Can a marriage be “lustful”? Do the dangers of lust end after marriage? Conversely, what is the difference between wanting sex, and being lustful? Today, we are going to tackle the tricky topic of lust in order to help our followers fully enjoy their sexual relationships with their spouses.
As a teenager who went to church every Sunday, I remember being confused about the word lust. In my Sunday school class, lust was associated with sexuality and was considered a very bad thing. The Bible says to avoid even looking at someone lustfully (like in Matt. 5:27-28). However, in school I learned great writers use the word lust to mean to want or desire anything strongly. As a married adult, the miscommunication grew. Aren’t I supposed to intensely desire my spouse, including sexually? Is that lust?
What I’ve discovered as I’ve tried to answer these questions is that “lust” is defined very differently in different contexts.
Semantics: People Define Lust Differently
Wikipedia defines lust as, “a psychological force producing intense desire for something, or circumstance while already having a significant amount of the desired object”. In the modern world, lust is seen simply as a very strong or intense desire. It could be directed at anything, but is usually used in a sexual context. With this definition, lust sounds great! Don’t we want to strongly desire our spouse?
However, in a more religious context lust is not a good thing. As mentioned above, the Bible warns against lusting after someone. Christianity.com defines lust as, “intense or unrestrained sexual craving or an overwhelming desire or craving… Lust has as its focus gratifying oneself, and it often leads to toxic actions to fulfill one’s desires with no consideration to the consequences. Lust springs forth from selfishness and greed.” In a religious sense, lust is desiring someone or something for selfish reasons. In a marriage, “lusting” would look like wanting sex (with or without your spouse) solely to satisfy your own physical desires. Lust is not relationally based, but is giving in to selfish desires.
Neither definition is necessarily wrong, but it is important to define how you use lust in your communications with your spouse and others. With such different definitions, it’s easy to get confused!
For this post, we will be defining lust as “a selfish sexual craving”. On the other hand, we will use the word passion to describe the feeling of relational, sexual desire for your spouse; that feeling when you want all of them and their pleasure becomes your own.
Selfish Lusting is Possible, and Problematic, in a Marriage
Using our working definition of lust, we can see that the “dangers of lust” don’t go away after getting married. Unfortunately, some people have been raised to believe that their spouse is there to satisfy their own cravings. They believe after getting married they can give into their selfish desires because they “passed the test” and got married. This kind of entitlement is detrimental in a marriage.
A man or woman who feels entitled to anything within a marriage will inevitably focus on their needs over their spouse. They are less inclined to do the work to build intimacy as they believe their spouse should be providing for them. We cannot build an intimate marriage if we are solely focused on ourselves. For more on Overcoming Entitlement in Marriage, read our awesome post on the subject!
A Passionate Marriage is a Very Good Thing!
However, all of that being said, too often Christian couples are so afraid of lust they try to avoid desire all together! A man or woman can be so wary of “lusting” that they don’t allow themselves to feel passion (that strong, relational desire we defined above). We need strong desire in our marriages! That strong desire helps us create intimacy and become one with our spouse. Sex is a way for husband and wife to become one and to grow, learn, and enjoy life together. Sometimes, a person wanting to be a good Christian confuses lust with desire and feels guilty for having sexual desire. This can lead to “Good Girl/Guy Syndrome” and can lead to dysfunction in our marital relationships. If you feel like you and/or your spouse are struggling, consider reaching out for coaching.
We have been blessed with incredible bodies that can feel so much. When we use these blessings to share intimate and physically wonderful moments with our spouse we are using our gifts to their fullest capacity. Dan Purcell (GYMO founder) put it so well in his comments to me…
“Being good friends only (as in good roommates and life partners) may be functional to raise children and enjoy security in life. But staying at that level alone won’t create an intimate marriage. Intimate marriages require partners to become great sexual friends and lovers too. Intimate marriages enjoy a lot of freedom: freedom to be yourself, freedom to express yourself. In an intimate marriage you can truly care for another person. Deeply knowing another person doesn’t feel like a threat to your sense of self when you have created a truly intimate marriage”
Understanding that people have different definitions of lust can help us in our communication. The key take away here is that sex can be a selfish power play, or a wonderful and intimate means of becoming one. Focus on building your relationship with your spouse, and seek to love them to the best of your ability. If you are working toward that goal, it’s okay to enjoy sex! In fact, sex is the best when both spouses are seeking to understand themselves and each other sexually, and when both are satisfied.
If you are experiencing feelings of guilt or are overly worried about being “lustful”, I would recommend seeking out coaching to help you feel more comfortable with your sexuality. God gave you a body to enjoy it! He created man and woman to get the most possible joy in life, and I believe that maximum joy is found in intimate marriages, and sex with our spouses is an excellent way to enjoy everything God has given us.
Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!