Is Lust Okay in Marriage?


Is lust okay in marriage? That’s a loaded question. What even is the Definition of Lust?

Dan Keefer joins the podcast to unpack the answer.

Stopping to consider lust in your marriage may be new to you. We’ll take the first step to define and understand what lust means. There are so many layers. And this conversation is careful to help you understand them. Picking and choosing parts of your spouse to focus on deconstructs the person you married.

We’re going to look at your spouse and lust more thoughtfully. We’ll go beyond fantasy so sexual intercourse becomes an expression of connection versus selfish wants. This look at lust points out it’s what we do with it; using phrases like “If Only…Then” can take our good, God-given desire and steer it somewhere it doesn’t belong. 

So, is lust okay in marriage? Let’s listen and find out.


Lust is using another person or using their image for selfish, sexual gratification

Sexual Intimacy: Something that is born out of the relationship, born out of the connection. out of seeing one another

Lust: comes from a heart of dissatisfaction, taking an aspect of another person and believing that IF ONLY this were different, THEN I would be in a better spot


  • “An act of selflessness has the potential to build desire.” What do selfless acts look like in your marriage day to day? (Setting the coffee machine the night before, doing the dishes, filling up the gas tank, scheduling a date night)
  • Rather than acting with the end goal of having sex; shift to consider what would it look like to build desire in the moment.
  • HOLD HANDS with your spouse: allow yourself to be saturated in the oxytocin that’s released from intertwining your fingers & saturated in the oneness of that intimacy.

Other resources on Lust:

Why Lust in Marriage Isn’t Healthy

How to Stop Lusting in One Step

Lust and the Search for Worth

5 Things I do When I am Tempted to Lust

Click for Full Podcast Transcription
Josh 0:19
If you’ve listened to a podcast or teachings at regeneration, and heard us talking about sexual lust 99 times out of 100, you’ll hear us talking about sexual lust as a negative thing. And inevitably, when we do that, somebody will raise their hand or object and say, hold on Allah, sexual lust is not always bad. What about in the context of marriage and marriage? sexual lust is good, right? That’s we’re gonna talk about this podcast. So today, Joining me in the studio is Dan Keefer. Dan’s a member of our team here, and he and I both spent well over a decade close to two cumulatively 30 to 40 years walking with men and women wrestling with things like lust. And so let’s unpack that. So Dan, as we start the question, is lust Okay in marriage is a good in marriage?

Dan Keefer 1:03
It’s interesting, the way you frame that question, because I’ve sat across from men doing coaching or counseling, and my other work, and that question has been thrown out. And so the way I typically respond to it as well, I guess it depends, and in one sense, like, Who is it, you’re lusting after? Like, is this your wife? Or? If it was, it was a woman? Like, is it actually your husband? Or is it some facsimile? Like has something been changed about your spouse, and that, that in itself can help one to see that maybe this isn’t something that we ought to be celebrating in marriage? Alright, so in a backup, so let’s come back to that. Want to start with this question? Maybe this will help a lot of our listeners, how do you define as you’re talking with somebody in your coaching session? How do you define sexual lust, I would define it as you maybe disorder desire, or it’s this desire to consume some particular aspect of a person, or even a belief. So talking about in the context of marriage, if this feature or this aspect, physically of my spouse, or some aspect of my spouse’s character, we’re only different, then then we would finally have that fulfilling sexual relationship that I’ve always desired. And so it’s from a heart of dissatisfaction. And it’s taking some aspect of, of another person and believing that if only this were different than I would be a better spot.

Josh 2:32
And so I would define sexual lust, especially because I use that phrase, thinking about the sinful, like, lust is a sin. Jesus said, if you if you lust after another person, you’ve already committed adultery with him or her in your heart. And so I’m specifically kind of in that realm with what she’s talking about there. That idea that lust is using another person or using their image for selfish sexual gratification. So I’m not so much concerned about the other person, I’m concerned about me, my primary focus is as much sexual pleasure as I can get, based on how this other person looks, feels, etc, etc. And so in that light, that’s where I, when I come back to that question of is, is lust sinful? Or is it ever Okay, in marriage? That’s where I think people get a little bit confused. So let me come back to this question you were talking about before about the facsimile, this issue of facsimile? Okay? Are you really seeing your spouse? And it’s like you were just describing kind of like, like almost kind of picking and choosing parts of one spouse to focus on. So let’s just say for a minute, and we’re talking about a husband and wife who are physically together, they’re in the same room. They’re not in the bedroom, but they’re in the same room? Is his sexual lust there is, is looking at the your spouse in a in a way that just seems like for selfish sexual gratification. Is it okay, in that context? Well,

Dan Keefer 4:00
I think one of the other things to ask is in what’s being experienced, is it life giving. And if a husband and wife were sitting in the same room and one’s looking at the other and saying, you know, if only we could be having sex right now, then life would be amazing, it would be, it would be full, it’d be whole, it’d be complete. Like that. That is, I think, kind of getting into an area that could be a little a little iffy, because it’s different saying that versus It is so amazing to be able to be in the same place with my spouse, there’s a there’s a love and contentment that I have right now. There’s a joy that I have being in the same physical space as my spouse. And you know, what would be just an amazing expression of that. If we were having, experiencing sexual intimacy with one another, if we were making love, that would be a beautiful expression of this connection that I’m experiencing right now. That that’s a that’s an amazing picture. But it’s not lust, it’s something that is born out of the relationship, it’s born out of connection, it’s born out of seeing one another. And sexual intimacy then is an expression

Josh 5:13
of all of that. What I hear you, what I hear you parsing out there is the difference between taking something at a time that it’s not available, because selfishly, it makes me feel pleasure right now, versus a wholly anticipation of a relationship that’s gonna come later, or a holy anticipation even a holy reminiscing about an aspect of our relationship. And that that is different like that the holy anticipation, the memories of the way things have been moments of previous sexual relating, that’s a different, different thing entirely, then a wife or husband who is sexually unavailable, maybe even in that moment, not thinking about that, not wanting that, and trying to use that their image to feel good right now. That’s that is that’s displacing the person. It’s in a way it’s kind of saying, instead of being with my spouse right now, as he or she really is, she’s doing the dishes, she’s overwhelmed, because she’s been taking care of kids all day. She’s nothing about sex at all, instead of being with her in this moment. And, and even potentially holding with some level of anticipation for later that day, or later that week. It’s instead saying like, I’m going to disconnect, I’m going to dissociate from this spouse who’s really in front of me, because she’s not bring me pleasure, she’s angry at me for not helping with the dishes are angry that she’s had to be with the kids all that I’m going to dissociate from her. And I’m going to retreat to a fantasy of fiction of her or memories of her because that quote, unquote, her is, is more pleasurable for me. That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about. And that, I’d say, yeah, that’s, that’s off. That’s, that’s using that’s not that’s not love.

Dan Keefer 6:57
So it’s funny that you said about, she’s mad at me, because I’m not doing the dishes. And I thought,

Josh 7:02
never, never, ever had ever. Yeah,

Dan Keefer 7:03
I mean, what guy has, and what wife hasn’t been upset that her husband’s not doing more to help around the house, particularly when, when the there’s number of children to be caring for. But the other thing that came to mind is just this thought of the opportunities to build desire. And I know we were going to be shifting a bit to talking a bit about desire. But this idea of like, so using that analogy of, you know, rear wipers working in the kitchen, to think not with the end goal of having sex, both the idea of what would it look like to build desire in this moment, because desire could potentially be built by me entering into her world, which means entering into the kitchen, saying, Hey, why don’t you let me do this? That’s an act of love. That’s an act of selflessness, that has the potential to build desire. Now, I’ve talked with guys, and this has been a part of my own life as well, where there’s this quid pro quo that can also be present where if I do this, then she’ll do that. Or if I do this, a wife might say, if I do this, then my husband will do that. And

Josh 8:06
that’s not what you’re talking about. Well, that’s not what I’m talking about. Well, when you say like, when you talk about, like, trying to foster desire,

Dan Keefer 8:14
correct, that’s manipulation. Right? Right. Right. Yeah.

Josh 8:16
If the idea is, she’s doing dishes, man, her mind so far away from sex, maybe if I kind of am the knight in shining armor, and come in and take care of the dishes and watch the kids give her the night off, then she’s really gonna want me and we can have sex like yours. That’s not

Josh 8:30
That’s not the approach. That’s like, that’s not a good approach. Yeah, that’s

Dan Keefer 8:33
exactly right. Because it’s not. Again, it’s, it’s manipulation. And I’ve even heard it expressed that the wives going to feel like that there’s a there’s a currency exchange of sorts, right? And then some women might even feel used, or even feel like, you know, sex worker, like my husband does the dishes so that I’ll have sex with him. And that that’s an exchange. And that is not healthy desire. That is not relationship. That is not what God’s intended for a husband and wife.

Josh 9:05
If either spouse in the marriage has some sense of, I have to have sex with my spouse, I owe it to him or her. I think there’s a problem there. And probably multiple problems that need to be worked through. I think part of what we’re trying to get after with this and even that whole question of who we started with is last, okay, okay. In marriages, sex is really meant to be a mutual self giving between husband and wife. It’s, it’s one giving for the good of the other, and the other giving for the good of the one. And so there’s kind of this, there is a reciprocity, but it’s freely given. It’s not coerced, it’s not manipulated. It’s not owed. I mean, I think one things that I’ve experienced as a married man is sometimes just this holy awe of like, there is no at Earth for me to deserve for that my wife has given herself to me for life. I mean, how could I possibly deserve someone committed? themselves to me forever. And add to that, all my crap I add to that, that I’m a pain in the butt to live with sometimes, and I’ve got brokenness and weakness and sin. And yet here she is, she still loves me, she still has pledged herself to me like, and I, I don’t always feel that. But when I get my mind to that place, my heart’s in that place of like, I could never deserve her, then I think I’m in a place to approach sexuality and our marriage in a way that that is free itself giving as opposed to like she owes me something. Can I can I change course a little bit, because we’ve mentioned several things in here that I just maybe would be worth kind of entering into a little bit. We’ve talked about desire, as something distinct from the sin of sexual lust. We’ve talked about fantasy, as something that’s perhaps distinct from sexual lust. How do we parse out? How does a guy who’s going like well, wait, am I is it is what I’m doing right now or wrong? Or is it okay? Or is it good? Like, how do we parse it out when it comes to things like, like sexually desiring one spouse? sexual desire, I

Dan Keefer 10:59
think is something that God has designed. I mean, scripture talks about God’s desire for us. So desire is at the heart of what it is to be human. And it would be to say, that’s part of what it is to be made an image of God. So there can be this larger conversation about desire that some of us maybe have grown up in a context where we felt as though desire was something to be squashed. It was not something to be celebrated, or to, even to fuel. But I think that’s so different from what, what can be present in a relationship between a husband and wife. And I even think about, like building desire. Like, there’s certain instances, certain times of life where it’s, there’s an opportunity there for, you know, husband and wife to express their desire for one another, and to recognize that at that moment, it may not be the best time or suitable to be expressing desire through sexual intimacy. But it’s something that can build throughout the day and anticipation, this longing, and that, that’s good. That’s beautiful. That’s God given. And we even see, you know, instances of God expression longing in Scripture, and Jesus expressing longing in Scripture. Yeah. So that’s something to be celebrated and to be, to be practiced.

Josh 12:15
Yeah, I think if sex is designed by God, to express something of what God Himself is, like, not the God is sexual. But the spiritual reality of God, who is a God who desires is meant to be manifested through the physical relationship of husband and wife, and I thinking here of Ephesians, five. And I’m thinking about Jesus’s words at the Last Supper when he said, I’ve eagerly desired to share this meal with you. And it’s at that meal that he breaks bread and says, This is my body given for you. Now, obviously, I’m speaking of some mystery things here where this is mysterious, this is hard to understand. But I think it does give us at least some of a template, a little shadow of what our sexual relationship within marriage is supposed to be. So it is a sexual desire for one another in marriage is good. And it’s holy. It’s also something that needs to be purified through the, through the blood of Christ through sanctification, through on ongoing purification, as we kind of learn and say, gosh, you know, right now, I desire one, you know, I desire my wife, and she’s beat, then she just wants to go to bed. And so what do I do with that? And I know I’ve talked to men, I’ve been there myself, where it’s like, it’s hard to fall asleep, because I’m all kind of wired up and ready to go, and she wants to go to sleep. And so in that moment, can can my love be be that be what masters might desire? As opposed to the other way around? Can I submit my sexual desire for my wife might be one of her in this moment, can I submit that to a greater call to love her and to lay down my life for her? This is my body given for you can be manifested in the sexual expression between husband and wife, it can also be manifested in saying no, like, not tonight, I’m going to I’m going to move to the other side of the bed. Because tonight, you need some space, like this is my body given for you? So all so all that to say like to me is I’m trying to sort through like, when is sexual desire good? And when is it faulty or flawed? I have to look at that question. Like, where is it self giving? Am I am I able to give myself for love of her for her good in this moment?

Dan Keefer 14:27
And, you know, I wonder if we’re reducing what it means to be sexual as well, when we when we reduce it to sexual intercourse. Good go, because even even as you were saying about, I’ll move to the other side of the bed. I mean, for some, for some couples to be fully present could be can be, I’m going to hold you with no expectation whatsoever. It’s great. Good. And so that that is to be sexual. Yeah, yeah. And so being able to ask him situations, what does it look like for me to be as fully present as possible with my love? Hmm, that’s good. And now, I mean, and that’s not being done with the hope or expectation that next night, some night down the road, you know, there’ll be sexual intimacy. But yet that that’s what lays the foundation for that deeper intimacy that is often manifested through sexual relationship.

Josh 15:28
So what comes my feet, I love that dance. So good. As long as our idea of sexuality is, is just kind of tethered to the sexual act, the conjugal act to use that old fashioned word, the marital embrace, penis and vagina, then we are minimizing some aspect of sexuality that the reality that are like our from head to toe, we are covered in skin and our, our skin has has sensation feeling. I mean, there’s electricity through the body, metaphorically speaking, maybe I don’t know, anyway. But we are sexual creatures. And I think part of what you’re inviting us into with that is reckoning with the reality that God has created us as sexual beings. And that sexuality includes so much more, it includes the words that we speak, it includes a non so includes a non sexual embrace, in the sense of like, you know, this isn’t going to lead to intercourse tonight.

Dan Keefer 16:27
It’s interesting, because I know in my own relationship with my wife, and I’ve encouraged us with other guys, when they’re holding their wife’s hand, or when a wife was holding her husband’s hand, to really, really hold their hand to feel like the intertwined fingers. And because you’re talking about those sensations in our body that, like that’s there’s oxytocin, the bonding chemical being released, when hands are being held. And so to really just, it’s almost like to, to be saturated in that and to experience the Oneness that’s present there. And so, you know, to think about holding hands is actually an act of sexual intimacy. They seem like a stretch, but I don’t really think it is.

Josh 17:10
Well, I think maybe it maybe it helps us to even redefine, like, if we were to begin thinking about sexual like to be a sexual creature is to be a creature designed by God, for union with another human being. And, and so our sexuality does become something that’s expressed through helping with the dishes, holding a hand, there are just different seasons for how that sexuality is expressed. And all under the heading of the larger umbrella of, of giving ourselves in love one to the one to the other. Yeah, so then, let’s come back for a second, just for the guy who’s going okay. Just, you know, lay it out for me, then, how can I understand like, you know, my, I’m feeling sexually aroused? My wife is there, I’m looking at her. I want her sexually. Is that okay?

Dan Keefer 18:03
Absolutely. Yeah, I think that’s a that’s a beautiful gift to recognize that, okay, God, this is part of how you’re wired me to be able to say to a husband, to his wife, a wife to her husband, I desire you. I desire to be sexually intimate with you. And this could be this would probably be another conversation altogether. But that is one of the most risky things that a husband could say to his wife or a wife to the husband. But to be able to say that, to be able to say I desire this, but I don’t demand it. Oh, my goodness, what an incredible expression of love, expression of self giving love and an expression of desire.

Josh 18:41
Yeah, I think it would be remiss not to not to highlight that so many. We’ve heard from so many wives over the year. And I’m sure this happens for husbands too. But you and I work with much more with men and then have conversations with wives whose husbands are sexually addicted. Where there’s almost this sense of entitlement from the husband that look, I’m I’m trying to be chaste. I’m trying to be sexual integrity integris but I want sex and you’re not giving it to me and so therefore there’s an entitlement, I’m gonna go act out sexually somewhere else may look at porn, I’m gonna masturbate, whatever. absolutely the wrong wrong direction to go. So, again, like I love your answer, is it? Is it good? Is it right is it can be holy for a person to look at their spouse and want to be sexual? Absolutely. We have to recognize that that loves got to get in. There has to be a part of all of this. And

Dan Keefer 19:37
yeah, I’m smiling and almost starting to laugh because I’m thinking about proverbs and proverbs five. Rejoice in the wife of your youth, Song of Songs, and there are these incredibly erotic pictures in Scripture. And so to say that there’s not place for that in marriage would be to say, Well, God, there was some stuff you including That really shouldn’t have been there.

Josh 20:02
Yeah, the other side of it. And we have to remember this too, is that sometimes our desire for sexual union is because we desire to be loved. And, and that’s good, too. We are actually designed spirit, mind and body, to be loved, not just to not just to love but to be loved. The desire to be held the desire for someone to want you is actually also a very good desire. Again, we have we have choices about where we go with that desire. And if we turn that into something sinful, and demanding and entitled and manipulative, and we’ve we’ve we’ve taken our good God given desire, and we’ve steered it in a place that it doesn’t belong. But I think I that comes to mind for me, as I think about even the, you know, telling someone telling your spouse like, Hey, I would desire to be sexual with you and I desire to have sex can I think can it can be a good expression to include, they’re like, I just want to be held, I want to be near you. I desire you I desire if you desire me, and those are hard conversations to have they’re vulnerable conversations that, but I think a healthy marriage can go those places and talk through those things together. We’ve, I think we’ve waded into some deep waters here. There’s so many I mean, I think you probably feel it today. And there’s so many kind of places we can go here that could really steer this awry quickly. I’m even aware that some of the things we’ve said May, you know, may be taken in ways that we wouldn’t intend them. But I think we’ve laid some good, good groundwork here for at least for couples to begin to answer the question of, how do I desire my wife? How do I desire my husband in marriage in ways that are holy and good? Anything you’d add, as we as we wrap up?

Dan Keefer 21:43
Well, even as you’ve said that, I think my my suggestion would be to maybe couples who are listening to this is to be kind and gracious to one another. And if there’s anything that you’ve heard here, that you might turn around and weaponize against your spouse or towards your spouse, that is not Josh normalize intent. And if you are weaponizing it or you come back and say, Yeah, but I heard Josh, I heard Dan, say, you know, at that moment that you’re moving out of, of true, selfless desire to want to turn something back for yourself, and might be bordering on that whole area of law, Steven in there, which is a demand that you do this for me, or an expectation. And so I really would encourage you to be attuned to your own heart. And if you do have a discussion in your home, husband or wife, regarding this, it could even be used as something that would be very helpful for you to build intimacy to build connection to build, one has to build mutual understanding of one another. That would be our heart.

Josh 22:48
Yeah, that’s so good, Dan. Thanks. Yeah. And I mean, if sexuality were simple for people, and love, were simple. And if sin had not gotten gotten in there and corrupted, God, given sexual desire, we wouldn’t be doing this podcast. And so we do anticipate even as this stuff comes up, we hope there’s been clear, mostly clarifying stuff. But if there are places that this is difficult to, to kind of walk out in your marriage, you know, recognize that a lot of couples need help in this area, and it’s good to get it so. So Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of sex. Thank you for the gift of marriage. We pray for those listening who desire marriage, but who aren’t married, Lord, that You would teach them and train them. How do they steward the good gift of sexual desire, not shut it down, not vilify it, but steward it well, and carry it well. In your name, or Jesus, you know how to do that you did it as a person who walked the earth on married as well. And Lord, for those who are married and maybe have a past with or are currently struggling with, bring in sexual desire under the the canopy of love as opposed to something that’s just been ruled by lust. Or we ask that you continue to grow them, train them, teach them give grace, abundant Lord, for both husbands and wives as they deal with this. And Lord, when we can be helped we pray that you let us know that we all these things now name the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, amen.

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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  • I am a married (38 yrs) Christian that has only had sex with one woman, my wife who now has vaginal atrophy and painful sex and is not interested in a sex life of any kind. I am torn by my unrequited sexual desires. I have master-bated but feel guilty even though thinking of my wife and not others.
    Your advice would be appreciated.

    • I’m not an expert. Not in the slightest. I’m a single man never married in my late 30s and have a slew of my own problems. So take what I say with a big fat grain of salt.

      You might try telling this to your wife, and pointing out that you are struggling with your wife denying you entirely despite the fact that you understand she’s not interested due to the pain involved, and perhaps marriage counseling and/or a doctor who can help her/y’all with this problem might be in order. If I’m telling you nothing new, fair enough. Best wishes to both of you.

    • This is very common among women as we age. The hormones shift and we experience dryness in the vaginal area among other changes. It can be embarrassing and frustrating for her especially.

      Sounds as if she needs a special doctor (gynecologist) who works with women suffering from vaginismus. The answer is not to plow through and keep trying to have sex. Seek qualified help. Marriage counseling isn’t the answer for female sexual issues.
      If the reason she’s unable to be with you is because of infidelity, porn, or sex addiction. Groups such as Living Truth with Michael and Kristin Cary and BraveHearts with Michael and Christine Leahy help both partners to confront sex addiction and betrayal trauma and to heal.
      There are many Christians suffering with this.
      I’ve been married 35 years and it’s none of these other issues, then it’s nature. There’s a medication called IMVEXXY. That works great for vaginal dryness. She must see a gynecologist for this medication. Most insurances cover this. Another great thing to try is VITAMIN E SUPPOSITORIES. The ones called Carlson are great at Amazon.
      I’m so sorry you both are suffering. If this information helps please, past it along.

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