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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.

(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.

10 thoughts on “Entering Marriage with Sexual Baggage”

  1. This is definitely something my husband and I struggled with when we first got married. We both had it, but his “number” was 3X what mine was. It was hard for me to stop imagining him with these other women, especially since I knew several of them. He glossed over it, but it couldn’t have been easy marrying a woman who had already been married before either. Mostly, it took being able to catch the negative thoughts when they crept up and intentionally pushing them away. Then I thought “HA! You wanted him, but I’m the one who HAS him! Forever!” Pull out your baggage, sort through it, then give it time and don’t continually bring it up is the best advice I could give.

  2. Dear J,
    Thanks so much for the great job yoy’re doing on this blog.
    This post particularly speaks to me, as I’m really struggling with this issue. My sexual history is somewhat similar to yours, and though I have been married just nine months my sexual history with my husband goes back about 6 years.
    Sadly, my sex life has gone downhill since getting married. Hubby’s sex drive has gotten lower, and it just not nearly as pleasurable for me. I keep telling myself to be patient and let things adjust, but I’m worried that things may get worse.
    I have tried to forget the past and just enjoy the present, but my body still remembers and compares then and now. What else can I do?

  3. Struggling with vaginismus. Despondent, it’s worse than ever before. Have considered/tried alcohol before an attempt but never got to the attempt because I’m just too scared. Also don’t think alcohol is the way to go. Married 4yrs to a super loving patient husband. Seen a psychologist and now a pelvic floor specialist. In my childhood I was raped at 4yrs, and grew up with sexist brothers and father who tormented, suppressed and oppressed us girls to beyond the breaking point. “Women must submit to men – the Bible says so!” They physically BEAT us up, beat us down to the ground till we say “I submit” I struggle with anger (RAGE) towards my brothers for this. I am now 24, have 2 beautiful sons (3y and 1y7m) but having no sex it going to take its toll eventually. I feel it is beginning to because we can never persue any deeper level of intimacy. I’m beyond petrified of the thought of penetration. I have tried. I have told myself “this is different.” “this is my husband.” I can try to relax my mind but my body is screaming and shut tight as a clam! I got a script for anti-anxiety pills (Zopax) but I already know, even with a pill, my body’s going to just freak out. Heartbroken, wondering how much of my husband’s time I should waste in staying married to me – someone he basically can’t have sex with…….he doesn’t deserve a girl with problems!

    1. My heart breaks at all you’ve suffered, Jeaney. I would strongly encourage you to not give up on your marriage. From your description, your husband sounds like one of the good guys. You didn’t mention what, if any, relationship you had with God. In Philippians, we’re told “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I’m not trying to tell you that everything will instantly change, but that faith is a path that will get you to the peace that you need. My other suggestion is to be as intimate as possible with your husband frequently using hands and mouths, letting him know ahead of time that it will not lead to the basic sex act, but you will help him climax and are willing to try to do so too. Since you have sought professional help, my suggestion may come under the “been there, done that.” category; but just in case you hadn’t already tried it, I thought I’d mention it. Praying for you and your family

    2. Jeaney,
      As a survivor of CSA if you have not healed you should work on that and your husband sounds like a man to help you on that process. Have you read The Courage to Heal? The author also wrote a book for those that support us survivors. In this book there are a bunch of exercises that met you at your comfort level and help you to work to new levels of healing and intimacy. I am a survivor and what you are describing is what I and many others describe. The healing is a journey, but, I am told, it is totally worth it in the end. I am still in the middle of my journey.

      Peace to you!

  4. What if hubby refuses to tell about his sexual past because he feels it is more hurtful than beneficial. A major part of me is ok with not knowing but everyone seems to say it is important to know.

    1. It depends on what “refuses to tell about his sexual past” means. I think your spouse should know if you were sexually active, and whether that included a single partner or many. But beyond a few basics, there likely isn’t much benefit in knowing specifics. Names, locations, activities, and more don’t add any necessary knowledge, and just dredge up memories that don’t need to be dug up. What you’re really wanting to know is what his takeaways were from his history: Does he have lingering misconceptions? Pain? Addictions? Regret? If these things are negatively impacting your marriage, you have a right to know where the problems originated so you can tackle them together. Does that make sense?

  5. Jeaney,

    I’m a survivor, too. Like you, I married a good man who didn’t deserve a wife who struggled with vaginismus. But God is good, and healing IS possible. Find another therapist. One with Christian values and a successful history of treating this disorder. Keep looking until you find someone you AND your husband are comfortable with. Vaginismus treatment has a 100% success rate among women who FINISH therapy. Really successful treatment involves sessions with a counselor and using dialators at home (these are NOT sex toys, really. They are about the least sexy thing you can imagine, but it does help). Six months of therapy was worth it. YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT. YOU ARE WORTH IT.

    You are in my prayers.

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