Wifey Wednesday: Recovery from the Guilt of Your Sexual Past

Christian Marriage Advice

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!”

'Intimacy' photo (c) 2010, MissTurner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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:

Don't let memories of your past wreck your marriage today

Featured Products in this Post:
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex
Forgiven Blocks


  1. Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama says:

    >I took the survey..look forward to the book!

  2. >I took the survey;

    I also posted a blog on Wifey Wednesday!


    Thanks for such an awesome prompt!!

  3. >Ladies, thanks all for taking the survey! Not getting a lot of comments on this one, which is funny, because the stats say more people have visited than usual. Methinks you all are shy given the topic! And that's okay!

  4. Dear Sheila,

    Thank you for this article. I have tears running down my face from reading this. I am so afraid that I ruined my whole life with bad decisions and the consequences that came from them and the harm others did to me- both that I allowed and against my will even at the time. I had such low self-worth when I was younger and am still just starting to recover and get stronger. I will read this post about how sex is an expression of love every day, and share it, too. Thank you so much.

  5. Does it qualify if you have done everything else except intercourse? Does that qualify as a soul tie? I had a few boyfriends before my husband, and in between the time we dated. We dated for a few months, he broke it off as he was certain he could do better, and then 7 years later started pursuing me(sometimes I wonder if he felt like he was almost 40 and he hadn’t been successful and so I was his only option, as I’d been his only girlfriend EVER) At that time I was involved with another much older man, and while we didn’t have intercourse, we did pretty much everything else. I knew he was wrong for me, but he made me feel good at a low point in my life. We split and a few months later I started dating my husband to be. So now, 12 years into my marriage, I am thinking about this ex boyfriend A LOT, and even wanting to be with him now, because our marriage is going through an incredibly tough time, is that because I still have a soul tie to him?

  6. Thank you for the article, I am just now finding it. My story is that I was with someone when I was young, met him at 18 and we were together for over a year. I truly fell in love with him. We had a close relationship, did everything we were not supposed to do and then he ultimately dumped me. This was over 30 years ago and I never stopped feeling the pain from it. I was able to get my life back on track and did marry a few years later. However, suddenly the memory of that time has just been coming back to me all over again, and for the last month I have been crying almost daily because of it. I don’t think I ever really dealt with the devastation that it brought to me, and the guilt I still feel over being with someone other than my husband. I know God forgives me, but I still feel like I need to do something to get over this. Has anyone else been through this?
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  2. […] we have some real issues–like sex hurts, or we have been abused in the past, or we feel really guilty for things we’ve done before. I totally understand, and I know that it can take a while to get through […]

  3. […] to make any of you feel guilty (and, in fact, here’s a post on how God wants to deal with any guilt you feel over sex before marriage). It’s just that I know a lot of you are dealing with very specific problems, and I want to […]

  4. […] to yourself, and learning how to shut your brain off of all the things you worry about. It takes dealing with your sexual baggage, and dealing with your husband’s sexual baggage. It takes seeing sex as something beautiful. […]

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