Is Your Past Destroying Sex in Your Marriage?


As part of my ongoing guest blog series on things that destroy sex in marriage and what we can do about those things, I today welcome Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” — Isaiah 43:18

When I married my husband, I brought a fair amount of baggage to our marriage bed.

Quite a lot it involved my sexual past – both with my husband and before I met him.

sexual pastInstead of enjoying marital intimacy with my husband, my marriage bed overflowed with stuff that got in the way:

Guilt and shame.

I felt so guilty and ashamed of the sex I’d had before marriage. These feelings made me feel unworthy of joyful sexual intimacy, so I avoided anything what would give me what I was convinced I didn’t deserve.

Negative views about sex.

Sex is for the man. Sex is something you need to keep secret and that you rush to finish. Sex was my only source of power or value to men. The only way to keep a boyfriend was to give him what he wanted sexually. All of these negative views were taking a toll on my intimacy with my husband.

Negative views about my husband.

As the man who wanted to have sex with me for the rest of our lives, my husband bore the burden of the lessons I’d learned about men. I thought he cared only about his own pleasure and not about my whole self or about my sexual pleasure. I thought he valued me only for sex.

Sadly, I am not alone.

A survey I conducted about the effect of premarital sex on women’s marriages showed that two-thirds of the respondents thought their marriages had been negatively affected. This was the case even when the woman’s only premarital sexual partner was the man she married.

The premarital sexual luggage is pretty full and includes the following:

  • The feeling that sex is dirty or bad
  • Expectations of husband based on previous partners
  • False perception of what intimacy is
  • The belief that sex is only for the man
  • A connection between sexual sensations and guilt or shame
  • The inability to trust husband because he pushed boundaries before marriage
  • Spiritual and emotional attachment to previous partners, leaving less left for husband
  • Not understanding that sex is a gift from God
  • Unwanted memories during some sexual acts

Many Christian wives have found that their premarital sexual activity follows them into the marital bedroom:

  • Sex feels wrong, so we avoid it.
  • We are unwilling to express our own sexual desires.
  • We dismiss a husband’s sexual desire for us.
  • We are unable to embrace the role of sex in marriage and to address problems as they arise.

Fortunately, there is hope for moving past your past!

If your sexual past has overwhelmed your marriage bed, work to loosen the chains holding back your growth.

Focus on the truth.

Read what the bible says about marriage and intimacy. Especially read Song of Songs. Read Christian blogs about marriage and sex. Do a bible study about marital intimacy. Rebuild your beliefs based on truth, replacing the negative lessons that grew out of premarital sexual activity.

Some wonderful resources are Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage, Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?, and Intimacy Ignited.

Get support.

Talk with your pastor or a counselor if you’re struggling to deal with your feelings and beliefs about your premarital sexual activity. If your sexual past includes trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or rape, this support is especially helpful.

Talk with close Christian girlfriends who will listen and give you a hug.

Communicate with your husband.

Share your struggles with him. Ask for his prayer. Read, study, and pray together. (Not only can this help your sexual intimacy, it can also strengthen your non-sexual intimacy.)

If you haven’t been truthful with your husband about your sexual past, perhaps now is the time. If your personal sexual history is affecting your husband’s sex life, he deserves to know.

Invite god into the healing of your marriage bed.

Repent and seek God’s forgiveness—and accept that forgiveness. You are a new creation in Christ. Spend time in prayer specifically for your sex intimacy. God designed sex and wants you to enjoy sex with your husband—so ask Him to work on your heart.

When you bring sexual baggage in your marriage, letting it clutter up your marriage bed can destroy your sex life.

You cannot change the past, but you can loosen the chains it has cast on you.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” — Ephesians 4:22-24

Be sure to check out the other posts in this series at this page!

Chris TaylorChris Taylor has been married to her husband Doug for 24 years. They live in southeastern Wisconsin and have three adult kids who are in various stages of leaving the nest. After a fulfilling career in higher education, Chris now writes at The Forgiven Wife, where she encourages women to tend to the sexual intimacy in their marriages. She draws on her own journey of healing to walk alongside other women trying to embrace full intimacy in their marriages. Chris thrives on coffee, knitting, and chocolate; the order of importance varies depending on the day. You can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


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Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

15 thoughts on “Is Your Past Destroying Sex in Your Marriage?

  1. Victoria says:

    I’ve had these problems and i still struggle with them. My husband and I were both virgins on our wedding night so i didn’t expect the amount of guilt i had for having sex. There isn’t an off switch for years of mental training: don’t have sex, sex is bad, it must be dirty, the only thing a guy wants is to get you out of your pants, its your responsibility not to have sex, and so on. Needless to say i developed Vaginismus and found out just how true sex is only for men, or at least it seemed to be. For years sex became a painful check list of how many times a week should i wait for him to ask for it and when I should ask on ocation; I even kept a calendar to make sure i wouldn’t forget. I thought that was how sex was ment to be for me. Having a baby agrivated the Vaginismus to a point where penetration was impossible, I cried every time we tried. I was told that was not normal, sex shouldn’t hurt at all (to my shock and amazement) so I went through a dialator treatment. For the first time in three years intercourse wasnt painful, penetration still burns a little though. On our wedding night my husband was very disappointed that I didn’t clymax and it has continued to be an issue. I figured I was just one of those girls who couldn’t have an orgasm- i still wonder sometimes. I’ve only ever clymaxed with the help of a toy. I’ve never faked having one (my husbands memory is a bit splotchy due to a head injury, but he swears i had one at least once durring sex. Some how I feel I would have remembered that) but I did fake liking sex for a little while I felt so bad that he was dissapointed by my lack of enjoyment. I tried to explain that I didn’t mind, it was for him; he wasn’t happy with that answer.
    Now I kind of wish sex was more fun and less chore like, it’d be nice to actually have an orgasm durring sex at least once. Maybe it’ll be better now that it doesn’t hurt?

  2. AnonymousForThis says:

    Yes. Because I have a hard time letting things go. His past haunts me at times. For example, I had planned what I thought would be a romantic surprise for my husband. (We were not Christians when we were first married). Anyhow, when I had asked, he had told me he’d never had a lap dance. I’m a pretty good dancer, so i figured I’d practice and surprise him one night. I spent a few weeks working on this, because I wanted it to be good, and a treat for him, just between us. In the meantime, I read another marriage blog that does surveys, and from the stats on the “club” survey, I got a nagging feeling my husband had indeed had one of these dances before. I asked him again, and he hesitated. You know what that means! So he finally came clean, that yes, he had a dance before we were marrried. So guess what? There is NO WAY I am dancing for him, romantic or not. I refuse to be compared to some perfect, gorgeous, professional stripper. I was upset of course, not because of something he’d done so long ago, but because my surprise for him had been ruined. I will not do it, no matter what he says. He claims he is sad about this, because he “knows” it would have been a wonderful gift from me to him, but oh well. I’m madder that he lied and I worked so hard and tried so hard to build my confidence enough to do his for him, and it was a huge waste of time. I know he would spend the whole time thinking about that stripper from so many years ago, especially when faced with a body that although fit, bears the scars of carrying babies. So anyhow, yes, this bothers me, and yes, I should let the past go, but I can barely have him see me naked now, let alone do what I had worked so hard on. He’d think I was a loser and a fool, and he’d think I was trying to compete with the woman he probably still can’t get out of his mind.

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  4. Reba says:

    @AnonymousForThis I am feeling your hurt. Knowing there are other women in our husband’s minds can really creep us out. (It’s like all those women are in the bedroom with us during sex, right?)Yet some women don’t seem to react this way. I wondered why I did and they did not. Through counseling, I learned that my issues with the women in my husband’s mind were connected to my fear of abandonment (baggage I brought into our marriage.)

    I had to learn to detach from my need to “fix” this and I needed to focus on the things in my life that built me up. For a long time, sex made me feel degraded, exploited, compromised, jeopardized, frightened…you get the picture. Eventually, I moved on to NOT feeling those negative emotions. Now I have begun to enjoy it, not so much for the sex itself, but for the benefits it has brought to my marriage.

    All men struggle with visual temptation, live and captured in their memories. We didn’t cause that, we can’t control it nor can we cure it. They own that responsibility.

    Because he loves you and because you are his wife, your husband wants to share sexual pleasure with you and you alone. He likely wishes he could undo and unsee the events and images that prevent you from feeling safe, adored, respected, valued.

    You may need to find other ways to feel safe, adored, respected, valued: financial independence, supportive friends, professional achievements, and so forth. And of course, faith.

    You have my prayers, dear friend.

  5. Reba says:

    @AnonymousforThis Your post made me think of the hit song “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town. It speaks pointedly about our longing to be THE ONLY WOMAN our husband wants and how obsessed we can become with that longing.

  6. Christian Husband of 38 yrs says:

    The people who really need to be hearing all of these stories about how much heartbreak and relational difficulties a sexual past brings to a marriage are the young people who are not married yet. They need to see that there really are long term consequences to just about everything they do that is sexual in nature. They need to see that a happy marriage begins long before they ever get married.

    Let me also leave just a brief note for those married people who are struggling with a sexual past: Seek God’s grace. Bring it all to the Lord, confess all to each other, and seek to be filled with God’s grace to extend that grace to each other in total forgiveness. There really is no other way – you’ll both be torturing yourselves and each other until you do this, so get some courage, trust the Lord, and just do it.

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  8. Christian Husband of 38 yrs says:

    Reba (& all):

    “All men struggle with visual temptation”

    One little spiritual discipline that I have found helps me greatly with this:

    When I see a female that is dressed in a provocative manner or is acting in a provocative way, then I try to remind myself to say a little prayer for her. I pray that God would bring her down a path that leads to virtue, purity, and holiness, and keep her there. It is pretty hard to still be entertaining lustful thoughts after praying that prayer. This approach transforms the woman (or her image) from an object of gratification into a subject of compassion.

    Those of you guys reading this who are Christians: I challenge you to try this. There really is no good reason at all not to.

    I can’t imagine any wife being the least bit threatened by such an approach. Frankly, I suspect that 99.99999% would be thrilled if they knew that their husbands were devoted to such a discipline, or were at least trying.

    By the way, this applies just as much to my sisters in Christ as it does to my brothers. Ladies, if you see some guy (or an image of one) that evokes improper feelings, you can take exactly the same approach.

  9. Reba says:

    @ChristianHusbandof38Years You offer sound advice. I’ve been married 34 years, and it was just within the last year that my husband learned of the passage in Matthew about lust being equivalent to adultery in one’s heart.

    You are right that young people, not yet married, should be hearing all this conversation. Yet it is never too late for “old dogs to learn new tricks.” Our marriage has grown more in the last two years than in all the years before them.

  10. Hester says:

    My husband and I both have a sinful sexual past. I was 100% open about mine and told him if he had a problem with, he should not date me. He lied about his and we got married. Since then, his past has come out and I have gotten saved, gotten help for my past, and made peace with it. This many years later, my husband still holds it against me in and out of the bedroom. It makes it so hard to be open and sexually uninhibited knowing how dirty he thinks I am. I have suggested he get help. So far he hasn’t, but I keep praying that he will, and that if or when he does, I’ll be able to move past the feelings of hurt.

  11. John R says:

    I would re-think all of these very dramatic reasons WHY you will never give your husband “a lap dance.” The very IDEA you even considered it says good things about you as a wife. A lap dance LONG AGO watching some women he did not even know until that moment (and then it is a fake name) is old, old news. If you hold THIS against him–what will you do with a real marital mistake??? Divorce him??? Are you sure that there IS NOT EVEN ONE THING in your ENTIRE LIFE you had rather him not know?? Jesus says we “have ALL SINNED.” Most all husbands and wives have SOMETHING in their past they never tell. It is just human nature. I don’t know WHERE OR WHEN he saw one lap dance but your world is not destroyed by THAT. I served in the Marines. I have been to war zones. AND I have seen more than ONE lap dance. Some of them COULD have been my LAST lap dance. I am married for the second time and both wives knew I had seen lap dances. The world won’t end because of a lap dance, BUT holding against your husband forever is simply not a good idea. Forget it. I am probably older than you. Much much worse will come in your lives throughout your marriage than a lap dance—-there will be sickness, deaths, financial struggles, teenage children struggles, and on and on. Forget that lap dance now! Give him one that WOWS him. Years help one to see things in a different light. Good luck. John R

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  14. Don says:

    I had one partner before my wife, a woman I intended to marry we did not have intercourse, but did other things I regret and am ashamed of. My wife claimed to have one partner before me, also allegedly a fiancé. Years later I learned that she as never engaged and had a very promiscuous past. She is not ashamed of her past of of lying to me about it. I recently came across her diaries and learned that she had an even more promiscuous past than I thought. I cannot get the thoughts of her and other men (as described in her own words). Out of my head. It had caused ED on numerous occasions. After 35 years of marriage I feel that I was tricked and our sex life is suffering. Her sexual past is the cause of great heartache.

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