Defeat Lust & Pornography A man looking at a photo of his wife.
Defeat Lust & Pornography 7 minute read

Is It Wrong to Masturbate to Fantasies of My Wife?

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Is masturbating to your wife a sin? What if you masturbate to thoughts of your fiancé or girlfriend? We received this question from someone in our community:

“I have asked several pastors/mentors/friends about masturbation and whether it is sinful or not. I do not watch pornography, however, sometimes when I wake up and have an erection I will begin thinking about my fiancé sexually and masturbate. These fantasies are not ‘out of the ordinary’ in the sense that it is not like the pornography I was formally addicted to. For example, I often just imagine us cuddling and making out and then move on to intimate touching and then penetration. I don’t mean to be crude or anything…I’m just not sure if this is sinful and if it is harming me.

“The responses I get seem to be in both extremes. One guy says to pray and stop because it’s lust, which means sin. The other will say it is a natural reaction to sexual attraction, plus she is going to be your wife. Can anyone offer a biblical response to this that will not just brush it aside like something simple? ‘Just stopping’ hasn’t worked. I can’t make myself not get an erection, so I’m not sure what to do.” – Emanuel

To answer Emanuel, I first want to congratulate him for overcoming his porn addiction. That is no small thing, and it indicates his desire to honor God and his future wife. What I’m about to offer is merely my own opinion, but I hope it serves as a help.

Covenant Eyes exists to help people overcome porn. However, the battle against porn doesn’t start on your computer or smartphone. It begins in the desires of our hearts and the thoughts of our minds. If you struggle with thinking about porn, check out Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Porn.

Nowhere in the Bible is the physical act of masturbation labeled a sin. It is my opinion, therefore, that the physical act itself should not be the focus of our attention when it comes to asking about what God thinks.

That said, here are some critical questions I would ask you regarding your personal habit, whether you are thinking about a random stranger, a girlfriend, fiancé, or wife when you masturbate. At the end, I’ll include some advice too.

1. Are you lusting when you masturbate to your wife?

The Bible clearly teaches that lustful masturbation is sinful (Matthew 5:28). Galatians 5 connects the idea of lust to covetousness—an inordinate desire for something that doesn’t belong to you. You shouldn’t masturbate to thoughts of someone you’re just dating, even if you do intend to marry them later. In your case, you say that it involves fantasies of the person you are planning to marry, but haven’t married yet. Since she doesn’t yet belong to you sexually, that certainly qualifies as lust.

Sex addiction therapist Dr. Doug Weiss offers some considerations, even if you’re already married and thinking about your wife when you masturbate. First, the Bible teaches that when you marry, your sexuality belongs to your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:4). Therefore, you shouldn’t masturbate unless your husband or wife knows what you’re doing and says it’s OK.

For more on this, see Can You Masturbate Without Lusting? This leads to Dr. Weiss’s second consideration.

2. Is your desire to masturbate to thoughts of your wife motivated by fantasy?

Even if your spouse knows and approves, Dr. Weiss warns about masturbating to fantasies of your husband or wife. These can easily become fantasies of an idealized version of your spouse, not the person they actually are. If this is you, then it is wise to avoid masturbation. Your desire for intimacy is meant to propel you toward a loving marital relationship, not a fantasy world where your own pleasure is the focus.

Winston Smith does an excellent job in his little book about masturbation, It’s All About Me. He has readers examine their own sexual fantasies and ask, “How do the people populating my fantasies relate to me? What are their attitudes in my fantasies? How do they behave towards me in my fantasy world?” Much of the time, the fantasies are less about those people and more about the person who is fantasizing. In your sexual fantasies, you tend to take center stage. The plot and characters revolve around you—even if it’s your significant other. It is a world where all the characters are you-centered and play to your desires.

Masturbation Fantasies Are “Playing God”

Smith calls this habit of fantasy “playing god.” “No matter how widely your fantasies may vary,” Smith writes, “in every instance, you play god with people. You reduce those made in the image of the true God to mindless robots who serve your whims.”

Idols are not merely made of wood and stone. The Bible speaks of the “idols of the heart” (Ezekiel 14:1-8). In this case, masturbation becomes the way we eroticize self-idolatry: We are turned on by a fantasy world where we are the center.

3. Does masturbation to your wife condition you to be selfish?

If yes, then it is wise to avoid masturbating because your sexuality was meant to bring you close to another person in love, not close to yourself.

Like it or not, our desires and the activities of our heart reflect the truth about who we really are. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). The real harm masturbation fantasies cause is this: They train the mind to be self-focused, pleasure-seeking, and escapist. This runs contrary to the attitudes of love and service that are modeled for us in the life of Christ (Philippians 2:6-8).

In other words, what makes the fantasies behind masturbation wrong is that they are attitudes that run in the opposite direction of Christlike love—a love that was willing to lose its life for others.

Winston Smith’s comment about this is fitting:

“This isn’t just about kicking a bad habit….God’s love is sacrificial. He puts our needs first even though it costs him a high price. Your basic compass heading for love is to do what is best for others even if it costs you. Your initial sacrifice will be your own comfort and lusts. When you are tempted to escape, look around and notice what others need in that moment and serve them.”

4. Is masturbation to your wife a sin?

If you feel like masturbation is mastering you, then it is wise to avoid masturbation so your freedom does not become slavery (1 Corinthians 6:12). When our desires overcome us, we become slaves to sin (Galatians 5:1).

If, after reading this, you believe masturbation is sinful for you, then please remember that the answer isn’t “pray it away.” Your physical urges are, in a sense, completely natural, but what you do with those urges is another thing altogether. Merely calling sexual arousal “natural” is not a license to lust. That’s like saying our natural drive for self-preservation gives us the license to be greedy, or our natural drive for food gives us the license to be gluttonous. No. Your natural desire for love, intimacy, and sex is built into you by God, but the Maker never designed us to be slaves of our passions, but to be masters of them.

5. What should you do about the desire for masturbation?

If you get an erection (which is as normal as the day is long) then this is not your body’s signal telling you to masturbate. This is your body’s reminder that you are a sexual being, but your appetite for sex needs to be weighed in the balance of God’s design for sex.

This is difficult because you’ve built up a habit that when you become aroused, your brain immediately begins sending signals that it’s time for masturbation. The solution is to replace this habit in an act of surrender to God. Tell yourself and God, “I thank you that you have made me a sexual being, capable of experiencing and giving sexual pleasure. I surrender this desire to you now knowing my sex drive is meant for oneness with another person, not merely self-pleasure and self-centeredness. Instead, I choose not to retreat into the world of fantasy but put my energy to good use.”

If you’re single and struggling with masturbation, see For Singles: How to Handle Strong Sex Drive in a God-Honoring Way.

With each moment of arousal, take it as a new cue to do something productive—pray for someone, call someone, write someone an encouraging e-mail, engage in a project that blesses someone, or get some physical exercise.

Don’t wait to figure out what those things could be until the moment of temptation, but plan your “escape route” beforehand. Know that each time you choose not to masturbate but instead do something loving and good, you are training a new habit.


What do you think? How would you respond to Emanuel’s question?

  1. Me

    I know Paul says it’s better to take a wife than to burn with lust. But what if no woman wants to marry you? Most these guys saying it’s wrong to masturbate have mates. But I’ve been alone for decades. That’s decades with a capital D! When Jesus spoke and said “if you so much as lust for a woman you have committed adultery” he was talking about just that, adultery. In it’s context he was referring to lusting after married woman. I know that when it comes to sexual acts the bible is clear on homosexuality, incest, adultery, but not when it comes to this gray area. I have asked the holy spirit for clarification in this matter and an out or solution. Now, I know, one has to be careful doing this as the answer is also not clear sometimes. But I sensed if you think about someone as your wife in fantasy, then I think God would allow for it as he does divorce in specific cases.

  2. Jeremiah

    This article is great. It puts into words and validates my concerns that I was sinning by masturbation, even though I was doing so by fantasizing to my wife and while looking at pictures of my wife (from whom I am separated because of my addictions of 20+ years of marriage). This is going to be monumentally difficult, because I feel like a crack addict in withdrawal when I don’t masturbate, and from experience it takes a good month before I can go without being preoccupied with masturbation, but I am going to have to find a way. I’m going to start researching articles on this site.

  3. Thomas Weyandt

    This is probably my last post on this topic. Yesterday, after 28 (?) days of no internet porn, I was tempted, gave in and masturbated to porn videos. As I have become used to porn over the years, I have had to use increasingly graphic porn to be able to sustain sexual arousal and masturbate successfully to orgasm. I got there after a couple hours but the moment the orgasm fades I come to terms with what I have done and seek God and ask His forgiveness and then back on the wagon and see how long I will last until the next time.
    Meanwhile, the friendship I thought was repaired has had the bottom ripped out of it. That person told me to never call her again and I have stayed away. This was a friendship that apparently, ended, do to actions of mine. They were not sexual as we did not have a sexual relationship. Just very, very, good friends. This time around God has spared me the pain of the last time. I will wait and see what He intends as I try not to put all my emotional eggs in one basket again. Thanks to all for listening and may God bless your ministry in this area. I should point out that I am Protestant and not Catholic but I don’t see that difference as being important. We all all supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, after all.

    • God bless, Thomas. It is great to hear you had 28 days porn-free. Remember, you aren’t at square 1 again. God did a work in your life those 27 days and He still is doing that work.

  4. Drew

    A word from experience on fantasy and masturbation. I’ve been married for 8 years and am totally in love with my wife, and highly attracted to her. Of course, sex with my wife is preferable because it’s wholly satisfying! BUT, when the occasion calls and I do feel compelled to masturbate, I try to stick to this – instead of fantasizing about other women from the internet or whom I’ve met or wherever, I let myself REMEMBER all the things I’ve done with my wife. I get specific, and detailed, trying to recall every bit of the actual moment. While this is nowhere in the realm of true sex with my wife, I’m morally a little more comfortable with MEMORIES of her rather than imaginations involving other women, virtual or otherwise.

    So…Is this “lust”? I’m not looking to just get by on a technicality (as in “well it doesn’t count if you’re married”), i mean really, would God disapprove of this way i treat my wife? After all, I feel strong sexual feelings and have had problems with porn since I was a kid. (Thankful to God’s grace for every day of purity, all I’ll say for now!) My wife and I believe that God brought us together and blessed our marriage. As the object of my affection, I want her to be the only participant/recipient of my sexuality. Rather than deny myself of fantasy altogether, I include her. Memories are vivid, and afterword I feel closer to her than I would’ve if it were someone else in my thoughts, there’s no element of that “cheating” feeling. I hope that doesn’t sound sick, and again I need to say that this in no way replaces actual sex or relationships!

    I’m just saying if I gotta do it, memories of my wife is the something that doesn’t make me feel any shame. Interested to hear your thoughts!

  5. Thomas Weyandt

    It is regretable that while the Church concerned itself with other matters, the secular professionals stepped in and took up the slack in the mental illness sector. Stigma is the big problem and goes with lack of knowledge. For decades, I looked to see if the Church said anything or published anything on mental illness.
    I found one or two books, everything else I’ve seen doesn’t mention the subject. In the 1800s, it was a Christian PA woman who set out to reform the treatment of the mentally ill. Since that person freed sufferers from being chained, not much has happened on the Church front. Some years ago an article was published in the papers about the graveyards around state mental hospitals. These graves had no name, only a number as the families of these deceased patients were ashamed of them and so the families were spared embarrasement by having a number rather than a name on these gravestones. Where in the hell was the Church? A counseling manual for Christian counselors had nothing on the subject. More silence. Meanwhile the Church is shamed by the dedicated unsaved people doing it’s job for it so the Church doesn’t have to bother with us. Someday, that will change. Perhaps if we get a nationwide revival that has been hoped for and prayed for so many years. America had two Great Awakenings, maybe God will give us a third.
    I have been debating signing up for your service but I have no one who can act as an accountability partner.
    I live by myself and have lost a close friend who decided that they didn’t have time to spend on me. So, I am a great isolation and loneliness. I have my television, Internet, on demand movies/tv programs, books, comics and my thoughts as my companions. I did leave out one though. That is God who is still watching over me and seeing that I get treatment and now at long last, Christian counseling. It’s just the many hours I spend alone and empty inside that get to me. Losing that friend was like driving a bulldozer through my heart but I have learned something from it. Don’t put all your emotional eggs into one basket. As to Linda, try for counseling and I hope it works for you. I still believe God has some plan for me to accomplish something for good. Maybe my job is to be a gadfly and praying that the monolithic Church would concentrate less on obtaining wealth as a salvation benefit and remember that the poor will always be with us. And it is the government that has welfare, SSI, Medicaid and Food Stamp programs. They have many problems but they do provide a safety net for people who have lost work or cannot work. Joni and Friends is a good program that addresses the physically disabled. What we need is a Christian ministry for the mentally disabled. Until then, we have the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill or NAMI, which was founded by two mothers who were dissatisfied with the lack of services for their children. Again, secular people take the lead. Someday, God will come and fix the mess Earth is in. War, violence, evil and sin will end. Until then, it’s our job as Christians to be light and salt on this world.

    • Not surprisingly, this is one of the greatest needs for people who want to use our service. Often people tell us they simply don’t know who to choose to be an accountability partner, and as you know, without solid accountability, a service like ours has no value. Normally I would tell people to get involved in a good church, make good friends, and experience the richness of what Christian fellowship can offer, but I know a lot of people have never gotten involved in a church where they experience that.

  6. Linda B.

    Thank you Luke for your reply. I have been seriously considering counseling again. I went for a short time a couple years ago after having to quit teaching ( teaching was my life – really my special needs kids were) and was diagnosed with Major Depressive disorder and PTSD. I could no longer afford insurance and meds and went into a deep depression. The Lord has been working in me and I am about ready to try again. Not having insurance is a problem though. When you go to a free clinic you don’t get a choice of who they chose to counsel you. I want a Christian counselor. But I know God can put in place the best person available. It’s hard for me to actually get out to go apply. I have the intention but I’ve become such a recluse.
    Thank you for your book suggestion. I will see if I can get it through the library or through the pastor in the living waters program.
    Many blessings and shalom, Linda

    • I wish you all the best, Linda.

  7. Thomas Weyandt

    I apologize for getting off topic in my preceding post but the hurt just flooded out of me. If anyone would like a read further on mental illness, including a case where MH messed up, as it did me, a person’s spiritual life, I would recommend Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals by Dr. Ian Osborn, a former MH sufferer himself. His book also references historical Christian thought on mental illness.

    • Hi Thomas,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are correct that the church, broadly speaking, has handled mental illnesses poorly, and the confusion around it has only increased since the turn of the 20th century.

      I feel, sometimes, the church has a very poor understanding of the human person. We treat everything from the neck down as a physical issue (something a doctor can help with), but everything from the neck up as a spiritual issue (you just need to repent more, renew your mind more, pray more, have more faith, etc.). We don’t tend to see brain problems as medical, and this has harmed our ability to be both compassionate and helpful.

      I am so sorry the church has been unhelpful to you.

      I am also sorry to hear about the sad circumstances of your upbringing. I hope your current counseling and support communities are helping you with that.

      You said, “Someday, there will be no more war, cruelty, sickness or fear.” I long for this hope as well. Until that time, my hope for you (and for everyone who has been burned by the church) will become agents of change within the church. I also pray you can get to the bottom of your anger and mistrust of God and find the path to peace.

  8. Thomas Weyandt

    My life has been screwed up by chronic mental illness caused by brain disorders. If sex is hard for Christians to deal with then mental illness is unmentionable. I crashed in 1973 and continue to have a limited life from it. I have finally been able to live on my own. I live in a one room apartment on the top floor of a public housing project. I lived for 42 years at home, sixteen years in assisted living and finally am on my own at age 59 and have been disabled from mental illness since 1975 with my income coming from SSI and food stamps. But I have my own place and my own life. One of the problems with an illness that affects your viewpoint is that I became obsessed with sin, repentance, extreme view of submission to God that wrecked my life. I am in secular counseling, counseling from local pastors, psych meds, and support people and programs. One told me that in her recent training that stigma against mental illness was still very much alive and well in the Church When first treated, my pastor did not want to visit me in the hospital until forced to do so by my mother. Circumstances forced my mother out of my life from my infancy. Coal mines had closed and mother and later, my uncle had to move away to find work. I was raised by my grandparents. I grew up having to take sides in their daily arguments. Dad hurled invective at Mom and she fought back, something properly submissive Christian women are not supposed to do. Dad knew that if he crossed the line and tried physical abuse like he practiced on his son (story goes than Mom clobbered him one time when he was beating up my uncle with a metal garbage can that knocked some sense into him) he would find himself in a jail cell. Mom’s enormous mental strength let her carry out her promise to outlive him and get his pension,SS and Black Lung checks. She outlived that monster 19 years and was done in by a local government agency that sold her property and stuck her in a home where she died at age 98. When Dad died, I saw that bills were paid and checkbook balanced but I got caught in credit cards that she co signed and when I went bankrupt, she went with me. Had to get a protection order from my abusive younger brother. Aging agency stepped in, threw me out of the house, I landed in assisted living as I was unable to fend for myself. This little apartment has been a long time coming but it has come. Three years after losing my home, Mom died as Aging admitted that it would have been better for her it I had stayed home because of our strong bond and took care of her while they, (Aging) just managed the money. It took years to realize the depths of my selfishness in the matter and repent and obtain forgiveness from God. I have Schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and depersonalization all of which have affected my reason at various times. The Church was rarely there to help. After all, as one pastor stated, there are no mentally ill, just sinners reaping the rewards of their sin. I have had a colossal rage against the Church. A couple years ago, the secular county MH/MR program reached out to area pastors. For a change, they were willing to listen and learn. It is shameful that the pastors didn’t reach out to MH/MR first. Secular people were there but damn few Christians. If Mom, who had to leave school at age 12 could figure out that the brain could be sick(most mental illnesses are brain disorders, PTSD and multiple personality disorders being exceptions) why couldn’t seminary trained ministers fail to figure that out too? I serve on county MH/MR Advisory Board and the local drop in center boards. Our drop in center was founded as a non profit over twenty years ago by a man who was both mentally retarded and mentally ill as a place for social rehab of the mentally ill. We have a place to go to instead of isolating at home looking at four walls, the TV and the computer. That whole experience of my life has been 59 years of Pain. I don’t believe the televangelists but I have finally found a local church where the two women pastors are willing to listen, learn as they give me spiritual counsel. And that is good. God has been kind to me, a person who used to raise his fist at heaven and declare that He would never get me in bondage again. I don’t know how to treat that kind of anger and mistrust that I have against God. As for support groups and ministries, I live in a small rural town in a large rural area and have no way of getting to cities like Altoona or State College (home of Penn State U and the football team that was coached for 60 years by the late Joe Paterno). I do have some friends but am isolating and have to change that. Someday, there will be no more war, cruelty, sickness or fear. Someday.

  9. Wow Really?

    Just stop it!!! Stop stretching bible verses to suit your needs. Matthew 5:28 does not take about masturbation at all. Sex is also a need. I hate to tell you. Are you really so foolish to think biologically you are set up for sex and hormones course through you for no reason at all? If sex was just for “procreation”, a woman would have one egg and a male would only mate once. The most foolish thing bible thumpers do is deny that people like sex and need it to be happy. Christians tend to think all you should do is work and pray. It is crazy. I swear I sometimes believe they are brainwashed. They live in some fantasy dream world. This I think is why people are going away from the churches in mass in America.

    • Does Matthew 5:28 talk about masturbation? No. Nor did I say it talked about masturbation. It talks about lust. That’s what the heading right above this citation says: “Is the act of masturbation tied to sexual lust?” In fact, I prefaced the entire article with this statement: “Nowhere in the Bible is physical act of masturbation (that is, the solo kind) labeled a sin.” I think you’re reading everything here incorrectly.

      Sex is not a need—at least not in the same sense that other needs are needs. Yes, of course it is a need socially: we die out as a species if we don’t do it. It is not a need in the sense you are talking about. I have hormones in my body that make me want to sleep. If I don’t sleep, I can do serious damage to my brain and body. I also have hormones in my body that make me want to have sex, but I will not hurt myself if I don’t have sex.

      That said, of course sex isn’t just for procreation, and the Bible is replete with this: marriage is good, sex is good, sex is pleasurable, and people are right and good to want to have it.

      I don’t know any Christians personally who think all you should do is work and pray. I’m sorry you’ve met such strange people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

Editor's Picks

A young man training for an endurance race.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Running the Race With Endurance

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man with bowed head praying over his Bible.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Killing the Dragon: My Struggle With Sexual Sin

The war that I have been waging against my flesh has been…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

An open drawer with a phone in it.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Making This One Simple Sacrifice Will Help You Eliminate Porn

Sometimes the answers to our questions are simpler than we would like.…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A father teaching the Bible to his teenage son.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

God’s Grace Set Me Free From Pornography

I had never had capabilities on any device (to my knowledge) to…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Reading Romance Novels: Is It Porn?

I encountered an influencer who shared a few verses on what the…

5 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A man praying outside on a park bench.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Pride and Porn: The Risk of Overestimating Your Willpower

These days, we’re often told to believe in ourselves, build our self-esteem,…

4 minute read

Read Post

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

A young man training for an endurance race.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Running the Race With Endurance

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). This passage has been the one I’ve been able to…

4 minute read

0 comments

A young man with bowed head praying over his Bible.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Killing the Dragon: My Struggle With Sexual Sin

The war that I have been waging against my flesh has been…

The war that I have been waging against my flesh has been going on for around six years now. The story of how that war began and how I came to faith in Jesus Christ…

4 minute read

0 comments

An open drawer with a phone in it.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Making This One Simple Sacrifice Will Help You Eliminate Porn

Sometimes the answers to our questions are simpler than we would like.…

Sometimes the answers to our questions are simpler than we would like. When I’m eating ice cream and cake late at night and begin googling “secrets to getting lean and jacked fast,” I’m looking for…

4 minute read

0 comments

A father teaching the Bible to his teenage son.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

God’s Grace Set Me Free From Pornography

I had never had capabilities on any device (to my knowledge) to…

I had never had capabilities on any device (to my knowledge) to look up pornography until I was 16 years old, when my parents, younger brother, and I moved to the Middle East. Because of…

4 minute read

0 comments

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Reading Romance Novels: Is It Porn?

I encountered an influencer who shared a few verses on what the…

I encountered an influencer who shared a few verses on what the Bible tells us we should turn away from. She brought several verses to her followers’ attention, including Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage should be honored…

5 minute read

0 comments

A man praying outside on a park bench.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Pride and Porn: The Risk of Overestimating Your Willpower

These days, we’re often told to believe in ourselves, build our self-esteem,…

These days, we’re often told to believe in ourselves, build our self-esteem, and take pride in our abilities and accomplishments. But this pride might be what undermines our ability to deal with deeply ingrained struggles—like…

4 minute read

0 comments