How do you manage your sex drive or your desire to have sex without masturbating? Masturbation has been presented to me as my only option and I’m wondering, is there any other way? How can I manage my desires in a healthy way?
First, we’d like to say bravo for asking such a bold question. There are many people walking around with this same mindset, and you are not alone. The fact you are even inquiring shows you desire to do things right so our hat is off to you!
I want to bring some freedom and let you know that managing your sex drive is absolutely possible and masturbating is not your only option. In fact it’s probably one of the worst “options” out there. We know that fear isn’t a healthy motivator, so we won’t focus long on this point. But it is worth mentioning the “cons” to masturbation, particularly if you’ve only heard masturbation promoted as the only (normal and healthy) option for controlling your sex drive.
Let me start here: I have not met anyone who feels victorious after they have masturbated. Many say they feel ashamed, empty, and lonely when it’s all over. Some may say, “It’s not a big deal,” but habitually masturbating certainly hasn’t led them into greater freedom. (And isn’t that what we’re all looking for — freedom, joy, hope, and, well, abundant life?) Many find that the more they do it, the more heightened their sex drive becomes. This makes sense because
When you feed your appetite, it grows.
If you’re trying to calm your sex drive down by masturbating, you’re really not helping yourself. Here’s the deal — a couple things happen when you are aroused and/or climax: your body gets flooded with hormones that cause an intense rush of pleasure (endorphins) as well as bond us to the activity, material, faces, fantasies, etc., that we expose ourselves to while masturbating (oxytocin, vasopressin). The combination of these hormones cause us to feel attached to the experience and drive us to repeat the activity—over and over and over—again. That’s the last thing you want if you’re trying to calm down and manage your sex drive.
Interestingly, we seem to think that the best way to feel fulfilled sexually is to get as much as we can without going “all the way”. Unfortunately, this leaves us feeling frustrated and empty. Why? Because God created us in such a way that our bodies are programmed to “finish what we start” sexually. Part of this is a relational finish, where we are able to experience oneness with our spouse. Without the relationship that remains after the orgasm fades, we feel like we’re missing something. It didn’t satisfy the way we thought it would, and we’re left with the same desires we started with. Why doesn’t masturbation satisfy these “sexual” desires?
Oftentimes, it’s because our sexual desires have less to do with sex and more to do with our physical, emotional, spiritual or relational health.
Let’s get back to the point at hand: If managing your sex drive feels like an never ending battle, there’s probably something out of balance in your life. It could be spiritual, emotional, physical, or relational. How can you correct this?
1. Learn and practice self-awareness.
Self-awareness is knowing yourself: what you like, what you don’t like, how you feel, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and how you affect those around you. Why is this important? Because many of us act out sexually and we don’t know why.
We, as humans, hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it. When we have (basically) any uncomfortable feeling, we begin to seek out comfort. This is in our design—we were made with the capacity to solve our problems, to seek our answers and find what we need. This comfort may come in the form of healthy relationships, it may come as addictions to food, drugs, T.V., sex, masturbation, etc. Is there anything wrong with seeking comfort? Absolutely not. But we must find permanent solutions to our repetitive problems, be it a lack of intimacy, too much stress, or our inability to process pain.
2. Practice putting words to your feelings and experiences.
Am I hurting? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Disappointed? Insecure? Vulnerable? Hungry? When we are able to name our feeling, we are more able to name our need. And when we can name our need, we can fill it in an appropriate way.
When we are unable to put words to our feelings and experiences, we are unable to meet the need that lies beneath the feeling.
3. Learn and practice self-control.
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but if you are a believer and have chosen to live a life set apart and unto the Lord, then scripture is pretty clear that God wants you to be able to manage YOU and not be mastered by anything. This includes any and all addictions – masturbation, food, shopping, caffeine, gambling — you get the picture. You can read more about this in I Thessalonians 4:3-7.
Consider this: momentary pain is worth long-term gain.
Our culture today is ALL about instant gratification. Delaying gratification (disciplining ourselves) is not a popular idea. We all want to be thin, but don’t want to exercise. We all want to have money, but don’t learn to save. We want to have amazing relationships, but don’t practice the self-control it takes to love, honor, and cherish our loved ones. Simply put, we have to learn to say NO to ourselves sometimes if we are going to reap the benefits of a healthy life later on.
Will it be hard? Probably, at least at the start. Remember, if this has been your pattern, you need to break it by abstaining. This means telling yourself no when you want to masturbate, especially if you are used to telling yourself yes, and your body gets what it wants. But, if you persevere, eventually, it will lose much of its powerful pull. The more you tell yourself no, the easier it will become and the cycle will be broken.
4. Be aware of your needs.
There are basic relational needs all of us have such as connection, intimacy, being known, etc., and oftentimes masturbation can act as a comfort or quick fix to us when any one, some, or all of these needs go unmet.
Masturbation is often an intimacy issue. It is crucial, for women, to feel known and to feel valued; without these, many women use masturbation as a way to feel loved, wanted, sexy, and seen, if only for a moment. Men may often feel the desire to masturbate when they have felt powerless, or disrespected. But it all comes down to the quality of their relationships and how they feel about themselves in them. Assess your relationships and make sure you have people in your life that know you and feel known by you. Relationships should give us life and bring us strength.
Thriving in relationship will keep you alive as a man and a woman and promote health and happiness. Having enough healthy emotional connection with those around you will help bring your sex drive under submission. If you get what you truly need, you won’t need to use masturbation to get a “quick fix” instead.
5. Be aware of what is stimulating your senses.
Let’s break this down: Being aware of what triggers your sex drive or stimulates you is important. What are you watching (movies, TV shows, commercials, Facebook/IM, blogs, etc.)? What are you listening to (music, radio, talk shows, podcasts, etc.)? What types of people do you surround yourself with and what things do you discuss? Are these people life giving? Are they cheering you on and encouraging you to go after your goals and dreams? Do you talk about edifying things or things that take you down a dark road? With sexual perversity all around us it can be quite easy to be sexually stimulated, so just be aware of what you are feeding your body, soul, and spirit.
6. Invite God in.
You may have already done this, but invite God fully into your process. Try not to get into the habit of just hoping He’ll answer your unspoken questions or requests. Ask Him. Cry. Get angry if you need to. God is not afraid of your emotions, your disappointments, your fears or your shortcomings. Let Him into it all.
When we give God access to the center of our behavior, He is ready and available to provide lasting change. Then discover how you can partner with Him to stay free. This might involve having a written plan for how to manage the feelings that precede your desire to masturbate. The Holy Spirit is able to guide you into truth and can bring you the strength, partnered with the tools, to navigate your God-given sex drive. God will never give you something you’re not able to manage.
7. Invite others in and say no to shame.
We are huge advocates of doing life in community. So we encourage you to ask for help and process what you are going through with older, wiser, loving leaders, pastors, parents, etc. They have walked this road before and remember, there is no shame or embarrassment in inviting others in and asking for help. In doing so, you may accidentally find the intimacy, connection, and comfort that you need in order manage your sex drive well.
8. Change brings change.
Also, never underestimate the art of distraction.
If you’re breaking out of a pattern of giving in to your sex drive, you’ve got to start doing something differently. For example, instead of staying in bed, get up, read a book, or play a game. Stop watching your “normal shows” or going to your normal after-hours spot if it sets you up for failure. This is part of practicing self-control and self-awareness. In a moment of weakness, you need to retrain your brain and body; don’t give in. Get up. Find another activity. Distract yourself. Stop isolating yourself. Spend more time with others. Make a change, and your change will come.
In conclusion, masturbation is not your only option.
Your sex drive doesn’t have to feel out of control. You can manage it by growing as a whole person, learning to get your needs met, and staying in relationship. You’ve just got to get a hold of the vision for why you would pass up on instant gratification, and push through pain: what do you, personally, have to gain? This is a question that you need to answer, genuinely, in your own heart.
Powerful people can tell themselves what to do. If you worked through all this stuff and you are whole, body, soul, and spirit, it may simply boil down to the fact that you want to have sex. You may have to practice saying no to yourself, at least for a time. There is nothing unhealthy about abstaining from sex or masturbation, and in fact, it may grow in you all of the character qualities that will lead you to healthy, fulfilling relationships, including marriage and a great sex life.
Think of it like this: you can’t have every sweet thing that you see or you’ll be at risk for becoming diabetic. You can’t have sex every time you are turned on. You’re learning how to manage your sex drive now so later you’ll know how to point that desire toward one person – your spouse – and he or she will be ever so grateful you took care of this now, and not five (or fifty) years into your marriage.