I never imagined that my sexual past was a problem now. Sure I felt guilty, but I’d asked for forgiveness, and now I was married so that part of my life was far behind me. Right? Well not quite—but I didn’t know it. I certainly wasn’t struggling enough to need healing, I smugly assumed. That was for people who’d been abused or raped. Or people involved in pornography, become an addict, or been unfaithful in their marriage. Our marriage was in pretty good shape, apart from our struggle over my lack of desire for sex. After all,“This is normal, isn’t it?” I thought.
But God knew better. At the time I was teaching abstinence to young people—encouraging them to stay pure until marriage. Mostly because I hadn’t, and I didn’t want them to make the same mistake. But God used what I was teaching others to show me how sex from my past was impacting me today.
What’s the Big Deal?
But what’s the big deal? It’s just sex. It was in the past. I’ve asked for forgiveness, many times. It doesn’t matter now, does it? I’m familiar with that question, because I’ve asked it myself. Hindsight can be a cruel but faithful teacher. I no longer ask that question…because now I know the answer.
Past sex is a very big deal, because whether the past is
- mild or traumatic,
- many partners or one (or two),
- a long time ago or recent,
- even, sex outside marriage with a present spouse,
sex from our past continues to haunt us in the present, impacting our relationships, self-worth and marriage. I’ve come to understand this . . . if in the past I had sex – then in the present, sex has me.
Most people don’t realize this. We struggle with emotional and physical intimacy in our marriages, or sexual temptations (as in emotional or physical affairs). We lack trust. We are filled with shame, anger and pain. We may feel connected to past lovers, fantasizing about them. And we may struggle with lack of desire or suffer from the opposite extreme–addictive behaviour. But seldom do we relate our present struggles with our sexual past. “There’s something wrong with me”, we lament. Or, “I married the wrong person…I should have married…” Yet most of us will never cross the threshold into a counselor’s office because we don’t realize that yesterday’s sex is revisiting us today—and it’s here to stay.
Until we get healing.
Real Stories of Real Sex (Not Hollywood Sex)
Penny’s been married 25 years, but she still dreams about her first love.
Malcolm loves his wife; but he can’t understand why his attraction to other women starts at just a look, then fantasy and leads to action . . .always.
Brooke used to love sex…back then, the power trip for her was magnetic. But now married, sex has become boring—a chore. “Almost repulsive,” she regrets.
One of the biggest lies we’ve been told is that sex is just a physical act. We can have sex and move on without thought or consequence, repeating the act until we get married. And then poof, all past lovers are instantly erased from our memories. Sounds magical. I wish it were true.
The truth is that sex is a bond–an invisible bond that works like glue—super human glue, attaching us permanently to all past lovers, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Inside marriage, God designed sex as a powerful, unifying bond. Outside of marriage, the bonds of sex can be devastating. Long after the lover has gone, the bond we’ve created stays with us impacting our lives and future relationships.
The Science of Human Bonding
Recent research of the human brain has discovered a hormone called oxytocin2, that is specifically designed to bond people together. (You may know it as the ‘love hormone’). Mothers release oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding. However, this bonding hormone also validates God’s marriage plan for sex. Oxytocin is the hormone released during sexual arousal in both men and women. The benefit of this is that when we have married sex, we bond with our spouse. And as we have sex over and over in marriage, our bond becomes stronger. When we have the strength of this bond in our marriage, it can carry us through the difficulties that may come along.
The Reality of Bonding Damage
Unfortunately, we can damage our bonding hormone. With each subsequent partner, the brain releases less oxytocin, impacting our ability to bond. Additionally, negative break-up emotions are then associated with bonding. The resulting impact can be huge. Drs. Keroack and Diggs3 explain in their article, “Bonding Imperative,” that past bonds can inhibit future bonds; furthermore, the lack of the oxytocin can lead to sexual infidelity and addiction. Oxytocin keeps the ‘wow’ of sex alive when a couple stays together over time. If oxytocin is absent, there is a need to move on to someone new, seeking to recreate that sensation. This type of bonding damage often leads to divorce or addiction.
Bonding damage may also impact the emotional and physical intimacy in a marriage. I know, because it happened to me. My sexual past made sex in my marriage unpleasant. I didn’t know why, until I discovered how I’d brought the lies I’d ingrained about sex, men and God into my marriage and my marriage bed.
The Good News: Healing
But I have great news. God, who created us, knows how to heal us by breaking bonds from past partners. And through this healing we can chemically re-bond in our present or future relationships.4 In the Bible, the book of Joel 2:25 says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” When we give Him our past, God promises to pay us back for everything that has been destroyed sexually. God not only broke the bonds to my past sexual partners, but allowed me to re-bond with my husband. And now as I lead others through this healing journey, I watch healing happen over and over again. It never ceases to amaze me—this miracle of God.
Healing sex, healing relationships. Restoring marriages.
That’s what He’s all about.
Taking our messes and making them messages of hope.
You don’t have to face this alone: Email a mentor
Also By Barb Wilson
- Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954-2003 by Lawrence B. Finer, Ph.D. Research Division, The Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY. Public Health Reports/January-February 2007/Volume 122.
- The Invisible Bond, how to break free from your sexual past, by Barbara Wilson. Multnomah Publishers, 2006. pg. 45-57.
- The Bonding Imperative by Dr. Eric Keroack and Dr. John Diggs quoted in The Invisible Bond, by Barbara Wilson, Multnomah Publishers, 2006. pg 55.
- The Oxytocin Cell, by Dr. Eric Keroack. A keynote with powerpoint delivered at the Abstinence Clearinghouse National Conference June 2005.