Dear Prudence

Stroke of Midnight

My wife is intimidated by how often I pleasure myself.

Get “Dear Prudence” delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at to chat with readers on Tuesday June 23 at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Dear Prudence,
I have been married for seven years, but I am still troubled by how to speak openly about masturbation with my spouse. I masturbate pretty much every morning after getting up and every evening before I go to bed, unless I think my wife and I will make love. The problem is that my wife sees my masturbation as a declaration that she does not please me, which is not true. I enjoy our lovemaking, and I’d prefer to make love to her as often as I masturbate; she’s simply not interested in doing it that often. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) Moreover, she complains that I “take too long” and says she would be more willing if I were “normal” and didn’t last so long. My wife also has suggested there is something wrong with me for wanting to make love or masturbate as often as I do. I accept that I’ll never be able to make love to my wife as often as I would like, but how do I convey to her that masturbation is normal and that she shouldn’t see it as evidence that she’s inadequate?

—Illicit Self-Lover

Dear Illicit,
If morning and night is your minimum daily sexual requirement, then even the most ardent wife might want to whip out the Taser when she sees you approaching. Masturbation by married people is perfectly normal and not a problem, unless it becomes one. In your case, it’s become one. I talked to Sallie Foley, director of the Center for Sexual Health at the University of Michigan Health System, about your situation. She says some of the trouble may come from your marital dynamic of being on the defensive sexually with each other. You are constantly pressing for more (i.e., “Believe me, I’ve tried”), and she is frequently saying no. You two need to rebuild your intimacy outside of the bedroom. Your wife may be feeling that any signal of closeness from her is a sign that she’s sexually available. But she might be more sexually available if your entire relationship weren’t so tied up with your sexual demands. Foley says the book Sex Talk, by Aline Zoldbrod, could give the two of you tools for more comfortably discussing these issues.

As for your delayed orgasm, it may be that your sexual response is so habituated to your own five-finger salute that lovemaking doesn’t feel as intense. Foley suggests changing the mechanics of your masturbation style—for instance, more lubrication might help. (Other suggestions can be found in the instructional video American Pie.) And she didn’t say this, but I will: Get a grip and give it a rest. Maybe if you make the decision to do something else with your hands (whittling? knitting? flossing?), you’ll find you aren’t so obsessed with your urges. Then masturbation will become a pleasurable thing you do sometimes instead of a twice-daily necessity.


Dear Prudence Video: The Intern and the Lech

Dear Prudie,
A dear friend of mine recently sent me, and many other people, an alarming message letting us know that her mother is dying of leukemia. My friend very bluntly requested donations for a medical treatment that she and her mother believe will be lifesaving. They are both wonderful people, the kind you could rely on for support if something terrible happened to you. The problem is that the money is to send her mom to a “miracle” retreat that costs $2,500 a day. I have a science background and, after checking out the Web site of the place, I am fully convinced that this is a scam. The doctor claims to be able to change the pH of your body and diagnose your disease by watching your red blood cells move under a microscope. He also claims that “emotions cause cancer.” I don’t feel comfortable knowing my money is going to a charlatan, but I don’t think it is my place to tell my friend that I think she and her ailing mom are being taken for a ride. Is there any good way to avoid donating money without seeming like a jerk?

—Not Conned

Dear Not,
Since your friend has asked you to help support a swindler, it is your place to speak up. You must tell your friend that you know she would do anything to save her mother’s life, but that sending her to this fraudulent clinic will only divert her mother from getting proper care. Tell her you have looked at the clinic’s Web site and you know that the claims are bogus, and all this doctor is selling is false hope to desperate people—which is a special kind of despicable. Tell her you would hate to see their money or, more important, her mother’s precious time go to this quack. Your friend may be angry at you for saying things she’d rather not know. But since you are a good friend, you should be willing to risk that. You might also want to alert the state’s medical board to this clinic’s wondrous claims.


Dear Prudence,
I’m 26, and for three wonderful months I have been dating a woman five years older than me. When we first met, neither of us realized the age difference. We share common values, and she gets along well with my friends and brother. The trouble is my parents. They find her “charming and lovely” but are appalled by our age difference. My mother has termed our relationship “weird” and “odd,” which hurts me. They point out that I have not had many serious relationships. I love her and want to see how our relationship fares. It seems to me that this requires a long time, perhaps years. But my parents claim that I must decide within three months whether to marry her or not, since it would be cruel to waste her time on an ultimately futile relationship. Are my parents being reasonable here? Do I have an obligation to decide quickly whether I want to marry this lady? And, should I decide not to pursue this relationship, is there any way I could end it without hurting her? 

—Not Quite Benjamin Braddock

Dear Benjamin,
You’re right. You’re no Benjamin Braddock, because Mrs. Robinson was a generation older. Five years is an insignificant age difference—your parents would hardly be appalled if you were 31 and your girlfriend 26. What is significant is that while you’re an adult, you’re feeling like a teenager who still needs his parents’ approval for his romantic choices. Actually, most teenagers are less deferential on this topic than you are. You’ve only just gotten to know this woman, so I can’t understand why your parents are insisting on a fast-track marriage decision, unless they know that pressuring you this way will lead you to break up with her. I’ll concede your parents one thing—if this woman is interested in having children, it is unfair to expect her to just keep dating for years on end. However, where you are in your lives, and what you want out of them, is something for you two to discuss if you continue to feel serious about each other. Your parents’ job was to raise someone who could make his own good choices. If they’ve done that, you now need to tell them to back off.


Dear Prudence,
A co-worker invited me to her wedding. Due to traveling for work that weekend, I responded that I could not attend and sent a gift. Now, I will be returning home a day early. I really don’t want to go to the wedding. I travel constantly, and I just want to see my partner and some friends during my time off. The wedding is an overnight commitment. I am not especially good friends with this woman, but she found out I am returning early and is very hurt that I haven’t said I’m coming. Am I being a terrible person to prefer some rare time at home over more travel to a wedding? Can I be honest with her about my reason, or should I just stop being selfish and go?

—Feeling Guilty but Torn

Dear Feeling Guilty,
So not only are brides telling guests what color clothing they can wear or expecting them to use up all their vacation time for destination weddings in Fiji, now even people who have declined to be guests are having their whereabouts tracked by bridal GPS. You’ve already said you aren’t going! You politely sent your regrets and a gift. When you decline an invitation, that’s the final word; it is not an opening gambit for the hostess to deem whether she finds your absence acceptable. You’re not even obligated to give a reason for declining—so don’t. Stop feeling guilty and enjoy your weekend off. If the bride makes any weepy, whiny remarks to you at work, say you’re sorry you can’t join her, but you’re sure she’s going to have a wonderful day.