Full Question

Is it true that sexual intercourse between a married couple is sinful if the spouses do it with lust for each other?


I realize that in our culture the word “lust” can be understood quite broadly, from “l****** after a chocolate bar” to simply finding another person to be sexually attractive.

But for the Catholic Church, to lust is to seek sexual pleasure in another person solely for one’s own pleasure without regard for the other person. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (CCC 2351).

To have sexual feelings for one’s spouse or to enjoy sexual pleasure with one’s spouse is fine and according to God’s design. But to use one’s spouse as an object of pleasure without concern for the spouse is mortally sinful.


  • I married at older age but loved him and did not want to commit a sin then I hear all this stuff about only intimate relations are to have a child then why let us older people marry at all. Si If you are not marry or not trying to have children or even in love completely and married no relations between husband and wife for each other pleasure–I don’t understand and I love my Catholic faith.

    • Kingsley N,C says:

      “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and UNITIVE purposes” (CCC 2351).
      hello Mary, read again and understand what the Church said about lustful sex with spouse…”UNITIVE purpose”. so apart from having children spouse can also have sexual intercourse for Unitive, Love, affection and intimacy purpose

    • Andrew says:

      I agree!!!

    • Andrew says:

      I agree with you Mary!

    • Laura says:

      Hallo Mary, Sex is designed by God for bonding purposes between husband and wife, AND for procreation. So it is OK to desire each other sexually within a married relationship. Often people do make the mistake to think that in order to be “good christians” we should not have sex outside of marriage (that is called fornication). This is correct. Sex is a powerful bonding factor between a man and a woman. But outside of a life-long committed relationship (=marriage) it can be very damaging. HOWEVER….even married people can commit sin when they have sex, if their only coal is to achieve personal sexual gratification. That is called “lust”. This is what this article is talking about. Lust is when you look at your partner/ spouse as an object for your own gain and personal gratification. In the Christian faith we are called to love our spouse and to seek out THEIR well being and THEIR pleasure first. Not to be self-centered and seek sexual intercourse merely as a means for personal gratification only.

      • Andrew says:

        Laura I feel you are way off base with your response. I feel there is NO way a couple who is married in the Catholic Church could ever commit a sin due to any sexual relationship between the husband and wife. Sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed by one another and to separate “lust” from desire is splitting hairs. The answer is a “Church” response and not one from God.

        • Byron says:

          It’s pretty damned easy to justify whatever you want out of life with an answer like that, isn’t it?
          Just because a couple is married doesn’t preclude the possibility of either spouse treating the other as a mere sexual object. That is lust. It is not love and it is wrong. That answer is from the Church and from God.

          • Jeff says:

            Excellent answer. Moral Theologian John Kippley’s book “Sex and the marriage covenant” addresses this extremely well and it’s a pretty easy read. For spouses to treat or view each other as mere sexual objects is a sin, no matter what perspective or angle you try to define it by. Even from a pure secular standpoint, sexual intercourse’s sole intention is to create and perpetuate our species. It’s easy and very transparent to see historically that societies embracing sexual exploitation have failed, even if the exploitation was only a part of the problem. I don’t see it as semantics at all. To desire ones spouse is natural and important. Attraction sexual or otherwise is a gift from God. Lust, however, is the addiction of sex, placing sex before God and therefore becoming your god.

          • cyndy says:

            Lust in this context is using your partner as a tool for sexual gratification. In most cases the satisfaction is not both ways! The church in her wisdom know this is true and advices against it. Some partner indulge in strange and hurtful sexual practices that most times are hurtful to their partner just to achieve sexual gratification. This is LUST!

    • umagigi says:

      1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
      For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

    • Jennifer R says:

      Mary , I talked to my priest about this very subject and other people within the diocese they all agree if you marry it has to be a life giving love. Not necessarily meaning you will have a child together, there are plenty of young couples that can’t have children and still have sexual relations with each other. It is not sinful, you are loving each other with the purpose of giving each other life when you die to self and do for each other. My husband and I will never have a child of our own but we give love to many others around us in need and to each other. God bless you and hope this helps

    • Cynthia says:

      I think a typical example of lust would be say ‘wild sexual practises’ that perhaps hurts the your spouse and he /she didnt consent to and just because you feel it takes you to the climax you practice that disregarding the feeling of your spouse. Now that ‘s LUST

  • […] Full Question Is it true that sexual intercourse between a married couple is sinful if the spouses do it with lust for each other? Answer I realize that in our culture the word lust can  […]

  • johanna says:

    have 5 children and I really don’t want any more children. I actually abstain from having sex with my husband bc I don’t want to get pregnant is that a sin????

    • Catholic Say Staff says:

      It isn’t good to abstain entirely especially if its not a joint decision. What you need is to go to a Catholic Medical expert to direct you on Natural Family Planning. God bless

    • Luisa Kollman says:

      No abstinance is a natural birth control. It doesn’t go against God’s plan.

  • Raji Koshy says:

    I am sure that every religion in this world is made for the betterment of human being – but today every religion is interpreted by different people to their thinking and to their benefit, causing doubts, confusion and distrust among human and finally the cause of all trouble on this earth. Only God can save us.

  • rezaul karim says:

    Raji kosh appreciate….ISLAM teaching God gives REWARD TO HAVE SEX BETWEEN SPOUSE…even giving kisses there is reward…..May God guide everyone to truth Islam.

    • io says:

      In Islam women are sexual objects in and afterlife…don t be delusional

    • john says:

      your god rewards you virgins when you die what kind of god rewards you virgins? your god loves sin you even murder to satisfy your god,so dont come on here telling us how great islam is tell that to those who are being persecuted in the name of your god.

    • Dira says:

      Never Islam, degrades woman for man lust, I worked for Islamic Iranians and they do not respected women at all, only their wives are holly but the other they constanly harasing them their lust is disgusting. I love my catholic faith where men for most part respected All women no only the catholic woman.

  • Binoy says:

    I would like to add to the main reply to the Answer above. It is sinful if we use even Natural Family Planning (NFP), to avoid having children. Let every intercourse be open to life, if GOD so desires. If HE does not desire, there would be no children, let this be clear. We fail to see the Hand of GOD in the creation of Life and only see intercourse in the creation of life. This mentality has to change.
    GOD does not give unlimited children to a couple, HE has decided much earlier (I would say before time), how many children to gift to a couple. If we have a number of children and are not open to further children from GOD, then we are not living GOD’s Will, but our own.
    We might have a number of reasons to choose, including financial aspect. But if GOD is at the centre of our lives, then all things, including the financial aspect, is left to HIM. HE knows much better than us, how to take care of HIS children (we’re only care-takers of HIS gifts, as parents).
    Those couples who decide jointly (and prayerfully) to abstain, let it be for religious reasons, like the season of Lent, or Advent, etc. There are Saintly couples who decide jointly (and prayerfully) to abstain for the rest of their lives, this though would be for them to join some religious order, meant for such couples and not to avoid having children or any other reasons (including financial).

    • judith says:

      binoy, disagree with you completely

    • Patrick says:

      Binoy, you’re talking like a calvinist. Remember, God has a plan, we also have free will. You can’t have both, either we’re robots and have no control of our fate, or we have our own will, and God hopes that we will be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
      We make as many children as God’s creation (our bodies) will allow. Natural family planning is a method of both in the couple choosing to abstain, so they don’t have kids, based on how fertile the woman’s body is that day. NFP is a mutual choice of the couple, therefore there is no disorder in practicing it, especially as you say God destines us for as many as he plans, if that is true, NFP will not make a difference. NFP is not an artificial contraception that prevents pregnancy, it is having sex when pregnancy is not likely with no outside interference.

    • Binoy, I am 105% agree to you, god bless you, your explanation is very clear, “God let your will be done”..

    • Andrew says:

      Binoy you are out of touch with God’s gift of sexuality!

    • Josephine Sedilla says:

      I agree 100%. Even NFP is not good like calendar method, billings ovulation method etc. It can lead to anti-life mentality that when it fails could lead to immoral means of avoiding children for the weak in faith.

  • Andrew says:

    Your response to this question is way off base. Everyone who has sex has some degree of lust associated with it. Where are you obtaining your information from the Puritans? I can not believe what you have responded are the true feelings of Christ.

  • Liz says:

    Kinsley is right. Did we all forget about Sarah? She had a son at old age. If it’s the will of God for an older couple to have a child, so be it. Just because you may think you can’t have children that doesn’t mean you can’t be with your husband. We need to trust God and be obedient to the church teachings. Pray constantly when you feel tired, God will give us rest. He knows how much we can handle. If we just take one day at a time and each day we trust God to the fullest, we wouldn’t have to worry. Always remmember his promises, we are worth more than birds. Hold on to his promises, he will always provide, we will walk and not get tired, we are filled with the Holly Spirit, lets believe Jesus.

  • randy says:

    My recommendation is not to try to generate hard and fast rules.
    When dealing with any of the “deadly sins”, there is no fine line to state when we are sinning.
    If contemplation and discernment are part of our regular prayer activity, our conscience will tell us when our motivations have become purely of the flesh….that is when we get into sin.
    So….how angry do we have to be with our spouse to where we should obtain from sex?
    If we are separated and trying to make it work, could sex be a catalyst to reconciliation?
    Are we lying to ourselves and just want to have a fling before we throw in the towel on the relationship?
    These are internal decisions…this is our own salvation we are talking about…at some point, we have to just sit, listen to God, and do our best not to lie to ourselves.

  • Tom says:

    So many rules, you are going to burn in hell either way so might as well go out on a murderous rampage and enjoy it.

  • danielle says:

    i am confused.. i have a boyfriend withbserious illness i don’t know what to do..do i have to leave him or not?

    • Noel David says:

      If you really love him Danielle, you’d never leave him…. Supposing you are married to this person and he happens to get affected with some serious illness after marriage – would you ever think of leaving him?

  • Prince Kufre Abel says:

    St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said ‘a man should not deprive his wife neither the wife should deny the husband of sex except when in special prayer period or fasting, else Satan tempt each other to sin’. Please, explain this statement with lust.

  • Georges Kawkabany says:

    This is ridiculous…we are human not animals and the pleasure we feel during sexual intercourse is a gift from GOD what differentiate us from animals. Lust is of course prohibited outside marriage…Adultery is a grave sin…

  • Joseph O says:

    I think people’s interpretation of the said canon law is out of context. Some people may marry a lady with disguise of marriage , pay her bills etc for the sole purpose of their gratification and are neither uniting with her as real couple nor procreating. The heart of a man is complex!

  • If not for some of the “lustful” times that both my wife and I had for each other, we would have fallen out of love, divorced, or worse… found another thereby committing adultery. Look, marriage between and man and a woman is hard enough as it is. The last thing a marriage needs, especially in today’s time with marriage of man and woman under full force attack, is to have some overly religious scribe teaching men and women who are married that having fun together is wrong. In my honest words, GROW UP! You are not mature as holy scribes, you are still babies.
    The Changeless Christ
    Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
    Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said,
    so that we confidently say,

  • John says:

    So if the husband is in the mood and the wife is not. Or is she outright rejects the advances of the husband. The husband having lustful thoughts about his wife is already committing a mortal sin? I am ofcourse using the same principle for committing adultery. That even if it was done only in the mind it will count as a mortal sin.

  • Andrew says:

    John please do not be influenced by some of the outrageous comments on this subject. Sex is a gift from God for married couples. Many times the husband and wife are not on the same wave length at the same time. You have committed NO sin and your lustful thoughts are normal. The Catholic Church sometimes is very good at “dictating” what it feels is God’s intent with no basis.

    • Byron says:

      Every doctrine and belief of the church is based on scripture and reason. Again, you’re giving empty arguments and are probably just trying to justify not having to feel bad about regarding your spouse as a sex object.

  • ogechi olumba says:

    How can one see his/her spouse as a sex tool? Is it possible? Even if it is, what if d other person loves and enjoys it that way, is it still a sin?

  • Eva says:

    This is all interesting. My husband and I used NFP and welcomed our first baby 11 months after marriage. I have in many cases abstained from sex as a protest to marital issues and because I don’t believe I’ll get as much sexual gratification as he will. Although he desires me sexually, I do not always give myself to him. We’re both guilty of self pleasure, but we see it as a means to relieve ourselves of the lack of sex between us. Are we commiting sin?

  • Eli says:

    Eva, are you a troll?

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