If you’ve been promiscuous in the past, is your future marriage doomed?

We’re in the middle of our Sex Questions You Can’t Ask Your Pastor series this month, and this week we’ve been focusing on newlywed sex questions–including our newlywed sex question podcast!

I was promiscuous as a teen for a few years. Sometimes it haunts me more than others. I also think I have a sexual problem that makes me overly attracted to men too quickly. I fear that I’m wasting my life being absorbed in thinking about sex and men vs. really becoming someone I want to be…I also fear I won’t meet someone one day who can both look past my mistakes, and who I can feel like I love completely in a way that is fully satisfying for both of us. I am afraid my past sexual experiences will overshadow the one I have in marriage, if I ever get married.

What a sad question!

I want to comment on two things quickly, and then I want to turn it over to you all.

First, I do see some alarm bells in how she says that she tends to get overly attracted and involved with men too quickly. That could be a sign of attachment issues and trauma in her background, and I would strongly recommend that she see a licensed counselor to talk through those things. I’m worried that without seeing a counselor first, she opens herself up to making bad decisions about who to marry, and that’s a big thing to have to overcome.

The second is a bigger issue that’s really what I want to talk about today.

Just because you have a sexual past does not mean that  you can’t have great sex in marriage.

Let me reiterate again: I do believe that God wants us to save sex for marriage, and I think there are very good reasons for this. If you think about it, in ancient societies, what promoted stability? What helped protect children and women? It was marriage. If people had to get married to have sex, then two things would happen: babies would only be born in marriage, and men would have to care for women their whole lives, not just when they were bearing or nursing their babies. So it promoted stability.

But it also allowed love to flourish, and built a community based around love and commitment and not temporary pleasures where we would use each other.

I think we often forget those big picture societal reasons because we live in such a different world today, but they are important. Saving sex for marriage encourages commitment and love.

And then what about sex itself? When you save sex for marriage, then sex becomes about far more than just the physical. Sex becomes a deep “knowing”, because it is paired with commitment, which allowed trust. And trust allows vulnerability, which is really the key to women’s sexual response.

There are other reasons, of course, but those are the big picture ones.

Now here’s the thing: I don’t believe that saving sex for marriage guarantees you a remarkably better PHYSICAL experience when making love.

As I said on Monday, in our post about newlywed sex questions, the key to sexual pleasure is not a wedding ring; it’s figuring out arousal.

In our focus groups for our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue, and in many comments that I’ve had on the blog over the years, it’s quite clear to me that women’s experiences physically are all over the map. Some have orgasmic sex before marriage and then have trouble afterwards; some have sex before marriage that isn’t pleasurable, and then it still isn’t pleasurable afterwards. Some find that getting married actually improves sex. And some wait for marriage and have a great time right off the bat, and some wait for marriage and struggle for years.

In my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I did find that those who waited for marriage had marginally better sex lives–they rated them about 10% better on a scale of 1-10. 

But 10% is not like 80%. Or 70%. Or even 25%. It’s only 10%.

And that means that the effect size is not huge.

What usually determines how much you enjoy sex is your relationship with your spouse, your feelings about sex, and a whole host of other factors.

One of those factors,  yes, is our sexual history. But it is not the main one.

But I’ll tell you what a big one is: GUILT. When we feel guilty about what we’ve done, or ashamed for what we’ve done, or when we feel like we have lost “a precious treasure that we can never get back”, which is how purity culture talked about virginity, then, yes, it’s hardly surprising if sex after your marriage isn’t that great.

I understand wishing that your past could be different, but I also believe Romans 8:1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And I also believe that when we marry, we become one flesh. That means that God sees as a new relationship, and we don’t need to take all of this baggage in with us. It’s okay to start fresh. (And 31 Days to Great Sex is a great way to do that! And it’s available again!)

I don’t have time to write a super long post today because we have some podcasts to record and we have some big edits on The Great Sex Rescue we have to finish today, so I’m hoping that you will all finish this conversation in the comments for me.

What would you say to a woman (or a man) who asks: “Have we ruined our married sex lives by having a sexual past?” How can we have a healthier discussion around this? Let’s talk!


Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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