The Single Most Important Secret About Sex that Every Mormon Needs to Learn Now

How’s that for a provocative title? A secret about sex for Mormons. Almost sounds like a headline on one of those trashy women’s magazines that we all have to suffer through at the supermarket checkout. The weird thing about this little tidbit is that it’s only a secret because very few human beings (Latter-day Saints included) want to utter the words. We’re scared. We’re scared of what it means and we’re scared of its implications for us personally. We’re scared that it’s going to require that we make some changes that we’ve tried to make before repeatedly and failed.

The Secret About Sex Is Just Three Small Words

Sometimes things are top secret only because no one talks about them.

Sometimes things are top secret only because no one talks about them.

The secret about sex consists of three small words, only five syllables. In the year 2013, this secret is bold, even revolutionary. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom and current social mores. Make yourself a nice steaming cup of mint tea to help you stay calm, sit down and get ready for a huge shock. Ready? Here it is:

Sex is optional.

OK, pick yourself up off the floor and let’s talk about it. So why is it such a secret? Somehow, somewhere, somebody uttered a lie and humankind seized on the lie as if it came from the mouth of God. The lie smothered the truth because people wanted to believe the lie. The lie was also a mere four words–and only four syllables. A universe, however, gapes between the lie and the truth. The lie is this: Sex is a need.

Now I’m talking about sex as it concerns individuals, not the human race for which sex is a need. The race can only survive if it procreates. But as for you and me and everyone we will ever know: at any given moment, sex is optional.

Difference Between Wants and Needs

To add a little muscle to the statement, I’ll say this: “Sex is optional. I won’t die if I don’t get it.” By the raise of hands, how many of you know of someone who died from not having sex? I note that the room is entirely silent. Not one hand is raised. Nobody knows of anyone who died from not having sex because it has never happened. Sex is not a need.

If something is needful, you will die if you don’t get it. Food is a need. Water is a need. Shelter is a need. I argue that a healthy relationship with God and other human beings is a need. If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, you would die within a few days without water. You would die within a few weeks without food. You would die within a few years without that healthy companionship with God and others human beings. But you would not die on your deserted island without sex.

The Source of the Big Lie

Want to guess who suggested that sex was a need? Hint: Starts with an S and rhymes with Layton (I had to get my Utah reference in there). Why? Because he knew that once something changes from being viewed as optional to being seen as needful, people quickly become willing to cross moral boundaries to get that needful thing.

Would you steal food and water to feed your starving children? I would. Would you break down the door of a cabin in the mountains you didn’t own to save your children from freezing to death in a blizzard? I would. I think everyone would. Morality shifts when it comes to needful things. We do what is necessary to stay alive.

Would you go to any lengths, cross any boundaries, tell any lies–to get sex? I used to be willing to do that. Why? Because I’m a sex addict and addiction tells the addict’s brain that he’ll die without his drug. Almost from the time I was old enough to understand what sex was, my mind told me it was a needful thing. I would die if I didn’t get it. It wasn’t a twenty-four-hour-a-day obsession, but when life got hard or painful, my addicted brain self-medicated and checked out into a fantasy world where I went in search of my drug, lust.

Dying Without Sex…Has Never Happened

Sex and pornography addicts really do believe that they’ll die without sex. If they’re not in recovery, they won’t admit this to anyone else or even to themselves. But deep down in their hearts, a single statement is lavishly embroidered with gold thread in an elaborate tapestry which has been hermetically sealed against the elements and placed in a high-security fire- and water-proof vault. That statement is this: “I will die if I don’t have sex!” For addicts, sex is a needful thing and without the freeing truth that comes in recovery, we continue to believe this lie until the day we do die–but never from lack of sex.

Since we addicts view sex as a needful thing, that view skews our perception of reality. Since we are desperate to stay alive, we are also willing to tell lies. Collectively, we have been telling lies for so many centuries now that the rest of society has come to accept our lies as truth. One of the biggest lies is that “men have needs.” Big, strong, healthy heterosexual men have needs and it is the duty of women (who apparently don’t have the same needs) to service those needs. Really? Big, strong heterosexual men (BSHM) will die if women don’t give them sex?

Now the BSHM would, or course, never actually die if the women let them down. This is because BSHM can always resort to self-sex to keep themselves alive until a woman can be located and compelled to perform her function of keeping men alive. Thank goodness for self-sex or men would have perished a long time ago. After all, sex is a need; men have needs.

I am saddened when I hear of bishops counseling women to “be there to take care of your husband’s needs.” Our bishop told my wife that very thing in 1995. He didn’t know any better, but it nearly drove my poor wife insane when this bishop suggested that my porn consumption had something to do with her failure to give me enough sex. Apparently she wasn’t taking care of my needs. After all, I wouldn’t have been looking at porn and masturbating if she had, right? I had no choice! I had to do it to stay alive. Sex is a need.

Please Educate Yourselves About Addiction!

Fast forward eighteen years to 2013. We received an email last night from a woman whose bishop told her just yesterday that she needed to “be there” to service the needs of her poor porn-addicted husband.

Bishops! Stop! Stop! Stop saying this to women! Stop! No man has ever stopped looking at porn and masturbating just because his wife started having more sex with him! Stop! Stop! Stop! No more! Educate yourselves about the nature of addiction!

There is too much clear information available to you today for you to be saying that kind of thing to women. Do you have any idea how that makes women feel? Do you realize that you are setting them both up for failure? Do you think that in the hereafter, women are going to have to continue “servicing the lustful needs” of their husbands so their husbands don’t get kicked out of the celestial kingdom for engaging telestial behavior?

Stop! Stop! Stop! Educate yourselves! We need more from you, bishops! We rely on you too much for you to be giving this kind of advice in 2013! Read something! Read anything about addiction! Talk to an addict in recovery. Talk to the wife or husband of an addict in recovery! Quit buying into the lie!

I no longer buy into the lie. Neither does my wife. Many of our friends no longer buy into the lie. Most of these friends learned to reject the lie from attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous and S-Anon.

We now embrace that simple but godly truth: Sex is optional. We know we won’t die if we don’t get it. Do you have any idea how much peace and serenity distills on the hearts and minds of those who come to believe that sex is optional? It feels great!

There are some important corollaries to this truth. They are going to anger a lot of LDS porn addicts but they are also going to save a lot of Mormon women from the insanity inflicted on LDS wives of addicts in past generations.

Truths: Sex is optional. If a man is addicted to porn consumption or some other lust-driven behavior, no amount of sex with his wife will ever fix his problem. Never has. Never will. Sex addicts objectify their wives, basically treating them like sex tools to satisfy their lust. Objectification makes women go crazy. It destroys their confidence and self-esteem. It makes them miserable. It wrecks marriages.

It’s OK to Say No

So, if you are the wife of a sex addict, here’s what you now know: You know that engaging in lust-driven sex with your husband won’t stop him from acting out with himself or others. Never has. Never will. In fact, it is making him even sicker in his addiction. More importantly, you know that this lust-driven sex with him is also destroying you. Lust-driven sex is devouring you and him and your marriage.

And now you know secret about sex: that sex is optional. Neither of you will die without it. This means you can and should (!) stop having sex with the sex addict! It’s OK! He won’t die! I promise! If you stop having sex with him, you will stop contributing to the lust obsession that is destroying his health and sanity and you will stop engaging in behavior that wrecks your self-esteem. And no one will die!

Lots of LDS women are now doing this very thing. They are looking their addict husband’s straight in the eye and they are saying, “No more! You will never treat me like a piece of meat ever again! I am taking a stand to protect myself from your sexual train wreck! You have an addiction. Your brain is broken. Only God and a recovery program can fix you–and that will only happen if you become willing to do whatever it takes.

“I Want Lust-Free Intimacy or Nothing at All!”

“I am done with sex with you. It was always lust-driven anyways. I have learned from others who know a lot more about addiction recovery than you or I and they assure me that lust-free intimacy kicks the stuffing out of lust-driven sex. I wouldn’t know. You brought your addiction into our marriage with you. Lust-driven sex is the only kind of sex we’ve ever known. Now I know there’s something way more satisfying–that’s what I want.

“Even though you love me, your addiction to lust has always dominated our sex together and your sex with yourself (or others) when we’re not together. Your addiction to lust has made sex with you impossible for me right now and maybe forever.

“I love you but I will not allow your addiction to destroy me. Get help. The recovering addicts and the spouses of addicts I know have all told me that not one single LDS man has ever overcome addiction on his own. Not a single one! In contrast, a lot of LDS men are finding real recovery with the careful help of other addicts further along in recovery. They all go to a lot of meetings and they work hard at recovery.

“I want that for you and I want that for me. Deep inside we both know recovery is possible. And we both know lust-driven sex isn’t going to get us there. No more!”

This is a scary prospect for a woman who has spent years repeatedly trying and failing to control her husband’s behavior–with sex. Sex (lust, really) was so important to him that it seemed only logical for her to try to get her own “needful things” by alternately giving and withholding sex.

Getting Off the Crazy Train

Gratefully she now knows the secret about sex: that she can get off the crazy train and her husband won’t die. He will likely cry and whine like a baby because addicts are wounded and self-absorbed (and deep down inside believe they’ll die without sex). Hopefully, however, he will begin to associate with other recovering addicts. They will tell him, “Stand up and be a man! We’ll show you how.”

In time, God will change both of them. Christ’s atonement will heal them in the necessary ways. Maybe their marriage will survive. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, Christ will still be there as a balm in Gilead, healing the truly needful things as Heavenly Father sees them. Their desperate and fearful pleas for God’s help and forgiveness will gradually transform to joyful prayers of gratitude for His having helped and forgiven them.

All of this becomes possible when addicts and spouses and priesthood leaders embrace the simple truth that sex is optional.

Image credit: By Tatyana (originally posted to Flickr as Secret Tunnel…) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Comments

The Single Most Important Secret About Sex that Every Mormon Needs to Learn Now — 29 Comments

  1. I have a husband in active recovery now — and one of the big changes I’ve noticed is that he ‘gets’ that sex isn’t a ‘need’. After 8 years of being married to an addict, I will still occasionally backtrack from recovery and say something like, “I’m so sorry we haven’t had sex in a few days, it’s just the kids have been sick and I’ve been so tired, and . . . ” and he’ll stop my list of excuses and say, “It’s fine. Whenever you’re ready. I don’t need sex. STOP worrying about it, we’re fine, I promise. All I need from you is our bond and connection. I need emotional intimacy, not physical — the physical can wait until it’s a better time for you and works for both of us. So STOP stressing about it.” And sometimes, since it’s so ingrained in me that I ‘need’ to be having sex with him every other day or so, and I start to stress about a week long ‘dry spell’, he’ll completely take sex off the table. “You’re worrying about it too much — stop worrying about it — we’re not even going to think about or talk about sex for the rest of the week, it’s off the table, you just worry about [whatever it is that’s been preoccupying me] and we’ll get back to sex when you have less on your plate.”
    Taking sex off the table for the first 12 weeks of his recovery was HUGE for us too — that’s where he really learned he wasn’t going to die without sex, he didn’t really ‘need’ it. And, he was finding as we became emotionally closer, that it was THAT connection, not sex, that was truly healing and bonding and changing us both. He learned that he was happier than he’d been in a long time, even without sex, and it put everything in perspective. Nine months into recovery and our sex life still has some healing to do, but with the proper perspective and place, we’re finding it so much more emotionally fulfilling and mutually beneficial.

  2. You are right. As an addict, I would have hated to hear this. As a recovering addict, I know that it’s true. If my wife leaves town, or if I do, there is no fear now. If my wife were to die, Heaven forbid, for the first time in my life I can imagine being able to live without fear or the need for sex. It’s an awesome feeling to have that level of confidence in my recovery. Great post, Andrew!

  3. Again, Andrew, a spot-on observation. I would add that it could be as well that Bishops themselves have avoided or haven’t dealt with being an addict. White-knuckling over a period of years does not mean you’re beyond the addiction. Basically, I’m saying there are a LOT of ‘addicts’ out there in all kinds of callings (I’ve seen some in places I went as an addict, and they don’t see it as an addiction, but more as ‘a problem’.
    I do remember when my wife of only a few months talked to me about what I would do if I were not able to have sex with her because of a debilitating injury, or other malady. In my confused mind, and being unable to truthfully answer any personal question, I answered, “I’d have to deal with it best I could, but I’d still love you.” What I realize now is that I was in effect saying to her – “ya know what? my need for sex and lust isn’t limited to you, sweetie. I’ll be ok, because I have options. Options that you likely will not uncover.” Wow! what a lie I was telling myself and her.
    I’ve been in real recovery now for almost a year, and it’s been a bumpy road, but I am now at such a place of peace and serenity, that I feel the happiest of happy men (that’s what the “H” in my BSHM stands for…). I, too, am not upset when we don’t, and not ok ONLY because we do. Really, it’s like riding my bike. I love it when I’m doing it, because I love my bike. But my bike sits on a rack most of the time and when I look at it there in my office I think of how I enjoy it, get strong because of it, and with it, we have fun together. Then I turn back to my desk and keep working with a smile on my face. My wife, I see doing the dishes, reading her kindle, talking to my son, whatever, and I say to myself, “I love her. I enjoy her. I’m getting strong because of her and with her.” And I fall to my knees and say my prayer, and get into bed, kiss her and fall to sleep with my arms around her…with a smile on my face. Truth is, I need her, not sex.

  4. I totally agree with this. I have gone years without regular sex with my husband and I’ve been just fine. He has not gone without sex, though I thought he was. But I will say that sometimes being the wife of a porn addict and dealing with the fallout on the sexual relationship makes me sad. My husband responded to his sex addiction and acting out by rejecting me and never wanting sex with me because it was too much work (he always had excuses as well and for some reason I believed him). He’s still not in recovery (though he thinks he has successfully “managed” his addiction by himself). Our sex life is messed up and there is still too much trauma right now for me to be intimate with him, but I am missing that part of our life because it has been missing most of our marriage.

    I so long for true intimacy (including, but in more than just sexual ways). I know I can be happy on my own and find joy in life, but I still have a lot of sadness for the loss of something that I so desperately desire and yet have no control over. I know it is co-dependent of me and I am trying to work through it. But I guess the sadness is real.

    • You’re not alone. I’ve felt those exact feelings! My husband is not in recovery either, and I wonder if he ever will be. But I will share with you something that the Lord (in his tender mercies) shared with me: “In the next life, you WILL be cherished – whether it be by your husband now, or someone else. . . you WILL be cherished.” Such a thought was, for me, bitter-sweet. How I ache for that closeness to be here and now when I’m in such a great need for it, and with the man that I felt so strongly to marry. Yet, what I crave even more – being cherished – has been promised if I can hold out faithful to the end.

      • JL, when I read your post and God’s promise that we will be cherished if we do our part and remained faithful caused me to sob with the presence of the Holy Ghost. From that revelation I know it is true. I know this post is a good 2 years after yours but I have been married for two years and have been struggling with my husband’s last addiction for that amount of time. I so desire the intimacy that a marriage entails, one of love, trust, honesty, care, compassion, understanding, and the list goes on. MM, I too grieve over the relationship I thought I’d have with my husband and will likely never have because 1) he is not Lds and does not share our unique beliefs in the Christian world, and 2) he’s so deeply in defile and would rather sacrifice our marriage than even entertain the idea that he has a list addiction. Well my story has many other assets but ultimately I’m trying to say that I know you’re grief and despair MM. I’m beginning to find understanding and healing in reading Andrew’s posts and many other brave men and women’s posts in response/rrelation to Andrews views. All I can say is keep praying and keep you’re faith that God will help you to know what’s best for you and your life. Thanks again JL and MM for sharing, for everyone who shared their thoughts and expexperiences, and mostly, thank you Andrew for your devotion to the pandemic of last addiction. Andrew, your website had changed everything for me, in the best way I could’ve imagined in my confusion. God bless you.

  5. Wow, Thankyou so much for this post! I’ve felt for a couple years that my answer was to JustStop! And I finally listened a few weeks ago, it is hard going against what everyone has told me (especially my stake pres.) but I have finally found peace. I am especially thankful I came to that choice before reading this post! So it can be an Amen to my testimony, instead of my testimony built solely on your post. Thankyou Thankyou. Thankyou.

  6. Andrew, I love your essay. Thank you. I wish there was a way to educate the leaders of the church. I have been in recovery for about a year now and where possible I try to offer my assistance in helping them to see how their view of addiction is damaging to the wives of addicts like me. I know my wife has heard these words from our own bishop just after my addiction was made know. Bishops and Stake Presidents need to learn to validate the pain the wives feel. They have discovered the ultimate betrayal of their love and trust. And then are traumatized additionally by trusted priesthood leaders.

  7. Again, a very spot on and needed post Andrew. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I do want to add that when the spouse of an addict decides no more sex, they need to be prepared not just for crying and whining from the addict, but anger, increased manipulation, blame, etc. in attempt to get their “drug” of choice. There is an analogy of a pop machine that goes something like this: if an addict has always got a pop when they put in their $1 and then one day they put in their $1 and the pop machine doesn’t vend a pop the addict will probably get very upset. They may put in another $1 and even start shaking the machine because they don’t get what they are used to. I just want wives to be prepared for such a reaction.

    I also wanted to share as the spouse of a recovering addict that even though I never wanted to be objectified, treated as meat, nor thought it was ever ok to be used solely for lust by my husband, it still took the guidance and support from an experienced counselor to convince me that it was actually ok to abstain from sex with my addict husband. It took a counselor’s guidance to convince me that I shouldn’t feel guilty about it and to actually put it into practice. I think after any disclosure from an addict spouse of relapse, slips, or just plain catching them in a lie, the natural response is to be repulsed by the thought of sex for a short period of time. But, that thought often quickly turns into guilt – guilt from myself thinking that I’m not supporting my husband and might “cause” him to act out more by not having sex with him, guilt from my husband saying that physical touch is his “love language” and that he needs that connection, guilt from bishops or other well-meaning yet very misinformed friends thinking that will solve the problem. So even though I had had the thought many times in our marriage (and had abstained for up to several weeks) that in order to detox, maybe my husband shouldn’t be having any sex for quite awhile, I never followed through nor thought it possible because the lie that men NEED sex (well, that we all need sex) always crept back in.

    Finally, with the help of a counselor and the agreement of my husband (who was truly terrified because he really didn’t think it could be done) we chose to take on a celibacy challenge for 3 months. The goal was to learn to connect with each other in ways other than physically. I really didn’t think it would be a hard thing for me because I wasn’t the sex addict and even after ten years of marriage I thought we still connected in many other different ways. In reality it was hard! But, it was such a learning experience for both of us. My husband began to recognize that many of the “nice” things he did around the house to help me were his way of manipulating me to be more willing to have sex with him in the near future. It really made him have to re-evaluate the ways in which he could give and receive love. It made me realize that over the years, sex had become the main if not only way we had been trying to connect. The many things I had done over the years to try to show him I loved him had been so disregarded and unaccepted that I had reverted to the fact that the main way he accepted my love and the main way I could show him I loved him was through sex. That is not a healthy relationship and abstaining for a long period of time has helped both of us on our path to recovery and healing.

    • Wow! You put into words exactly what I felt for years in my first marriage, which was to an addict. Thank you! I don’t feel so crazy anymore.

    • This is exactly my experience. Thank you for sharing yours. My husband is also a recovering porn addict and we are seriously thinking about doing the 90 day celibacy challenge. Well, I like the idea a whole lot more than he does. He seems terrified. He worries that he’ll get too moody and disappoint me, or maybe not be able to do it. I want to do it because I want to know that he loves me regardless of when he gets or wants sex. I want to know that he isn’t always motivated by sex to go on a date, serve me, etc. I want to know that he’s not feeding his addiction by using me. I want him to know that he doesn’t have to have sex once a week in order to be in a good mood. I don’t want to worry or feel guilty about not having sex with him when I don’t want to because I’m worried about the repercussions the next day. If he is okay with me saying “no” one night, I don’t want to feel obligated to say “yes” the next. I’m sick of feeling guilty about sex and feeling manipulated because of it. Can you tell me what your experience was like doing the challenge and if you and your husband felt it was worth it?

      • Hi PAW. A long response to your post: YES, it was definitely worth it and in fact a very needful thing in our recovery process! We both learned a lot about ourselves, our motives, our feelings, and were better able to identify and work on some things that were unhealthy in the way we viewed intimacy. I feel that by taking sex off the table, we were able to work on connecting in all the ways that had been neglected after living with an addict for 10 years. I felt closer to my husband after that period than I had in many many years. It was a very needed time for me to heal and for my husband to “detox” if you will. For him to be completely free of sex of any kind gave him confidence that yes, he could indeed live without sex and that sex was a choice to enhance and enrich our relationship, the icing on the cake if you will instead of the cake itself. In addiction, sex had become a need for him, and he desperately wanted to hold onto it. As I mentioned earlier, it helped him identify how he was still occasionally manipulating me for sex. He was terrified as well, which was an indication in itself that we needed to do the celibacy challenge (I think what you said about your husband being terrified and worried in normal but also shows he is still thinking like an addict). I was able to see how my feeling guilty for not having sex was actually a manifestation codependency, that I had come to believe that even in recovery I was in part responsible for my husbands recovery; that I could somehow help him by having sex so he would be in a better mood, or have less temptation and avoid slips, know I loved him, etc.

        I wanted to add that one of the things that really solidified to me that we needed to have a time of celibacy was after a hypothetical conversation with my husband about what would happen if one or the other got really sick and couldn’t have sex for a long time or ever again. How would it affect our relationship? The honest answer my husband gave was, “I don’t know. I would have a really hard time. I don’t think I could do that. Sex is such an important part of our relationship.” Yikes, that scared me. I couldn’t believe how important sex was to him. It was like he was saying no matter what else I do for him to show love, if that one part was gone then nothing else mattered. I think at that point my husband also realized why he was so scared to do this; he didn’t want fully admit that sex had become his way to cope with life, and as hard as he had worked already in recovery to change that, he truly didn’t know if he was still using me as his crutch. In fact neither of us did.

        Now, before doing this we made a list together of the purposes for doing it and put in up in our bedroom. For example, some purposes we wrote were: to learn self control, to focus on and develop other ways of connecting, to become less selfish, to allow time to heal and provide safety for me, to learn that the value of our relationship is not solely sex and that sex is not the most important thing in life – that we can live a good life without it, to de-tox and give my husband confidence, to make that part of our marriage more sacred. We also wrote down some ground rules such as: no grinding, no physical contact for the purpose of arousal, etc. Our goals during the celibacy period were: to identify and discuss when/if our motives changed from connection and affection to arousal, and to intentionally do one thing to express love for the other person each day and discuss it. Each night we would tell the other what things/s we did to show the other person we loved them. It was interesting because sometimes we would say something that the other person hadn’t noticed or at least wouldn’t have realized had been done for them as an expression of love. We began to better identify the things we did for each other to show love and it enhanced our ability to feel love without sex.

        So what has changed now and since? Well, now when my husband initiates sex, he almost always asks how I feel, if I feel connected, if I’m too tired, etc. I think we are both more aware of our motives and better able to express our thoughts and feelings without drama. If I really don’t feel up to it, I kindly tell him so and he accepts with no moods or distancing himself or pressure or whining. I still occasionally have the guilty feeling or thought of “if I don’t have sex then……” but I am much more quickly able to identify those thoughts as codependent and realize he in is charge of his moods, actions, etc. and I mine. I am better able to focus on questions like “Have we been connecting in other ways lately as well? Is this the icing or the only way we’ve been connecting lately? Do I feel loved and close to him? If the answer to those questions is yes, then being intimate with my husband is much more than just sex, it is intimacy and enhances our relationship.

        I hope that helps.

        • I wanted to add just one more thing. The reason it was hard for me as a wife during the celibacy period is that as my husband and I drew closer by connecting in lots of ways that didn’t involve sex, I began to want sex more. I saw it as a way to show him how much I loved him and appreciated how he was changing! That’s how I realized that I was using sex to show my love and feel that he loved me because he wanted to have sex.

          • We learned much from fasting, didn’t we? You did a great job in answering PAWS… Way to go my friend!!

  8. Andrew, once again an amazing post that we all need to hear! Thank you! As many have stated the “guilt” or fear of contributing further to a spouse’s addiction keeps us from setting boundaries…but as Andrew has stated in other postings, an addict will be an addict regardless of how much sex is provided by the spouse. Andrew, I have read EVERYTHING you have written..you are truly inspired to be sharing this message. Without sharing too much personal info, I am curious how you “finally” realized you were an addict. I would love to read a post about that or if you have already addressed that please direct us to the link!! Thanks again!

  9. I am so new to all of this. My husband is an addict. I threatened to leave a year ago and we went to counseling. The counselor was not a member of the church and she basically told us that masturbation is ok. Is that right? I don’t feel that it is and of course my husband loved hearing that. Then again, she didn’t think he was “addicted to porn” it was just a habit and he needed to stop because of the way it made me feel. Our bishop told me the same thing that he’s not addicted, it’s just a habit. I have been dealing with this since before we were married 9 years ago. I get an intuition to look for it and every time I find some form of porn. I am so sick of it. I don’t know where to turn. I just want a happy marriage. I just want to be happy. I recently started a 12 step program for my own food addiction and I am peeling back the layers of why I eat and working on myself and then this rears its ugly head again. If he doesn’t want help is it ok to leave? I want to keep an eternal perspective about it. I heard something from a fireside last night that really made me think. It was from the video Stand In Holy Places and there was a young man on there that said something along the lines that everything in life happens for your good. I have really been thinking about that. What am I learning from all of this and how much can I take?

    • Addiction
      noun
      the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

      Dear C
      I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with coming to terms with what is or is not an addiction. It sounds like you have tried to find help and healing and have been unsuccessful. I am an addict and have been for over 30 years. I have been in recovery for 2 years. I can tell you from experience that when you are in the grips of lust, you get funnel vision. Not tunnel but funnel. You seek the adrenaline rush of porn until it is physically manifested in sexually acting out. Everything else is secondary to that drive. Your councilor just help you husband to justify and rationalize his lust and sexually acting out. Which is damaging to you and makes it feel like you are the crazy one.

      I don’t believe your councillor is a specialist in sexual addiction. You will find most bishops are not trained in how to handle this either. This just adds to the crazy making and intesifying of the trauma you have experienced. My best advice to you is educate yourself. The links Andrew has on this sight offer a treasure trove of knowledge about addiction, recover, and help for spouses who struggle with their husband’s addiction and also codependancy. The http://www.salifeline.org is a great resource. Also look for a councilor that specializes in this addiction. Lifestar has councilors all over the country and they are listed on their website.

      Even if your husband does not choose recovery you need to get help for yourself.

      I hope you find the answers you seek.

  10. I’m new to the site and I find many of the things I find here to be harmful generalizations.

    I will absolutely buy the claim that getting regular sex from your spouse won’t cure an addicted soul. Absolutely. I do believe that many men start on this path due to sexual apathy in the marriage, but that’s another topic. But to take the above fact and convert it into a blanket recommendation to cut off sex is a dangerous and foolish.

    Yes, there are circumstances where it’s the right and helpful thing to do, and if the wife feels used then she does need to step back, but the idea that a porn user’s desire to have any sex with his wife is always lust-driven is false, and drawing this caricature of reality for the sisters here is dangerous. Another piece of your caricature is claiming that men think that they’ll die without sex. That’s nonsense. I’ve struggled with addiction for years and the thought has never entered my mind.

    I do, however, believe that a good sex life is a need for a vibrant marriage. A little animalistic attraction between spouses can be a pretty good thing. Now when a man has tainted the waters with porn, it’s on him if his wife is left wondering where his head is. But I think you really get off track by loudly proclaiming that if he’s viewing porn in his life, he’s just out to use his wife any time he seeks a sexual connection. That’s completely false and damaging. It *could* be true, as some wives will attest, but to teach that it’s always true does nothing but drive a wedge further between husband and wife. That’s not the path to healing, either.

    • You repeatedly use words like “harmful” and “dangerous.” I don’t think a decision to stop having sex for a time is ever harmful or dangerous–especially when one of the partners has been binging on porn and self-sex. To the contrary, it may be the only safe thing for both of them to do. Thinking that a couple has to keep having sex no matter what is harmful and dangerous.

      I don’t think what we talk about on this website is harmful or dangerous at all. We’re talking about how to regain one’s sanity when someone’s sexual behavior has wrecked that sanity. I encourage you to keep reading.

      “Foolish”? No way. Not here. Foolish is people who try to minimize the disastrous effect of porn on individuals, families and marriages. We don’t believe in minimizing.

    • I have found “A little animalistic attraction” to never be a good thing in my marriage. It took a long time to reach that conclusion, but I am certain that it is the right one. The gospel does not teach us to control lust. It does teach us to control our passions, but there is a critical difference that must be understood if we are to achieve true intimacy in marriage. My goal is to anihilate lust in all of its’ forms. With that frame of mind, I do not fear abstinence; the love that I have for my wife will remain, with or without sex.

  11. I’m sorry, but I completely disagree. Sex is hard wired into our brains so much, that repressing our sexuality causes it’s own problems. My first marriage completely failed because of my wife’s extreme sexual repression because of the church.

    The problem with pedophilia in the Catholic church is caused by the sexual repression that priests experience when they are told that they shouldn’t have ANY sexual relations with anyone. The brain starts to obsess on sex, even if it isn’t something that shows outwardly. The pressure builds up until all but the very strongest and most disciplined crack under the strain, and now we have an entire church who’s extreme sexual repression has led to at least 10% (and counting) of all Catholic priests being pedophiles.

    Sexual repression is serious business, and trying to just ignore the body’s needs is a sure fire way to psychological dysfunction. At best this is uneducated and bad advice, and at worst you are setting people up for extreme psychological issues by not addressing needs properly.

    90% of all males masturbate. It provides a way to clean up the pipes and get rid of old non-viable sperm so your body can make newer fresh sperm. Masturbation has been shown to help fertility. The need (and yes, I use that word on purpose) to follow our programming is so strong that almost no one refrains, not even in the church. If masturbation really is so bad, then I guess that 90% of all men in the church will be going to hell, because it is going on far more than people realize. Deal with sexual issues, don’t just ignore them or try to pretend you don’t need sex. This article is like telling fat people that they need to stop eating so much. It might work for some people, but it’s going to contribute to anorexia and bulimia if not handled properly. In the same light, not dealing with sexuality properly leads to repression and more problems. If you don’t believe me, spend a little time researching psychological studies on sexual repression, and if you want to really get into it, find the ones that specifically target religion and show the harm done by religious sexual repression. Educate yourself so you aren’t suggesting courses of action that will harm others.

    • Ouch, my friend, those are some fiery darts. I’ll make you a deal: I’ll educate myself some more about sexual repression and you educate yourself some more about sexual addiction and maybe we can meet back here in a couple months and have a meaningful conversation.

      In the meantime, I’ll tell you what I’ve told many others: This website is not for everyone. It is for people whose sexual behavior is out of control and is leading to chaos and insanity. It’s also for their spouses and priesthood leaders. If you just have a little “periodic masturbation problem” that doesn’t really bug you too much, then move on!

      If, on the other hand, your sexual behavior is progressively escalating to more and more shocking and dangerous behavior that is destroying your sanity and your wife’s, too, then we’ve got some things to talk about. And to be clear, it’s not about repressing sexual urges.

      So you’re saying that masturbation is a need and that I’ll be unhealthy if I don’t engage in it–because my only other option is sexual repression? Are you serious? Those are my only two options? Masturbation or sexual repression? That’s it? That’s how God made me? To masturbate or to bury and ignore the “flames of lust”?

      Matt, I’d like to introduce you to the Third Option: Arrive at a real understanding of lust and how it affects my life, thoughts and behavior, and then–with God’s help and the help of a therapist and a bunch of guys at Sexaholics Anonymous–eliminate lust and my obsession with it from my life. Guess what? Happy life, happy wife, no more masturbation, no more porn, no more guilt, the return of feelings of integrity, able to look people straight in the eye, able to connect in healthy ways with the people around. And that’s not sexual repression, my friend. That’s what happens when a son of God removes an obsession with lust from his life.

      I don’t want what you’re pitching, Matt. I don’t want a life of masturbation. It never ever made me happy. Ever. I don’t want to have to do mental gymnastics to justify my past fantasies and masturbation whenever I read Christ’s admonition about lust in the heart equating with adultery. He said it. That ends the debate for me.

      Matt, I’m addicted to lust. For years, my behavior spiraled downward into darker and more dangerous depths. I nearly died as a result of my compulsions and obsessions. Then one day, another LDS man said, “Andrew, your brain is broken. You’re addicted to sex and you can’t get over it on your own. It can’t be done so quit trying!” He was speaking from experience, one addict sharing with another about his experience, strength and hope. He introduced me to Sexaholics Anonymous and he saved my life. I am happy now. No sexual repression here! Just a guy who has learned to eliminate lust from his life.

      The life of masturbation that you want me to accept and embrace, Matt, will amount to a death sentence for me. Like the alcoholic, one drink is too many and ten thousand isn’t enough. I don’t want to die. Instead I prefer to live a life of serenity, integrity and connection with Heavenly Father and people around me. I prefer to live a life of meaning. Masturbation does not provide me with meaning, just more insatiable lust.

      Like I said, Matt, I don’t want what you seem to have. If someone is struggling like I was and losing the battle to compulsive sexual behavior as his life spirals out of control, I pray to God that he runs into me before he runs into you. I have something to offer him–and it ain’t masturbation. You might do well to listen to your own advice: “Educate yourself so you aren’t suggesting courses of action that will harm others.”

  12. Pingback: For Mormons, Are Our Only Options Masturbation or Sexual Repression?

  13. Andrew,
    Thank you for this website and your posts. They are truely wonderful to read and full of hope and hard truths.

    When talking with my husband last night about taking a break from sex he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. We started talking about our lustful sex life and things that should probably change but we also both admitted that we didn’t want it to change. I realized then that I was addicted to the lustful sex. I thought of myself as an object and I thought of him as a way to satisfy my ‘needs’. The more we talked the more frustrated I became and the more I wanted to have sex right then and there.
    Wow…I use sex to self medicate when things get hard between my husband and I. I like the lustful sex, I think it’s very ‘needed.’ So I’m sitting here terrified that I’m looking myself in the face. I want real sex without the lust but then again I don’t. I want my drug. The thing I’m confused on is that I honestly never seek lust in any other form, no other male’s, internet, tv, books…you get the point. I truely just want to feel ‘loved’ (aka lusted after) and that makes me feel better.

    So here I am. Trying to be honest, not liking what I’m seeing, confused as heck and not sure what to do about it. Do I belong with S-Anon because of my husband’s addiction? Do I go to SA because I have an addiction to lustful sex? I know I’m not going to die without sex and I can go a long time without and even in times a great stress I won’t desire sex.

    I’m not sure what to think. Am I the only woman in this boat? I’ve always thought that sex was suppose to be a lust driven, mind blowing expereince and I’ve tried to live up to that for my husbands sake intially but now it’s for my sake.

    What a hard to thing to look at honestly. It gave me another glimse into what my husband is dealing with. I still don’t think it’s the same thing but then again maybe I’m exaggrating or trying to not want it to be that bad. I don’t lie, I don’t hide anything from him, and I know that if I couldn’t have sex the rest of my life I’m ok with that, I just prefer it. It’s like chocolate; I can live without chocolate but I sure wouldn’t want to if I didn’t have too.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think that more people who are dealing with compulsive sexual behavior in their marriage would do well to take a step away from sex–not permanently, but just for a while. Too many people assume that the way you fix a porn problem is by just refocusing on sex with the spouse.

      But if the problem is really an addiction to lust, switching to lust-driven sex with the spouse won’t solve the problem–it will make it worse. Kind of like the alcoholic switching from whiskey to vodka and then patting himself on the back from being so darn smart. Speaking from experience here.

      Taking a break from sex allows the couple to assess the lust factor in their marriage and perhaps see the need for some help (support groups and counseling). I think you’re thinking about some important things that can help your marriage.

      Also, you might want to read my three part post, “The Flip Side of Lust.” You hit on several of the issues I talk about there.

      I wish you all the best.

  14. BRAVO!!!
    Unfortunately, after giving my H a second chance, I have filed for divorce. He won’t accept help. He thinks he can do it with out the help of the “arm of flesh”
    So I can’t and won’t live with someone who doesn’t value me and throws my virtue to the wind. I demand loyalty and honesty!!
    I hope he gets his crap together for his own salvation.
    This article was spot on…Thank you!