Episode 191 - Questions to think about around Masturbation

May 01, 2023



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Episode 191

I'm Zach. And I'm Darcy. We're an LDS couple who struggled with unwanted pornography in our marriage for many years. What was once our greatest struggle and something we thought would destroy us, has become our greatest blessing in trying. Our hope is that as you listen to our podcast each week, you'll be filled with hope and healing, and realize that you too can thrive beyond pornography and create the marriage you have always desired.

Welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. We're so glad you're here and we believe in you.

Hey everybody, and welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. Hey, I wanna invite you to come. Meet with us. Join us this Thursday, 6:00 PM Mountain for Free masterclass, and you'll learn what you need to know to quit porn in the next 12 weeks. You can go to to sign up.

I'd love to see you there. So let's talk right now. Let's talk about masturbation and this, I'll be honest with you, this is a topic I have not tackled before because I've been a little bit afraid to talk about it. Masturbation tends to be more complex and become a more complex conversation because it is more nuanced and less cut and dry than I think a lot of other topics, that we discuss.

Somebody out there right now is saying, no, it's not cut, it's not complex or nuanced. Don't do it. I'm gonna set those arguments aside. I hope that I won't get a million hate mail emails about this. I only want you to come to this conversation and the only thing that I ask is that you come to this conversation with an open mind and an opportunity to understand this idea better.

I'm not asking you to believe me, I'm not asking you to agree with me, but what I will ask you to do is, "If what we've been doing around masturbation works, then why is it such a difficult issue amongst so many who struggle?"

I, for one, was simply brought up to think that masturbation is bad and it's not to be done ever.

My goal in this particular conversation is not to tell you whether masturbation is okay or it's not okay. I'm not here to tell you that. This is really a much more, I'm gonna call this a much more adult conversation because I think it is a much more adult conversation. I don't think we need to be as worried about whether masturbation is okay, there's, there is something deeper that we need to address that is going to be much more helpful.

I'm gonna share with you one of the questions that I recently got from a client. Part of what I'm going to share with you is what I shared with him. He said, "Zach, I talked with you a couple of weeks ago on the coaching call and you talked briefly about masturbation. I was wondering if you could tell me some more of your thoughts about it in the context of dealing with not being able to have sex with my wife for extended periods of time."

I've spoken pretty extensively on agency and the ownership that we need to take over our choices, and I think this is probably one of the most effective ways to discuss masturbation or really any topic. But agency is for anyone wrestling with questions like this client is wrestling with.

As we work to teach our children in a less shameful and more constructive way, I think this conversation will be helpful as well. So to do that, I wanna offer you two simple questions that I think will be helpful in the process of navigating the waters of, you know, how I want to deal with not being able to have sex with my wife for extended periods of time. How do I want to deal with masturbation?

To answer this, I'm gonna offer you two questions, and then I'm going to talk about two concepts that I think are essential when it comes to actually answering these questions. So the first question that I want to offer you is, "Am I solid in my sense of how I'm choosing to engage with masturbation and am I open about how I choose to use it with myself and my spouse?"

That first question really revolves around whether I am so clear and okay with how I'm choosing to engage with this. And am I open about how I'm choosing to engage with this with myself? Meaning I'm not lying to myself, I'm not pretending that I do something that I don't actually do.

And my spouse, the person that I generally am referencing when I talk about my sexuality, that's, that's the other person that's generally involved in my own sexuality. So that, that really is about solidity in self and openness with reality.  Some people might call that honesty, some people might call that integrity.

The second question is, "Is this who I want to be and can I be proud of this person regardless of the ideas and thoughts of others?"

Now, this is a little bit more of an external reference because, in part, I'm saying, I hear these other things that people have and their ideas about masturbation, and the question is not, "Am I referencing them to find out my own sense of self?" This is really about, whether I am referencing myself, understanding who I want to be, and whether I am okay with the person I'm being as a result of who I want to be regardless of other people's ideas around this particular topic.

Those are the two questions that I would generally ask you to ask yourself.  If you're struggling like my client was, he's essentially asking, "Hey, my wife's gonna be gone for a while and I'm not gonna be able to be around her, can I masturbate?"

Referencing Self In Pursuit of Change

In an open, honest, integrated relationship between you and your spouse. I don't have an answer for that question. What I do have an answer for is, are you solid in whatever choice you make? And you might ask, "So how do I get to be solid in my choice?"  That's really, I think, the most important component of this because we can take that into other parts of our lives, not just into this particular concept or this specific behavior.

Doing this work, whether we're talking about porn, masturbation, overeating, or any other behavior, we regularly engage in that can be called into question, is about stepping back from the ideas and the ideals that others are offering us. When we do that, we begin a process of self-referencing, and that process of self-referencing is essential to growing into the person that we want to be and who we are pleased to be.

We need to be able to reference ourselves in our process of choosing. This requires us to ask ourselves what's right for me?  If you've struggled to reconcile your behavior with externals around you, church, spouse, and parents, then you probably aren't very clear on what is right for you. Maybe you're not completely clear on what it is that you're committed to and what it is that you desire at some level.

That's not to say that if you're clear on something, you won't ever make mistakes or missteps. What I am saying here is that when we defer the internal process, of determining who we want to be and who we are to an external force like the church or our parents or something, we will always struggle to maintain alignment with that external force.

And this is kind of a result of the fact that we're just not, we're not that externality. We're not that external force. And so we can't ever be totally in alignment with that externality at all times. Now I know we try to, you know, be as Christlike as we can. We try to be as aligned with our belief systems as best we can, but we will almost always have some misalignment because we're referencing something external.

Even when we do our very best to fully adopt internally, the dictates of the thing that we're referencing, there will always be a part of us that wants to belong to ourselves, be independent, and be able to choose. This is what it means to self-reference. This is ownership of our behavior. This is having a solid sense of self while referencing others.

Being able to choose them and to choose ourselves. That's really the entire context of what I'm asking you to do. When you think about whether or not you want masturbation to be a part of your life, referencing yourself in a process of choosing is essential to creating a lasting change. 

Setting aside Compliance and Rebellion

The next thing that I wanna talk about is setting aside compliance and rebellion.

One thing that I think needs to be addressed in this process of understanding how each of us wants to approach our own sexuality.  I think people will want to approach their sexuality by setting aside compliance and rebellion. For most of my life, I've, I've either been compliant out of obligation or choice, or rebellious. I have acted, for good or for bad, out of self-righteousness or defiance.

If you know me, you know that I like to be rebellious if you will. I like to run against the grain. I like to do things differently. I like to try things that aren't the same thing that everybody else is doing. I like to know why we're doing things.

I like to understand, "Why do we have a rule?" That's how my brain works. Being able to ask the above questions, the questions that I gave you earlier to answer your concerns about masturbation also means setting aside compliance and rebellion. This isn't super easy to do because it can be difficult to let go of the validation that comes from being compliant or rebellious.

We all like being validated in our positions. We all like feeling like those we, we like that are around us, agree with us, or that those that we don't like around us are wrong.  We like the validation that comes from that concept, but to determine for yourself how you're going to truly answer, "Am I solid in my sense of how I'm choosing to engage with masturbation and am I open about how I choose to use it with myself and with my spouse?" As well as, "Is this who I want to be and can I be proud of this person? Regardless of the ideas and thoughts of others"  Our answers really can't hinge on complying with or rebelling against external forces, and that's not easy. You have to dig deep.

You have to question your motives and sense your own anxieties around this particular question and what they're about and why they exist. And these are the two ideas that you really need to work through in a meaningful way to be able to answer those questions properly. I hope this has been helpful. I know it's not a cut-and-dry answer.

I wish that I could just give you one and that everybody would be just happy about it, but that's not gonna happen. The truth is you have to work this particular one out yourself. These questions, I hope, can be a guide, but I hope that you also are kind to yourself in this process.

All right, my friends, I'll talk to you next week.

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