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!
For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about how to radically transform your marriage by focusing on meeting his needs–rather than waiting for him to meet yours. I issued a challenge to all of you to do these five things for six weeks, and see what happens:
1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).
Today I want to talk to the women out there who find initiating sex, or even thinking about sex, hard because of guilt from their pasts.
I’ve been working on “The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex” for the last little while, a book that will be out with Zondervan within the next year (Update: It’s out now! You can get it here.) I conducted several surveys for the book.
One thing I’ve found is that less than half of Christian women are virgins on their wedding night. And more than 1/3 of the women who weren’t virgins expressed major regret over that. It’s really impacting their relationships now. (You’ll have to get the book to get the exact numbers! )
I received an email this week from a woman who’s living with this guilt right now. Here’s a synopsis of her email (which I’ve edited to take out any identifying details):
I had a great number of sexual partners before I met my husband, starting in my early teens. I had a horrible upbringing. He didn’t have as much experience, but he did have some bad habits when we met. 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. I can’t even look at pictures of us when we were dating because I feel so disgusted, knowing what we were doing. I don’t like looking at our wedding pictures either. 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.
She goes on to say how she wants to initiate, and she wants to make her husband feel loved, but she just doesn’t enjoy sex with him very much because it still feels wrong.
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! Most of us, after all, aren’t virgins anymore when we marry. And that is really wreaking havoc with our sex lives now.
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 will always have regrets about your wedding night (I do, too, for different reasons.) It is a letdown. It is a disappointment because you had tainted it before. But nonetheless, that is in the past, and you don’t want the past to impact your future.
You need a clean break, where you start allowing yourself to associate sex with something completely new. The problem when we give ourselves to people that we’re not married to is that sex becomes something which is dirty, shameful, and focused solely on the physical. There’s no commitment, and so the only reason to have sex isn’t to say “I love you”, it’s to say “I want to feel good”. And yet we know that’s not right. So that whole idea of “feeling good” becomes something shameful.
You need to rediscover what making love really is. When we give our bodies away as teenagers, 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’s 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–about memories, about dreams. You can even read a psalm together! 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). Practice touching him to say, “I love you”.
And tell him what you’re doing. Pray about it. Go before God and tell God that you’re sorry for what you did before your marriage, but you want a new start. And ask God to help you get that new start.
Then walk in it. Think everyday, how can I tell him “I love him” in a new way? Challenge yourself like this. Do it inside the bedroom and outside the bedroom. As you start focusing on your connection, you’ll find that 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. And He wants you to enjoy your husband. 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. Kiss him a bunch of different ways and ask him which one makes him feel the most loved. Ask him to do the same to you. Make it fun! And you just may find that your body reawakens!
Finally, I want to leave you with this thought: