What do men do to tide themselves over sexually?

"I've known my husband for 30 years and we've been married for 20. He is an absolutely wonderful man who's gentle and kind and would do anything for me. We started having sex at 17 and we've been through a lot together (including two kids), but there were times when sex just didn't happen in our house. Between the kids, stress and travel, it just didn't happen. Anyway, we've really been making up for lost time lately, but I'm still curious about how he handled that time. I trust my husband with my life, but I wonder, what did he during these periods when we had no sex? I don't want to accuse him of anything, so that's why I'm not asking him directly. I'm mostly just curious. He doesn't seem like a man who would pick up a porn magazine or keep anther woman on the side, so are there men who can actually do without?" --iVillager daisee123


Michael Ra Bouchard, MA, PhD

Dr. Bouchard is a board-certified clinical sexologist with a PhD in human sexuality. He lives in Hawaii, where he founded the Aloha Sexual... Read more

Dear daisee123,

Let me begin by congratulating you on your good fortune to have such a wonderful husband; my sense is that most likely he'd say the same thing about his wife. From what you say here, it sounds as if your marriage has had its share of stressors and consequent sexual doldrums -- which is typical of most marriages. Life has a way of throwing us all curveballs, so there are naturally times when sex has to take a back seat. While this kind of phase can sometimes be an indicator of deeper emotional and intimacy challenges, it's often just a matter of finding the energy and opportunity.

When it comes to men and porn (and what your husband may have done to get through those dry periods) though, let me just say this. Yes, there are indeed many men -- and women for that matter-- who survive the inevitable sexual dry spells without significant discomfort or unease. However, many men enjoy viewing sexually explicit materials in order to get them through these sexual doldrums. Of course, if a guy looks at porn, it's not necessarily a sign that there is trouble or dissatisfaction in his sex life, though. Think of it this way. When people watch sports, they are satisfying certain needs in a vicarious way without actually directly participating in them. Some men use porn to bring themselves pleasure and a (sometimes much-needed) release from sexual frustration. Additionally, sexually explicit materials may also help satisfy a man or woman's desire for sexual variety in a self-managing and safe manner. From my professional perspective, such behavior is a definite win-win-win for the man, the woman and their relationship.

There is really no way to know exactly what your husband did during this period of your marriage, though. That is, unless you're willing to take a deep breath and ask him yourself. After all, just because you're asking doesn't mean you disprove of it or distrust him. It only proves that you're curious. It's safe to assume that there were times when he likely took solace (and more) into his own hands, just as you may have done over the years. And rightly so. Contrary to many people's perceptions, many men and women continue to pleasure themselves throughout their lives and relationships regardless of the sexual happiness and fulfillment that they receive from partner sex. It's one of life's simple pleasures, and one of the few where the only focus is entirely on our OWN excitement and satisfaction. Rather than being viewed as a detriment to partner sex, self-pleasuring can actually enhance our ability to appreciate and enjoy shared sexuality with our mate.

Your marriage now appears to be entering a renaissance, both sexually and emotionally, and I encourage you both to open yourselves up even more. Start by engaging in an honest and candid dialogue about what you really love and appreciate about each other, both in and out of the bedroom. Take this opportunity to explore new romantic and sensual opportunities and build your sexual repertoire. By doing this together, you'll be co-designing an even more loving, exciting, and sexually satisfying love life -- perhaps way beyond your wildest dreams. Why not?

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