Masturbation in Marriage

My husband and were received into the Church this year. Before RCIA last year we committed to starting NFP. It was a tough year with periods of abstinence and all. Recently my husband told me he’s been masturbating regularly during those times, lying to me about it (he told me all this year he rarely gave in to this temptation), and fantasizing about anyone but me.

What to do in this situation? He’s insisting its a private matter, that he confesses it to our priest when he does it, and I shouldn’t be so upset. Is this really a matter between him and God? The reason I ask is that in our former Protestant circles I would have been told this is not such a big sin, a natural response to desire, etc.

He wouldn’t be confessing it if he didn’t want to stop so that is a good sign.

I am not sure if he is required to tell you or not. I am inclined to say no. I sure wouldn’t want to know the sins that my wife brings to the confessional and I don’t think it would be healthy for our marriage either. Hope everything works out - I know NFP can take a long time to get used to.

There are a lot of things that we consider sinful but others may think is perfectly okay. That does not make it any less sinful. We are called to holiness, and our standards may be a lot higher or more difficult to follow.

Confession is helpful but part of it is a strong commitment to avoid those sins in the future. Sometimes this type of sin is much more dificult to overcome when you are young than when you get much older.

I don’t tell my DW about my personal sins. It’s tough enough telling a priest. I’m not trying to hide anything from her. She knows I have my weaknesses. I just don’t think she needs to know every little detail. Plus I think too much information may put a strain on our relationship, when such disclosure would not be helpful in any way. She needs to know I’m faithful and I can be trusted, beyond that I think some details need to be kept to ourselves…

It’s great that you both converted. My DW is not Catholic and that can and had been be a big source of disagreement. May God bless you and your mariage. Are kids in the plans down the road. We have 3 and they are the joys of our life. They grow up much too fast. Ours are all young adults out of college now.

So is sex, but we’re not animals.

WE **control **our bodies, not the other way around. Your husband lacks this and it’ll only hurt your marriage because masturbation is a **SELFISH **act, while the marital act is meant to be giving yourself completely to the other (which is why NFP would be doesn’t get in the way like “birth control” as it’s meant to be open to life). NFP that only seeks pleasure and removing the “pesky side-effect” of conceiving is just as bad because it’s also selfish. The act is meant to be unitive.

Take this from another guy, this act your husband says is “no big deal” IS. Selfishness cannot lead to anything good, and the same goes for lust which he obviously has a problem with. If it wasn’t a big deal, then he wouldn’t feel the NEED to do it. Sex isn’t a need. We weren’t made for sex, we were made for love.

If he really means his confession then deep down he knows it’s not right. Perhaps he’s merely ashamed that he’s struggling with this. THAT is quite natural. I wouldn’t push to far into this as it’s something for him to deal with but do continue to love and support him, and help him if he asks.

Remember though, the most important thing:
Pray for your husband to convert from this selfish path and pray for the Lord to give him strength to dominate his body instead of succumbing to it. I’ll be praying for you both.

Masturbation is always a sin, no matter what the reason.

I think you have a right to be upset. That’s only natural. If he admits that he is fantasizing about other women, then he is not being totally faithful in his heart. On the other hand, I know from personal experience that this can be an INCREDIBLY difficult temptation for men, and while it is selfish, it does not indicate that he doesn’t desire or love you. As to whether or not he should tell you each time, I honestly don’t know. Maybe you could both sit down with a good orthodox priest to discuss the matter.

Thank you all so much. I appreciate your insights very much, especially those from the fellas. I’m definitely going to urge him to talk to a priest outside the confessional if he feels it is getting out of hand.

twf: what you said affirms what I’ve been feeling but also what my husband’s been saying. I guess I don’t have difficulty when it comes to fantasizing and such, so to me it seems a lack of desire in our marriage though he insists that’s not the case. I’ll take his word for it, though, take your word for it, and give him a little more grace (not easy, but fitting). Thank you all again.

Not saying this is true of you, but I know if it were me I’d feel upset more about the fact that he was fantasizing about other women while doing it, and the fact that he was finding pleasure while I was abstaining, than the actual act of masturbation.

The thing is, he told you, which means that he has to be feeling bad about it and seeking your forgiveness. That combined with the fact that he has been to confession about it points out that he is also seeking forgiveness from God.

This is a tough issue for married people, and statistically moreso for men (but women are susceptible too!) the most important thing is keep communication open about it, remember your love for one another, and recognize that no one is perfect. :thumbsup:

Ditto here. Rather, he said that he fantasizes about anyone other than his wife. That would upset me the most. (What, am I not sexually desirable to you? I’m your non-sexual wife, but fantasy “others” are your “sexual partners?”) Hmmm.

I would echo what others say about the acknowledgement being a good sign. It’s ironic, though, that he divulged it but then said it was only his business. He made it his wife’s business, actually.


You can help him greatly by letting him know that you appreciate him telling you (if you have not already), but also letting him know that it does concern you, and that you are also pleased that he is confessing this regularly. You might suggest that he see a counselor as well, or that you do it together if he is not comfortable with going by himself.
Also, ask him if he’d be willing to have you put an adult blocker on the computer (they’re not too expensive) or use the free software from XXXChurch. In that way, he does not have to tell you about every difficulty on his part, but he will have some self-imposed restraint and time before engaging in the act to reconsider.


Oh, come on. This is a natural anger reaction in a wife, but it is not to be encouraged. The models he sees in popular culture are so photoshopped and stylized as to appear more physically alluring than any person ever born. No wife should be trying to compete with them for beauty.

But, of course, no husband should tell his wife if he fantasizes about them. It hurts her, and the hurt is not necessary. He should apologize for sinning against her, perhaps, but she doesn’t need to know the details.

Someone should know the details, however. This can be dealt with in confession, but there is also such a thing as an accountability group, where men confess their faults openly to one another and pray for each other. Your husband needs someone to talk to about this, but it is too much of a burden for you to be that person.

It is natural to be hurt, and I don’t appreciate you invalidating my feelings about this-- my husband certainly hasn’t since we’ve talked about it further. And I couldn’t disagree more with keeping things a secret. As some of the earlier posters affirmed, it is good to acknowledge the problem but spare the details. Masturbation is, after all, an attempt to turn sexuality in on yourself. That needs to be shared with your spouse in some form when it is a problem.

He is deeply conflicted and sorry. And I think some of you are assuming a bit too much about the situation by bringing up pornography because that is not a factor here. And actually it is my burden to bear, I’m his wife and his holiness is at least partly on my head.

I’m sorry if you read what I wrote as invalidating your feelings, Theresa. I don’t think your feelings are at all invalid, but I also don’t think it helpful for him to share details. That does not mean keeping things a secret, mind you. If I apologized to my wife for sexual sins, and she asked for details, I would tell her the details honestly and openly. But I don’t think there is anything positive she can do with those details.

Sharing lives is a delicate thing, and there is no formula that works. Sorry if I implied there was, or if I offended you.

Oh, that’s okay Prodigal. I get sensitive on this topic for obvious reasons! Thank you just the same for sharing your opinion, I think I have a better idea of what you meant now. Good insights.

As someone other than one of the 2 primary parties, but nevertheless female, I really resent this reply, on a number of levels. What is “not to be encouraged?” Her “natural anger reaction?” A (any) wife’s tendency to receive the comment “anyone but you” as an utter rejection of her sexuality? Or, conversely – if the wife is a **real **sexual object of desire vs. a fictional, photoshopped unreal fantasy of desire – all this indicates is a shizophrenic sexuality on the part of the husband: an acknowledgement that he has not melded fantasy and reality within the appropriate sexual realm of marriage. Good married sex includes (often) fantasy, in the sense of imagination. What: Is he really letting go with a fantasy photo, but not really letting go with his wife? (Not to get personal about the OP; I’m talking any husband, any wife in any similar situation, and I understand the situation is not unique. There are men on CAF who admit to struggling with pornography once married, and wives who report being affected by it.)

Mature married love is supposed to strive for an integrated sexuality, not a bifurcated one. It’s one of the unique joys & opportunities of marriage. Any husband not doing that has more than a sin problem: he possibly has a problem with habit, and it would not seem that such a husband is opening himself up to the fullness of sexuality with his real partner.

I agree with you entirely, Elizabeth! I just thought that Theresa’s husband saying he was “fantasizing about anyone but me” was inconsiderate and hurtful, even if true. He didn’t need to say that to her, and could have said that to other men who struggle with the same problems. My point was about who should be his accountability partner, and I do not think this should be his wife.

Also, to be clear, the goal of my original post was to jealously defend a wife’s love for her husband. Feelings of inadequacy get in the way of selfless love; focusing on the “other women”, as it were, hurts the relationship.

Actually you should view it positively that he has told you because he obviously feels bad about it.
He didn’t have to tell you because it is between him and God in Confession.

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

Try to talk with him to discover why he fails. There may be specific triggers than can be worked on, it might take time to locate them. DW pays pretty good attention to what I tell her. I love kissing her, but often I mentioned how very uncomfortable I was several hours latter (we spend a lot of time geographically separated). Simple solution, when I take trips we try not to have passionate goodbyes (or wake up earlier - nfp permitting).

Try to become his accountability partner. Be there for him. Have him call you if he needs support. Also have him get Marry to also be his accountability partner (especially when he can not reach you). Rosaries can be a good thing.

Try to remember, he is not doing this to hurt you - and he needs your help.

I still think you’re missing my point, and if I may so, the point of the selfless love for which we should strive in holy matrimony. “Feelings of inadequacy get in the way”? Feelings of inadequacy, sir, are the direct result of the husband’s actions and words. He’s accountable to other men but not to his sexual partner? Wrong. He’s accountable to his wife, and he needs to begin to honor her with deeds and words and to stop funneling his sexuality away from his wife.

Just a few more thoughts. As his accountability partner, try to use positive encouragement. This addiction (rooted in our very human nature) is a very hard to break. Look for his successes and reward them (if only verbally) - and do not be to hard on his failures (do not encourage him to lie or hide them from you).

Finally, imho NFP is very helpful. The Church says masturbation is wrong - it does not matter if you are male or female, or if it is private or mutual. NFP requires abstinence when the wife is fertile - her peak interest time. I think NFP helps mutual understanding of the difficulty of periodic abstinence.

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