Dealing with Sexual Past in Marriage

In Marriage, Relationships by Debra Fileta10 Comments

After publishing an article addressing the topic of dealing with your partner’s sexual history, my inbox was swarmed with emails from readers.

More than anything, the emails came from broken and hurting individuals, struggling with their own personal pasts or trying to make sense of the past of their partners.  There’s no question as to the pain and confusion that the issue of premarital sexual intimacy causes for couples young and old.  It breaks my heart to read their stories and feel their pain through the words of an email.

But the reason I love my faith in God is because it never has to end at needless and empty pain.  There is always more to the story for those who believe.  There is always an exchange available- from ashes, to beauty.  I’m a firm believer that God can heal a person’s past and that He can also heal the wounds that the past might cause in a relationship.   Not only can He heal, but He can allow it thrive.

One particular email came from a young man facing marital struggles in light of his personal sexual past.  His spouse was struggling with his past and they seemed to be stuck.

What do you do when you are in a relationship in which your partner is hung up on your past?  How much time do you give to this struggle?  How many details do you go over, and how often?  How do you help them move forward?  Where does a couple draw the line?

This couple is not alone in their struggles.  I could devote an entire book to this subject.  Unfortunately, this is a topic that a simple blog post cannot do justice.  But with that said, I’m going to leave you with three points that will begin paving the way for the possibility of healing to begin in your marital relationship:

1.  For the partner struggling with their spouse’s sexual past:  You are on a difficult journey, to be sure.  And as hard as it is to say, the only thing that will make this journey even more difficult is your personal insecurities.   The interesting thing is that I find that people are most hurt and grieved by the things that they already struggle with within themselves.  Haunting questions such as: Am I good enough?  Am I attractive enough?  Will I be able to satisfy?

The article I wrote talked about having perspective and forgiveness- but in order to begin that process, we have to search our own demons of inadequacies and insecurities*.  Our partners past will haunt us if we allow these deadly little monsters to take root in our brains.  The more confident we are in our relationship with God and in our relationship with our spouse, the easier it will be to forgive and to begin healing.

But this takes honesty.  Honesty with yourself and with your partner.  Search your heart.  Find those insecurities, and share them with your partner.  Rather than seeking out the nitty-gritty details to salvage the wounds of your personal insecurities, seek affirmation, love, and affection in times of need.  Those are what truly begin to heal the wounds.  It’s important to be able to say, “Honey, I feel really insecure about your past right now, and I could really use some love and affirmation from you”.  It’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s the only place to gain true strength.

And remember- no matter how incredible your mate, they can never fill you up in the way that Jesus can.  Run to Him first with all of your emotional needs and allow your partner’s offerings to be simply the overflow.

2.  To the one who holds a sexual past:  Be patient with your partner.  Be available.  Understand that the need to “know” about your past is ultimately the need for love, affirmation, and validation.  Recognize this and begin to speak into that part of their life by pouring your affection and love.

I don’t think it’s healthy to review your past again and again in the name of affirmation because rather than affirm, it may actually separate.  It’s important to be honest, but once you have done so encourage your spouse to move forward by allowing your actions and your words to portray unconditional love and undying commitment.  In this situation, actions really will speak louder than words.  Gentleness, compassion, affection, self-control, respect, and romance…pour your love on them as your offering.  You can’t change your past, but you can change your actions and reactions in the present in a way that communicates love.

Though you can’t heal your partners insecurities, you can support, love, and encourage them on their journey of healing.

3.  To both of you: Communicate with one another.  Be honest about what you need and share your struggles with each other.  You are on this journey together, and you have the option of allowing these issues to separate you- but you also have every right to draw closer because of them.

Seek God together in these matters; pray out loud for each other, and begin to share an intimacy with one another that is FAR beyond any “sexual encounter” in your past.  The greatest intimacy in life is found in this kind of emotional closeness- and when you share that with another, you have found something priceless.  Relish that, live for that and choose to find that kind of deep emotional intimacy in each other.

My prayers go out to all of you who are struggling with these issues.  May God teach us all to accept forgiveness upon ourselves as we learn to bestow that same forgiveness onto others.

Mark 11:25

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

*Be encouraged to seek professional counseling for any issues that seem to be effecting your life beyond what you can handle.  There are amazing counselors out there who are equipped to help.  Check out the AACC for a list of Christian Professionals in your area. 

Debra Fileta is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

To learn more about healthy relationships, check out True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life! It’s a book that’s changing hearts and lives, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that!

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Comments

  1. Debra,
    Just a quick comment about this post. In point #2, (To the one who holds a sexual past), where you suggest that the person should “begin to speak into that part of their life by pouring your affection and love,” I would say that it would take more than that for me. Along with knowing the details, I would need to be convinced they felt convicted about it. That they truly feel a strong sense of having sinned and then made a change to live according to GOD’s plan. A contemptuous or apathetic attitude would be a deal-breaker for me. That would show me that they felt no respect for their future mate. In their book, “HIS RULES”, by Christopher Burge and Pamela Toussaint, they wrote that when a Christian is involved in sexual relations before marriage, not only is he/she dishonoring GOD and themselves, but they are also dishonoring their future spouse….even if they have not met them yet. That was powerful for me to read.

    1. I would like to disagree. Bringing up another person’s past sexual relations in full detail is just asking for trouble. I feel that making a spouse or significant other feel guilty about what they have done is wrong, because the partner who is now in the relationship is who they want to be with and love and desire. Making someone feel guilty about a past relationship is not the way to go about things. Invalidating someones intimate feelings is very harmful for the person who holds the sexual past. Instead to help the person struggling with the thoughts of their spouse/significant other having sexual relations before them should be brought up before even the thought of marriage because if they are unable to resolve these feelings they should not be entering into such a committed relationship. Within a healthy sexual relationship holds honesty and openness. Communication is key for any relationship to work but especially in a sexual one.

      1. I don’t think we should make anyone feel guilty. But if they do not acknowledge they were wrong and that they sinned I could not be with them. I want my guy if he’s not a virgin to tell me if he had it to do over he would have waited. That is how I will know he was convicted by God and knows he was wrong. But in now way does it mean I want him to feel guilty for the rest of his life, God came to take our shame.

    2. It’s funny really how someone becomes sparkling clean when they have not been sexually defiled. I daresay, it gives them some sort of trophy-worthy mentality and they probably should have that mentality, yeah? The thing though is countless people are dealing with the effects of wrong decisions, past weaknesses and failings in their own very heads and the last thing I personally, would need is to keep rehashing it because someone felt I owed it to them to. I don’t!

      Sure I’ll discuss it once if necessary, maybe even twice but three times and you are just cutting it thin because really i’m not going to spend the rest of my life worrying about my past mistakes and the horrid memories and evil effects and still find myself standing in the box being judged by ANYBODY! Not even my spouse!

      That I feel contrite goes without saying but can all the ‘so sexually pure’ get this into their minds once and for all- It really is not about you! And if you can say, ‘…when a Christian is involved in sexual relations before marriage, not only is he/she dishonoring GOD and themselves, but they are also dishonoring their future spouse…’ Then you really should be asking yourself why dishonouring my future spouse should be more important to me than the fact that I dishonoured God- and then myself!

      You all feel so clean? Forget that there are so many other shady things the ‘sexually pure’ likely have been up to along with everybody else (even if it is ‘only’ the sin of Pride). Or that there are probably a zillion things the sexually pure have been up to that the sexually defiled do not have on their list of sins. But because you have not gone ‘all the way’ or because you have not even had a whiff of sexual immorality then that gives you the right to wield the moral bludgeon?

      Then please do all the ‘sexually defiled’ a favour- find yourselves and marry within yourselves. At least the sexually defiled can be left to marry each other and believe me that just might be so much more blissful BECAUSE we probably understand ourselves, where we slipped, why we slipped, our weaknesses and most importantly, the message of GRACE better. The next time you want to go on a date? Please don’t forget to ask the question, ‘Are you a Virgin?’ Shalom!

      P.S- You will notice I use sexually pure and sexually defiled without apology. That’s because I am no longer defined by where I was at or who I was – get used to it… (or not! i really couldn’t care either way. What I am more worried about is the sin of pride that is certain to be stirred in heats that are tired of explaining to judgments like these by folks thinking they have a right to hang ANYONE. You’ve walked in no one’s shoes but yours. What right do you have talk down on anyone!) As for those tagged sexually pure why don’t you continue to bask in the euphoria, hanging the tag around your necks like a placard, waving the accolade like a white flag. Hopefully, it is all that you need to get you to heaven.

    3. Hi David,

      I want to first begin by saying that yes your right! Sexual sin outside of marriage is absolutely dishonoring to God and to a future spouse. That said, let’s not forget that the Gospel is a story of love and grace and mercy and redemption. God came to us to save us from our terrible deeds and will not not deny Himself to those who seek Him. The story of David is a story of adultery and murder, but forgiveness. God can do so much more good with a broken heart with past regrets that seeks him than of someone who has led a life perfectly according to legalism, but is full of pride boasting of his/her good deeds. Sexual sin does not make us damaged goods or too broken to ever experience marriage in the way that God designed. By believing this we deny God’s power of mercy and grace. He is bigger than all sin. And let’s also remember that no one is without blemish. The purpose of the Ten Commandments was to show us what God needs from us and to show us that we can never be a child of God on our own. Rather, it shows us that we are all sinners and need Him in our lives. It all comes back to God and our desperate need for Him for salvation. God is too good to let anyone who seeks Him, no matter what sin, to leave them. Let’s be Christians who allow all sinners, even those who have sexual sins in their past, to heal and lead new lives.

      Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV
      Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

      Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
      For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

      James 2:10 ESV
      For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

      Romans 8:1
      Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

      James 4:6
      But He gives us more grace. That is why scripture says, “God opposes the proud and shows favor to the humble.”

      I hope this can help give you perspective.

      Kelly

      1. @ Kelly

        You seemed to have cherry-picked convenient verses to make your point, also I sense this strange self-entitled attitude in you. The Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of Cuckoldery. When you sin, there is a consequence to that sin and you do indeed damage your body both physically and spiritually. Please make yourself accountable to your sins, and not act like.. oh well I will cuck the Lord and He will forgive me anyways. God is not some stupid beta male cuck sitting in heaven waiting to forgive us. That is just disgusting!

        So if you are really that loving – why don’t you marry a man with a criminal record? You know like a sexual predator, or a murderer etc. Let’s say he clearly witnessed his Christian conversion to you.. can ‘your’ enlightened love accept him as your husband?

  2. Debra I just want you to know I did use the AACC website and found a great professional counselor in my area! Tx for referencing this resource in the TLD workbook!!

  3. Even though I’m a middle-aged single, I have benefitted from your advice. However, on the subject of a partner’s sexual past, I honestly don’t understand why spouses would talk about past sexual behavior as long as it ended before the relationship started and hasn’t resulted in children or an STI that has to be managed in the present.
    I guess because I’m older and came to Christ later in life, I don’t expect my spouse not to have a sexual past. I just don’t feel that it’s any of my business. I think that focusing on a spouse’s sexual past is just asking for hurt and inviting self-doubt and strife into a relationship. Why do that?
    What’s more important to me is whether or not he is totally devoted to having a Christ-centered marriage with me and committed to being monogamous.

  4. Some of the commenters seem to be confused about what forgiveness of sin actually means.

    When we repent and turn from our sins Christ will forgive us of the eternal consequences of our sins, the most important consequences by far! However, at no point in the scriptures are we ever told that the temporal consequence, the results of bad choices, just go away because we repent.

    A woman who spends her youth in sexual sin can repent, turn from her sin and trust in Christ’s forgiveness. She can also count on men she dates, especially men who have minimal or no sexual past, having a problem with her past. God designed men, women, marriage, sex and if you’ve lived incorrectly you can expect bad consequences from your bad choices. Please don’t act entitled, it’s not attractive.

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