I’ve often wondered what led to my years of sexual refusal and gate-keeping. I’ve known that it had to do with lack of trust and emotional disconnection, but these were things that I’ve thought of as developing over time. Still, I sometimes puzzle over what provided the foundation for these things.

For several days now, reader comments and emails have had me thinking about the foundation upon which marriages are built. Things like premarital sex, domestic violence and assault, choosing a man who seems like our fathers (or completely opposite from them) can mean that women face marriages built on something more sand than rock.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

When I think of our foundation, what fills my mind is our premarital sexual activity. We had sex for most of our relationship, and we were together four years before we married. At times, I would suggest that we stop having sex so we could work on developing other aspects of our relationship. These were half-hearted suggestions. I’d been sexual with others before my husband, and I was not walking or talking with God much then.

This relationship felt more real than any I’d had before; it made no logical sense to deprive this man of what I’d given to others with such little thought. Nonetheless, my heart sensed that what we were doing was wrong and I knew that we needed to be working on other ways of connecting. So I asked, half-heartedly, not pushing but hoping that he would find a way to do the right thing.

I remember my husband’s responses to these requests in only vague ways now—agreeing that it would be a good idea, not wanting to stop, suggesting that we marry sooner, trying to go a few days and always being overwhelmed with passion. It was passion for me, so I could at least understand, right? But every time we’d talk about stopping, we’d end up right back in bed; eventually I stopped asking.

Every time we failed, my heart felt heavy in disappointment—in myself but in my future husband as well. I’m such a people pleaser that it never occurred to me to share my disappointment with him.

Over the past few days, I’ve been wondering what I learned to expect from this man before we were even married. Last night, I was reading a passage in a book that talked about how we reap what we sow and about the importance of paying attention to what we learn from our mistakes—and suddenly, I could see a connection between our premarital sex and my sexual refusal.

I learned four things about my husband then:

  • I couldn’t trust him to follow through or take care of me.
  • He had no self-control.
  • He valued sex more than he values my whole self.
  • He didn’t lead in Godly ways.

What I learned about my husband before we married (without even realizing that I was learning it) affected our marriage for years. These lessons were central to my refusal. Even now, after working so hard on our marriage and our sexual relationship, these are still the things that I have to work hardest to silence in my head. They were the foundation of how I saw my husband. They are things I need to relearn and rebuild.

I certainly own a fair share of our premarital shenanigans. I am at fault for my sexual refusal and gate-keeping; my sin was not his fault at all. But I look at the shaky foundation that under-girded our marriage, and I’m able to understand a little better why it was so easy for my sin to take root.

Is it any wonder our intimate life had such a hard time weathering the storms of life?

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

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31 Thoughts on “Foolish Builders

  1. Chris on June 5, 2013 at 9:07 am said:

    Growing up all my husband was ever told by his parents about pre-marital sex is “Don’t… or you’ll ruin a girl’s chances.” He’s still not sure what they really meant by that… “chances” for what?? All I ever knew was that “you aren’t supposed to do it before you’re married” and that you could get pregnant. I’m not sure where I learned even that much. I don’t remember my parents ever talking about sex with me.

    What we certainly didn’t know was the effect that having pre-marital sex would have on our marriage – the battlefield it was setting up. My pre-marriage story is very similar to yours. We dated for 4 years, then were engaged for 1 before marriage. During our pre-marriage days, I wasn’t always interested in having sex, but he never let it rest. I went along with it anyway, after all he was the ‘love of my life’. I developed similar beliefs about my husband – that I couldn’t trust him to do what’s best for me or our relationship but that he would always choose to satisfy himself (he was selfish), that he didn’t care about *me* but that all he really wanted was sex (sex was his idol), that he lacked godly character (no self-control), amongst other things.

    The irony is that he is a wonderful man – he loves me to the moon and back and would literally give his life for me. He is helpful and romantic and generous. He’s a hard-worker, good provider and a great dad. He is a man after God’s heart and works to keep our marriage strong. He’s a good lover and very handsome! YET, over the years there’s been many, many, many times where the beliefs that I developed during our pre-marriage days have been the filter through which I saw everything else. So often I have questioned his motives. I STILL battle those negative thoughts (after 21 years of marriage) and have to choose to believe the best about my husband.

    We have shared with our children the mistakes of our past and the consequences. We have emphasized to our children (our sons especially) that more than anything obeying God’s Word and waiting until marriage to have sex is a statement about your character. It tells what kind of man you are. Are you immature, selfish, and lacking self-control? Or will you choose to be a strong and godly leader? Will you pursue instant gratification or delay your gratification “in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later?” What kind of man do you want to be? How do you want your wife to see you?

    (Incidentally, the whole subject of “delayed gratification” is an interesting one – it’s very valuable skill that is worth teaching your children –

    My husband and I deeply wish we could have a re-do, that we could go back and make different choices – that we would have built our marriage on a different foundation, a strong foundation, that we would have chosen to ‘delay gratification’ for a quality foundation. Over the years, we have spent much too much time “repairing the cracks” (although it was necessary!) when we could have just been enjoying each other.

    • Yes, to everything you said. I’ve talked with my sons about what premarital sex and pornography do to their future marriages and a wife’s ability to trust him and value herself. Repairing the cracks is a lot harder than building a solid foundation in the first place.

  2. Bluemoon on June 5, 2013 at 11:58 am said:

    Wow…I am surprised at how harsh a view you have of your husband. I see that your view is shared by Chris as well and I imagine there are others as well. I don’t really know what to think about the lesson learned. If you could go back and make different choices, what would they be, not have pre-marital sex, or choose a different spouse?

    • I don’t have a harsh view of my husband. The lessons were as much about me as about him. I learned some things I valued that I hadn’t been up front and honest about with him. I’m sure he learned some lessons about me that were part of our shaky foundation as well. I would not choose a different spouse. The different choices would be to not have premarital sex or to have learned to be more aware of what I wanted and communicate those desires to him. It took me a long time to learn that was something I needed to work on.

      • Bluemoon on June 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm said:

        Learning what we want and learning how to effectively communicate those desires to our spouse is something we all need to work on. I wish it were easy.

  3. YIkes… there’s a huge difference between premarital sex and pornography. That they are brought up in the same sentence as being analogous suggests to me that despite your professed passion, you have a lot of mixed feelings about sex in general, and have projected those feelings onto your husband, making him the target in all of this.

    And how do you think he feels, to have gotten mixed messages from you all those years ago, and then to be blamed because you couldn’t stick with your own resolutions? You could have, you know.

    Think about it… was this really the only area of your lives together where “[you] couldn’t trust him to follow through or take care of [me]; he had no self-control; and he valued [sex] more than he values [your] whole self”?

    Sorry, unless there’s a lot more to this story, it seems a typical gender-based complaint. “I said No (but didn’t really mean it) and he didn’t believe me and therefore didn’t restrain himself so I just gave in because I really did like it but then I felt taken advantage of and it’s all his fault so I don’t trust him.” Wow… so very unfair.

  4. Of course I could have done a lot of things differently. Part of my process of working on myself is to understand where some feelings and thoughts came from so I can begin to address them. I am not blaming him for anything. However, when I think about my early feelings about refusing and gatekeeping, I know some of the scripts that were running through my head–and some of those scripts had to do with him. I can’t unwrite the scripts until I know why they were written in the first place. Tracing back to their root has been helpful in changing patterns of interaction.

    I don’t think the lessons I learned are true about my husband. They are perceptions that were established that then became truth in my mind over time. It would be more accurate to say they were things I believed than things I knew.

    As for premarital sex and pornography, they’re hardly analogous just because I mention them both in the same sentence. I think driving while texting and driving while drunk are bad things, but that doesn’t mean I think driving is bad. Premarital sex and pornography are just two sexual topics that I think are important enough to talk about with my sons. I think they both contribute to a bad foundation for marriage.

    I did have many mixed feelings about sex for many years. I don’t now. I’ve done a lot of rebuilding and healing.

    • “As for premarital sex and pornography, they’re hardly analogous just because I mention them both in the same sentence. I think driving while texting and driving while drunk are bad things, but that doesn’t mean I think driving is bad.”

      The logic is faulty here. In the statement “I think driving while texting and driving while drunk are bad thing, but that doesn’t mean I think driving is bad”, the commonality is driving… which is neither good nor bad. As you say, it’s the texting while driving that’s bad (and illegal in many areas) and the being drunk while driving that’s bad (and illegal everywhere). It’s not the driving that’s the issue; it’s the behaviors that take place while driving.

      The same with the sentence about premarital sex and pornography. Both have to do with sex. Sex itself is neither inherently good or bad; it’s how sex is used. Therefore, to follow the logic of your statement (despite the subsequent disclaimer), sex = driving, and premarital sex & pornography = texting and being drunk while driving.

      • Fine, skip the sentence about driving. Mentioning two related topics in one sentence doesn’t make them analogous. I am simply sharing my thoughts and feelings about my experiences as I move beyond refusing and gate-keeping. A lot will seem illogical because I experience and process things more with emotion than with logic.

        I think premarital sex and porn are both examples of a good gift being misused.

        • I think it’s wonderful that you’re doing some serious self-exploration and are opening it up to comments from others…. that’s a courageous thing to do, as long as you continue the conversation, are open to disagreement and can evaluate wherein your inconsistencies lie.

          After all, we are inconsistent creatures, filled with genetic loads and environmental baggage that often lead me to wonder how any of us can ever have any kind of long-term relationship with another human being.

          However, being emotional and logical are not an “either/or” proposition. As my husband will tell you, I’m highly emotional, but eminently logical….they are not – despite what’s commonly believed – mutually exclusive.

        • “However, being emotional and logical are not an “either/or” proposition.” In me, they are. I’m very strategic and can piece things together intuitively, but I don’t think I’ve ever been referred to as logical.

  5. I learned four things about my husband then:

    I couldn’t trust him to follow through or take care of me.
    He had no self-control.
    He valued sex more than he values my whole self.
    He didn’t lead in Godly ways.

    This seems a little extreme to define your husband with all of these.

    • Perhaps it is extreme. I wasn’t aware that I had defined him in this way until recently (and it isn’t as if these were the only ways I defined him). What is important is that now that I am aware that this is what I believed about him, I can now work at redefining and seeing him through clearer and more loving lenses.

  6. Chris on June 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm said:

    For the record, I ADORE my husband. He is the love of my life! Bluemoon, you must have missed this part…

    “he is a wonderful man – he loves me to the moon and back and would literally give his life for me. He is helpful and romantic and generous. He’s a hard-worker, good provider and a great dad. He is a man after God’s heart and works to keep our marriage strong. He’s a good lover and very handsome!”

    When we first met (and had premarital sex), we were both young, naive, and immature. We were only 17 years old. Any negative beliefs I developed about him back then, were very subtle, and I’m sure born out of hurt feelings at times… times when he was interested in having sex and I wasn’t so much, and yet he persisted. I didn’t have any self-confidence back then and loved him with all my heart. I didn’t have the self-confidence needed to stand firm in “no” and risk his rejection. I now know those beliefs are all lies, yet they still want to surface during times of discord – especially at times when he is interested in sex and I’m not. In those times, I have to actively work to “take captive every thought” and to meditate on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, …. and anything praiseworthy” — to believe that it’s all of *me* that he loves and not just the sex. I suppose my “self-esteem” is still impaired!

    I am sorry to have led anyone to believe I have anything but the highest regard for my husband. I am truly a blessed woman.

    • What happens before marriage leaves traces. Believe me…I understand what you’re saying. 🙂

    • Bluemoon on June 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm said:

      I am a humble fan of the Forgiven Wife and was surprised by her view of her husband. You stated that you developed similar beliefs about your husband which added credibility to her view. I really do appreciate that both of you shared your perspective. It is not a perspective that I ever considered. I still consider the view/belief of your husbands rather harsh, as was your response to that view/belief. I guess that’s the point; a harsh view/belief begets a harsh response.

      • Chris on June 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm said:

        Bluemoon, I just shared this post and all it’s comments with my husband. He would like to know what your premarital days were like.

      • Chris on June 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm said:

        I should elaborate… did you have premarital sex? And, in what ways (positive or negative) do you believe that choice contributes to the foundation or your marriage?

        • Bluemoon on June 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm said:

          As I have already stated, I appreciate that you shared your perspective. I have no doubt that you love your husband. I think he is a lucky man to have a wife with your perspective who is clearly working for a better marriage.

          To answer your husband’s question, yes, my wife and I had pre-marital sex and I do think it had a negative impact on our marriage foundation. I tend to personalize everything and now I fear that my wife has felt similar harsh feelings towards me. I am curious as to why you ask and I would like to know your husbands perspective as well.

          I realize that husbands are not the target audience for this blog, but I find it enlightening to read about marriage from a wife’s perspective. It does help me understand what’s going on in my own marriage. I am working for a better marriage as well and I need all the help I can get.

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  8. I’m new to this blog and am saddened at the responses that forgivenwife has received for being willing to open up and be vulnerable about thoughts from way long ago that have followed her through her marriage. Chris received the same treatment even with all of her good comments about her husband. I am very impressed with the humble replies though. I have such admiration for those willing to put themselves out there so that we can consider how similar things have affected us. Thank you for doing it despite the judgement.

    This is why there is so much secrecy in the church and marriages are crumbling. Women are afraid to share their struggles for fear that their struggles will be considered unacceptable when they should be getting compassionate responses like God calls us to give them. I started speaking to young married moms at our church 18 months ago and the response to my struggles has made the most difference. They want to know why it’s so hard for them to follow respect, submission etc. You see these light bulbs go off around the room when you tell a story about yourself that makes the women get it. That’s why God calls us to put ourselves out there and why he gave us the trials to begin with. We can’t waste our suffering just to keep others from looking down on our admitted sins.

    Please keep up the good work here. There are plenty of blogs that just tell you what to do right. It’s nice to hear some in depth reasons why others struggle to do things right and then to know how they’ve overcome or to walk through the struggles with them with christian compassion. We should hurt for eachother and want to help alleviate others’ suffering. I’m sad to think that you (forgivenwife) had these feelings you couldn’t put your finger on and am praising God with you that you identified them. I think identifying stuff is huge and I hear all these trumpets sounding in heaven when we come another step closer in our walk by having these healthy revelations. So again, thanks for sharing!

  9. Chris on June 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing a little about your marriage. I asked so I could better understand your point of view. 🙂

    And yes, my husband’s perspective, as well… While we have continued to discuss all that’s wrapped up in this post, he’s brought back to the subtle thoughts that he has battled:

    – that any refusal of sex means that I reject *him*, that I don’t want or care about him
    – that any refusal of sex means that I never think about sex, that it’s not important to me
    – that my refusal of sex is selfish

    It’s ironic how similar his beliefs about me – as a result of my *refusal* of sex – were to the beliefs I had about him – as a result of his *pursuit* of sex. And, of course, all just as untrue.

    As far as “personalizing everything” and any “harsh feelings” you may feel your wife has toward you, can I suggest to you the same thing I have told my husband? Please give your wife the benefit of the doubt. Believe the best about her – that she DOES want to be with you sexually but she’s stuck. Why wouldn’t she want to be with the love of her life?! Who doesn’t want a passionate, romantic, peaceful, fun marriage?

    Just as many men pursue sex when they’re struggling, many women refuse sex when they’re struggling. Your wife could be struggling with hormonal issues, stress issues, body image issues, physical exhaustion, or a long list of other things. If you believe her struggle is rooted in the foundation that was laid before your marriage – some subtle lies she’s believing – the most important thing you can do is work to get the lines of communication open. Ask her how she felt about your relationship in those pre-wedding days. And then validate her feelings! Step into her shoes and imagine the situation seen through the lens of her life’s experiences, her upbringing, her personality, her fears, etc. – all her hard-wiring. Try to understand how any of the beliefs she has may have developed. You don’t have to agree with her feelings or beliefs, but just understand how SHE came to have them. And whatever you do, don’t try to explain away any of your behavior. Just apologize for your part, no matter how small.

    Keep working toward a better marriage. Your wife is blessed to have a husband that cares about her and keeps his marriage a priority.

  10. I have to say that a year ago, when my DH and I were working on our marriage, it came out that I had many of the same feelings you mentioned. Now we did not have “pre-marital sex” but we did do sexual things we shouldn’t have, but I had the same feelings. We were able to share our feelings with each other and how he hurt me and vice-versa but first we had to talk about our own wrongs and mess-ups.

    It took us 18 years to get to the root of what a lot of our issues were. I was carrying around a lot of these “beliefs” and others:
    I couldn’t trust him to follow through or take care of me.
    He had no self-control.
    He valued sex more than he values my whole self.
    He didn’t lead in Godly ways.

    Was I aware of the specifics of why I acted/believed the way I did? No. Were my “beliefs” about my DH necessarily true? No. Did they “feel” true and therefore at the time I felt “justified” in my feelings/actions? Yes. The truth is the enemy’s lies got in and affected our marriage for 18 years, and we gave him a foothold because of our sinful behavior before marriage. NOW, for a year and a half, we have been united in fighting him for the marriage that God desires for us.

    I appreciate The Forgiven Wife because I know I’m not alone in my struggles and feelings, and I want TFW to know that she’s not alone out here either. Praise Jesus, for HIS forgiveness for all our sins, mistakes and misunderstandings!

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  12. David J. on July 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm said:

    Our premarital behavior was more along the lines of what SC describes, but like her my (now ex-) wife reached the same deep-seated conclusions as Forgiven Wife, Chris, and SC. About 20 years into our marriage, I realized what my premarital conduct had led her to believe. (I knew all along that the conduct was wrong, but I hadn’t until then realized this much about its long-term effects.) I apologized sincerely and profusely, and she seemed to appreciate the apology. Unfortunately, she was never able to replace those beliefs with truer beliefs about my desire for her. Kudos to you wives who have thought this through and have had tangible success in moving past it.

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  14. I am blessed by all I have read as per the above. I am an unmarried male, & the experiences shared have given me more reasons to ”keep” myself till marriage.
    At the same time, I think Mrs Chris & TFW (etc) have done a great job in sharing. God bless you.

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