Love, Lust, and Marriage.
After saying those profound words, I thought to myself, "What an idiot! No woman wants to hear the other L-word, especially my wife." I was right. She was befuddled and dismayed at my revelation to her. "Lust," she said, "why lust?" "Because you are the sexiest woman I know, and I do, I really lust for you," I responded, patting myself on the back for my quick thinking. "Yeah, sure. Bye," she said and hung up.
I was embarrassed at first, but then I decided that I was just being honest. I do love her and I do find her incredibly sexy. But in marriage the "other L-word" is a no-no. Traditionally, married couples are expected to love, honor, and obey--not lust for each other.
I remember when I was growing up that at age ten I realized my parents had to have had (heaven forbid) sex in order to conceive me. Just the thought of my mother and my father (dare I say it) naked and in the throes of passion even today makes me feel uncomfortable. But they had to "do it" for me to be here. And to think they had to have done it at least eleven times! My father, sure. But not my mother, never my mother. She's a saint! But they must have or I wouldn't be here. And what is so bad about them "doing it"?
My parents have been married for almost half a century. Although I believe that their love is powerful and enduring, I am also happy that their lust is just as fortified. I sometimes see my father glance at my mother with a passion that is both endearing and lustful. He still desires her after all these years.
And that is my point: love endears while lust desires. Both love and lust must be given their due. Love is a kind and respectful motion that holds someone gently in our hearts. Lust is full of passion and desire, even covetousness that breeds a need to physically be with the other person. A marriage can't endure without both emotions present.
I know of many couples who have divorced because their relationship lacked one or the other emotion. One couple, friends of the family, were recently divorced because of the lack of lust in their relationship. The wife complained that she would always have to initiate sexual contact. No matter how sexually attractive she would make herself, her husband would not pay any attention. She would have to go so far as to beg him to make love. In the end, the pressure of being the only one with sexual passion for the other destroyed the relationship and they divorced.
Another couple we know divorced after several years due to the opposite reason. The husband coveted his wife but didn't truly love her. He held her up as his prize and conquest. Their lovemaking was grand up until the point where he no longer wanted to make love but would rather parade her before his friends and take her out in public only to see if other men would hit on his "prize." When the wife finally figured out what was going on, all her love for him left her. She was still physically attracted to him but no longer respected or cherished him. They soon divorced and have battled bitterly over visitation and custody of their children ever since.
Love, lust, and marriage go hand in hand. Between love and lust, neither is greater than the other. Even now, after six years of marriage and thirteen years of being together, if my wife moves her hips a certain way or laughs when I least expect it, I know she can make my heart rate skyrocket. From her own admission I know she feels the same. Our respect and love for each other grows daily as I understand more what motivates her and how much I need her for balance in my life.
A few days ago, my wife called me at work to say that she told a coworker about what I had said about love and lust. According to my wife, her coworker sat there for a few minutes flabbergasted by what I had said and then remarked that she wished her boyfriend would say something so "wonderful." My wife told me that, after hearing her coworker's response, she sat and thought about it and then felt good inside because she realized she felt the same way about me.
Stanley N. Bernard is the director for administration and human resources and a senior staff associate at the National Center for Children in Poverty, Mailman School of Public Health, at Columbia University.