My husband and I have an amazing sex life. He works away for months at a time, and so of course we cannot see each other during this time. We’ve talked and feel that it is ok for us to masturbate so long as it has no adverse affects on our relationship when we are back together, and so long as we try to keep to doing it when our bodies ‘need’ it. I found it hard to shake the fact that somehow maybe it’s ‘wrong’ for a Christian woman, as it’s ‘self-gratifying’. However, I found it very hard to ‘awaken’ my sexual desire when he was back home again. The next time he went away I did it and we had an amazing time sexually when he was back. Is this an ok practice for a Christian woman while her husband is away? How regularly should/could a woman do it, or does regularity not matter?

It is a real challenge to handle seasons of being apart without letting the libido hibernate so deeply that it is never to be fully resurrected again. Some people handle it by switching off their sex drive and rebuilding it in the days prior to being reunited. They do this by building anticipation, triggering memories of being sexual together, planning what they will wear and do. The vulnerability is for disappointment when the script invariably does not go according to the dream.

It is understandable that you have found it difficult to ‘awaken’ your libido when you have needed to. Another option is not to switch off the libido but respond to it through selfstimulation. The Bible gives us no directives against this. What it does give us is broader ethics that would keep masturbation in the zone of faithfulness to our partner and away from being addictive.

So long as your masturbation fantasies stay within the realms of what you would do together in real life, then I think it would be unlikely for this to cause problems to your sexual relationship. You may find that you learn how to touch yourself in ways that your partner isn’t aware of and this could be frustrating when you are reunited. It requires good communication to pass on what you have learned about yourself. But it will also require an open mind to allow your partner to create different feelings from those that you can create for yourself.

I hear your concern about it being ‘selfgratifying’. It fascinates me how this concept has created its own puritanical religion that I am not sure is Christian. We are told to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ requiring generous self-love so that we can be generous givers. We also (rightly) have little guilt over pleasuring ourselves with tasty food or the happy feelings that come from keeping fit. It baffles me how anybody expects to experience an orgasm or any other aspect of sexual intimacy without allowing themselves personal pleasure and release.

God has inbuilt into sex both the dynamics of giving away and receiving for oneself. When masturbating with your husband away, this is for self-pleasure and also to keep your passion awake for him. It’s ok for it to feel good and for you to enjoy it: that is the whole point!

As regards regularity: the principles are the same as for any other sensual pleasure. We do not want to be mastered by it. As it says in 1 Corinthians 6:12: ‘everything is permissible for me…but I will not be mastered by anything.’ It’s about balance with the rest of your life and being happy and free not to do it, if it does not fit in.

For those who can turn off and on their libido as required, then masturbation overcomplicates things and is unnecessary. However, if the on-off strategy is not working, masturbation is better than ending up with a libido-dead marriage, which is not God’s design for us.