A friend and I were talking about how very few people come to marriage as virgins.
Some do, most definitely. But we could hardly say that even among people raised in the church and with an understanding of sexual purity is there overwhelming adherence to such standards.
For quite some time, it hasn’t been uncommon for many unmarried Christian couples to live together. And even Christians who haven’t lived together often have had sex before marriage, regardless of whether such behavior was widely known among their friends and family (although often it is no secret).
And, of course, there are people who had sex before they were married when they weren’t Christians, and it wasn’t until coming to Christ that they understand the sinfulness of that sexual activity.
Now before you think I’m heaping shame, far from it. So far from it, as you will see if you keep reading.
I am merely laying a backdrop for something else I want to unpack. And though it may be hard to see it right now a few paragraphs in, I am optimistic we will keep moving toward a message of resounding hope. Stay with me here.
I think in marriages where one spouse is struggling with guilt over sex in their past, an interesting wake up call is needed. And that wake up call is that sex in your past doesn’t make sex in your marriage less than.
Some people have a real struggle comprehending that God could indeed forgive their past sexual sin. From their perspective, sexual sin gets relegated into a category all its own, as in, “God could never truly forgive that.” I’m not sure why such a thought persists, but trust me, it does. I have heard various versions of it over the years.
But premarital sex in which we willingly participated is not unlike other sins. We are called to confess, repent and then walk in redemption.
But alas, that walking in redemption part is where many people get tripped up. Sure, they confessed and repented, but they unwittingly decided to cling to the guilt and shame as if God did not forgive them.
I’ve heard people tell me they don’t think they deserve good sex in their marriage now because they had sex before they were married, even if in the same breath they would tell me that God is indeed a God of forgiveness.
Another variation is that someone will declare certain sexual acts or experiences off limits for marriage because they were things they did sexually before they were married. They associate the act itself with premarital sex and so there’s guilt by association, even if the act itself isn’t necessarily wrong.
Oral sex would be an example. If someone enjoyed this before they were married, they may argue God can’t possibly give the green light for it now in marriage. I’m just using oral sex as an example. The point I want to make is that context means everything.
Within the context of marital exclusivity, God gives a husband and wife tremendous freedom to thoroughly pursue and enjoy sexual arousal and pleasure. This includes sexual arousal and pleasure that may look strikingly similar to what either of them did before they were married (either with other people or with each other).
Some married people miss out on this, though, all because they are bogged down by lies about their past sexual behavior—primarily that it has forever tainted whatever can be holy and good about sex now. They refuse to walk in redemption and freedom.
Sadly, such lies may even morph into someone sabotaging intimacy with their spouse (though they likely would never acknowledge it as such). They maybe deny sex, refuse to initiate or generally respond with very little enthusiasm.
In other words, they replace past sexual sin with current sexual sin.
Marriage is a place for sex. And not just sex for duty’s sake or sex that is mediocre, predictable and boring, but rather sex that is mutually valued, enjoyed and pursued. Sex that is a playground of delight. Sex that may or may not look like sex before marriage, but is indeed different and better because it is sex within marriage.
I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but your sexual past doesn’t have to define your sexual now. You can hold in one hand God’s redemption over your past sexual behavior and in the other hand God’s blessing over sex in your marriage now.
You can genuinely be free from the regret that just keeps robbing you of sexual joy now.
But you have to believe God. You have to believe that if you have confessed and repented, indeed He has forgiven you. Made you white as snow. And to not walk in that freedom sexually in your marriage would be a travesty.
Don’t use your sexual past as an excuse to hold your sexual now hostage. There is hope, my friend. There is the possibility of fully embracing and enjoying God’s gift of sex with the person to whom you pledged your love and life.
Will you see you are worthy of such a gift? You are. You truly are.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.
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0 thoughts on “Are You Sabotaging Sex in Your Marriage Because of Your Past?”
There was a time I carried some guilt for things I did before I met my wife and we got married. In college, for example, I had sex with a girl who was in love with her boyfriend back home and she got quite drunk and tried to seduce me, which she succeeded in doing not once, not twice, but three times. She and her boyfriend broke up not long after and I rebuffed her offers thereafter. I also participated in group sex with 3 girls in college and had over those 4 years at least 10 casual sex partners, along with a few girlfriends. I should say all of the above was 100% consensual by all parties involved! I confessed all of this to my wife, which she actually found quite entertaining as she knew a few of the girls. She also was quite sexually experienced and didn’t share as much with me but I got a good overview of what she’d done. We ourselves were sexually active together before marriage. Anyway, for me, it was good to confess my pass transgressions to my wife and get them off my back so I could fully give myself to her.
If some of a persons struggles are tied in with sexual abuse, that needs to be released in therapy–it can become better, but it will not be easy.
However if we are talking about not feeling forgiven for what we would label sexual sin, if a person carries that sense of unforgiveness, the remedy may be to have a pastoral conversation with a trustworthy pastor, of your own congregation or another one. Even in Churches that do not talk about the value of private confession, it can be tremendously healing to hear someone else say that God forgives all sin–there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.
As a pastor who values the growth of healthy marriages, I would want someone who is carrying the burden of sin they feel is not forgivable to feel free to come to me and find the genuine grace and freedom that God promises.