6 minute read

Should Married Couples Fast from Sex During Porn-Detox?

Last Updated: September 13, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

90 days of no sex. This is what several porn addiction counselors prescribe for addicts and their spouses during the initial months of recovery. Why is this? Is this really necessary?

Dr. Mark Laaser, a nationally recognized author in the field of sex addiction, requires his patients to sign a 90-day abstinence contract: no masturbation, no porn, not even sex with your spouse. Sam Black, in his book The Porn Circuit, explains Dr. Laaser’s rationale:

First of all, he says, a person needs to learn that they won’t die without sex, especially for 90 days. But more importantly, the person struggling with pornography or sex addiction needs to work proactively about learning true intimacy.

“The abstinence contract on the front end is entirely about neurochemical detox,” Laaser says. “It’s resetting the brain in terms of sexual expectations.”

Dr. Laaser isn’t alone in the 90-day abstinence concept. Dr. Patrick Carnes, founder of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, himself a 30-year veteran in the field of addiction therapy, also requires this of his patients.

The Rationale Behind “90 Days”

From a clinical perspective, a porn addict is hooked on the neurochemicals released in his or her brain during a sexual encounter. This powerful neuro-cocktail of dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, and serotonin is responsible for the physical aspects of porn addiction (including withdrawal symptoms). These neurotransmitters and hormones are part of the “reward circuit” in the brain.

Some addiction therapists believe the only way to deactivate the reward system of the brain is to stop the reinforcing behavior—i.e. letting these neuro-circuits rest.

The concept of “90 days” is taken from substance abuse research which has demonstrated that it takes about three months for neurochemistry to reset to normal levels once the substance use has ended. 

Other counselors are far more flexible on the time frame, suggesting 30 or 40 days instead.

The Biblical Rationale: Fasting From Sex

There were some in the early church who thought sex was beneath the ideal Christian life. Sex was a base act of the body. These Christians wrote to Paul saying, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman”—not even his own wife (1 Corinthians 7:1).

Hear Paul’s response:

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:2-4)

Paul’s position was radical. In the Greco-Roman world of his day, marriage was often a mere social arrangement. But here, Paul talks about a mutual sexual responsibility and blessing. Moreover, in that day, men of status were masters of their wives. For Paul to say that a woman has conjugal rights and that she has authority over her husband’s body would have been unheard of.

But then Paul adds this addendum:

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Paul here implies that sex in marriage should be frequent. In fact, he says to deny sex to one’s spouse is to “deprive” him or her—this same word is translated “defraud” one chapter earlier (6:8). Sex helps to guard against sexual immorality and a lack of self-control. But he does make the provision that a couple can make a mutual agreement to abstain from sex for a “limited time” for the purpose of being devoted to prayer.

Paul is describing a type of fasting. Just as fasting from food was an acceptable way to devote to prayer for a season, fasting from sex was also a custom in Paul’s day.

Caveats and Conditions

While Paul endorses the idea that sexual fasting can be an appropriate way for a couple to devote themselves to prayer, the following caveats should be noted…

  • Sexual fasting is not required. Nothing in Paul’s tone should lead the reader to think most or all married couples should engage in sexual fasting. Paul is wary of Satan’s ability to tempt and sees frequent sex in marriage as a good safeguard.
  • Sexual fasting should only be done by mutual consent. The man or woman in porn-detox may not simply declare a sexual fast. It must be discussed and agreed upon. Christian counselors, even if they encourage a sexual fast, should not require it if the spouse is not agreeable to it.
  • Routine sexual abstinence in marriage is not just unwise but is clearly immoral in Paul’s eyes. My marriage bond means my body is no longer my own, and to deny my wife sex is to defraud her. Fasting from sex might be appropriate on occasion, but should never become the norm.
  • Fasting from sex should be for “a limited time,” or literally, a fixed period of time. Fasting from sex indefinitely was not prescribed here. A set time should be agreed upon.
  • Fasting from sex should end with sexual enjoyment. Paul tells couples to come back together again when the agreed upon time is over.

Dethroning the Idol of Sex

Every case of porn addiction is difference among men and women. In each instance, counselors should meet people where they are. This means not every couple should fast from sex.

For many Christian counselors, this abstinence period is recommended as a time to intentionally de-throne the idol of sexual gratification. For many porn addicts, sex is life to them. Intimacy is about sex and nothing else.

A sexual fast disciplines the man or woman obsessed with sex to remember that sex is not a need. It may feel like a need, but it is not. A sexual fast can also be helpful for the man or woman who finds it impossible have sex without pornographic fantasies dominating his or her mind.

A sexual fast also reinforces an important truth for the spouse: she or he is not to blame for the partner’s addiction. It is easy for a spouse to feel like if they were more sexually available, prettier, or thinner, the partner wouldn’t need porn. A sexual fast reminds the couple: porn was never a need to begin with. The spouse can rest knowing there is no pressure to sexually perform to make recovery a success.

During a sexual fast, the couple is encouraged to practice and develop the habits of non-sexual intimacy. For many addicts, their porn-saturated minds are numb to everyday pleasures and joys. They have lost the ability to simply enjoy spending time with their spouses—talking together, taking walks together, cooking together, praying together. Sam Black writes,

For someone with an obsessive porn habit or an addiction, the focus has been on personal and immediate gratification. The people in porn are used; the porn user gives nothing. Especially for men, porn equates to selfishness that typically extends to their marital life. This even includes the overemphasis men can have of their sexual performance, pride or fear about their prowess, and where sexual performance is equated to their manliness. (The Porn Circuit, 33)

Porn trains us to treat sex as something that should be devoured. A sexual fast retrains the mind to understand that sex is better when it is savored.

Can You Really Go 90 Days?

Before Christian men and women are married, they go years—even decades—without sex. Going without sex for 90 days is more than possible.

However, for a married couple, the situation is somewhat different. Sex unites men and women in a profound way: the Bible calls it being made “one flesh.” There is an intimate bond established, and God beckons married men and women to reforge that bond through frequent sex.

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)

This is why sexual fasting in marriage—in the sparing instances when it is done—should never be done with a grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it mentality. The goal of a sexual fast is drawing closer to God and one another, with the ultimate goal of more intimate sex when the fast is over.

Sam Black writes,

“Couples often are making that classic mistake of all addicts: that sex is equal to love or sex is equal to intimacy,” Dr. Laaser says. “During the 90 days, we’re trying to teach the couple to have intimacy in spiritual and emotional ways first and then eventually sexuality becomes an expression of that intimacy.”

What does intimacy look like? There is no formula for intimacy; it’s unique to each couple but it has a lot to do with giving and sharing. Consider reading, praying, cooking, and taking walks together. Many couples have forgotten how to play and have fun together. Couples need to explore non-sexual means to express intimacy, and after the 90-day break, they will find this discovered intimacy will make their sex life even stronger and more fulfilling, Laaser says. (The Porn Circuit, 33-34)

So if you choose to sexually fast, whether you choose to go a week, a month, 40 days, or 90 days, do it with the right biblical attitude.

Photo credit: quinnanya
  • Comments on: Should Married Couples Fast from Sex During Porn-Detox?
    1. Stuart Tutt on

      This makes perfect sense Luke. And completely Biblical as long as the period is not too long.

      Reply
    2. Paige on

      What about couple who already has a partner who is sexually anorexic?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I think these things need to be handled on a case-by-case basis. While sexually fasting for some could be beneficial, for others it may not be.

        In the case of sexual anorexia, there should be exploration into why this is going on. Sexual anorexia is not just an aversion to sex, but a strong negative reaction to all things sexual (thoughts, imagery, activities, etc.). Since sex is God-given, pleasurable, and a bonding experience, for a person to be sexually anorexic indicates something abnormal. A skilled counselor should be able to help with this.

        Some sexual anorexics used to be addicts, but in their reaction to their former addiction, they now manifest a fanatical avoidance of sex.

        As for sexually fasting, this might not be the best thing for the anorexic person, but neither would “prescribing” sexual experiences. Instead, a couple needs to work on taking small steps toward intimacy and learning to integrate sexuality into that intimate experience.

        It really will depend on the situation.

    3. Jennifer on

      We’re about to have to sexually fast after the birth of our first child, when sex is medically dangerous for 4-6 weeks. I’m a bit nervous that it’ll make sexual sobriety more difficult for my husband, so prayers would be appreciated. I really don’t want to get back into a one-sided sex life tho (we did that for a while to try “manage” his addiction), so I hope we can both abstain during our first month or so with our new child.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Jennifer. First of all, blessings on the birth of your new baby! My hope for you is that you can enjoy the first few weeks of motherhood without worrying about your husband’s issues too much. I’m a counselor and familiar with addiction, so let me just say that if your husband’s sexual sobriety is dependent on your providing sex to him, then he’s not really sober, and you’re into a pretty codependent pattern with his addiction. Maybe that sounds harsh, but if he–or you–is willing to put your health at risk because he can’t control his sexual urges, then there’s a big problem that’s just being covered by your providing lots of sex to him normally. This enforced “sex fast” is a rare opportunity for him to deal with himself as he should, to take responsibility for himself, and to treat you and himself with respect. It may bring up some problems for him, and if that happens, it’s a chance for you to practice good boundaries with him. I don’t know if you’ve read our free download, Hope After Porn? It’s different women talking about how they handled the boundaries in their marriages during recovery. Also, there’s a brand-new book out this week by Jen and Craig Ferguson, called Pure Eyes, Clean Heart that has an even more extensive story about addiction, boundaries, and recovery. Check into those resources, and let me know what you think. Blessings, Kay

      • Jason on

        If you have a porn addiction normally your not having sex anyways. Even without porn, most marriages I know have sex more than once or twice every 90 days in the first place.

    4. lovely light on

      I appreciated this article but one paragraph almost had me turn around and run to search for another article elsewhere. “Sex helps to guard against sexual immorality and a lack of self-control.” This has got to be one of the biggest lies that we are sold. My husband is in recovery from porn addiction. Bishops from our church continually told him “when you get married, all your sexual energy will have a healthy channel and porn and masturbation will become a thing of the past.” The problem with that is that it completely negates the fact that oorn and masturbation are addictions, and that viewing lots of porn and masturbating causes (as you later state) men to feel entitled. Sex does not help anyone have self control. Self control comes from a disciplined practice. Sex does not help people to avoid immorality. A dedication to recovery and humility before the Lord and the Atonement are what helps people avoid immorality. Sexbis not to be used for anything but one form of connection with another, and when desired, having children with that person. If my husband had read this article when he FIRST began the road to recovery he would have use this very section to show me that I was not allowed to deny him sex. As a matter of fact, I asked my husband to move out for 5 months because ofnhis repetitive lies and lack of dedication to recovery and during that time I DECLARED that there would be no ohysical intimacy and I know from my Heavenly Father, without a doubt, that it was the right choice. But I will guarantee you it was not mutual. I will also tell you that until that time, I had been sexually abused, misused, even raped by my husband but always thought it was what I was supposed to do because “you don’t deny your spouse”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When I alowed him to treat me this way, not only was it extremely painful and detrimental to me, it was NOT Heavenly Fathers will for me and as a result the Spirit was not close to ME either. I did what media and society taught me to do thinking it was what God wanted me to do.
      A sex fast does not need to be mutual. A souse can say no to sexual suggestions whenever and however often they need to. And during marital recovery from the devastating blow of porn addiction, the wife needs to learn to say “no” and say it a lot. Its so inportant for her to gain her sexuality back, get in tune with herself, and begin to navigate what feels right to her and what feels wrong. Most if us have stiffled our sensitivity to the Spirit in the name of “love” and lost the ability to recognize its subtle influence because of al the mixed messages about what a wife “should” be doing. People should only have sex because they both mutually want to connect with each other in this way. That’s all.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Lovely Light,

        Thanks for the comment, and I understand your concern. My statement about sex helping to guard against sexual immorality and a lack of self-control is really nothing more than a summary of statements Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 7:2, 5: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband…Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” I did not say sex helps a person to have self-control, which is a fruit of one’s character and habits (empowered by God), not a function of having frequent sex. In fact, the verse I quoted in my article states the exact opposite: it is because of a lack of self-control that sex in marriage is beneficial—at least one of its benefits.

        Speaking more to your situation, there is a big difference between a sexual fast as Paul mentions and a spouse refusing to have sex because of a lack of trust in their partner’s character. The second scenario is simply not in the scope of this post. They are two very different things and are motivated by very different reasons. Paul’s comments about not defrauding one another by denying sex was spoken to a faction of people in a congregation that were denying their partners sex on the principle of sex being evil or, at the very least, below the best standard of life. Paul is correcting this notion by talking about the importance of sex in marriage. Then he makes an allowance for sexual fasting with his strong caveats.

        As for the situation where a wife refuses to have physical intimacy because her husband is addicted to porn and has acted untrustworthy in his behavior, that is a different scenario. In that instance, the person isn’t denying the value of sex but is rather saying that sex is so good and so intimate, they refuse to cheapen the experience by sleeping with someone who has shattered their trust and their confidence in them as a person. We have several articles on boundaries in marriage that deal with this scenario.

        So, in summary, sexual fasting is meant to be mutual, but a sexual boundary put in place because of shattered trust is not sexual fasting. Hope that clears it up. That would be like comparing the man who is fasting from food in order to pray more and a man who has no money to buy food so he doesn’t eat. In both cases a lack of food is involved, but it is happening for very different reasons.

      • Kay Bruner on

        Thanks so much for your comments. I think you’re absolutely right, and often the traditional stance of “mutuality” does not take into account abusive situations–which I think are on the rise with pornography addiction. As a therapist, I would give a standing ovation to a client who had the kind of boundaries you’re describing here. I’m so, so glad you’ve found your way out of those poisonous lies that somehow required you to be abused within your marriage. Thanks for speaking up with this perspective. Blessings, Kay

      • Carolyn on

        Dear Lovely Light,
        I agree with everything you say, but there is one distinction that I think should be considered. I feel that in a normal, respectful, healthy marriage, a sex fast is ideally by mutual consent, and I think that is what the Bible verse means. Even if one spouse disagrees in a healthy marriage, they would respond with respect, love and seeking to understand the other spouse’s needs. They would be anxious and willing to work out any issues so their spouse can feel responded to and loved.
        In the case of sexual betrayal, and porn IS sexual betrayal, a sex fast does not need to be mutual. The wounded spouse may feel so angry and hurt that they are justified in not being intimate until they see the offender is remorseful and working towards recovery. The Bible also authorizes a betrayed spouse to divorce and remarry in the case of sexual betrayal. I think porn addiction qualifies as adultery, especially when the addict refuses to change or lies.
        Sexual intimacy should come only after emotional and spiritual connection is felt by both partners. God designed marriage as a training ground to experience the oneness of God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit, in our most intimate relationship.

      • Lynn on

        Amen, sister. That is exactly what I went through, and also the boundary I had to set in my own marriage. I needed a time of physical separation to work on my own healing from betrayal trauma. I slept in a different room for a few months. It was God who helped me come to that decision after months and months of wrestling in prayer.
        I was reluctant to begin setting any boundary, by then believing I had no rights. It gave us time to feel our own selves and devote to prayerful connection in seeking out God’s Will.

        No book written over 2000 years ago can substitute the divine
        connection we each have to God within. Paul did not live with Jesus as the other disciples did. Although I do love Paul’s inspirations, his making marriage about giving up our need for individual abstinence should be respected, if indeed his teaching is to be fully understood: a man and a woman’s sexual expression must be mutually entered into, not contracted. Any Godly marriage would respect that in my experience.

        My marriage has grown so much closer as a result of a period of abstinence during early recovery; ours was on and off for nearly a year (when my husband then truly sought recovery for himself.)

        I am so grateful to Covenant Eyes for the accountability program and articles such as this.

    5. Joy on

      Do “makeout sessions” while resisting orgasm allow neuro circuits to rest properly? I would think not, but need a little help on this. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hey Joy,

        In some circles this is called “edging”: engaging in activities that build arousal but don’t lead to orgasm. While there have been no formal studies done on this topic, the general consensus among those trying to rewire their brains is “no.”

        The spirit of sexual fasting is giving up something good for a short time for the sake of gaining something better. If a couple really believes sexual fasting is the right course, it should be done in the spirit of what fasting really means, and being “sexual” while not orgasming is still being sexual. One could potentially go really far with making out without orgasming.

        That said, I personally know a lot of couples who have not done a sexual fast and the recovery process has not been hindered.

    6. Ree on

      This is so helpful, my husband just the other day came clean to me about his addiction. we have been married almost three years and it just about broke me. Both the feeling of being cheated on and the countless lies. He really feels that seeing me in so much pain and confessing is a huge turning point and really desires to change. I know he is telling the truth about his desire and we have now put a lot of rules in place. We talked about doing a sexual fast and this article has been so insightful. I really like how you touched on both the fact that it is good to re wire the brain but also re wire the relationship and re build intimacy that was stolen by the addiction to sex and porn. I saw your comment about long make out sessions during the fast but what about things like holding hands, giving a kiss, etc? Should the fast be from complete physical affection? Should that affection just come slowly and progress slowly? Any advice is appreciated.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I don’t think that a complete fast from physical affection would be a good idea. I think those “casual contacts” are really good building blocks for a relationship that’s not just about sex, but about affection and connection.

        Also, a sexual fast is not enough to sustain recovery. He needs to be putting a lot of new recovery habits in place. Accountability on all devices, a group he can attend, reading resources, etc. Here’s an article he might appreciate.

        I also always recommend that spouses seek out support for themselves. Personal counseling, a group like S Anon or Celebrate Recovery–those can be very helpful.

    7. Mostable on

      I am a male, 51 years old, attempting the 90 day sexual detox together with my wife. We don’t live in America and cannot find anyone familiar with the concept or someone that can give advice. The implication is no sexual activity for me (husband) , not even masturbation. I don’t seem to get past 12 days without a relapse. Relapse is when my system gets to a semen build up that will cause me to have a release by only contracting the muscles of the penis a few times. I can see that excess semen comes down with my urine that is extremely foamy every time I go. It is increasing over time, while I expected it to decrease. I drink a lot of water, keep healthy with exercise and no sugar, taking vitamin supplements. I have been going for 43 days with 5 relapses. I have had pain on a scale from 3-10/10 for most of the time. What can I do to break through and sustain 90 days without any ejaculation. It is not even masturbation, for when it happens, there is no touch, only contraction of the pelvic muscles, but I did make a choice to contract to kind of release the pain. The releases are not the usual “good feeling”, but painful during and especially afterwards. The amounts is far more than before, 5 times more.
      My history: Difficult childhood, molestation, deprivation and separation anxiety. Masturbated regularly (few times per week) until marriage at 27. Wife left me for someone else after 13 years and 5 affairs. After divorce I fell into porn during the long lonely nights, but always tried to resist as I love the Lord. Second marriage a wonderful high frequency of 2-4 times sex per week, but a very difficult marriage for various reasons like sickness, finances, curses etc. Porn problem every now and then, but have been free for months. Realized I have a sex dependency especially because of separation anxiety. Dealing with that. Went through deliverance and a lot of counselling. Doing the 90 day fast to bring healing to my marriage in this area and I don’t underestimate my wife’s hurt.
      I desperately want to succeed, but the semen build up seems to get worse every next attempt, with the least amount sexual stimulus a man can have within marriage and no external stimulus. The dopamine runs wild some days and I get hallucinations, feel I am walking a meter above the ground and as if things are crawling all over me, but I understand the price of building new neurochemical pathways. I am worried that my testosterone seems to be very high for days on end.
      I need a way to overcome the build-up and unwanted ejaculations. As a young person I tried to overcome masturbation, but couldn’t get past 4-5 day because of the pain. It becomes too hard for me to live on the brink of an orgasm for weeks and not to fail during the night when I am half awake and my guard is down. These are not wet dreams, will probably take more than a clean month or two of abstinence for those to happen, if it will even happen.
      My wife needed me to be cheerful and not complaining about the pain or say the wrong things when I am on a dopamine “trip”, but I don’t seem to get that right when it becomes really tough. The relapses were incredibly disappointing to my wife and after the last one she says that she has no hope any more, which in turn makes it very hard for me. It is not that I relapse out of a rebellion. I really try not to entitle myself to anything. My wife has the highest standards of dying to the flesh of anyone I know and I have learned to submit to and trust her input even if it hurts my pride and manly ego, but it seems that I cannot get my attitude right towards the process in the measure she needs it to be. I will now have to continue on my own without her input. My accountability pastors don’t agree with this process, but still prays for me. My days feel like months, although I am very busy and the constant pain exhausts me very much. Starting over has become harder and harder. I am pursuing intimacy with God like never before and worship throughout my cycling hours. It seems that if I don’t get it right, my wife will never trust me again. I am not willing to give up.
      On the positive side, my body has changed unbelievably positively. I look younger, lost weight, different fat distribution, v-line is back, muscle tone better etc. My teenagers can’t even believe it. My relationship with the Lord is growing a lot. Every wrong motive, subtle rebellion and a lot of wrong thinking has been exposed.
      I would be thankful for any advice.

      Most peers in my world think I am crazy, but my marriage and wonderful wife is worth it.

      Kind regards

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I wonder if you have visited your doctor? It sounds to me like it could be beneficial to you to have medical advice on this problem, with the severity of the symptoms you are describing. Until you have some medical advice, I would hesitate to offer any more suggestions for your recovery.

        As for your wife, has she had any counseling herself? I find that often spouses don’t receive a lot of support to process their own emotions during recovery. She might be more able to be helpful toward you if she feeling supported herself in therapy.

        It sounds to me like you are working hard on recovery but have come to some barriers here, and I just wonder if medical help for you and counseling help for your wife might help get you both moving forward again.

        Blessings, Kay

    8. Mostable on

      Thank you Kay

      Finances is a hindrance to seeing a doctor now, but we are seeing counselors that also suggested that we stop the 90 days for now as my physical symptoms bothers them as well. We will however not give up on renewing of the mind, growing intimacy on non sexual levels etc. Thank you for the encouragement.

      Reply
    9. Jane on

      Great article. One question: for a 90-day detox from porn and masturbation, does the clock restart if there’s a masturbation misstep without porn? Husband couldn’t sleep and was worried about being too tired for work, so he rubbed one out quick and then went to bed (Day 28). He now knows that’s not acceptable and has recommitted to the detox. He’s now Day 23 since then (Day 51 free from porn), and I’m trying to figure out when we are allowed to have sex (post 90 day detox). Thanks!

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Great question. From a psychological/spiritual perspective, think of a “slip” as a Short Lapse In Progress (S.L.I.P.). While it is a genuine setback, we need to see it as a temporary setback. Sex addiction expert Dr. Mark Laaser says it remains a short lapse “only if the person learns from it, repents, and grows in understanding as a result.” From the perspective of your husband’s growth, the slip should not be seen as going back to square one.

        From a neurological perspective, there isn’t hard data on this, so I’ll give you some basic principles from those who are working with men who are experiencing adverse physiological effects of using porn.

        – 90 days is only a general benchmark. All brains are very different.

        – When it comes to neurology (though not morality) use black-and-white thinking when it comes to porn, but not when it comes to other kinds of masturbation. If you slip up with porn, start over. If you slip up with masturbation, that’s not nearly as big a deal. The point is to rewire the brain when it comes to associating sexual stimulation with porn, not just with sexual tension.

        – Try sexual intercourse, listen to your body, and see if you notice a difference than before. Over time, are your sexual cravings manageable (as opposed to out-of-control)? Does intercourse with your wife feel fantastic? You feel like connecting with others (rather than being secluded)? Does just kissing causes mild (or strong) erections? Are you getting more joy out of life? Have your “porn flashbacks” changed (for some men, they describe getting flashbacks from much earlier and earlier pornographic experiences or sexual fantasies, as if the layers of the problem are peeling away)? If you think more change is needed, consider another time of detox (of course, pursuing other forms of intimacy).

        Does this help?

    10. George on

      My wife has thyroid/adrenal issues, is overweight and depressed. Lately she has had more energy, but she has no interest in intimacy and this has been for 10 years.. My question is, does God expect a man to be able to be celibate for that long? I am in a horrible place.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I would hope that pursuing the best possible medical care for your wife is the highest priority. It sounds to me like her medications must not be properly regulated. Also, I would hope that she is seeing a counselor to help her with the depression.

        Secondly, I would suggest that you look into counseling for yourself, to help you process through your emotions and make wise decisions. No doubt you are in a difficult place. Being the spouse of a depressed person is very wearing. However, since you’re here at Covenant Eyes and we’re a porn-help site, I’m assuming that you’re asking if it’s okay to look at porn in place of a healthy marriage relationship, and I’d say a big NO to that. Porn might help you feel better for a few minutes, but it’s not going to fix the underlying problems in your marriage. I would urge you to find a counselor and get some help with the pain you’re feeling, so you can make good decisions for the long term.

        Peace to you, Kay

    11. Tiffany on

      After kicking my husband out for 3 weeks, he returned home and we had intercourse. In fact, we had sex 4 times in the first few days. Prior to that, we had not had sex for many months. He put many things in place (no internet on his phone, counseling, church, peer support, etc.), and we have had lengthy conversations. Do you think that we should have waited to have sex? Should we stop now and wait the 90 days? I don’t want him to ‘relapse’ due to US having sex!

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Tiffany. Well, some counselors are pretty hard-core about the 90 days. My husband recovered without the 90-day fast. I personally don’t think there’s any way to guarantee recovery. Will the 90 days help? Maybe. Will it guarantee recovery? No. Is it your fault if your husband relapses? NO. NO. And, NO!

        If he chooses to relapse, that is a choice he makes.

        You decide on what healthy boundaries make sense to you in this situation, and you keep those healthy boundaries. If you WANT to have sex with him, fine. If you don’t want to, DON’T.

        Don’t be pressured one way or another into trying to control his behavior via sex.

        YOU get to decide what happens with your body, and when you are ready or NOT ready to have sex again.

        Peace to you, Kay

    12. Heather on

      This may seem like a silly question. But what should the boundries be to a sexual fast? Should anything that could cause arousal be avoided? Like kissing or lying together? Or is it only climax on the part of the addict that needs to be avoided?

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Heather – it’s not a silly question. I don’t know the clinical answer, but I suspect that the answer is somewhat “up to you” depending on the purpose of the fast. Similar to how I would craft a fast from certain foods for a certain purpose. The level of legalism you stick to is likely your choice :)

        Peace, Chris

    13. Rach on

      My husband does need to go on this fast but I feel that those working with him aren’t taking me into the consideration. We do connect in a lot of other ways already but the best way I connect with him is physically and sexually. The way i feel most loved is through physically and sexually. He has already had to reset the 90 days and that was after 3 times of us “loving on me” which was almost sex without an organism. I’m sure my insistance on feeling loved and connected in these ways was part of the reason he messed up afterwards. Living 3 months of a sexless marriage to me means I will have to move out for at least a month of that time so i don’t get us too close to the line to cause problems. What are your thoughts?

      Reply
      • Rach on

        I should also say that my husband takes full responsibility for his mess up and doesn’t blame me. I know this 90 days will be best for him in the long run but since he is making a lot of other changes (3 times a week counseling, going to SA amd celebrate recovery meetings everyday, talking to his coaches every day about his temptation levels and other things) I wish I wasn’t being forced into this for his sake. Unfortunately I feel that I would be told that I just need to learn self control etc.. as well. Any thoughts?

      • Rach on

        Will any of the moderators answer my questions?

        Thanks.

      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Rach – I’m sorry that no one has replied to this comment. I’m not sure how it slipped through the cracks. Yes, he caused this so it seems unfair. But, it is an “us” recovery. If you jointly agree that you move out for a month, then that’s what you do. There isn’t a prescriptive way for this to play out, other than being in constant communication between spouses. What are you both willing to do to make this work? If I can be direct, it’s not you being forced into this for his sake, it’s you choosing to do this for his sake. We’re talking about 90 days of life! 3 months! I think you can do it.

    14. Gale on

      What about the wife? I am highly sexual and I don’t think I can make it 90 days without sex. What do you advise? Is it ok to masturbate?

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Gale – I think that’s certainly your decision to make, in full disclosure with your spouse. At the same time, could there be power in mutual sacrifice during the time of fasting? Again, it’s something the two of you need to decide, in order to see what’s best for the marriage and not necessarily the individual.

        Best, Chris

    15. Mandy on

      During the 90 day abstinence from sex, what is the stance on fantasies? My husband and I are abstaining after him coming clean about his porn addiction- there are many other things we are also doing; support group for each of us, accountability software, and more. However my husband claims that he regularly (multiple times per day) fantasizes about only me, in order to help him “handle” not having sex. I believe this is still problematic, and feel that to truly address the neurological aspect that he should’t be fantasizing even about me, but I would appreciate your advice.

      Reply
    16. Wendy on

      So what if you aren’t fasting? My husband has deprived me for years for his secret life of looking at pics on the internet. We have been rekindling our relationship. Before he got caught, I had read a book and it said to have sex for 30 days to change your marriage. I suggested this to him before doing all my extra reading. We have come close to 30 straight days of mind blowing sex some days and then romantic the next. We lie in bed for hours talking which is something we haven’t done. Just a kiss leads to being together most days. The spark we have has been so nice but the thought of giving it up terrifies me. Not having sex is how our marriage went down this road we think so why fast now. We have been fasting for 4 years having sex1-2 times a year.

      We are reading together a book on rekindling our marriage and have planned a weekend getaway with no kids so we can focus on our marriage and building parts that we lost such as communication, intamacy and fun. He is reading 2 books on how to recover. He said he feels free now that I know. We lie in bed and talk for hours. We actually sit and hold hands.

      I do worry my 30 days to great marital sex will harm us in the end after all my readings but at this time, we both agree it’s been a bit healing for our relationship and lots of fun.

      Reply
      • Tera on

        Am I to understand that you’re saying the only time the spouse of a sex addict may refrain from sex is if the sex addict is in mutual agreement?

      • Moriah Dufrin on

        Hi Tera,

        Every relationship is different. For some, mutual agreement to refrain from sex can be quite beneficial to the marriage healing. For others, having MORE sex may be the road to rekindling the love and romance that God designed in marriage. I believe that the message of this article is NOT to say what is best for your marriage or relationship, but to describe the rationale behind fasting from sex while working to overcome an addiction.

        Blessings,
        Moriah

    17. Traci Lynne Cryer on

      It has been 9 months since my husband has been clean. He still does not have any desire at all for anything, not the porn or sex in general. Is this very not normal? I have 2 different types of internet blockers and all sorts of protection guards on all of our phones. Maybe God knew that with a 38 year addiction maybe he needed longer to heal those neural pathways. I just don’t know but this sure is hurtful.
      Please help!

      Reply
    18. Nick on

      Hi there, Thanks for the great article. I am on day 21 of my 90-day fast. I count this article as the single best thing I read on the topic, but I was disappointed by the difficulty I had assembling all the information I wanted. I wanted to have a good idea of what I wanted to achieve with a fast and how a fast was going to help me achieve it. Here is a post I wrote for my Samson Society group.

      My wife and I are in the midst of a 90-day sexual fast. My specific struggle includes a real battle with presence during sex. I have only truly “been with” my wife a few times in our 13+ years of marriage. It has made sex just as shame-inducing as pornography use and my abuse of sex has been a major contributing factor of my 7-year relapse. We decided that a lengthy fast would give me space to heal and work on my sobriety without continuing to misuse my wife.

      “You can’t fix a sex addiction with sex”

      When I read this quote I realized that that was exactly what I had tried to do in 2011/12 when I first started to truly battle my addiction. When I had a hard day, for the “good” of my marriage, rather than look at porn or masturbate, I would have sex with my wife. I took it as a step in the right direction. My wife was gracious with me. She made herself available and we thought we were doing the right thing. But our sex, though physically exhilarating, was never satisfying. I have since said that sex is the least connected thing we do. If we watched TV together I would not have to hide what I was thinking about, but I certainly could not tell my wife what I was thinking during sex. I really was just using my wife as a substitute for masturbation. It was only a matter of time before I relapsed into the use of porn and masturbation because I never got very far in dealing with the core issues of my inability to face my fears and threats.

      So, here it goes, I will describe features of our fast and why we selected them.

      We are on a 90-day fast from any kind of sexual genital stimulation.

      Goals: I want to give us space to work on recovery without the temptation to use sex as a treatment. I don’t trust myself. I will absolutely try to get sex from my wife if I think I “need” it. I will be unkind. I will be manipulative. I’d like to avoid that. A fast lets us put our sexual health first and our sexual satisfaction second.

      I want to practice solving problems without using sex to escape them. I have run away or hidden from everything I felt threatened by for so long! I want to take some time to practice not running away. To that end, I am also not playing video games, cruising facebook, reading the news, or escaping into books until I have finished all of my scheduled recovery work for the day. I am doing a daily FASTER check-in and I am doing a FANOS check in with my wife daily. (You can search for FASTER and FANOS to learn more about that).

      I want to open avenues for alternative expression of intimacy with my wife and family. I want to develop new ways to connect, I think a fast will help me. That is why we are doing the FANOS each day. We are also listening to a betrayal trauma podcast and discussing it.

      I need to demonstrate that sex is not a basic need. To whatever degree my mind believes that sex is a basic need, I need to prove in a way that my mind will accept, that I can survive (and even thrive) without sex. 90 days should do it.

      I want to reset my neuro-chemicals. I have been hijacking my brain’s systems to serve my addiction. 90-days without an orgasm-induced dopamine hit should have an impact.

      I want to develop a healthy sexual appetite. I am reading and learning from as many sources as I can find to learn about what a healthy sexual relationship is like so that I can come out of this fast on a path to something better. I hope that, by learning to face my fears and feelings with courage I can prepare myself for healthy sex.

      During this fast I have two daily devotionals, I am attending (or attempting to attend) a meeting every day. I am reading and studying about sexual addiction (I just finished “Out of the Shadows” and I am about to start “Unwanted”). I am sticking to a strict schedule. I am learning to put off procrastination and face challenges. I am learning to recognize the symptoms of the path to relapse so that I can find problems and deal with them instead of avoiding them. I am learning to be more gracious with my wife and myself.

      I have divided the fast into 3 phases. The first phase is 44 days and it is for me to learn what I need to know to define the second phase. Especially I want to answer the question: How will I know that this fast has been a success? How will I know that I am ready to start the path to a healthy sexual relationship with my wife? I am not sure what the second phase will be defined by, but it is 30 days. The final phase for us to spend some time on a SENSATE activity. Here’s a link to an article on the topic. https://health.cornell.edu/pdf-library/sensate-focus be warned the article could be triggering.

      I don’t know if this will be useful to anyone, but I wanted to put it out there in case anyone else would like to have a template to start from.

      My wife is also getting support and doing a lot of work on her own betrayal trauma, but this is my post, so you only get mostly my story.

      Reply
      • Josh on

        Thanks Nick, this is very helpful! My wife and I are on day 1 now, I just read this article tonight.

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