How Important Is Physical Attraction in Marriage?

Newlywed couple
A newlywed couple celebrates during a mass wedding ceremony of the Unification Church at Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, South Korea, February 20, 2016. |

While physical attraction is a part of finding a spouse, it is only one piece of the puzzle in choosing a lifelong mate, Marshall Segal writes for DesiringGod.

Segal, who serves as associate editor of the Christian website, discussed the topic of physical attraction in a blog published last Thursday, questioning how much of a role attraction should play when choosing a lifelong partner.

Segal explains that God created physical attraction, and while it does play a role in marriage, it should be seen as flexible, with a spouse's inner beauty being a far more important and long-lasting asset.

"Physical attraction is real, but flexible," Segal writes, noting that it's part of God's design to find each other beautiful.

The most attractive asset in a spouse should be ...

"God gave us physical senses and desires for our good. But that's only one piece of what makes people attractive, and it is not the main piece — nowhere close. Mutual faith in Jesus Christ should be the most arrestingly attractive thing about any potential spouse," Segal contends.

The associate editor of points to examples of how physical attraction can be flexible, as seen in the elderly couple who still finds each other attractive after decades together, not because they are actually physically attractive in a conventional sense, but because their love and appreciation for each other has grown over the years.

Segal also notes the importance of recognizing that beauty without faith is extremely fleeting.

"Should a Christian man pursue a Christian woman to whom he is physically attracted? I might say, 'No.' That is, if all you know or like about her is what you see," Segal writes, warning that Christian men should take things slowly and ensure that they know the personality, spirituality and emotions of the woman, instead of just her looks.

"Have you seen enough of her faith, her spiritual strength and maturity, her Christlikeness to know if her beauty is real and durable, or superficial and fading?" Segal questions.

As Christians, the most important attribute that attracts us to another should be godliness, Segal continues.

"As godly men and women, we should find godliness incredibly attractive. In fact, in our eyes and hearts, it should be the most attractive thing about the most attractive people. That doesn't mean that if you're a Christian, you should find every Christian man or woman attractive. But it should mean there's a theme or trend in your attractions," the associate editor writes.

Segal concludes his message by encouraging Christian men to "learn the vanity of physical beauty (by itself) and the lies lacing flirtatious charm and flattery, and train your heart and mind to praise and desire the woman whose heart is hot for Jesus."

Is being physically attracted to your spouse really necessary?

John Piper, founder of DesiringGod, has also spoken on the topic of physical attraction, saying that he doesn't believe it's biblical to think that being attractive is a necessary part of a Christian marriage.

If this were true, no less-than-attractive people would ever get married, and all older people would divorce once their looks faded.

Like Segal, Piper explains that outward, physical attraction is fleeting, and therefore one should look to inward beauty in their spouse if seeking a long-lasting, God-filled marriage.

"I think we husbands should labor not so much with the outward man, and the women shouldn't labor so much with the outward woman. Rather, we should all cultivate the kind of beauty that we all deeply long for in relationships," Piper explains.

"A marriage is a relationship. When you're old, gray, wrinkled, overweight (or underweight), squinty, bent over, and hobbling along, maybe you'll be holding hands at 85 because of the inner beauty," the evangelical leader, who also serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, concludes.

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