Can Love and Lust Coexist in a Relationship?

Lust can confuse the entire issue with love and respect.
Lust can confuse the entire issue with love and respect. | Source
Love keeps you together and lust keeps the relationship alive. But what happens when "respect" gets in the way?

What's In This Article?

  • What is Lust?
  • The Dilemma of Love, Lust and Respect
  • How Respect Affects Things
  • The Confusion of Having Lust with Respect
  • The Power of Lust
  • Reader Survey

What Is Lust?

  1. An overwhelming desire or craving.
  2. An intense longing.
  3. A very strong sexual desire.

The Dilemma of Love, Lust and Respect

I have a theory: If you love someone, and you have a strong respect for your partner, then you may have trouble experiencing lust.

Love in a relationship can keep two people together and lust can keep the relationship alive. However, what happens when "respect" gets in the way? Somehow lust and respect don't work well together.

You might be thinking that lust is only the desire for sex and not caring for your partner’s feelings. Maybe that's true, but before I go any further, I think a definition of lust is important...

According to Webster’s Dictionary, lust also has less appalling meanings than you might think at first.

Let’s examine some definitions of lust along with my comments on each.

1. An overwhelming desire or craving.

Not so bad, right? This could apply to anything you ever wanted in your life, such as a craving for chocolate. A lust for sweets. This could imply “enthusiasm”, such as a lust for life. It’s nice to be enthusiastic about something. You might have a lust to succeed.

2. An intense longing.

This could be an intense longing for someone, or for anything at all. There’s nothing seriously wrong with this either.

3. A very strong sexual desire.

Webster goes on to say “An intense or unrestrained sexual desire.” Okay, now we’re getting closer to the dark side. We might say that lust is a physical need for someone.

So what is love? Can we say that if we love someone then we have no need for lust? Maybe. Many relationships function like that, two people loving each other and respecting each other.

Oh, there’s that R word! No, not relationship. I’m referring to “Respect.” The premise of this discussion is to determine how respect can hinder the strong emotional feelings of lust that can help make a healthy relationship romantic.

How Respect Affects Things

Some people are wired in such a way that they can only lust after another when they don't respect them.

I have found some agreement about this among both men and women, and I have found others who deny that lust has anything to do with a healthy relationship. You be the judge.

Allow me to propose this idea to contemplate a while. When a man respects a woman, he can't love her with a full feeling of lust. That is a strong statement for me to make. It certainly does not apply to all men. However, from my observation, it does explain the mental attitude of some men.

In my opinion, those who function that way are wired in such a way that they can only love a woman who they don't respect. Can this be a healthy relationship?

How do they interpret love? Are they confusing love with lust? I think so. A man will find it difficult to respect a woman who he lusts after. (This can go for women's feelings towards men too, but I'll focus on this from a man's point of view for the sake of this discussion. Women readers who can relate to this discussion are welcome to share your comments below.)

Thinking this way, a man will never have the enjoyment of lust in a healthy loving relationship. Is it really correct to say that a man can only feel lust for a woman when he has a lack of respect for her?

Now that we both understand the concept, I'll elaborate on the dilemma I came up with.

The Confusion of Having Lust with Respect

If a man who is in an emotional affair starts to fall in love with a woman who he respects, then he finds himself confused with having the thoughts of love and lust at the same time.

He finds himself treating her with total respect. He treats her as a princess. He wants everything for her. He wants to make her happy.

But with all this respect and caring, can he still lust after her? Can he be totally open with her and share secret lustful joys with her?

He is either sheltering her from this dark side of himself, or he is afraid to share this dark side with her due to the respect he has for her.

Now this brings me to an important consideration. It is simply a normal sexual behavior that adds fun and amusement to a relationship. This dark side I refer to is nothing bad. Review the definitions above again that I took from Webster's Dictionary.

Every good and healthy relationship includes this kind of sharing. It opens the door for sexual expression between a man and a woman.

Why, then, is there an issue with opening up emotionally with a woman with whom the man has total respect?

Is the respect creating a brick wall? Is it actually hindering any ability to make a full emotionally united partnership out if it?

Is it correct to say that love and lust are mutually exclusive? That is to say that we can have either one but not both? I know many men who have chosen a life with a woman who is not right for them. They married out of lust, not love.

In some cases, that works because love develops from it. Well, sometimes it does, but it's not my cup of tea. I want the love and lust along with respect.

The Power of Lust

If you have lust with someone and you fall in love, the love will keep you together and the lust will keep it alive.

Lust is important for a relationship to flourish. We certainly need love, no question about it. Without lust the romance in a relationship can dwindle over time.

It’s lust that keeps some types of people from seeking other partners. Other types of people have the desire to remain faithful simply because of the love they feel.

I believe that "lust" has a lot to do with having a deep-felt loving relationship as long as one can combine it with respect.

In a healthy relationship, if you love each other, the love continues to feed on itself.

If you started out with lust and discovered later that the person is someone you can respect, then love may follow and you stay together. However, if you respect someone before developing lust or love, then when you do fall in love, the lust is difficult to discover. Does that make sense?

It’s fine if you don’t need it. Some people feel it's part of romance. Then what? You love and respect one another, but you can’t move forward with the relationship.

The trick is to start with lust, then fall deeply in love, and let the respect develop later. However, there is no way to control the order of things. It's all part of life.

It's clear that we want to spend our life with someone we truly love. If it’s only for lust then something is wrong, but lust can be an enjoyable component of a relationship.

If you're in a loving and respectful relationship without lust, that's fine if the love is strong enough. If lust is desired but missing, help one another create it with honest communication.

Reader Survey…

What best describes your situation?

  • I lusted after someone then fell in love.
  • I fell in love but never had that lustful feeling.
  • I respect someone and that is interfering with my ability to have a lustful feeling.
  • I don’t see the need for lust. It has no part in a loving relationship.
See results without voting

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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If this inspired you, share your thoughts... 19 comments

Mom Kat profile image

Mom Kat 4 years ago from USA

My hubby and I have been together for 6+ years. We love and respect one another. I would have to say that he lusts after me more than I lust after him. I've settled into a practical stance where while I still find him attractive, I can wait until the kids have gone to bed before looking for affection. He, on the other hand, still lusts after me as much as when we first met. He wants to send the kids outside, plunk them in front of a movie, or ship them off to a relative for a few hours & he wants it "right now". It doesn't matter if I wear a gunny sack covered in mud! He's always "in the mood" & always waiting for the green light to pounce... lol (maybe it's just a guy thing)

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Personally I think God made us thus. When a couple get married (assuming you are speaking religiously) I think their thoughts are much about lust and this is normal. Now if one gets tired of the other and lusts for someone else then there is the problem. Lust naturally will die down as the marriage goes on and turn more to love than lust. I think maybe that is why one or the other sometimes do turn to someone else if this is not mutual in the change. Even certain animals and birds are monogamist. It is a choice but lust within a marriage is certainly not wrong.

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Hmm, an interesting hub here, Glenn. I have been married 3 times (strangely, not particularly because I wanted to be married but because the guy wanted to marry me, I just sort of got carried away).

I have known love and lust, intense and ... er, mild. The intense love/lust ruined a marriage and was simply not worth it in the end. Believe me ...

Men experience lust ... it is part of what drives them ... and correctly so, it ensures the human race continues. So men, I believe, can sometimes, (often?) divorce themselves from the person they are coupling with ... some even to the point of imagining their partner is someone else and thus experience lust. Does that make sense?

Women (usually and thank God) have to have some sort of feelings for the man they sleep with ... unless drunk. Women are usually the brake, the voice of reason and not all of us experience lust (sadly or maybe not).

When you get to my age, and have had some sexual/romantic adventures you eventually realise just how unimportant romantic love, with or without lust, is, trust me.

At my age (64) friendship is much more important. Someone to hold your hand when the diagnosis is not good, someone to worry with when your kids are going through hard times ...

Friends ... but with benefits :)

Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

Glenn, I wonder if personalities have anything to do with this? An interesting question, on which I vehemently answer Yes! Two marriages and a few relationships (at my age I'm entitled to more but....), I have to say yes, you most definitely can lust after a person you respect. These emotions are not even cousins in meaning. May try a hub on this, as my lover of 12 years just married someone else one week ago, and I know both my and his respect and lust for each other will never go away. Reasons for his marriage to someone else very understandable, but we know, although only one or two others ever will, and marriage totally changes the relationship! Both have lust under control--he's with someone else for good reason; we both have lots of respect for the other for many, many reasons! Others, no problem. This one will, I think, always be the same for both of us.

Laurel 3 years ago

For me it is the exact opposite of what you describe. If I am attracted to a man, and if I respect him, then the love and the lust get stronger. I think that is healthy.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Laurel - I have to agree with you about that being healthy when you can have both feelings at the same time. It's something that some people need to work on to have a healthy relationship. I am sure that communication on the topic can help. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

jrueff profile image

jrueff 3 years ago from Kansas City

Great hub, I like your analysis of love and lust - I think the English language tends to fail in this category especially; I love my wife, and yet I love peanut butter... In Greek, there are 4 words for love I think:

Agape, Eros, Phileo, and Koinonia or something like that (it's been awhile...)

Your definition of lust I think would be defined as Eros by the Greeks; sensory/sensual/physical love, as opposed to brotherly love, unconditional/selfless love, and communal/community love.

Voted up, great post!

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

jrueff - Thank you so much for your kind and descriptive comment. I know exactly what you mean about language not having the right words. In addition to your example with Greek having four words for love, I used the same idea in another Hub I wrote -- Thinking Thoughts Without Language. I mentioned in it that Arabic has 40 words for Camel. What it all boils down to is that we can only express ourselves as well as the language we use allows us. So in English our love of a spouse is not decipherable from our love of peanut butter. I like the way you think. Thanks for the vote up.

jrueff profile image

jrueff 3 years ago from Kansas City

You're welcome! That article is definitely something I'd be interested in - when I get the chance, I'll head over to read it. Wow... 40 words for camel, that's hilarious - and intriguing really.

AmandaJon profile image

AmandaJon 3 years ago

Excellent hub Glenn, you gave an insight on a very controversial subject. When you love someone you feel more tenderness and care for this person, but I'm not saying that there can't be lust in their relationship. I suggest for couples who want to feel lust in their long term relationship to experimentalize, what I mean is to try something different, something unusual, follow your instincts at unusual place or time, maybe then you'll feel lust again.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

AmandaJon - That is a very insightful comment. Your explanation is a useful method for all couples who feel that something is slipping away. Thanks for stopping by.

Jane 3 years ago

I would argue that it is not love or respect, but familiarity and the almost inevitable complacency that develop in a relationship that kills lust (and sometimes respect and love). Why is the death of lust so much more commonplace than the other two? Maybe because it is primal. Maybe it is because it is seen as a cardinal sin in the modern Western world.

2 years ago

I've been in three serious relationships, the first we had an amazing connection. Love, lust and respect were all very strong. We focused our energy on the love and lust side of things and I started losing respect for her, until things became complicated, she cheated and it ended. The second was mostly lustful, a bit of love developed but again, little respect. I saw this going in the same direction as the first relationship so I ended it. The third one began with the foundation of respect, a little lust crept in, love developed and we got married and had a baby. The lust has dimished, but love and respect prevail. I often wonder if there was more lust, would it weaken my respect for my wife, and after reading this post I think it might do. Certainly, I see the appeal to having a lustful relationship, it's fun! But I don't know that it is a stable foundation for a healthy relationship as it was detrimental to my first two relationships. Sooner or later, the woman will realise she is not being respected, but lusted after, and I believe most women would rather be respected by their partner than lusted after. I'm now starting to think that lust can be problematic if that part of the relationship is focused on and developed more than love and respect. I think lust is something that needs to be managed and controlled and not allowed to take over. My 2 cents anyway :)

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

T - I appreciate your wonderful feedback. Your explanation of your three relationships makes something very clear that is important. That is, the order of the development of the three things. From your experience it is absolutely clear that the best relationship, and a lasting one, has a better chance if respect comes first. Then lust, and finally - love.

It is also understandable that lust will always deminish over time as people age. But respect can never be taken away as long as it is based on truth. And as far a love goes, that's always something that takes time to grow and can continue growing with the right ingredients.

I'm glad you found your third love. That sure sounds like a keeper.

Isaac 22 months ago

Lust alone ruins; Love respects; and respect may not always love, but it does at times and when that happens, adoration of the respected-lusted after individual takes root.... To keep things in perfect harmony, love must reign supreme in order to find lust and respect... It's a great thought...thank you very much..

David 16 months ago

This whole idea of love/lust has been stressing me out lately. I've recently made the decision to commit to a woman whom I've been enjoying wonderful sex with, and it's almost like my physical desire for her has disappeared overnight. The stronger the feelings are in my chest, the lesser they are in my loins. Cannot tell you how reassuring it is to have this article validate my experience.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 16 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

David, And in return, I thank you for validating my thoughts on this matter. It's probably more common than we realize.

Timetraveler2 2 months ago

What you're discussing with regards to respect and lust is the old "Madonna" complex. Once some men gain respect and admiration for a woman, they begin to view her much in the same way as they view their mothers. No normal man would ever dream of having sex with his own mother!

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

Timetraveler2 - Gee, I sure hope not! There is even another aspect to this... Some men admire and respect their girlfriend/spouse but don't admire their mother.

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