Marriage doubts –
My name is Sarah and I am getting married in a few months.
Recently I have been having many doubts about getting married, and I can’t tell if I am just nervous and scared, or really should not marry this person.
We met in college and dated for 4 years before getting engaged over a year ago.
One of the major doubts I’m having is I feel like we are not on the same page sexually.
In the past, I found messages of him flirting with other girls. I broke up with him, but then we had a long conversation about it and got back together. He says he has never cheated on me, but he has admitted to watching porn a lot and masturbating every day.
We have been long distance the last few years, and when I was with him for this past thanksgiving, I woke up and he was masturbating while I was asleep next to him. I called him out on it and said how I thought it was disgusting. I also said I think he has a problem if he’s that horny that he needs to do that while I’m laying right next to him. He wasn’t defending his actions, but said all guys masturbate. I’ve caught him doing it before, but never said anything.
Now, I’m wondering if this is something I will have to deal with my whole life once I marry him, which is why I’m having second thoughts. I’m thinking, will I always have to worry about falling asleep before him? Or if we have kids and they need to sleep in the bed with us when they are young, will he do that with them in the bed? I can’t tell if I’m overreacting, or if there is someone out there better for me that wouldn’t do that to me. Any advice?
This is my specialty; I hope my advice will do your question justice. In addition, please go to my website (below) to read more about this response and about my story.
That said, you are not overreacting; please do not go through with the marriage until your fiancé has significant recovery from his behaviors. While it is true that many men masturbate, those who do won’t make good husbands. I could give you all sorts of reasons why it is not a good idea but I’ll focus on three areas: science, what your heart tells you and, of course, what the Bible tells us.
The science: Despite what the culture tells us, we are designed to be monogamous creatures (hormonally and ethologically). Our male and female bodies are designed to bring us pleasure in the sexual union with our partner. That plan and the specific hormones involved in sexuality cause us to care deeply about and to bond with our spouse. Masturbation, on the other hand, causes us to care deeply about what? And with what/whom are we bonding?
I have worked with hundreds of men (and some women) who have become trapped in their pornography and masturbation addictions. Because they are at odds with their own bodies (that is, they misuse their bonding and affection hormones), they cannot fully love their partner. I am not saying that your fiancé doesn’t like or care about you, I am saying that, in his current state, he cannot fully love you.
Both pornography and masturbation can be significant addictions. Some secular counselors might disagree, though I suspect that in 2017, most would agree with my previous sentence. Whatever the viewpoint, I can tell you that in my center, we routinely treat these men and most will, with work, recover. Recovery requires a lifelong commitment to chastity (see below); it is not wise for a man (or woman) to view pornography or masturbate in or out of relationship.
Your heart: You called it ‘disgusting’; that is what your heart correctly believes. You say he has never ‘cheated’ but surely it feels like infidelity in your heart. I suspect that it feels like infidelity just like the flirting felt like infidelity. Because you are designed for a monogamous connection, your mind believes that any sort of sexual activity or infatuation outside of the relationship is an intrusion.
I want to ask you this question, if you get married and then discover 10 years from now that he has been viewing pornography, or flirting or even masturbating, will you feel as if you have been ‘cheated’? The cultural lexicon contains certain words and phrases because they properly capture a meaning; I think this is an apt example. Yes, you will feel as if your husband has ‘cheated’ you and that certainly will have been the case. Follow your heart Sarah.
Biblically: There is some debate as to whether masturbation, per se, is prohibited in the Bible. Since it is not specifically mentioned it must be inferred (as prohibited). What we do know, most assuredly, is that sexual fidelity is esteemed and required.
On this matter, I often defer to the wisdom of those who have worked hard to understand the teachings. Here is a definition of chastity, which comes from “The Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine” published by Our Sunday Visitor:
“Chastity is the virtue that enables one to use one’s sexual powers properly. The chaste person is in control of his or her sexual desires rather than being controlled by them. Chastity frees one from being dominated by one’s sexual passions. Necessary for both the married and unmarried, chastity is rooted in deep respect for the other person, who should never be used as a means to satisfy one’s sexual desires. The power of sexuality allows one to make a gift of oneself to another. Again, chastity is the virtue that allows one to make a proper use of that power.”
Notice that the word ‘power’ or ‘powers’ is found in that paragraph 3 times. The authors recognize that our sexuality is a power truly intended for awesome purposes and it is not intended to casually be used for our personal pleasure. I assure you that I am not prudish, the pleasure of sexuality in marriage is beyond my words. Certainly, lovers in marriage are commanded to please each other; please check the Song of Solomon for more on that. What I have discovered, though, is that I cannot attain that pleasure while I am pleasuring myself by making love to myself.
Sarah, I certainly do not know your fiancé, nor do I wish to demean him; I am sure he is a wonderful young man (though misguided). What I do know is that your marriage will suffer unless you can both learn to be chaste in and out of marriage.
Please feel free to contact me for further advice or for a consultation with your fiancé.
Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
Recovering Hearts Counseling