Dealing with Sexual Past in Marriage

In Marriage, Relationships by Debra Fileta

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! 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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