Q&A: Getting Over the Sexual Past of Your Spouse

A few weeks ago we discussed Letting Go of Your Past and now I wanted to take some time to talk about the issues associated with having stayed sexually pure while your spouse may not have done the same. We have had many people write in regarding this issue and the circumstances have really run the gamut. Some married just a few years. Some married for decades. It has been mostly sad to me how someone can hold something like this against their spouse for so long. There are some sins in Christian circles that just seem to be “deal breakers” when in comes to grace and mercy, and in particular sexual sins really fall into this category. I don’t know why, but within marriage it is even sadder when I read things in the Christian Nympho email inbox such as:

My wife had several sexual partners before we got together.  She is my only sexual partner.  It’s always been very difficult for me to deal with her sexual past.  I believe it’s because I dont really understand it!  I never had any trouble abstaining from sex, even when I was faced many times with the oppertunity.  She was raised in a christian family, and knew it was sinful, etc., but she still led a very promiscuous life before me.

And:

About six months after we started dating and after we had slept together, she told me she was not a virgin. I was crushed with a tidal wave of grief.

Both of these are from men, but women have written us and struggle with the same thing. There are two common threads in these emails which are important to recognize if you are struggling with this same thing. First of all, although the husband or wife is lamenting that their spouse did not stay pure for them, many times they also compromised their purity with them before they were married and had had some form of premarital sex. If you can relate to this aspect, please extend grace and refrain from attempting to hold your spouse to a higher standard than what you have held yourself to. Ask your husband or wife for forgiveness for not honoring them and ask the Lord to restore you both.

Secondly, it is very common in emails like this for a husband or wife to want to know the details about their spouse’s past. What they did. How many times. Who with. Somehow they think it will help them get some piece of mind, but it really doesn’t. I am not promoting that a spouse be deceitful and present themselves as something they are not, but I would encourage you, if you are struggling with this, to respect that a person who has confessed to the Lord and been forgiven needs to have their spouse be their biggest voice of freedom rather than continuing to bring up their past.

I can appreciate how painful it is to know that your spouse has had sex with other people, but really when you don’t forgive them you are allowing the enemy to have authority in your marriage and rob you of what God wants to release for you. Your spouse can not change their past and it’s too easy to allow these things to become idols in our hearts. As well, forgiving them allows you to become a safe sexual release for them. If they don’t have to worry about what you think about their sexuality, they can be free to enjoy the marriage bed you share.

I know this can be a difficult road, but it’s important for the health of your marriage. If you have encountered this and have some insight to share from your experience, please feel free to participate in the discussion.

19 Comments

  1. While I’m not married quite yet (200 days to go!) and have not participated in sexual activity, my fiance has. I thought that would be a deal breaker for me before I met him, but God gave me the grace to forgive him.
    It helped that he was upfront with me. I asked him whether or not he had done anything in the past, and he said yes. I know he’s had intercourse with another woman–and we leave it at that. I dont’ have any desire to know what happened besides the fact it did.
    My sister doesn’t understand how I’m able to “ignore” his past, but I feel that once he’s repented (which he did well before we even met)–it’s between him and God. I’ve forgiven him, because he’s chosen to repent and be forgiven.

  2. I think one thing to remember is that everyone processes information like this differently. Some people NEED to know to move past and forgive; others don’t. In the world of recovery, the two types of people are clearly recognized; for those who NEED to know, if they don’t find out, their imaginations tend to make it worse than if the wayward spouse simply ‘fessed up.

    We often don’t talk about expectations in our marriages – the reality that my husband wasn’t a virgin came as quite a shock to me when I found out 2 yrs ago (we’re about to celebrate 15 years of marriage next month). I *expected* that he was a virgin, but we never honestly discussed our pasts, just that we weren’t having sex together before we married. I grieved the revelation, as is appropriate, but I didn’t put more weight on the fact that was appropriate. The fact is that we still had 13 yrs together and that we kept ourselves pure together – our bond was still strong, even if it didn’t start out the way I thought it started out. It didn’t mean that our entire relationship was a lie – just that we had a more-flawed beginning than I thought we did.

  3. My DH and I faced this situation. When we became a serious dating couple I was very open and honest about my past. This included the fact that I had a child I put up for adoption. My DH had never been with anyone or really done anything. He had just turn 19 and I was 21. We were sexualy active for the three years were engaged. My DH said the reason he was able to deal with my past was what God had put apon his heart. He told me that the first day he saw me at work he knew I was the one for him. And that God had put apon his heart that I had been very hurt and he would need to deal with my past. My DH has always said knowing I was the one God had choosen for him ment that with God’s help we can deal with anything. I love my DH so much, he dealt with my past better that I did. I had to learn to forgive myself for my regrets of my past.

  4. With regards to the first guy –

    “My wife had several sexual partners before we got together. She is my only sexual partner. It’s always been very difficult for me to deal with her sexual past. I believe it’s because I don’t really understand it! I never had any trouble abstaining from sex, even when I was faced many times with the opportunity. She was raised in a Christian family, and knew it was sinful, etc., but she still led a very promiscuous life before me.”

    People sin / We Sin / We are all Sinners – it’s a Fact! Some sins weigh more heavily on some than others. Most people I know justify their sin. The biggest I see regularly are sexual sins. “Well I am getting married to him so it’s okay for us to have sex.” “All we are doing is oral; we are saving intercourse for marriage.” “But I TRULY Love Him!” For some I have noticed an addictive pattern or trying to fulfill a missing need in their life. I was raised as his wife and the same happened to me. I was not able to tell a guy no. I couldn’t muster the courage to say that one simple word, “No!” so I let guys do things. I still cannot explain why I let it happen, the guilt ate me up inside, but I couldn’t stop it. I guess I was a very weak minded person then.

    As far as how my husband handled my past, he used it to improve our marriage. We have tried to learn from each instance and glean something good from it. Sometimes it is emotional, sometimes spiritual, and even sometimes physical.

    With regards to the second guy –

    “About six months after we started dating and after we had slept together, she told me she was not a virgin. I was crushed with a tidal wave of grief.”

    This one happened to my husband. He had been in the relationship for quite a while dating a girl who was much older and it was pretty obvious to most people that they would eventually get married. I heard this story quite often when I first met his family and friends. They even begin to make plans to transfer together to a larger college then marrying soon after. She had been very sexually active, he was a virgin. They fell into the trap of so many moving towards marriage and thought since they were so close it would be okay to fool around. It began with petting, rubbing, masturbation, oral – no joke – they did everything to avoid vaginal intercourse (except anal) but eventually gave in to even that.

    Several months later of sex including intercourse she slipped up telling him that she had sex with her prior boyfriend, it crushed my husband much like the man above. It ruined their relationship, though he said they tried to get past it, they never recovered from that blow. After that his trust in females diminished rapidly.

    When I heard his story, I was perplexed; after all he was sinning with her sexually so why should he have gotten so down on her? She sinned, he sinned, and they sinned. Sin was in abundance. I pointed this out to him. He had completely overlooked their sin and had only focused on “his” hurt. He prayed about it all, repented and asked forgiveness. It had been a sore spot in his life for so very long. I saw a change come over him after this; it healed a deep wound that had been there for such a long time. Please do not withhold the fact that you are or are not a virgin and do this before the relationship becomes romantic. Why risk the pain AND damage it will cause later down the road?

  5. One of the very first things I did when I started dating my husband was to pull out my Bible and read to him from John 8:1-11 (about the woman caught in adultery) Then I confessed my past to him up front. I was not a virgin when I met him. Neither was he. I don’t think we ever went into details because frankly I don’t think we really needed to know. It was in the past for both of us, we both confessed to the Lord of our sins, so what’s in the past stayed in the past. We know how many partners each other had, but that’s it. He forgave me. I forgave him. The Lord forgave us both.

  6. My husband was not a virgin when we met, but I was. The very first evening we discussed this and he disclosed the number of women he had been with and I disclosed that I was completely pure. We never went into detail and to this day, the only reason I even know one of the girl’s names is because I connected the dots from reeling over and over in my brain all the questions that come up when you find out your future spouse was sexually active before you.

    I was raised in a Christian home and it was very easy for me to remain pure; I would casually date around, and the moment I realized that the person was not someone I wanted to persue as my husband, I stopped seeing them. On the other hand, my husband was not raised as a Christian and didn’t even get saved until he was in his mid 20’s. He had an addiction to pornography (which I’m sure is in another forum, but I’m new to this site, so I haven’t stumbled onto that yet!) and carried all those sexual sins into our relationship, but had the heart to turn from those sins and his past. First off, no matter how badly his Spirit man wanted to run from the porn and sexual sin, his habits that had been built up for years, his flesh, and that stronghold of bondage wouldn’t give up so easily.

    Ladies, if you are engaged or in a marriage with a man that struggles with sexual sin or struggles with the baggage of a sexual past that doesn’t include you, please don’t lose hope. I know what it’s like to confront the issue time and time again. I know what it’s like to use up all your tears and emotions to the point of being a zombie and completely shutting down to the world around you. I know what it’s like to wonder about what’s really running through his mind. But God is greater than the evil grip of sexual sins and a sexual addiction. There is never an excuse for wrong actions, but the same blood that is washing your husband/fiance/boyfriend is there to wash the hurt, trust issues, anger, loss of confidence, and bitterness from your heart. I would encourage any couple that is dealing with a spouse’s sexual past to allow time to heal and remember that the addiction/past did not accumulate overnight, so it may not release it’s grip overnight either.

    Remember that when God puts two people together, He gives you what you need to strengthen and encourage eachother, and will put people in your path to advise you and help you when you can’t do it alone. Allow your pride to fall and seek out Christian counsel if necessary. I held onto so much pain for a long time becuase I was too prideful to admit that there was a problem in our marriage.

    Overcomming our sexual struggles in direct response to choices he has made has been very difficult and continues to be a daily struggle. After a 16 year addiction to pornography (he was 12) and a sexual past that started at 16, my husband is finally blossoming into the man of God that I knew was deep down inside. I know he continues to srtuggle, probably daily, but God has truly done a work in our marriage, and will do the same in yours!

    What is in the past may be written in stone, but becuase we are part of the family of God, it is now a weapon against the enemy. I find encouragement in the fact that the struggles my husband has faced is being used to free other boys from going down a road of sexual impurity. I praise God that He allowed me to peice my husband’s heart back together after giving it away so many times, because it doesn’t take much of a woman to break a heart, but it takes an incredible woman to accept the broken peices and have the patience to turn them into a beautiful, priceless work of art that she gets to cherish for the rest of her life. Enjoy being your husband’s artist! :)

  7. I must thank the Officer’s Wife for her thoughtful and honest post. Your story is one of hope, and it is full of God’s grace. I too married a man with a past, while I had waited for marriage to have sex. He’d had two serious sexual relationships, and was honest with me about them about 5 months into our relationship. For some reason, what I would have thought to be a “deal breaker” years ago was simply an opportunity to love. God helped me to look beyond that. We were married last summer, and it has been a journey. We have expectations, and also imaginations that can run wild. In my case, I feel as if I’ve had a process of grieving and letting go… of accepting where my husband is and how it may affect us today. We are growing together, and while it has not been easy, I feel like we are making steps toward understanding each other and how we view sex. Our pasts will affect that, and I’m learning to accept that without unfair blame or judgement on my husband.

    There is a quote by author W. Weirsbe that has been a powerful force in my faith walk over the past 7 years or so. I find it to be very applicable in this situation as well:

    “You cannot change the past. But you can change the meaning of the past.”

    This is my desire. My past, with my mistakes and limit-pushing as well as my husband’s past can hold a powerful meaning for us today. One of hope, and desire to grow together. One of forgiveness, not despair. I’m learning this daily! And this site and posts are helping immensely!

  8. Thank you to officerswife and growingtogether for the helpful comments. I am finally through the struggle of “getting over” my DH’s past. He disclosed the details of his previous relationships to me on our wedding night (ouch!). He was obviously struggling deeply with guilt, while I was struggling with his lack of trust in me. For a while, I longed to ask him for details, but never did. Now I’m glad that I didn’t give in and ask.
    The worst part for me was the trust issue that resulted from his choice of disclosure time/place, that has taken the longest time to get over, I think.
    I did have a good friend that I was able to talk this issue over with, she shared their story, I shared ours, and just the Christian concern and commiseration was really helpful.
    I am happy to say that sexual pasts are no longer an issue in my marriage or my marriage bed. DH has now relaxed to the point where he can mention her name (telling a story) and not hesitate over it, so I know that he’s over it too.

  9. Before my second marriage (after the death of both my DH’s and my spouse), I decided that I needed to be totally honest with him. I told him that I had been engaged at the end of high school, and that he was not the second man I had ever slept with, but the third.

    He barely reacted, and said that he loved me for what I am now, and that ancient history was really of no interest to him. Apparently not, since we have enjoyed each other thoroughly since our marriage, and the issue never arose again. I felt better that I had been totally honest with him, and would have been mortified if he had found out from someone else.

    Honesty is still the best policy.

  10. Okay talk about bad timing – Please do not wait till your wedding night to tell your spouse, pleeeeeaassse….!

  11. “It didn’t mean that our entire relationship was a lie – just that we had a more-flawed beginning than I thought we did.”

    Lovely words.

  12. Thankyou everyone for sharing your testimonies in this area. in particular, I was touched by those of Officerswife and growingtogether… Officerswife what you said in the last 5 lines almost brought me to tears, beautiful words. Ihad been looking for some Christian womens testimonies concerning marriage (as a virgin) to someone with a sexual past… I appreciated the comment about this sort of sitauation being a deal-breaker at one time in your life, but how God’s grace was present in your situation and relationship and subsequently marriage. I am in a similar place (though very early on in getting to know this now strong Christian man), and really needed to hear some of this things from fellow Christian women who’ve been there, and DID accept and forgive, and have since enjoyed a blessed marriage and marriage bed ( though I would acknowledge through prayer and conscious and continued efforts). Wish I could connect with either of you outside of this site to confide.

  13. I’m struggling: I feel as if I have forgiven my husband for his past (I had remained pure even until marriage). I found out he had hidden a lot from me and I broke down and I began to ask for details, an action I wish I could take back. It still pops up in my mind ever so often and I suppress it knowing it was his past. My biggest struggle is that he is friends with these girls on Facebook, even the one-night-standers. Right now he is contemplating accepting a friend request from another one of these girls and it is killing me! I told him it bothered me but he doesn’t understand it and he thinks it is rude to ignore her friend request because he never rejects them. Am I crazy for not wanting him to accept it? How can I move on from the fact that he has them as friends? Please help.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It has deepy touched me and was so encouraging. Your statement “. I praise God that He allowed me to peice my husband’s heart back together after giving it away so many times, because it doesn’t take much of a woman to break a heart, but it takes an incredible woman to accept the broken peices and have the patience to turn them into a beautiful, priceless work of art that she gets to cherish for the rest of her life. Enjoy being your husband’s artist!” immediately brought me to tears, that’s such a beautiful way to think about such a difficult process. Once again, this really blessed me.

  15. You’re not crazy BC.

  16. it’s my opinion that he should reject them. i mean, for one thing, it’s facebook, it’s not putting someone to death; for another, he’s married to you now, it’s innapropriate and potentially dangeroud for him to be in such diliberate conact with these women. you are right to feel the way you do. …there was even a poll on this general idea on here a few weeks ago, about “should you be friends with your exes”.

    you need to make sure your husband is aware of exactly how you feel. and maybe even ask him to “not friend” these women on facebook (or at all–so yes, he needs to reject them; he needs to get over THAT aspect since YOUR his wife and what you think is more important that “rejecting” someone from his past)–which means at all. if this is something you’re struggling with you need to make sure HE’S the one helping you NOT struggle–just like you’ve forgiven him about his past.

    …something can be forgivin and still hurt. if the hurt is still there, then it still needs to be addressed, and it doesnt make it any less forgiven.

  17. have seriously struggled with this. My husband has always been completely honest with me. It wasn’t until we were married (now 7 months) that I started to realize that these girls and events were in what is now MY bed. I moved from another city to his, so there have been those moments of running into ppl. I have been so consumed at times with thoughts and even visuals of him with other girls. In the sake of wanting to be open and honest, he probably answered more of my questions than was wise. I realized that it would become a major issue if I didn’t work it out. In my mind I knew he was forgiven but it was so hard for me to understand this season of his life that I never had. I started searching forgiveness and found a Charles Stanley 13 steps to forgiveness. The parts that stood out were writing to him or imagining him in a chair and telling him how it hurts me and makes me feel and why. Then releasing him. Saying you are forgiven and free. Simple. When the enemy begins to stir the pot, I say it again. He is forgiven and free. I will not compete for the past, but contend WITH my husband for OUR future.

    It really helps that my husband is ABSOLUTELY amazing and has been really patient and loving when I have been psycho on this topic. :) I told him anytime we run into someone from his past and it makes me uncomfortable…it can be an automatic long session night :)

  18. I am really struggling with this issue right now. I am getting married in six months to a great Christian man. But a couple of years before he and I met he was getting out of a three year long relationship. He and that woman were engaged and were sexually intimate. She cheated on him and broke off the engagement. After that he said he gave his life to Christ and became completely devoted to Him. It shows through the fruit he bears.
    I know in my head that the man in that previous relationship was the old man before Christ. And my fiance has repented of and has been forgiven for his past sin. The thing I am having a difficult time with are all of these feelings and insecurities of not measuring up to her or not being enough for him. Like I am going to be second rate somehow. I know in my head that doesn’t make sense. I have never even kissed a man before because that is how seriously I took saving myself for marriage. My fiance is the only man I have been in a relationship with. I don’t view myself as “better” or “more holy” than he is because of that so don’t get me wrong. I’m just afraid that he will compare me to her and I don’t feel like I can measure up. Facebook in its infinite wisdom suggested her as a friend because my fiance was still “friends” with her when we started dating. She has all of these sexy, provocative pictures posted of herself. I’m just not like that. I want to be with my future husband once we are married, but right now I am a modest girl. I’m afraid after being with his ex-fiance I won’t be enough.
    I am planning on telling him how I feel this weekend so any advice is much appreciated. As well as prayers.

  19. Jess, I would really encourage you to simply be open and share your thoughts with this man. And also ask him any questions. If this man is truly someone you are going to spend your life with…. it is best you be completely open! After all, marriage commits to Two people becoming One. That means you share everything, so don’t let a wall be drawn between you two by not sharing your thoughts. Let every thought out. Woman are very good at thinking and very good at storing up these thoughts in our head and letting them run through over and over again. I think God designed us that way for a good reason. Men are designed differently where they don’t think quite as much, and if they do, their thoughts are quick and then they’re gone. I think God designed women (you Jess!) with the ability to really think so that we can partner with men and encourage them to see life in new ways. Ask your man questions and probe deeper thought from him. Perhaps he’s never really processed his past much and it would be helpful for him as well to think through it with you and move forward. Only do this if it helps you both move forward, not replay things and cause deeper hurt.

    And trust me, you have EVERYTHING in comparison to a woman that is provocative. You have worth, you have value, you have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, You don’t have baggage. Men are drawn to women like you because you don’t reveal everything and you are a beautiful mystery! You are a gem, a rare special find. Your fiance asked you to marry him, he must be crazy about you! The devil wants you to believe that you are less beautiful because you are modest… What a Lie! Oh my goodness! God, the creator of the Universe, is astonished at what a beautiful virgin you are. You have made your Father proud. Don’t let the devil rob you of this worth!

    So yes, I would encourage you to be completely open to your fiance about your fears and uncertainties. And just discuss this! Pray together about this. Pray for the devil to keep lies from your head and for your fiance to be freed from his past. God works all things our for the good of those who love him!


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