What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?

Jay Dee

What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?

Oct 25, 2016

This week I got an email from one of my regular readers.  Here’s the basic backstory: I found your blog in spring of 2014 when I was 35 weeks pregnant with my third daughter and I couldn’t figure out why I felt so

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What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?This week I got an email from one of my regular readers.  Here’s the basic backstory:

I found your blog in spring of 2014 when I was 35 weeks pregnant with my third daughter and I couldn’t figure out why I felt so hurt catching my husband masturbating even though he told me it wasn’t wrong as long as he was thinking of me. I showed him your blog and we had a really good talk about it where he even cried because he had no idea how much it hurt me, and he told me he would stop.

Well, here we are two and a half years later and I suspect he is still doing it. Or has started again? It is admittedly just an educated guess, but I don’t believe I am making it up. Still I really don’t want to be *that* wife who suspects her good-willed husband of doing something wrong all the time. I can explain why I suspect it, if you’d like, but I suppose it isn’t relevant, because whether he is or isn’t, I obviously need to talk to him about it because it is eating away at me.

If he isn’t, then I clearly have some leftover trust issues from before that I need to work through with him. But if he is, then I want to get to the bottom of it.

I was just going to respond by email, but she gave permission to respond publicly.  So, I’m going to, in case it helps some others.

Now I know masturbation is a touchy subject (no pun intended).  People get really … passionate, one way or another, when I assert my views of solo masturbation.  So, for the purposes of this post, were going to be clear about the following points:

  1. Both spouses have agreed they’re not going to masturbate alone.   They also seem to both agree that doing so would be wrong.
  2. The main issue is not the masturbation.  The real issue is the potential break in trust, either due to real behaviours or perceived ones.

I don’t want to get into an argument about whether masturbation is okay in this post.  If you want to argue that, this is the post where you can.

Realize that it’s a suspicion

Firstly, I love that this reader recognizes that it’s a suspicion, not necessarily fact.  She’s looked at it from both sides.  She has considered “What if he’s not”, that it might be a trust issue in her side.  Furthermore, she accepts there is probably a catalyst, if not a cause, to his suspected masturbation.  She writes:

But if he is, then I want to get to the bottom of it, because it isn’t a lack of sex; we are having sex every two to three days right now.

So, the ultimate question she poses is this:

How do you bring this up with your spouse?

That’s the tricky part.  Communicating about this is difficult.  For one, whether the suspicion is true or not, the potential for pride to come up on either side is huge.  For a “perfect” conversation, both sides need to feel safe and need to be willing to act in humility. That’s never easy.

One way to foster this sort of context is to be clear that you are asking out of love.  This reader does a good job of framing it that way in her email.  She writes:

I do not want him to feel attacked; no, I am deeply concerned for him. Whatever it is he is struggling with, he is struggling enough that he is willing to continue doing something that he knows I consider a betrayal of trust, so it must be a big deal, even if he isn’t aware of it. It is just not consistent with his character to continue to do something that he knows hurts me.

That’s the mindset you have to have.  “This is hurting me” is still important, but “I’m concerned for you” should be primary.

Another concern, which she brings up, is timing.  When do you do this?

Let them pick a time

There are a couple schools of thought in this, and I think it depends on the spouse.

The first is to let them pick the time.  You approach them saying something like

Can we talk about something when you have a moment?  I can’t shake the suspicion that you’re masturbating secretly.  I’m concerned that maybe you need help to stop.  I’d like to discuss it, when its a good time for you.

That’s it, then let them pick a time.  Of course, they may never come back with one. Then you have to have a second short discussion that goes more like

I really want to talk about this.  Could we pick a time now to discus it in the future?

Ultimately, if they still balk, the next discussion goes something like this

I’ve booked a time with our pastor so we can discuss this.  We have a meeting at 6pm on Thursday.  I’ll be going to talk about it either way.  I hope you’ll join me.

That last option should be avoided, if possible, but sometimes its necessary. It clearly sets the expectation that you need to talk about it. That you’re bringing in a neutral third party (the pastor, or whomever you choose). That you’re having a conversation about it to work through the issues. That that conversation will happen whether they are there or not.

Talk about it after sex

Now, everyone suggests never having conflict discussions in the bedroom.  I’ve seen it everywhere from counselor, pastors, therapist authors and bloggers.   The idea is that you don’t want to attach negative emotions with the place you have sex.

I disagree.  This makes sense if conflict is a bad thing to be avoided.  However I firmly believe that conflict is healthy, even required, for growth.  For myself, I find the best time to have difficult discussions is after sex.  Here’s why:

  1. You’re high on oxytocin, which makes you feel connected, loved, bonded and emotionally safe.  This will help you believe your spouse wants what’s best for you.
  2. You’re high in vasopressin, which makes you want to protect your spouse.  This helps you be more compassionate in your discussion.
  3. You just had sex, so it’s not at risk.  Many spouses, men in particular, will just agree to what their spouse is saying just so they don’t risk sex later.  That’s not conducive to a productive conversation.  This takes sex off the table as a risk.  In fact it clearly states that sex is not a bargaining chip or a threat in this discussion, because you just had sex despite your suspicions.  That sends a clear message that you still love them despite being in conflict about something.

The only downside I see is that many people get sleepy after sex.  But, I think you can push through that.

So, there are two options.  You decide what timing is best for your marriage.

If you’re wrong, apologize

If you make an accusation, and you were wrong, you had better apologize.  Even if framed compassionately, it’s still an accusation. You just broke trust, and that needs to be repaired.  It also needs to be dealt with.  If you’re suspecting your spouse wrongly, then there is already a broken trust in the other direction.  Whether the suspicion is “justified” or not.  Perhaps there are things you can change to let that trust repair.  Either way, it starts with a conversation.

I hope that helps my reader, and anyone else who might be in the same position.

If you have questions about masturbation in marriage, you might be interested in these:

37 Questions for spouses to ask each other about sex

37 sex questions for spouses to ask each other

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18 thoughts on “What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?”

  1. TC says:

    Something else for this wife to consider, and may play into the conversation, is that she states it’s not because of lack of sex . Obviously, she thinks that’s enough, but would he? And would he tell her if it wasn’t? Given she describes him as a man would not do something that would hurt her, he may be agreeing to the frequency he thinks is safe, rather than what he really desires. He’s wrong for doing that, since he’s being dishonest even though I can understand why he would do it. Not having the details of why she suspects it, I can’t say what the likelihood of this causing the suspicious behavior, but I can picture some scenarios that might cause this suspicion, without it necessarily being true. Either way, they need to discuss her suspicions. The advice I think is solid, just wanted to offer a possible alternate scenario to her situation.

  2. Keelie Reason says:

    Yes, I agree, picking a time to talk about serious things is the difference between successful conversations and unsuccessful ones. Late night talks are the worst for us, and that seemed to be the time that we would always end up trying to have these deep conversations. Now that we have learned, we do these at other times.

  3. BB says:

    I did this and hid it from my wife for many years. I told her about it about a year and a half ago. The suggestion to us from a counselor was to talk about it openly and frequently. She asks “Have you done anything?” and “Have you thought about doing anything?” Currently she asks me about once a week, but sometime more frequently if I’m working late in the basement (where my home office is). The parameters are something that you should hash out beforehand, but if trust has been broken, it will take time to repair it. My wife is usually embarrassed to ask, but I welcome it when she does because it helps me.

  4. Mike says:

    This is a tough one. I had to approach my wife with another suspicion about sex. I was totally wrong, and had to apologize. It took me several days to pick the right time. Finally I took the plunge and shocked my wife with the accusation. Even though it was a very difficult conversation, it resulted in a much better sex life for both of us.

  5. Libl says:

    A spouse who is mature (and has broken that trust in the past) ought to be able to graciously handle an accusation. My hubby likes to just come right out and verbally hit me with an outright accusation. I hate it, but that is how he is so I just stand firm in the truth and try to be gracious. Now, if he simply pulled me aside and asked in love, it would be so much better. Regardless, it is on me to check myself, accept and face the truth, and be gracious.

    On the flip side, if I am the accuser, it doesn’t matter how lovingly and carefully I ask. He will get angry, defensive, blame shift, etc. So, I only approach when the evidence is clear and caught red-handed, so to speak. Even then he will flip out and “punish” me for it.

    The fact that your husband seems to graciously accept your discussions with him ought to be a big help in confronting him. Maybe just ask how he is doing with it.

    “Honey, you’ve been doing well since our conversation about masturbation. I want you to know that I appreciate that you heard me on that matter. I also want you to know that I understand the temptation may still be there. I am here for you if you are struggling.”

  6. Hurting says:

    My husband masturbates. He thinks I don’t know. What hurts is he constantly refuses sex. We have sex once a month if I’m lucky. I don’t know how much he masturbates, because he’s incredibly sneaky and deceitful about it, but I do know he turns down sex on a near daily basis.

    If I try to talk about it at all, he just tells me that how much he masturbates (and if he does it at all) are completely none of my business. And the thing is, he knows I don’t even believe it’s wrong in general – that’s the only thing I believe is wrong is the secrecy and lies and deceit, and the fact that he’s deprived me of having a sex life knowing full well masturbation isn’t something I enjoy, that real sex is the only thing that meets my aching desire, but he chooses to go and masturbate instead of having sex. He gets his pleasure while deliberately depriving me of the only source I can get it from.

    He honestly believes it’s none of my business and that it’s completely okay for him to be sneaky and deceitful about doing it.

    I do wonder about the suggestion of go see a pastor though. Our pastor couldn’t care less when I raised the issue of the fact that my husband and I have next to no sex at all. He didn’t care about other more serious issues. It was always “just go see a marriage Counsellor” knowing full well we’ve been seeing Counsellors the whole length if our marriage. Counsellors don’t step in and say “hey this behavior is wrong/sinful and you need to stop”.

    I’m just sick of a church leadership that couldn’t care less and a husband who only cares about his wants and not my needs.

    1. Kay says:

      I am so sorry. That is awful. Is there a biblical counseling center you could go to instead? My father in law is a pastor but he is also a marriage counselor at a biblical counseling center. He and the other counselors are not afraid to call sin for what it is, though they are very loving about it. Maybe that could be the best of both worlds if there is something like that near you?

    2. Jay Dee says:

      Unfortunately, some pastors have dropped the ball on this. I’m sorry yours has.

    3. Linda says:

      You haven’t said if your husband shares your belief’s or if he claims to be a Christian. The scriptures are very clear on the matter of sex between husband and wife as far as not withholding from one another except by mutual agreement for a “time”. So if he shares your faith you shouldn’t really need a pastor to discuss this matter. The scriptures are also perfectly clear on looking upon another woman with lustful thoughts. After 47 years of marriage I just became educated that men who masturbate DO NOT do so fantasizing about their wive for the most part. Even if they are not viewing porn they are fantasizing about women in sexual situations in their minds. This was the case with my husband who also did not touch me for 13 years until we began our long past due discussion on this. He revealed he masturbated our entire married life. Claims he doesn’t know why but I have come to believe that his problem with intimacy and his selfishness were the primary motivation. It certainly wasn’t my lack of desire. I wish I had confronted his lack of interest in me sooner. However my husband was an unbeliever and as a Christian the only recourse for legal divorce is adultery. My husband recently took an interest in spiritual things and he acknowledges that his behavior was wrong. We have to move forward now but it is impossible to forget and remove the thoughts for your head. I just have to try because forgiveness if absolutely necessary if we want to be forgiven as well. If you husband won’t let you approach his gently from the scriptures on this subject he apparently does not appreciate God’s view on the matter and you are clearly in a difficult situation that you may have to wait out. Believe me I feel your pain.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I found out my husband was masterbateing when we went out of state on a vacation I caught him as I was pretending to be asleep I didn’t confront him until later when we returned home I Ask if he masterbates he shrugged it off I ask him again when I caught him turn the tv back and forth to porn as he would turn the volume down when I confronted him about it right then and there he said it’s not what you think still haven’t talked about it because he doesn’t want to can’t trust him and causes angry feelings feelings of betrayal

  8. Joana says:

    My husband and I have been together for most of the last 28 years. We are both Catholic. In the beginning of our marriage I found porno magazines hidden around the house. I would take the pornography, but I wouldn’t say anything to my husband. As time went on I began to feel lonely in my marriage. My husband would only want to have sex with me occasionally. After a while my self esteem started to fall, I was lonely and looking for the intimacy my husband seemed unable to give me. After 14 years and two children later, my husbands pornography addiction destroyed our marriage. We never stayed apart for long though, I was committed to this man and I kept going back. My husband was unable to give up on me during our separations, his love for me never faded. But each time I returned to my husband, he would be a perfect partner for a few days, but it would never last. Eventually I would leave him again, just to return to the same cycle. Four years ago my husband and I remarried. I thought for sure that my husband had realised by now the mistakes he made in our first marriage. I had no doubt in my mind that he would give his all to our marriage this time. After we got back together the sex was great. Non stop every night for months.But then it suddenly stopped? Soon after we were engaged, my husband stayed home sick from work. A few weeks later I was looking in the history of our laptop for a recipe I had been looking at. But what I saw was no recipe. The day my husband stayed home sick was a day of porn! Not just any porn, but my husband googled nasty dirty girls. I was shocked, I trusted my husband. He told me the porn addiction was in the past only? While I was in the history, I also noticed something else. Before my husband and I reconciled. My husband was looking at porn for hours and hours every night! .When I confronted him about the day he stayed home sick from work, he lied about it of course. But I showed him the proof. He still didn’t have an excuse for it. But he did say that he didn’t realise it would bother me as bad as it was? I thought this was crazy, I had explained to him how I felt about the porn during our first marriage. He was well aware of how I felt about the subject, before this day of porn instead of at work where he should have been? Since then I’ve had a hard time trusting him again. Our relationship has suffered due to pornography, twice!.It has been more then 2 years since my husband had masturbated. We had long talks about it so he would have no doubt of the consequences if it happened again. I learned to trust my husband over the last two years. He was well aware that if he did it again, I would leave him. Not just leave him, but go back to my own country and never come back! So I was 100 percent sure my husband would not risk losing me and destroying our family. But that trust was broken about a month ago. I was laying in bed, I thought I heard my husband leave for work and I needed to go to the bathroom. I walked out of our bedroom, the TV was on and I noticed a women dressed sexy with a 1-800 phone number under her. Then I noticed my husband on the couch and he was masturbating! As soon as the shock of the scene sank in, I realised the trust I had for my husband was gone forever. I lost it! I didn’t get out of bed for the next five days!…I grieved for my marriage and my family. I was so confused and tried to figure it all out. My husband made a really selfish choice, and the consequences will be permanent. My husband was in the bedroom with me 5 minutes earlier. He laid in bad with me for a minute to say goodbye before he left. I’m not bragging, but I’ve been a professional bodybuilder for 20 years. I was laying in the bed half naked while my husband held and kissed me. But instead of choosing to make love to me. He went on the couch and had sex with some skank in my living room! My husband made a choice to touch himself, and look at another women fully dressed and she cant even touch him? Good choice! After 5 days when I got out of bed, I was able to forgive my husband. But trust and forgiveness are two different things. The trust is broken, I’m afraid to leave him alone for more then a fe minutes. If he masturbates again I need to know. I need to know who I’m leaving with, who I’ve given my life to, who I’ve given children to. If this man makes the choice again to masturbate. There will be no forgiveness. I can honestly say I’m afraid of my husband. I’m afraid that he has no control over his sex drive. But I’m most afraid of what my husbands choices do to my life….I am not a prude, I realise men look at porn even when their married. But anything that interferes with the relationship is not a healthy thing. Whether it’s drugs, gambling, porn, it doesn’t matter. Listen men..If your wife doesn’t care about your porn habit then lucky you! But if it’s something bothering your wife, then wake up. When she tells you it hurts her, believe her! Women listen up. I let my first marriage fall apart because I didn’t speak up about the issues that bothered me. But I’m not that soft women any more. I’m not taking any more crap. I love my husband, but if he cant control himself, for the sake of our marriage, then he’s the wrong man for me. Life is to short, trust is a vital part of marriage, and your doomed without it. So ladies if something bothers you in your marriage ..Speak up, you deserve to know exactly who you share your bed with at night!…

  9. Blessing says:

    I notice my husband was masturbating in the bathroom.. I ask him immediately what he was doing? He lied..after he came out of d bathroom, I went in and found some sperm on the floor..I picked it up..came out and showed it to him,he did give me attention, we ve not had sex for days and I was there with him not as if I will refuse him if he asked for it..but he choose to masturbate than have it with me..I begin to tell him that it is sinful to masturbate,,,, the next thing he did to cover up was to beat me up mercilessly…

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Time to go to the authorities. Get out of the house until he gets that behaviour dealt with!

  10. marie galloway says:

    My husband masturbates very day almost yea when i caught hem doing it the first time it hurt my feelings and made me mad so i came out and ask hem why he does it and he told me when he masturbates it keeps hem ready for me like he said if he didnt and we went to have sex he would cum right off the bat so he told me it helps hem stay ready for me he said he’s not doing it to be mean he does it to make sure im satisfied so now when i see hem masturbating it turns me on Because i know that he will be able to go a long time so lady’s do be scared to say something because he may be doing it because he thinks he cant satisfied you so he is doing something about it think about it ladys yall have a blessed day

  11. Dee says:

    Please give advice. My husband is 66, I’m 59. About 6 months ago I noticed that my Husband would play with himself under the covers. Just rub himself. I asked him about it, he says he didn’t realize he was doing it. So he stopped doing that when the lights were on. I also noticed that when he takes a nap on his days off, he puts his hand in his pocket and fondle himself. He told me it was my imagination. About 2 month ago the bathroom door was cracked open, I went in to get something and he was masturbating in the shower. I just backed up, really didn’t know what to do.I did have a talk with him, asking if he was satisfied with our sex life, he said yes. He has ED so I make sure to pleasure him. But now, hes been masturbating at least 4 times a week which makes him not touch me, or if he does he doesn’t want me to do him. I can’t bring it up to him bc he’ll say no, he’s not or its in my imagination. Believe me, it’s not. Why after all this time together would he start this. We’ve always been close but this is making me sick. Believe me, if he mastubates, it ok and he knows it. But why all the secrets now. I mean he actually tells me, not tonight “it’s dead”, but next morning he’s in the shower mastubating. Thx

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Hi Dee,

      I think perhaps change the conversation. To one where he doesn’t have to admit it. He’s clearly not ready to yet. So, what if you instead talked to him about how you feel about it. Don’t accuse him of masturbating, just say “I know you’re doing it.” He can deny it all he wants, but make it clear that you know and you aren’t looking for confirmation. Then share how it’s hurting you and that you’d like to help him stop if he’s willing.

      1. Dee says:

        Thx Jay Dee, I have stated that I know he’s masturbating. I saw him in the shower plus 1 night at 3am I heard him, waited for a bit to make sure I was hearing what i thought he was doing, turned around , he coughed and turned over. I said, cant sleep? He didnt answer. I’ve had 3 calm talks with him and the answer I received was, I’m sick of getting accused of something I’m not doing. I said, I’m not accusing you, I know it to be a fact. Told him how it hurts my feelings to know that if he needed me more he shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask. Again, I’m stressing, I’ve been touching him more, but it hurts when he takes my hand off that area. But the next day hear him in the shower saying, oh yeah or saying to his self, mmmm, that feels good. Ive even tried to shower with him, to no avail. His last statement to me on our last conversation was, I’m not going to be accused anymore, if I am, I’m leaving. So, now what?

        1. Jay Dee says:

          That’s difficult.

          Well, then you have a choice. Stick with him, love him, model Christ for him and hope he repents.

          Or, if you can’t forgive him, divorce him for sexual infidelity. But that’s a serious choice that should be a last resort if you simply cannot live like that anymore. I don’t mean it’s uncomfortable, I mean it’s intolerable.

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