Are You Punishing Yourself or Your Spouse for Past Promiscuity?

Recently I wrote a post about how You Are Not Being Punished for Your Past Promiscuity.

The gist of that post was that sexual sin is not beyond the reach of God and that if you think your mediocre sexual intimacy with your husband is your punishment for your past promiscuity, you have missed some resounding truths in God’s Word.

I pray that post was an encouragement.

One comment I received, though, got me thinking. Paul Byerly, a long-time advocate for nurtured sexual intimacy, shed some light on another form of punishment. My ears perk up when Paul and his wife Lori Byerly speak, because they are forerunners in this realm of speaking authentically to Christians on sexual intimacy (

What Paul pointed out is that sometimes husbands and wives punish themselves or each other for past promiscuity. Hmmmm. What does this look like in a marriage and what are some God-honoring solutions?

From a sexual standpoint, the most obvious form of punishment likely begins to take root in the form of passive-aggressive reminders (subtle or not-so-subtle).

Either we continually tell ourselves that we are not worthy of great sexual intimacy with our spouse (because of our past promiscuity), and our actions then follow our words.

We sabotage any efforts to allow ourselves to experience pleasure, to rest in true forgiveness and to authentically enjoy the gift sex is for married couples. Or, we constantly remind our spouse of their past indiscretions, with the similar effect…sabotaged intimacy.

Punishment begins to roll into another dynamic when we begin withholding sex or becoming manipulative with sex, all in an attempt to make our spouse “pay” for past sins.

It’s vital to note that I am referring to past promiscuity that would not be uncommon, such as a husband and a wife who, before they were married, had sex with other people, possibly even multiple partners. There are more serious situations, such as sexual addictions and infidelity which have wreaked havoc on the marital covenant.

In these situations, I strongly encourage couples to seek wise counsel, professional resources and other ministries to help in a path of healing and change. For example, and are ministries dedicated to helping people overcome sexual addiction. Even in these situations, however, I can’t help but believe that an aspet of healing ultimately involves a renewed nurtured sexual intimacy within the marriage bed.

I am not naive.

I know that marriage is hard and it is full of complexities that sometimes make sexual intimacy more of a “hotbed” of strife rather than a “hotbed” of passion. As I have often said, though, we never stop learning how to be married. To that regard, we are always being called to grow up and to put childish ways behind us, as hard as that may be.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (or woman), I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Punishment, more often than not, is a childish way to react in a grown up marriage. And that’s true whether we are punishing ourselves or punishing our spouse.

Hold each other accountable, yes. Punish, no.

What do you think? How do we punish ourselves or our spouse sexually?

Copyright 2010, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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13 thoughts on “Are You Punishing Yourself or Your Spouse for Past Promiscuity?

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  3. Paul Byerly says:


    I thought I had commented on this, but it seems I did not. You have great thoughts on this, thanks.

    As with many things, I see a double standard on this one – men and women both tend to punish HER for past sex more than they punish HIM. Of course he suffers any time she is punished sexually, which makes it rather bizarre that men punish their bride for what she did before she even knew them.


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  5. Victoria says:

    Yes, I feel betrayed and loved less because of past unfaithful act by my spouse.
    I am not enjoying sexual experience because, there is no show of affection before the actual act.

  6. JulieSibert says:

    Thank you Victoria for your honest comment. I in no way want to make light of the pain you have experienced. What has helped you cope and find healing, if anything? Do you have hope that things can look different than they look right now?

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