We can’t answer your question – “Is there lust in marriage?” – without first defining our terms. Exactly what do we mean when we use the word lust ? As we see it here at Focus, lust is not the same thing as simple sexual desire. Sexual desire was created by God. Within the context of marriage, it’s good, natural, and normal for a husband to “desire” his wife and for a wife to “desire” her husband. The poet John Milton recognized this when, in Book IV of Paradise Lost, he described Adam and Eve in their sinless, innocent state – prior to the Temptation and Fall – going to rest in their “inmost bower” as follows:
nor turned I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial bliss refused.
For Milton, a healthy desire for sex is central to any stable marriage. The apostle Paul reflects the same point of view when he encourages Christian couples to “stop depriving one another” of normal marital relations in 1 Corinthians 7:5.
What then is lust? The answer, of course, is that it is a misplaced or illegitimate desire of some kind. Where sex is concerned, it’s a desire for a partner other than one’s lawfully wedded mate. More specifically, it’s an active, willful desire which moves beyond mere sexual attraction (a divinely designed feature of the human psyche) to a conscious decision to pursue the forbidden object. That’s what happened when David, after seeing Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, went the next step by sending messengers to inquire after her and bring her to his palace (2 Samuel 11:3, 4).
Can there be such a thing as misplaced or illegitimate sexual desire within the marriage relationship? Possibly. But perhaps there’s a better way of framing the issue. We’d suggest that it might be more helpful to set aside the concept of lust in this context and to think instead in terms of insensitivity or disregard for the needs, preferences, and desires of one’s partner. If you’re married, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about. It often happens that the erotic urge doesn’t hit both spouses with the same intensity at precisely the same time. Sometimes the woman has a “headache” just at that moment when the man feels that he can’t restrain himself any longer. On such occasions, love requires that the husband put his wife’s desires ahead of his own. To insist upon having his own way in this situation would be selfish and inconsiderate. You can call it “lustful” if you prefer.
If you’d like to talk about this at greater length with a member of our staff, call our counselors for a free consultation.
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Sex and Intimacy