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Wifey Wednesday: Reconciling Your Sexual Past with your Marriage

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Today I want to talk about something rather personal. What do you do when you have quite the sexual past, but you watn to have a pure marriage, with a great sex life? Can you rid yourself of the baggage from everything you've already done?

Here's a letter that I received recently:

I am single, in my late twenties. In my earlier twenties, I did not live a Christian lifestyle. I had sex with two men. The first was a great friend, and we had fun. I really enjoyed it. The next guy, I was engaged to, and I HATED sex with him. I found ways to make myself unattractive or unavailable to him…. I have dedicated my life to God, and have been single for 3 years now. I have decided not have sex again until marriage… This is going to seem pretty childish to ask… But,… how do you bring this up with an adult? How many grown men are going to be okay with this? How much of my past do I tell?... .and then, what if I do meet someone, and we decide to get married? I have a fear of not enjoying sex with… How do make sure that doesn’t happen? Also, how do you learn how to connect sex and love together? Because of my past, I learned the two separately, and cannot seem to make the connection… I know this sounds crazy.. But, any advise on anything you can give would be greatly appreciated.

First, I don't think that does sound crazy. I think it sounds quite normal.

But let me relay another story to you that may help how we think about this. When I was in Kenya recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to the teens about adolescence. And one night a boy put up with his hand with a question. He asked, "Is there a disadvantage to being a virgin when you're married?" After beating around the bush and trying to figure out what he was really getting at, I finally asked, "Do you mean will sex be bad if you don't have practice first?" Everybody laughed, including that boy, because that is what he meant. And so Keith and I went on to answer him.

No, you don't need practice first, because sex once you're married is very different from before you are married. In the "wedding night" survey I'm doing (if you haven't taken it yet, please do right here), one woman wrote about how sex was very emotionally different afterwards. She and her fiance had already slept together before the wedding, but it was different. And she so wished that she had waited.

Here's the thing about sex once you're married: you have a lifetime to get it right. It doesn't have to be perfect right off the bat (and it rarely is). But when you love someone, and you're committed to someone, you've got a lifetime to figure out how to make it good for both of you. There's no hurry. And for women, our sex drives are very closely related to how loved we feel. When we feel cherished and loved in a relationship, we're more likely to feel rather energetic sexually, if you know what I mean. So just because sex was bad with other men before you were married has very little bearing on whether or not sex will be good once you are married.

The more thorny issue, I think, is how to use sex as a way to say "I love you" when it's only ever been a way to say "I want you". If you've had sex before you were married, you did it for purely physical reasons, because the commitment wasn't there. Once you're married, other dimensions come in to it. You truly are becoming one flesh. You're declaring your commitment to one another. And so it IS different, whether or not we think of it that way.

Many married women, though, have this problem. How do I think of sex differently? How do I turn it into something really beautiful, when it's only ever been something hurried, a little guilt-inducing, and focused only on the physical. I'd suggest that you just spend a lot of time with your husband. Have a bath naked together. Touch each other while you're naked. Spend time talking. Make it romantic. The more you love each other with words and with your eyes, the more you'll be able to love each other with other body parts.

Unfortunately, most women, even Christian women, do have sex before they're married, and when we do that, we rewire our brains so that our brains associate certain things with certain sexual feelings. And we stop associating love with that feeling. But that doesn't mean that we can't rebuild that again. This is the man you love. If you completely and utterly love him, sex can definitely be good because it's in the right context once you're married. So talk about how much you love him. Show him love. Show him how to show you love. And then the physical parts of sex, which can be very stupendous, too, will follow in a different context. And that's what really makes this beautiful.

I'm sorry I can't explain this much more because I'm really running late today, and have to prepare for a conference I'm teaching at this week. But I'd love to know your thoughts. How do you feel love through sex? How do you turn it into something beautiful? Or do you have other advice for us?

Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


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At 9:16 AM , Blogger Tina Hollenbeck said…

I won't be able to write a whole post now, but I do want to say that there is another population to consider on this topic: those of us - such as myself - who survived childhood incest and/or rape at any time before a marriage. God's provided much healing for me on the matter, but my brain was "wired" to view sex in very particular ways because of those experiences - and that transfers to married sex, too (with sometimes devastating - and often consciously unknown - effects). A husband's reaction to having a wife in that situation (because, often, we don't reveal it while dating/courting...because we might think, "That's in the past. It won't affect me now.") makes a difference, too.

Thanks for starting the topic.


At 9:30 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Excellent point, Tina! But I think that's a HUGE topic, and one that I'll devote a different column to one day. I think the issues that sexual abuse survivors have with sex are far more complicated that these ones, and I didn't mean to diminish what these women go through at all. I think their brains have been rewired even MORE, and so the solution is not as straightforward or simple. But if others want to post in or chime in from this standpoint, feel free!


At 9:40 AM , Blogger Tina Hollenbeck said…

Oh, no offense taken. I just wanted to point out that other population that - sadly - exists (and is way too large!) case others who read you have been in that position, too. And, you're right, it's a very complicated issue. I've been married for over 20 years and just when I feel I've been able to straighten out every crossed wire, something else gets twisted up about the topic in my mind and heart!


At 12:35 AM , Blogger Mindy Lu said…

WOW- Great subject! I came to my marriage with a past. I shared this with my husband 6 months into our dating, thinking it may scare him away, but wanting to be honest before we went further. He respected me still, and we remained pure with each other until we married 9 months later. After marriage, the past came back to haunt my memories and caused me to be more inhibited with my husband. During a night of tearful prayer, God revealed that I married my husband as a new creature in Christ, and that I was trying to bring all my baggage and experience from my past into our marriage bed. I finally understood, that coming to the marriage "pure" in God's eyes, means to enjoy each other as if it is the first time, explore each other and get to know each other intimatly. Sheila's point about having a lifetime to learn is RIGHT ON! When I am unable to feel desire for my husband, when I know he does, I pray to see him through Jesus' eyes, and look for the thing I enjoy, like, respect and/or desire about it, and focus on them. And when an undesirable memory pops in, I offer it to the Lord, pray for forgiveness and ask for it to be tossed away "as far as the east is from the west". That has help me immensly. Bless you Sheila for your honesty. - Mindy Lu


At 11:35 PM , Blogger Kim said…

I'm in the boat with Tina - after years of childhood sexual abuse and being raped at 13 I went over the edge and had sex with anyone that would have it with me (even when I was in my first marriage)...ugh - It's been ROUGH trying to overcome - and to remain faithful and committed to one person this second time around. Thankfully the negative thoughts or rape issues that come up when we're in the middle of having sex I am able to pray away...seriously there is nothing more that I can do besides give those moments to the Lord and ask him to help get me through whatever I'm dealing with in my mind at the time. We've been married almost 10 years and I am SO thankful for my husband and how loving and caring that he is with all of this baggage that I have! God is SO good to redeem!!!

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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