Tag Archives: premarital sex and marriage

Why You Feel Worse Than He Does about the Premarital Sex

Blog post title + woman curled up with head to knees

Did you have sex before marriage? Either with your husband or someone else? Or maybe several someone elses?

Welcome to the majority. Statistics show that 97% of Americans have sex before marriage. In highly religious groups, that number goes down to 80%, which is quite a difference. However, that’s still 4 out of 5 devoted Christians who didn’t wait until the ring was on the finger, the I Dos were spoken, the deal was sealed.

Waiting for sex until marriage is God’s design and desire, but the reality is that many of us didn’t achieve that goal. And if messing up was the end of our hope, not a single person could make it to Heaven. Rather, there is forgiveness, redemption, and clean slates through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

But a reader recently emailed me saying that he hadn’t gotten the sense that my premarital promiscuous past came with any real consequences for me or my marriage: “I came to the conclusion that your premarital ‘adventures’ had not affected you at all.”

Wow. If I have left that impression, let me correct it right now. I have not talked about all the specific consequences of my past, poor choices — my sin — because some are quite personal and painful. But having sex before marriage remains my greatest regret.

I do not carry the guilt of my sin, because through the blood of Jesus, I have been washed, sanctified, and justified through Christ and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:11). Still, if I could anything in my life over again, that would be it.

Many wives feel similarly about their past promiscuity. They hate the choices they made, they ache over the consequences, they wish they could go back and do it differently.

Some of that emotional baggage follows them into marriage, like dragging an invisible suitcase filled with heavy heartache. But when these wives try to talk to their husbands about the issue, their feelings are sometimes batted away with “That was so long ago” or “I don’t care about those guys; you’re with me now” or “Why are you dwelling on the past?” The husband doesn’t really understand why the issue still impacts her view of her sexuality and her openness in the marriage bed.

But it does.

For many wives.

So why do you feel worse than he does about premarital sex? Why is easier for him to move on from his past? Why doesn’t he understand what you’re going through?

Apparently, there’s a gender gap in sexual regret.

Apparently, there's a gender gap in sexual regret. Click To Tweet

Looking specifically at teen sex, one study cited that 72% of girls who engaged in sexual intercourse wished they’d waited. That’s nearly three-fourths of young ladies who regret the sexual choice they made. But what is the percentage for teen boys? 55%. While still a majority of guys, that’s a substantial drop.

What about adults? The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Texas at Austin together interviewed 853 Norwegians and 466 Americans. They wanted to know if religiosity influenced sexual regret after casual sex, with Norwegians representing far less attachment to religion than Americans professed. They didn’t find much difference on the religiosity scales (although I could argue with what they defined as “religiosity”), but they discovered an interesting outcome that women experienced far more sexual regret than men.

Then there’s the National Marriage Project, which surveyed a thousand single Americans and then studied them for five years. Among the 418 who got married during that time, 23% who only had sex with their spouse prior to marriage reported higher quality marriages than those who had additional sexual partners in their past. Even more revealing was that the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. But the researchers didn’t find the same thing about men.

So are our husbands all too happy to collect sexual partners before marriage with no regrets at all? No, I don’t think that’s true.

Plenty of husbands also say they wish they’d waited for their wives. But they don’t always carry residual regret the same way.

I suspect that’s more about how men target their focus and compartmentalize events. Many husbands don’t feel their prior mistakes or sins have a bearing on how they feel about their wives. Simply put, they’re often better at putting the past behind them with a that was then, this is now attitude.

That’s a great thing when you consider that husbands are not comparing their wives to other women from their past. They’ve flipped that page and moved on.

Now I’m not at all trying to diminish the weight of sin. Because that is what our poor choices were. But I am saying that there’s a gender gap in sexual regret likely based on gender differences in our brains.

But that doesn’t solve this disconnect — that she continues to carry baggage from her promiscuous past and he doesn’t fully understand. What can a wife (and husband) do?

Admit your sin.

The first step in clearing your state is being honest about your failings. That may sound like I’m encouraging you to dwell in the past, but nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting our sin is simply a first step. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s a big if there at the beginning, one we’d be well-advised to heed.

Embrace His forgiveness.

I was recently asked if there was an aha moment for me in my marriage — that moment when I let go of my past baggage (as awful as it was) and embraced a different future for my marriage. For me, it was finally, fully understanding this passage:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Ah, the beauty of that past tense. The sexually immoral is what I was, but I also was washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ Jesus. Believe it, cling to it, embrace His forgiveness.

Identify your baggage.

Be honest about what messages and concerns you’ve brought into your marriage based on your past. Much of what we think about ourselves, our husbands, and our sexuality can be tainted by our prior sexual experiences. What errors in thinking and behavior have you adopted based on your previous sexual choices and how you were treated by those other men?

To replace your erroneous thinking with God’s truth about sexual intimacy in marriage, you need to know where you’ve bought into lies. Here’s a common lie: That you don’t deserve full pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed because you screwed up before. Not true. You are in a married wife now, pursuing God’s plan for sexual intimacy, and He longs to bless you and your husband.

Share your struggle.

Your husband doesn’t have to fully understand, and he may have a different way of looking at past promiscuity. But explain your own thoughts and feelings as best you can. You might also want to use a line I once used with my husband when he told me, for the millionth time, not to worry about something: “I literally have no idea what that looks like.” I went on to explain that while he can shove something in a mental box and tuck it away, I cannot. It’s just not how the female brain typically works. If your husband can begin to understand, you can enlist his help to push through your sexual regret and enjoy the full blessings of a healthy marriage bed on the other side.

Husbands: Support her journey.

All of my other tips are for the wives, but this one is for you men reading. Research has shown that women struggle more with this, so please recognize it’s not some flaw in your wife that she can’t quickly and easily let go of the past. If you want to really help your wife, don’t belittle her feelings, dismiss her struggle, or shut down conversation. Rather, reassure and comfort her, help her embrace a new perspective, and make sexual intimacy a beautiful experience for her too. Just be her Barnabas; that is, her encourager as she journeys toward a healthy and holy view of sex in your marriage.

Do sex God’s way.

For a while after I embraced God’s design of sex, I still struggled. I ruminated about my sinful past, carried personal labels like slut in my mind, and felt a fair dose of heartache from time to time. But over time, my husband and I logged so many positive, one-flesh sexual experiences that those outweighed everything that came before. The scales tipped, and “sex” in my mind became equated with this holier and deeper version of sexual intimacy. In some ways, “just do it” is good advice. And by it, I don’t mean sex itself, but sex God’s way.

Have you struggled with your premarital promiscuous past? How have you embraced God’s way instead?

Same image as before...sized for Pinterest

WaitingTillMarriage.com – 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USAStatistic Brain – Abstinence StatisticsPubMed.gov – Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003; Verily – Sex Regret Isn’t about Religious Guilt as Much as Biological Instincts, New Research Shows; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Teen Attitudes Toward Sex; The National Marriage Project – Before I Do; Verily – Regret Is Not the Same as Slut-Shaming

Has Your Previous Promiscuity Impacted Your Marriage?

I’ve written honestly about my premarital promiscuous past. It took a long time for me to get over the lingering feelings that I was damaged by decisions I’d made and that I didn’t really deserve fabulous things in my marriage bed because I’d blown it with God’s gift of sex before my I Dos.

I am 100% sure that I am not alone in having felt this way.

Whether you knew what you were doing was wrong, or you later figured out how much better it would have been to wait until marriage, many of us wives end up with guilt stuck to us like lint to black pants — we can’t quite get rid of it all.

We look at ourselves and feel shame. Then we look at our husbands and feel any number of possibilities:

  • Sad — because we can’t turn back time
  • Used — because that’s how previous men treated us regarding sex (and will our husband be any different?)
  • Frustrated — since we know we should enjoy sex in marriage, but it doesn’t feel like we expected
  • Guilty — for giving away what should have belonged exclusively to him
  • Lonely — because he doesn’t understand why our heart hurts
  • Hopeless — because the feelings don’t seem to be going away anytime soon

Maybe you’re actually like me — a wife who had a satisfying sex life with her husband, but who secretly worried that she was still a “bad girl” at heart, despite the commitment on her lips and the ring on her finger. Who wondered if God would ever really forgive her for ignoring His clear commands. Who expected consequences to come careening around the corner any minute to destroy her newfound marital happiness.

I’m so over that now.

I had a way-too-petty perspective of my forgiving God. In truth, He’d already forgiven me; I just hadn’t fully accepted His grace. It was like He kept shoving this new gift at me, and I was turning it down. Over and over.

Believe me, I did all kinds of self-evaluation — with the background of a counseling degree — and tried to figure out ways to deal with my clinging guilt. None of that worked.

What did work was diving into God’s Word and realizing how foolish I’d been. When you read the life of Paul, you recognize that his past is ever-present as a memory of who he was, but it does not define who he becomes in Christ Jesus. And he knows this when he writes this passage that was finally The One that snapped me out of my poor thinking:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

I underlined where I showed up in the verse, so you couldn’t miss it. Did you see the former me? Yep, “sexually immoral.” I was not going to inherit the kingdom of God. But I also highlighted the most important word to me in that whole section: were.

Just like S.E. Hinton’s novel title: That was then, this is now.

Because it’s a done deal, y’all. You used to be that person. But you’re following God’s plan now — married to your lover. If you’ve confessed and asked for forgiveness for your premarital sins, God will forgive you (See 1 John 1:9). And then you can say: “I was washed, I was sanctified, I was justified” — past tense. Signed, sealed, delivered. Done.

You can let those past sins go. God’s got it covered.

This is the principle I want us to understand this week as we consider a memory verse for your marriage. But honestly, that passage I quoted is really long. I’ve read it many times, but I still don’t have it fully memorized.

So I chose another verse that is shorter and right to the point. In fact, it communicates just how much God wants to do for you — how gracious and loving He is. That He isn’t holding your sinful past over your head, but rather encouraging you to seek His best for your marriage now.

Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Marriage Memory Verse 3-12-16

Transgressions is pretty much a big word for “sins.” Transgression comes from the root words trans, meaning across, and gress, meaning to walk or go. It basically means that you’re crossing over the line — that line in this case being God’s command to remain pure before marriage.

You crossed the line before. But you’re on the right side now — purity in marriage. Because marital purity isn’t going without sex; it’s seeking godly intimacy in your marriage bed.

That’s what God wants you to have now — everything He always intended you to have, in the right context.

Let him shower you with His love and remove your sins from you — as far as the east is from the west.

Memory Verse Help

I’ll be honest: I do not understand the adult coloring craze. I hated coloring inside the lines as a child, and I have no intention of repeating that frustrating experience as an adult.

However, I have friends who truly love it. And I know that for visual people, doodling is an excellent way to retain information. So why not find a coloring page online with your memory verse or create your own?

I opened up my Microsoft Word program and created the coloring page below. Not amazing, but if you’re a visual person and enjoy coloring, this might help you remember the scripture. Click the pdf link below, print, and color away!

Psalm 103:12 Coloring Page

Entering Marriage with Sexual Baggage

My last post on What Should a Groom Know about His Wedding Night? received a very interesting comment. Here’s part of it:

“… I think the title needs to be changed. It should be, ‘What Should a Christian Virgin Groom Know about His Wedding Night?’ For many, this experience has already taken place with the one they are going to marry. And, for many this experience has taken place with someone they are not going to marry.”

I did indeed write that post with a virgin groom in mind, actually in response to a request for such information. But the commenter brings out a great point: Most spouses do not enter marriage as virgins. Even many lifelong Christians were sexually active before the I-Do’s — with their own spouse or with others in their past.

Luggage

(photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art)

So what do those of us with sexual baggage need to know as we enter marriage?

First, come clean. Explain your sexual history to your spouse. Your spouse should know what they’re getting into so that they can help you through it. If you’ve had multiple sexual partners, own up to any residual consequences and offer to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. If your fiancé has questions, answer them directly, not withholding what they need to hear (“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” Proverbs 24:26).

You don’t need to share every detail. An overall accounting is reasonable, but providing specifics can cause your mate unnecessary hurt. Your beloved doesn’t need to have heart-rending images planted in his/her head that won’t go away. They need to know enough to be able to walk beside you as you forge a new life together, one with healthy sexual intimacy.

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9

Seek healing. Address and resolve lingering pain and misconceptions. Don’t simply expect the wedding vows to erase the wounds of the past.

If sex has been a negatively charged experience, you need to intentionally change your view to appreciate sex as a gift from God to marriage. If you’ve developed harmful patterns of behavior, you need to intentionally replace those with new approaches. If you have memories of past sexual experiences, you need to intentionally move past them so you can build a fresh, better intimacy with your beloved.

Your sexual past has impacted your current thinking. Understand your history and deal with the brokenness before it unintentionally becomes a wedge in your marital intimacy. Decide whether you need to talk with a friend, a mentor, a pastor, or a counselor. Find books, websites, or blogs which address your circumstances. Attend classes, conferences, or support groups as needed. Seek the healing you need to enter your marriage with a godly understanding of sex and a fresh start for your sexual intimacy.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Focus on your spouse. Whatever happened before, however someone else behaved or hurt you or enjoyed something, this is a new moment. You have both the challenge and the opportunity to create a beautiful, sexually intimate life with your spouse. Focus on this person you married, figuring out on what they like.

Sure, a few things translate to your new situation — like Tab A still fits into Slot B — but your spouse is a unique person with their own experiences, desires, and preferences. Your spouse may have a lower or higher drive than prior partners. Your spouse may like to be touched in different places and with different intensity. Your spouse may be less or more willing to do certain sexual activities. Your spouse may have sexual baggage of their own. Learn how to navigate sexual intimacy with the person you married.

If people hurt you sexually in your past, remember that they are not your spouse. Yes, you may find sexual moments that trigger bad memories, but immediately return your mind to your spouse and the encounter at hand. Focus your energy on this one person — the mate you chose and have a lifetime with. Over time, you two can build a sexual relationship that is unique to the two of you and satisfying for both.

“I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” Song of Solomon 7:10

Take time. Allow yourselves time to move past your sexual baggage and build healthy sexual intimacy instead. If your sexual past rears its ugly head, whether in your first year of marriage or down the road, take a deep breath and handle it. Don’t assume that your sexual baggage will weigh you down forever. You can break free and create something beautiful.

Remember that you are in this for the long haul, a lifetime of love. You have time to let go of the past and build a better future. Each step in the right direction leads you to the destination you desire — satisfying sexual intimacy in your marriage. Celebrate the small successes and work through the gaps. Invite God in and let Him edge you forward to where He wants you to be.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

I definitely entered my own marriage with sexual baggage. Sure, I wish I’d been a virgin when I married, but my story didn’t end after those chapters. God had more to write. I sought God’s forgiveness, forgave myself, and forged a beautiful, God-honoring sexual relationship with my husband. It can be done.

Our God is a God of second chances. Take Him at His word that He can restore and renew your life, even in the area of sexual intimacy.

I welcome you to share your own story of brokenness to healing below; it may inspire others.

Or share where you are struggling with sexual baggage from your past, in hopes that I or others will have wise advice to heal your marriage.