What do you do when you have a sexual past, but you want to have a pure marriage with a great sex life? Can you rid yourself of the baggage from everything you’ve already done?
Here’s a letter I received recently:
I am single, in my late 20s. In my earlier 20s, I did not live a Christian lifestyle. I had sex with two men. The first was a great friend, and we had fun. I really enjoyed it. The next guy I was engaged to, and I HATED sex with him. I found ways to make myself unattractive or unavailable to him….
I have dedicated my life to God, and have been single for three years now. I have decided not to have sex again until marriage…
This is going to seem pretty childish to ask… But… how do you bring this up with an adult? How many grown men are going to be OK with this? How much of my past do I tell? And then, what if I do meet someone and we decide to get married? I have a fear of not enjoying sex with [him]…. How do make sure that doesn’t happen? Also, how do you learn how to connect sex and love together? Because of my past, I learned the two separately, and cannot seem to make the connection…. I know this sounds crazy. But any advice would be greatly appreciated.
First, I don’t think that does sound crazy. I think it sounds quite normal.
Do You Need to Practice First?
Let me relay another story to you that may help how we think about this. When I was in Kenya recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to the teens about adolescence. And one night a boy put up his hand with a question. He asked, “Is there a disadvantage to being a virgin when you’re married?” After beating around the bush and trying to figure out what he was really getting at, I finally asked, “Do you mean will sex be bad if you don’t have practice first?” Everybody laughed, including that boy, because that is what he meant. And so Keith and I went on to answer him.
No, you don’t need practice first, because sex once you’re married is very different from before you are married. In the “wedding night” survey I’m doing, one woman wrote about how sex was very emotionally different afterwards. She and her fiancé had already slept together before the wedding, but it was different. And she so wished that she had waited.
Here’s the thing about sex once you’re married: you have a lifetime to get it right. It doesn’t have to be perfect right off the bat (and it rarely is). But when you love someone and you’re committed to someone, you’ve got a lifetime to figure out how to make it good for both of you. There’s no hurry. And for women, our sex drives are very closely related to how loved we feel. When we feel cherished and loved in a relationship, we’re more likely to feel rather energetic sexually, if you know what I mean. So just because sex was bad with other men before you were married has very little bearing on whether or not sex will be good once you are married.
Using Sex to Say “I Love You”
The more thorny issue, I think, is how to use sex as a way to say “I love you” when it has only ever been a way to say “I want you.” If you’ve had sex before you were married, you did it for purely physical reasons, because the commitment wasn’t there. Once you’re married, other dimensions come in to it. You truly are becoming one flesh. You’re declaring your commitment to one another. And so it IS different, whether or not we think of it that way.
Many married women, though, have this problem. How do I think of sex differently? How do I turn it into something really beautiful, when it’s only ever been something hurried, a little guilt-inducing, and focused only on the physical?
I’d suggest that you just spend a lot of time with your husband. Have a bath naked together. Touch each other while you’re naked. Spend time talking. Make it romantic. The more you love each other with words and with your eyes, the more you’ll be able to love each other with other body parts.
Unfortunately, most women, even Christian women, do have sex before they’re married. When we do that, we rewire our brains so that our brains associate certain things with certain sexual feelings. And we stop associating love with that feeling.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t rebuild that again. This is the man you love. If you completely and utterly love him, sex can definitely be good because it’s in the right context once you’re married. So talk about how much you love him. Show him love. Show him how to show you love. And then the physical parts of sex, which can be very stupendous, too, will follow in a different context. And that’s what really makes this beautiful.