It’s been over three years since I wrote the initial post in this blog: “How I did 70 days of NoFap on hardmode, without breaking a sweat, after 7 years of failure”. Since then, this blog has received around 150,000 views, 110,000 visitors, and 100 comments, which has been very encouraging.
I’ve also received a number of queries as to whether I’m still going strong, so I thought it was time to post an update on how I’m going, and then perhaps include some reflections or lessons I have learned over the last three years.
I’ll begin with a recap of the last three years. The first thing to say is “yes, I am still doing NoFap”. I did go through a bad patch in the middle of 2013, but I put that behind me. I now have a badge over at the NoFap reddit page that says I’m nearly 600 days fap-free. So I haven’t done a perfect three years, but I’m still definitely on the NoFap wagon.
Summary of my last three years
First streak: 6 months, in 2012-13 (this was when I wrote my initial blog post).
Bad patch: 4 ½ months, in 2013 (in a “quit then relapse” cycle).
Second streak: 10 months, in 2013-14 (this streak ended when I masturbated once).
Current streak: 19 months and counting, from 2014-present.
The last three years in a bit more detail
This next section might be a bit long or boring, so feel free to skip it if you’re happy with the above summary. I’ve included the section below just in case people want to know a bit more about the context and causes of my relapse and recovery.
The first ‘no sweat’ streak that I described in my original blog post lasted beyond the initial 70 days, to a total of 182 days – around six months. Everything that helped me succeed in that streak has been written up already in my previous posts, so I won’t say anything more about that.
About three months into that first streak, I asked a girl out and entered into a serious relationship. I was very glad to have gone three months without masturbating when I asked her out, because I could share with her the history of my struggle, but I could also say ‘I don’t do that anymore’. Because I could place it in the past, it was a lot easier to share with a girl I really liked. I fell in love, she fell in love with me, and things were great!
Then came my first relapse after discovering the new method. Part of the problem was that kissing my girlfriend, or even holding hands or just being around her, led to me becoming quite aroused, physically, even if I was controlling my thoughts and refusing to think about sex. It makes sense I guess. Even if you’re controlling your thoughts, not fantasising, and staying right in the moment; when you have a warm, soft, attractive body pressing against yours, arousal is the body’s natural response. Not much you can do about that, except not kiss and cuddle.
While I can’t say for sure if this is true, at the time I felt that I was becoming hooked on those warm feelings of arousal that I got when I was around my girlfriend. I found myself feeling quite down when we were apart, and in an attempt to get back some of those good feelings, and as a bit of a pick-me-up, I got into the habit of edging before going to sleep at night. In case you’re not familiar with that term, ‘edging’ is masturbating without orgasming. In my case, it was without porn or fantasy. Edging was comforting and made me feel better, and so just as long as I didn’t orgasm or look at porn or engage in sexual fantasy (it was within the bounds of the rules I had set for myself) I told myself it was fine. I wasn’t even worried that it would lead to a relapse, because I was so confident that I could shut down arousal and move on just by controlling my thoughts. And it’s true that I could stop edging, turn my mind to other things, go to sleep, and then the arousal would be gone the next day. It seemed to be totally fine. But then one night I went too far by accident, and orgasmed. In hindsight, it was probably inevitable.
I was pretty annoyed at myself for relapsing, but it got worse after that. It turns out that a significant part of my motivation for doing NoFap was to prove to myself and others that it was possible to go for extended periods of time without masturbating. And the day counter on the NoFap reddit was a great reminder of how much I had achieved. But now that my counter was reset to zero, and I had no long streak to ‘protect’, I had much less motivation to abstain from orgasm. In addition, I had proven to myself that I could go for a long time without masturbation, porn, or sexual fantasy, so with nothing left to prove, and confident that I could stop anytime, I let myself go for a bit. The next four and a half months were characterised by intermittent attempts to quit – one lasting over a month, but most around a week – interspersed with periods of masturbation – including porn and sexual fantasy. Looking back, I probably could have stopped properly at any time if I really wanted to, but the problem was a lack of motivation. I’ll talk about this in more depth in another post.
In the midst of all this, my girlfriend and I got engaged. Some might say it was a little quick, but I knew after the first date that I wanted to marry her, so waiting six months seemed like plenty of time. And I think this provided the motivation that I needed to quit masturbation again – I didn’t want to bring masturbation, porn and sexual fantasy into my marriage. Not only that, but I was getting sick of the up and downs of half-heartedly trying to quit masturbation and then relapsing over and over again. So I got real, I focussed, and resolved to quit well in advance of our wedding date – four months in advance to be exact. Once again I used the technique of complete thought and arousal control (insofar as one can control arousal while being engaged). It was much harder this time, what with being in a relationship, and having the constant arousal that went with that. But with my motivation restored, I was able to once again block out sexual thoughts and shut down arousal whenever I was not with her.
This second good streak lasted ten months – the four months leading up to the wedding, and then six months into the marriage. It ended when I masturbated once, about six months after we got married. We were travelling overseas, my wife was at a conference for the day, and I was bored in the hotel room. We hadn’t had sex for a couple of days, I was feeling aroused, and so I decided to masturbate. I thought to myself, ‘Why not? I’ll just fantasise about my wife, and so it will be fine, relationally and ethically speaking’. I think most people would agree that there’s nothing wrong with thinking sexual thoughts about one’s spouse, and I didn’t use porn or sexual fantasy, so was it fine?
At the end of the day, I regretted masturbating. I regretted it partly because it meant the end of a very long NoFap streak. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about NoFap or my streak counter for so long that it wasn’t even a factor when I decided to masturbate. But afterwards I realised that I would have to reset my counter and start over again, and that was a bit of a bummer.
But the main reason I regretted it was that when my wife got back to the hotel she wanted to have sex, but I wasn’t interested since I had just orgasmed. That was disappointing for my wife. And even though she was glad that I was thinking about her when I masturbated, and not fantasising about other women, she still felt a bit cheated that I had enjoyed sexual pleasure without her. So we sat down and talked about it, and we agreed that it would be better for our marriage if we both saved up our sexual energy so that we could have sex with each other. We also decided to make sexual pleasure something special that we would share and give to one another – something to be enjoyed only with the other person.
So that was that, and I haven’t masturbated since then, which was about a year and a half ago. And to be honest, I can’t see myself masturbating again. Now that I have experimented with masturbation in marriage, and found it dissatisfying and not relationally beneficial, I can’t see myself going back.
Where I am today
So what’s it like being married and not masturbating or using porn or sexual fantasy? Well it’s good, I guess, and I’m very glad that I don’t struggle with it any more. But I wouldn’t say it’s amazing; it’s not as though I wake up every day and high-five the world because I don’t masturbate. Sure, I felt that way when I first overcame my habit, but now it just feels normal. I guess we get used to changes and new ways of being, and they stop being so special. And that’s OK I guess. Mostly I’m thankful when I think about what it would be like if I didn’t have control over my sexuality, and if I were still addicted to sexual fantasy and masturbation. I really can’t imagine what it would be like, and how it would impact my marriage. Given that my wife and I are Christians, and we both believe that sexual desire should be directed only towards one’s spouse, if I were still masturbating and fantasising, I would either have to hide it from my wife, or it would be something that we were working towards fixing together. I don’t want to hide things from my wife – dishonesty can be hugely damaging to a marriage – and I don’t want to live in struggle-town either. So the place I am is really the best place I can be, even if it doesn’t make me euphoric all the time. On second thoughts, maybe I should be more thankful, and reflect on the blessing that it is to not struggle any more with something that so many people struggle with.
Well that’s about it. That should bring you up to speed for now. Stay tuned for some more posts to come, as I reflect on some of the things I’ve learned over the last three years.
Feel free to put any questions or comments below, and stay strong!