I recently wrote that how you see your husband may be shaped by what you learned about men during childhood. We carry other negative lessons into our marriages as well. Sadly, our own sin is what sometimes teaches us those lessons.
This post is written for women who engaged in consensual premarital sex. Dragging around baggage that we ourselves created is an odd burden.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that my husband and I had sex before marriage and that I had sex with other men before I did with him. My premarital sexual experiences shaped my sense of self as well as my views about marriage. My own sin created some of the baggage I dragged into my marriage with me.
I used my sexuality casually, in premarital relationships and in encounters that I guess would be called hookups now. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but even then I knew that what I got wasn’t it.
A New York Times article, “In Hookups, Inequality Still Reigns,” reminds me of some difficult truths. It reminds me of the illusions I created in order to convince myself that I was becoming empowered rather than bedraggled by premarital sex. It reminds me of a time in my life when negative patterns were laid down that shaped my marriage and my sense of self for years.
When my children were very small, my husband connected me with a women’s prayer and support group at church. Most of the other women were pillars in the church. I would find myself praying earnestly for them while thinking, If they only knew the real me, they wouldn’t want to be in my presence. They are so good, so holy. They know the Bible better than me. They talk about applying it in their lives without even blinking an eye.
I don’t remember now what triggered it, although I have a vague recollection that it was guilt about sullying them simply by being near them. I told them I had to make a confession. I just knew these women would look down on me, but I felt like I was lying to them by not sharing who I was. So I told them about my sexual past. I didn’t tell them everything, but I hit the highlights lowlights.
I sobbed and sobbed, and those lovely ladies surrounded me with their own tears and hugs. One woman put her hands on my cheeks and said, “God has forgiven you. Now you need to forgive yourself. You need to accept God’s forgiveness to do that.”
She was so right. Unfortunately, by then, we’d been married for four years, and I had already unpacked my premarital baggage and made it part of my home. The damage had already begun.
My previous sexual encounters had taught me many things about sex.
- Sex is about power.
- Sex is about control.
- Sex is ordinary.
- Sex is about a man’s orgasm.
- Sex is a physical experience.
- Sex is just two ships passing in the night.
- Sex is quick.
These lessons about sex were laid on me before my husband and I even met. Our shared premarital sexual encounters complicated these lessons a bit, but the sandy foundation of sexual lies was already in place.
When we married, I knew sex would be part of that. However, because of those premarital lessons, I also believed wrong things about my husband’s interest in sex.
- His sexual interest gave me power in our marriage.
- His comments that sex was important were an attempt to control me.
- Sex was just sex and was not making love.
- Sex was about my husband having an orgasm.
- Sex was what our bodies did and did not involve our hearts.
- Because all these negative things were true about sex and sex was part of marriage, all these negative things were true of marriage as well.
- There was no point in taking our time.
Illusions of Intimacy
My casual use of my sexuality before marriage taught me other lessons as well. These lessons were ones I learned about myself. They shaped my self-esteem, my sense of worth, and my ability to experience sexual or emotional intimacy.
- My sexual prowess (the ability to provide a man with a satisfying orgasm) gave me more satisfaction than my own sexual response did.
- The thrill and spontaneity of casual sex was quite arousing–but with no orgasm and no resolution of that arousal, it always led to frustration.
- When I engaged in casual sex, I experienced no orgasms, no man devoted to figuring out what pleased me, and a sense that my value was only in providing orgasms for a man.
- The article says, “[M]ore than sex, hookups are often much more about two people giving each other the sense of intimacy, however brief, they need to get through the week.” Hookups allow people to create an illusion of intimacy, with no substance at all. Every time I added another layer to this illusion, I drew myself even further away from a sense of what true intimacy was.
- Premarital sex within the context of a relationship created an illusion as well. It was make-believe. The relationship was real, but the sex was added on. It was not in a shared space, or in a shared life. Even with the man who would be my husband, the sex we experienced before we married was an illusion of what sex can and should be. (Additionally, it taught me some lessons about my husband.)
Is it any wonder that it took me so long to understand that sex is for me, too, not just for my husband? I didn’t understand that sex served a uniting and pair-strengthening purpose in marriage.
It took me a long time to recognize that my premarital sexual activity had any effect on my marriage at all. How is your marriage affected by your own premarital activity?
Did you learn negative lessons about sex, or about yourself, as a result of your own sin? Have you confessed this sin and accepted God’s forgiveness? It is far too easy to let our own negative lessons get in the way of intimacy with our husbands.
For years, when I experienced any difficulty with sexual intimacy in our marriage, my internal response was something along the lines of, This is my punishment. I deserve it. Because I hadn’t accepted God’s forgiveness, I was still stuck in a cycle where the sin defined everything that happened to me.
Many times, I would think back to the notion of accepting God’s forgiveness. It took me a long time to even be able to call what I did “sin.” I said that I made mistakes. I did. I said that I was a stupid 19-year-old. I was. Until I was able to name my mistakes and stupidity as sin, I was not able to accept forgiveness for that sin.
There is great freedom in accepting forgiveness for premarital sexual sin. When the women in my prayer group surrounded me, holding me, recognizing my pain while reminding me that I was forgiven, a piece of my heart began to heal. It took me a long time, but that was the moment it began.
The process of forgiving myself required me to lay my sin down at the foot of the cross and accept the forgiveness I’d been given long ago. Only when I had accepted that forgiveness was I able to begin to step away from the negative lessons I’d learned about sex.
These negative lessons about sex have now been replaced by good lessons about married sex as God designed it.
- Sex is about power sharing.
- Sex is about control connection.
- Sex is ordinary special.
- Sex is about a man’s orgasm mutual pleasure.
- Sex is a physical experience AND an emotional or spiritual one.
- Sex is just two ships passing in the night one ship on a life-long journey.
- Sex is quick worth spending time doing.
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. Psalm 32:1