Letting Go of the Guilt from your Sexual Past
Those of us who have walked with God for a while likely grew up hearing that we should wait until our wedding night to make love. “Sex is for marriage!”, we heard, over and over again, at every youth retreat we ever went to.
Well, I’ve spent this last year writing “The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex“, which will be out with Zondervan in January. And in the surveys I conducted for my research, I discovered that less than half of Christian women are virgins on their wedding night. We may have been taught to wait, but most of us didn’t. And, according to those surveys, that’s led to a lot of regret.
I received an email recently from a woman who’s living with this guilt right now. Here’s a synopsis of her email:
I had a great number of sexual partners before I met my husband, starting in my early teens. Our engagement was short, but filled with pre-marital sex almost from day one. Our entire dating and engagement period, even our wedding feels like one big shame to me. Ever since the honeymoon the sex has been strained, always. I feel that I can’t trust him. He was willing to take anything he could before we were married. True, I wasn’t stopping him, but that doesn’t help now.
He once asked me why was the sex so great before we got married, as if to ask what he was doing right at that time. I told him we shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place, and I have no fond memories of our pre-marital sex, although I suppose it was compelling at the time. It just makes me feel like he doesn’t understand what happened. Very discouraging.
Can you relate at all? Even if you can’t, please read on, because some of your friends probably might, and you may be called upon for some advice in this area one day!
Here’s what I said to this woman, and here’s my message of hope for you who are in the same situation:
First, you’re right that what you did before your marriage was wrong–both with him and with other guys. God didn’t want you to do it, and you did it anyway.
But that is in the past–and when you married, you became one person, not two different people anymore. You are different in God’s eyes. And remember that He has already paid for all the things that you did. He has erased it; it’s time for you to erase it. Yes, you did something wrong. Yes, people seriously took advantage of you (and sounds like they hurt you in the process). But please do not let that become your identity. You are more than that. You are precious. You were bought at a price.
If you keep feeling shame and keep feeling that anger at yourself, and at your husband, for what you’ve done before, then you’re not really giving that sin over to Jesus to cover. You’re saying, “What Jesus did isn’t big enough for me.” And it is.
You need a clean break, where you start allowing yourself to associate sex with something completely new. You need to rediscover what making love really is. When we give our bodies away as teenagers–or even just when we’re engaged–we teach our bodies that sex is solely physical, and that it’s something cheap, that we give to try to get something in return (a boy to love us; someone to tell us we’re beautiful). It isn’t about commitment, because there is no commitment. It becomes a commodity, not an expression of love.
So how do we make it an expression of love? We need to make it about the connection far more than it is about the physical rush. That doesn’t mean you don’t experience the physical rush; indeed, most people find that when sex becomes about that connection, the physical rush is deeper. But work on the connection first.
Try to make sex into something that is new and beautiful. Take baths together and just touch each other. Lie naked together and talk and explore, just with your fingers. Cuddle naked and talk. Make nakedness and intimacy something that is beautiful, rather than dirty.
Try to spend some time, in bed, just kissing, rather than “getting to the main event.” You take the initiative rather than him, and focus on trying to kiss him to show him that you love him, rather than just to get him aroused (you’ll likely find this gets you far more in the mood, too).
Think everyday, how can I tell him “I love him” in a new way? As you start focusing on your connection, you’ll find that your sex life takes on a new turn. It’s not just about that physical rush; it’s about cementing a bond. Don’t focus so much on “I have to have sex with my husband” as much as you’re focusing on, “I have to find new ways to feel love for him and show him love!”
This change won’t happen overnight. It takes work to retrain your brain to think of sex in a new way, especially when you have a lot of scars. But Jesus is big enough for your scars. Don’t let sin which has already been forgiven rob you of a great marriage now. Commit yourself to moving forward, and ask your husband to commit, too, and then make it into a game to find new ways to express how much you love him. And you just may find that your body reawakens.