Can abstinence help?

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    Dear people from the Maze clinic,

    My name is Mike, I’ve been married for over five years. My wife recently had pelvic floor therapy in order to treat her vaginismus, which she was suffering from for many years. We have been unable to be intimate until recently (and since she’s my first partner, I was a virgin technically speaking).

    My libido is super high, and I’ve “survived” until now by masturbation (and sometimes manual stimulation from my wife).

    Now that we’re allowed to have PIV sex, the problem I have is that I can’t finish inside of her. I don’t feel a lot, at least not enough to get to the point of an ejaculation, no matter what I do. When I switch to masturbation after PIV, there is no issue at all, but it feels like all therapy my wife has followed as served no purpose at all because we end up doing manual masturbation and that’s exactly what we did before.

    I’m also following another group for partners with vaginismus, and I’ve heard in there that abstinence can help. So you basically have to abstain from having an orgasm for like 2 weeks, which would make your genitals more sensitive to stimulation and make it easier for you to get to an ejaculation. That would be super hard to do though, with my current libido.

    I was wondering if the people from the clinic have any experience with this and if this is good advice to follow.


    Hi Mike – Thank you so much for this post. I am sure many partners can relate to this issue. I reached out to our Men’s Health Team, and below is their response:

    I am so glad that your wife was able to find treatment. Difficulty reaching climax during intercourse is far more common than you might think – we see your story very frequently. In your case, I would definitely begin by simply giving yourself time. You have been through a lot as a couple, and you are undoubtedly putting a lot of stress on yourself to “perform” sex correctly. Most men in your situation would be monitoring themselves during intercourse and almost desperately focusing on trying to climax. Reaching an orgasm is one of those Paradoxes in life: The harder you try to get it, the more elusive it becomes.
    Refraining from all stimulation outside of intercourse, is certainly one possible path forward. You will almost certainly eventually ejaculate because your body will crave the release. It may not also take as long as you might expect. We have men who climax within 3-4 days. I would encourage you to not abstain from orgasm, just abstain from orgasms outside intercourse. Yes, you will train your body to respond to this new stimulation.
    I would also encourage you to let go of this idea as a goal. Vaginal climax is always on the menu, but unless you are trying to conceive, it is far from mandatory. Sex is best when the goal is connection, pleasure, play, and bonding. Right now, you are new to vaginal intercourse. Give yourself and your body (and hers) time to adjust.
    I remind all my patients that no one ever taught men how to have sex – we learned it from teenagers and porn. So, the way most men are having sex often resembles a re-enacted porn scene. The two of you have probably been able to find many ways to be intimate and have pleasure. I would encourage you to just look at intercourse as an added activity – not a replacement activity. You WILL eventually climax through intercourse.
    Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that how you are masturbating is probably contributing to part of the problem. Most men do not use lubricant, and if they do, they are still using a very tight fist with tremendous stimulation. There is no way a vagina can compete with this! I recommend using coconut oil for masturbation. Or, better yet, buy a soft silicone masturbation sleeve and, using water-based lube, divorce your hand completely from you penis and use the sleeve for all masturbation activity. This will retrain your penis to respond to a gentler stimulation which will be more like a vagina.
    If you continue to be frustrated after a couple week, please reach out and we will see what else we can offer.
    Paul Nelson, LMHC
    MAZE Men’s Health


    Thank you Melissa for posting this. Just a quick follow-up, since some men suffering from the same problem might be reading this too. Total abstinence did wonders in our case. I refrained from masturbating until I felt I really, really needed a release, which was after 8 days. Apparently this was enough to make me ejaculate during intercourse. I’m now trying to abstain for a day less and see what that gives.


    Mike, based on my own experience with couples, abstinence ALWAYS helps because it makes it easier for the ejaculation reflex to trigger.


    In my opinion, the frequency of sexual intercourse depends on the two partners, on their mood. But my husband thinks differently, it is very important to him that it was at least 7 times a week. I do not always agree with this, because I do not always have the desire to do so. Based on this situation, I decided to buy some sex toys to fill my gaps. My husband was delighted with, they completely satisfied him and opened new emotions and feelings in oral sex. Thanks to them, we finally found common ground.


    Mike, thanks so much for sharing your story! I think it will help other men to see what you’ve reported – I have heard this same narrative many times because the male partners have had to adapt to a relationship in which vaginismus is present just as much as the women have. You likely got extremely used to manual stimulation and had to relearn new forms of pleasure – which it sounds like you did, very successfully! I am sure your body will continue to adjust as you get more used to intercourse, and as you continue to relax and not worry so much about the outcome. Best of luck to you and your wife!

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