man said...

I sense too much internal stress about your personal potential sins here.

I've been married more than 15 years and it took more than a decade to realize just how deeply my wife does NOT understand what it's like to be a healthy male. She doesn't have a clue. Still. But she's starting to learn because I'm teaching her.

First--here's something I suspect is actually a sad form of miscommunication:

" she doesn't want anything to do with me in the form of any intimacy."

Most likely, she wants a different kind of intimacy than you do--or she feels embarrassed about her body and she's testing you to see if your desire for her is actually strong enough to overcome her personal insecurities.

For my wife and I, some of the best sex we've had was while she was pregnant--no stress about birth control, and the visible excitement that we're creating life together. This continued through all 9 months--and we read and agreed with studies that it can help induce labor.

Another potential problem is this quote:

"I just want to be the best husband i can for her and put her needs first.."

Note the Freudian(?) slip of a lack of capital "I".

This was my goal early on as well, but I've learned this can backfire. Sometimes being more clear about your own needs, and reminding yourself that you have 90% of the total testosterone in the relationship, can actually help her feel more loved and appreciated.

Even when a woman rejects a man, she still wants to feel desired, overwhelmingly, and she feels a bit of a thrill by knowing she is desired. Sometimes she'll even put up barriers to see if you desire her enough to overcome those barriers.

How clear are you about your physical desires? Does she know about it every time you feel a physical desire? Are you absolutely clear about how strong that desire is? If you feel some kind of need multiple times a day, are you somehow translating that need into action toward intimacy with her? For example, every time I feel some kind of physical desire, I try to think--what can I do to let her know I want her? Send a text, call, kiss her, touch her somewhere, etc.

I've found it's almost impossible to overcommunicate in both words and actions, how strong and persistent the male physical desire is.

As I said, after 15 years of marriage to a very healthy man, my wife still has no clue.

That said, one of the romantic things is to see how a man has such incredibly overwhelming desires, yet keeps them in check out of courtesy for his wife. Just make sure she knows absolutely how strong those desires are--and how you're just barely holding them in.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your responses. What i have done most recently is i have begin praying about how i can connect and show her i love and cherish and desire her in a way she would understand and in a way that honors the Lord. I do have needs, i recognize that and I also have expectations. However i am to be patient, supportive and understanding of hers as well. I know she is constantly worrying about the baby. I know she has lots of anxieties on her mind and its been a rough pregnancy for her as she often feels sore or doesnt feel good. The biggest issue i have is for me its not even so much as sex that i need. Its intimacy in the form of being close, showing affection and truly sharing a life together. She seems detached and often times its hard because i wait for her to show me affection or show me she desires intimacy and it often feels like it never comes. I wait a few days or a week and then sometimes a couple weeks and BAM i blow up and get frustrated. Ive tried both ways and ive often communicated my needs to her and she says she gets upset when i do becvause it makes her feel guilty. This is an extremely difficult yet delicaste time in our life and marriage its the first year. The things we do now will begin to take shape and mold into habits and i dont wanna start bad habits of intimacy or communication.

Anonymous said...

Masturbating enough to chose yourself over vaginal intecourse? Really? If you say so?

Anonymous said...

What about a woman who can't get their husband to make love to them more than twice a year max? He's always "too tired," "sick to his stomach," "not in the mood?" What will it be tomorrow, "I have to wash my hair!" LOL! Yes, he's a "man!" Well, I hope and pray he is.

And yes, I take care if myself btw.

CoachSam said...

Dear Anon March 8,

Thank you for your question.

If you haven't already, I would encourage you to read my article on "Sexless Marriage and the Sacrament":

If this doesn't answer your question fully, feel free to email me and maybe we can troubleshoot this issue together.

My email is located in the 'About Me' section of this blog.

Anonymous said...

As a woman, I can't say I understand a man's level of desire. The only thing I've ever felt that came even close to how my husband describes it is how badly I wanted children before they were born.

I don't like to refuse him when he wants intimacy, even when I don't want it, for that reason, but I've come to the point in my life where it's just too much of a good thing for me. His drive is so much higher than my own, I cannot keep up, and it's damaging to my emotions and my self-esteem to try.

I think that masturbation in marriage can be a good marital tool if both spouses agree, and maybe if the wife is involved in other affectionate ways, so it's not just the husband locked in the bathroom alone, and the wife alone in the bedroom feeling guilty, or vice versa.

Sometimes the desire levels are just too different to reconcile, and one spouse or the other shouldn't be shamed or made to feel that they're somehow less of a man or a woman because of that. It just is.

Every marriage is different, I think, and requires a different strategy for giving and expressing love that actually gets the message of love through to each other and themselves.

Latter-Day Marriage said...

I`m afraid I have to disagree with you somewhat here Coach Sam. The leaders of the church have been very clear that masturbation (aka: self abuse) is wrong.

Never once is there anything said to even hint that it is OK if you are married and your spouse is OK with it, or that there is any other situation where it is OK. President Kimball said to abandon the practice, he did not say put it off till you are married and get your spouse`s permission and have them present when you do it.

The current Handbook 1 (my calling gives me access to it) lists it along with not paying tithing, not keeping the Word of Wisdom, using pornography etc. as a violation of the standards of the church that a Bishop can usually handle informally rather than call a church court.

I understand that from from a husband-wife relationship perspective what you say makes sense, but from a moral sense it is contrary to what the church teaches. Our sexuality is a divine gift and it is not to be used in that manner.

As for Anonymous, boy do I relate. My wife`s first pregnancy really threw her hormones for a loop and I was pretty much in the same situation. After that pregnancy didn`t have that affect thank goodness.

There needs to be some gentle, loving discussion about each other`s needs. Even when a woman doesn`t feel sexual desire, if she understands her husband`s need and loves him she is usually able to engage sexually as a loving service. I`m not talking duty sex, I`m talking about sex because of emotional love rather than sexual desire. Usually once she decides to engage sexually and foreplay is done well her desire will wake up.

At the same time, if a woman is unable to find sex enjoyable because she is not physically or emotional well enough for that, a man should be able to out of his love for her abstain.

Marriage includes sex, but it does not eliminate the need for sexual self control.

CoachSam said...

Thanks for your comment Latter Day Marriage.

I would like to clarify a few items of discussion, but my response was too long to leave a comment here.

All may review my reply at this link: