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Behavior during marriage

Dear Rav,

I am male. I grew up in the US totally secular. I used to masturbate excessively. Even for a non-religious teenager with no sense of guilt, I thought it was unhealthy. This persisted through my adult life. I became Orthodox in my late 20s. I married several years later. I am now almost 50 and live in Israel with 5 wonderful children, B”H. However, I struggle with a problem that I have not seen discussed with regard to this matter. I still succumb to masturbating from time to time. 99% of the time I am thinking about my wife, and 99% of the time it occurs when she is unavailable for extended times (mostly due to niddah, but occasionally when she travels to the US to visit her family). I also used to have this happen (unfortunately) prior to her going for her ritual immersion. I would find out somehow that it was going to be that night (such as seeing her toiletries prepared), and then become extremely anxious about the approaching encounter. Some time ago, I instructed her to be meticulous in not letting me know when she was going to dip. This solved this aspect of the problem completely.

I have tried to become totally rid of this inclination, but it has been difficult. I can’t figure out why this problem occurs. Sometimes, I can go 8 months or more without the urge even entering my head, and only healthy thoughts throughout our times of intimacy as well as separation. Other times, it seems to occur more than once in the same week/month during separation. I don’t view pornography at all. I use the Internet for work, and try to guard my eyes against exposure to the risqué material. Moreover, when it happens that I do succumb to an urge, my wife is the only focus of the act. My wife is meticulous about modesty (probably more than me), so it is not a matter of her dress, appearance, or behavior.

I know that the prohibition against spilling seed does not qualify under what conditions it occurs. So, I am not expecting a heter. However, I have been dealing with this issue for so long that it seems that I have given up on totally eliminating the problem. So, I go with the flow in that if it occurs, I feel contrite, try to do heartfelt teshuvah, and move on with life.

This is the first time I have presented this issue to anyone. Am I becoming complacent about the severity of this prohibition? What can I do that I haven’t tried before? Is the idea of an overcharged libido valid, or can anyone achieve complete abstinence by working on his thoughts, actions, and environment? I feel I am at a crossroads with this matter to get clarity on how to view it. After so many years, and as I approach an older stage of life, I can’t relate to the comments of others who struggle with the same issue due to youthful angst, viewing improper images, or simply consider it healthy behavior. I would rather not have this happen at all. Finally, have you had similar questions posed before? Thank you for considering my issue.


obormottel Wednesday, 06 September 2017

Dear Crossroads,

Excellent question. It seems that overall you are working on yourself and doing well, but you are still struggling with occasional falls.

You should know that there is almost never such a thing as an "overcharged libido" by nature. Rather, our sages tell us: "There is a small limb in a man, the more it is fed, the more hungry it is. And the more we starve it, the more satiated it feels". Often people feed their desires with their wives and through masturbation (a little more than necessary), and this causes a stronger libido, which they think is just how they were born. But when we learn to say "no" to the desire and cut down, we find it gets easier to control overall. Anyone who works on themselves can achieve complete abstinence by working on their thoughts, actions, and environment, as you expressed beautifully.

We have many tools and suggestions on our website, but for your particular case, I think the TaPHSiC method would help you stop the masturbation completely.

  • Read about the TaPHSiC method here.
  • Listen to a 40-minute shiur that explains the TaPHSiC method in detail here.
  • Use this NUSACH when making the vow, to avoid any pitfalls.
Try it, and if it doesn't work for you in a few months, get back to me and we'll explore some other tools and options on our website.