Generation Cedar

Overcoming Sexual Sins of the Past

I received a letter from a reader who was broken about how her past had affected her marriage.  I agonized with her because I felt every pain she expressed.  Although she explained that she was technically a virgin when she married, she had far crossed the line of intimacy with previous boyfriends.

Harmless?  That’s what our culture would have us believe.  But those women willing to be honest admit that God never intended for us to be intimate with anyone other than our spouses.  It was for our good that He designed this arrangement, and when we disregard it, we bring heaps of pain upon ourselves and our families.

I prayed a lot about that letter and felt that sharing a post on this subject might be helpful as I’m guessing there are thousands of women experiencing heartache because of past baggage.

Here are some random consequences I have found to be true of women who talk about this issue:

  • Trouble with desiring intimacy with your husband, even though before you were married it wasn’t a problem.
  • Resentment about his approaches.
  • Feelings of guilt/sadness accompanying the issue of intimacy.
  • Dreams of past relationships–usually emotional, not sexual, in nature.
  • Dread of being intimate.

I believe this is one of the biggest problems with many marriages, and here’s why:

Men simply derive a large part of their bond to their wives through a loving, intimate relationship–particularly when the wife desires her husband.

When there is a breach in this area, there is a HUGE breach.  It is so important for us to understand this!  Men feel about intimacy (sex) as we feel about communication and relationships.  It is crucial to their closeness to us and feeling loved by us.

Don’t listen to the stereotypical ideas about men in this area.  Yes, they were made to desire sex, and there is nothing bad about that.  It is their language.  We must treat it as important to them as they love us in our language.

I believe the recreational dating system (where most of us fell prey to these premature, intimate relationships) has single-handedly done the most harm to marriages.  And for that reason, I believe it behooves us to stop at nothing to preserve the emotional and physical purity of our children–even the willingness to be persecuted by those who expect our children to participate in recreational dating.


If you did not enter into marriage whole and pure, it’s not the end of the world, but you have some work to do–we have some work to do.  And I don’t believe it’s an easy fix.  It most certainly starts with repentance, prayer and a deep desire for God to heal what is broken.  And although He is a healer, often a scar must remain. Sin produces consequences.

Renewing our minds is a crucial next step for restoration.  We must remind ourselves of the facts I mentioned above, and frankly, CHOOSE to love our husbands in this way, even if we don’t feel like it.

Our emotional state is closely tied to our physical state, which is why we’re having this problem, to begin with…REPROGRAM.

Feeding the mind, renewing the mind with truth, choosing to think about our marital relationships as the most important one on earth, and being willing to lay aside our hang-ups may be the only route to take.

He doesn’t always feel like expressing romance, affection or attention to us, but he does it because he loves us.  Let our response be the same if it has to be.  Purpose to CHOOSE love…in his language.

P.S.  I just feel like there are so many women reading this who are hurting and desperately seeking to be freed in this area.  If you have had victories over past hurts, we’d love to hear you share your insight or advice…it would be fine to post anonymously on this one.

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43 Responses

  1. As someone who had to deal with this prior to marriage (while I was dating my husband in college), I do think that it would be more difficult to deal with past sexual sin once married. I therefore really encourage any young woman who is currently single or engaged to deal with these issues and start healing NOW! One of the reasons I recommend this is that, in order to heal some of your dependencies (and many women who have gone “too far” did so because they had deep heart-yearnings for something, becoming dependent on the men with whom they tried to fill those voids), you may have to go on a sort of physical “fast,” relearning how to relate to men. My *now* husband agreed to a “kissing fast” for me when we were dating in college, because I knew I needed to break some past dependencies, and it was only too easy to fall back into destructive patterns even in a godly relationship with him. (We broke our fast when we got engaged the following year–and suddenly, I realized what God really intended intimacy to be like!!) Repentance is so important, and healing truly is available, no matter how “far” you’ve gone. The renewal in my own life was so dramatic that it has been one of my greatest witnesses to friends and family who knew me during high school (when I got into those ungodly relationships) and then saw me afterward. I was a new woman, and my approach to love and intimacy was completely transformed! God has the same in store for anyone who is truly seeking His loving mercy and transformation!

  2. Wow, I never realized others felt those consequences as well! In my coversations with other women, even Christian women, they don’t seem to suffer those consequences (or maybe they are not being honest). Not only do I have a past without my husband, but we also have a past together before marriage.

    I learned from books early on in our marriage that intimacy is one of his greatest needs. I have to force myself to be intimate sometimes, but I always try to do it without him knowing I don’t really want to. How would I feel if he only listen to me talk when he didn’t really want to, and let me know that. So I try to give him the same respect.

    I also have to remind myself that I am no longer doing this to feel loved, and keep his attention, but because I AM loved and already have his attention.

  3. I’ve been married for 10 years and we’ve just in the last year started dealing with this with me. I am very much like the lady who wrote to you, Kelly. The technical virgin but far from pure. Just a few weeks ago my hubby and I experienced intimacy like we never new existed and it went far beyond the bedroom. There is still guilt there but we’re dealing with it together. That’s a key for me is the together part. I am not strong enough to do it on my own. God has a wonderful plan if we’ll just follow it. Thank God for His mercy and His Son!


  4. Sexual intercourse isn’t just a physical act as many would like to think. Emotions are attached and then let’s not forget that sexual intercourse also involves the spiritual part of a person.

    There’s a joining of the flesh when we are sexually intimate that is such a delicate matter with human beings. Unlike animals, humans have the ability to produce eternal beings (babies) made in the likeness of God and sex isn’t meant to be experienced outside of one’s covenant marriage.

    The devil is into counterfeits (an imitation of something genuine so as to deceive or defraud)and he’d prefer that you be robbed of true blessings that you truly should have when following God’s counsel about sexual intimacy. Satan doesn’t want you to enjoy covenant intimacy with your spouse that’s meant to be only between husband(male)and wife (female).

    For you young ladies that are having tormenting thoughts because of the past, when you are with your husband remind yourself that while you are being sexually intimate with him, that this closeness you are sharing is also a spiritual thing that involves spiritual warfare against the counterfeit.

    Praise the Lord, He can get you through this and put the past in the past where it belongs and bless you with joy.

  5. When younger women tell me about their struggles (which usually means they are asking for advice) regarding pre-marital relationships, I know the last thing they want to hear is “step away from this situation to find out where you’re standing with God.”
    At this point I receive a million assurances that the situation “isn’t as bad as all that, ” or “I’m okay, I think we can work it out,” etc. etc. I look at them and my heart simply aches. They don’t want to see that doing the same thing over and over is digging a deeper hole. They don’t want to accept that they are acting as an instrument in their own despair. The poster above is absolutely right, the evil one is a deceiver, and what he’d like to convince us of the most is that we must continue to operate in the same manner because we simply have no choice.
    I pray for this generation and any that should follow it. I hope they will realize how precious they are and how Jesus wants the best for them. He’s already paid dearly for us…

  6. What an important topic to bring up! I heard a pastor’s wife once say that Satan works to get us into intimacy before we’re married and then works to keep us from it after we’re married.

  7. Thank you, Kelly, for posting what many need to hear. Praise God that I was delivered from this! I was not a Christian during dating years and acted like it. Even after I became a Christian I fell into old ways. My problem was the opposite of what you have posted. I wanted intimacy a ridiculous amount; to prove that he wanted me/loved me. I was stuck in the old way of thinking. What finally freed me? I asked God to forgive me for the past broken covenants (that is what sexual relationships are). Then, in the name of Jesus Christ, I cancelled the past covenants. What I think the Body doesn’t get enough (as I did not) is how important covenants are to God. Leaving a relationship does not mean that the covenant is broken. Only Christ has the power to break covenants of old. It took me 7 years into our marriage to be comfortable and happy in our sexual intimacy. It is good to be free. Praise to God alone who delivers! (sorry for spelling: spellcheck was made for me).

  8. I can relate to feelings this woman has. I would encourage women who are engaged and single to “wait” until marriage and solely have intimate relationships with their husbands only. This way, you won’t feel guilty or shame, or have to deal with the baggage of having past intimate relationships that come to “haunt” you once you are married. At the time, I didn’t think this would be a “big deal.” I didn’t think that it mattered. However, it DOES matter, especially to God.

    Thank you Kelly for sharing this post with us today. May God continue to work in all our lives and make our relationships the way that God has intended.

  9. A reminder from Scripture too, emphasizing what many here are saying to warn the unmarried women reading:

    “Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin that a man does is outside the body,” but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
    1 Corinthians 6:18

  10. I feel strange about the ‘her language’ ‘his language’ bit. I seem to have the higher sex drive in my relationship, and when he rejects me physically (not in the mood, too tired, for days in a row), that’s what causes the biggest fractures in my self-esteem. I will never divorce him, but I don’t know what to do about it.

    1. Dear Anonomous, I am so sorry. It hurts so badly to be rejected. I pray that God would use this hard thing in your life for much beauty. The hardest thing is to stay soft, loving, vulnerable. It is easier to protect your heart, grow hard, develope your own life, even if it is one under the same roof. I have two Bible passages to give you. The first is the beginning of Revalations, the letters from Jesus to his bride, us, the church. And we are often a cold, unloving bride. I don’t know if they will be of help to you or not, but I have pored over them lately. The other is Isaiah 54 through Isaiah 56.

      My sister, I’m praying for you. I am sorry. This is hard. Keep praying for him and loving him. He may have depression, even if he seems to be highly functional in other areas of life.

    2. Anonymous,

      I also will pray for you.It must be very difficult to feel rejected. Our Lord Jesus Christ was despised and rejected, too, and He cares for you. As one suggestion, when is the last time your husband saw his primary care doctor for a complete physical exam? Joy may be onto something. Your husband might be depressed or might have a medical problem that could be causing his low sex drive. Or would he be willing to talk this over with your minister or priest? Or would you? I’m sure you already know this but clergy have probably heard it all…and this won’t be a shock.

  11. My oldest daughter is only 10 and I have already felt the “persecution” of others who expect my children to participate in recreational dating.I know all too well the scars that go along with the dating scene and I refuse to allow that to happen to my children. Unfortunately, I am in the minority(in my church) when it comes to our families decision on this subject. Team that with homeschooling and 6 children (so far) and we are really the strange ones!! HA!
    I just feel that if we would disciple our children instead of just assuming that so many ungodly ways are just simply part of the teenage years–maybe then we wouldn’t have to spend so much energy in marriage workshops. The investment in our marriages starts long before we say “I do.”
    Kelly, thank you so much for your ministry. You are such a blessing to me and my family. Your voice reaches farther than you may even realize.
    Blessings to you!

  12. “I just feel that if we would disciple our children instead of just assuming that so many ungodly ways are just simply part of the teenage years–maybe then we wouldn’t have to spend so much energy in marriage workshops. The investment in our marriages starts long before we say “I do.”” – So true, Shelly! Stay strong as you go against the grain to raise your children for the Lord!

  13. I recently realized in a painful way the extent of the damage done to our husbands when we do not show them love the way that they need us to…I constantly brushed him off and did not desire him in that way, and it ended up hurting both of us. I did not put two and two together that it had to do with my prior relationships, but it makes sense. Praise God I realized my error and have repented of that and am actively working on this aspect of my marriage. We have found a new intimacy together, a closer bond both emotionally and physically, and believe me when I say we have never been more in love. I had to choose to change, but when I did I was truly able to see the difference and am enjoying the positive impact on my marriage as a result.

  14. Kelly,
    Thank you for this post. I certainly recognize myself in it!
    While I agree with everyone who’s posted, I would add – at some point, the guilt itself becomes too much and one simply must give it to God and TRUST in His mercy!! If God and my husband have forgiven me, who am I to reject God’s gift of intimacy now?? The healing began (for me) the day I realized that God wanted me to be intimate with my husband – and that, the more I dwelt on my past sin, the more shame I felt, the more I wanted to avoid my husband — the more I was turning away God’s gifts. Yes, I’m sure there’s a scar – but just as physical scars from physical wounds fade with time and due care, this scar shall fade as well as I rejoice with my husband in the freedom the Lord has granted us in marriage.
    As much as I wish I could take back those days I turned away from my husband out of guilt and shame, I know that the best thing I can do now, for him and for us, is to thoroughly enjoy the time we have together. My heart breaks for those ladies who have suffered from an overwhelming amount of shame… while guilt and shame are obviously the correct reactions to sin, there IS freedom and we CAN enjoy our lives with our husbands.

  15. I still get emotional when I think about a life I left behind 15 years ago, and even 12 years into a marriage with a godly, loving, model of Christ, it makes me heartsick to recall what I used to think of as “normal”. It’s humiliating, and I feel I wasn’t looked out for as a girl. My parents weren’t evil, but I believe this is a type of child neglect that is just accepted and overlooked. It does matter. Sexual sin may not be “worse” than any other sin in God’s eyes, but it affects a woman’s soul like no other – I suspect it affects men, too, but I’ll let men speak for themselves. I am haunted by the words “she does him good and not evil ALL the days of her life”. As forgiving as my husband is, and as much as my life has changed, I cannot claim that part of godly womanhood. I hurt my husband, set up obstacles for our relationship before I even met him.

    I think it should always sting, just a little – not to inspire guilt, but to help anyone who might ask, and as we raise our children, an incentive to guard them carefully. To not send them into situations most adults can’t control themselves in, much less 16 year olds who are too wise in their own eyes to begin with. To tell them they don’t have permission nor approval for such behavior, not just hope they’ll “exercise good judgement” – To be in charge of preserving their innocence until they are of an age to use godly discretion.

    I hope this wasn’t tmi, I just feel strongly that we have an obligation to our children to guide them past, not down, a road that has life changing, scarring, potentially life-threatening consequences.

  16. The Cottage Child,

    So deeply agreed…in fact, had a post brewing in the brain about how that “sting” needs to guide our parenting and help us say “no” to the ridiculous model of dating, based on exactly what you described.

  17. I feel like this post misses something pretty dang important: christ forgives ALL sins. Period. No matter who you are, what you did, faith in christ results in salvation. Re-read acts. Re-read corinthians. This comes near the idea of uncleanliness, that christ explicitly told us was the old covenant. Christ forgives all, through Him we are clean.

    Stop feeling guilty! Repent, love Christ, be forgiven.

    1. From a female’s point of view, even though we know we are forgiven, we still have deep deep scars that affect us years later. Suggesting that we just get over it is sometimes easier said than done.

      thank you Kelly, this needs to be addressed.

  18. I am late to this party, and perhaps I’m not someone the posters on this board are going to want to hear from, given my own personal history and beliefs, but just in case, here goes.

    I am really, really sorry to hear about all the pain the women on this board are expressing for sexual conduct they engaged in when they were younger and before they were married. I was raised Christian, but not in a church where kissing/handholding/sexual conduct other than intercourse was barred before marriage. In fact, I learned in my late teens that even leaders/other people in my youth group were having pre-marital sex, which shocked me, because at the time, I believed that was very, very wrong.

    In part because of knowing these people, and in part because of knowing others, religious or non-religious, who were having sex before marriage, I reached the conclusion in my (even later) teens that having sex before marriage did not make people bad people or sinners. (This is why I think my post may not be well-taken here, and if it isn’t, I certainly won’t be offended since I am butting in.) From there, a couple of years later I decided it was okay for me too. And I did get involved in relationships, some of which involved only kissing and less than sex, some of which involved sex. But I never didn’t anything I didn’t want to, nor was I pressured to. (With the exception of one really awkward makeout session.)

    And now that I am married–when my husband and I hold eachother, kiss, cuddle, hold hands, and make love–I have never once thought about my prior partners. It is all about him. I don’t feel like I was scarred by my prior experiences, and I don’t feel like they take away at all from the specialness of his and my relationship.

    So I’m really sorry to hear that other married women are suffering. But I think the cause of the suffering is not your sinfulness, because we are all sinful, but your excessive guilt. Maybe I don’t think about past lovers because I let them remain in the past. I do it for different reasons than any one on this board might–because I don’t believe those actions make me a bad person–but even if you believe you sinned, and I can’t tell you not to, you believe in a God who forgives. So do I.

    1. Hi, Ismone,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “I was raised Christian,” but if you were encouraged to read your Bible to find truth and acquaint yourself with your Savior, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then that is wonderful!

      If you were not encouraged to open the pages of Scripture, or if you did in the past and are not doing so now, then it is not too late to (re)establish the habit. The Bible is your guide for life, not the words and actions of the humans around you, whether they label themselves religious or not.

      What I hear you saying is that your experience and the experiences of others led you to your current beliefs on sexuality. (Well, the beliefs you expressed here in 2010, anyway.)

      We tread on shaky ground when our beliefs are based on human experience, Ismone. God’s Word is the only and unfailing standard. Read the Scriptures for yourself, and let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Ask for wisdom. He will never lead you astray. He may lead you to some difficult realizations, but that is a blessing when the Spirit convicts us of our sins, whatever they may be, and leads us to repentance.

      Right relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the way to true peace. Excessive guilt and false guilt are not His way, but the absence of guilt in a certain area is not necessarily an indicator that we have not sinned in that area. The Spirit will illuminate our understanding of Scriptures as we read and hear the Word, convict us of our sin, with spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear, and give us the peace that passes all understanding.

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

      1. Thank you 6 arrows for this response, I could not agree with you more and appreciate the care, concern, and aptness with which you expressed these truths!

  19. I fully agree that God does forgive us of our past sins. I will even say these sins that His Son was murdered over and took the full cup of God’s wrath over are gone! Wiped clean! . . .But that does not mean their is not consequence for our sinful past. That would be like saying I am now cured of aids or herpes because I am now a believer. It would be like saying the unexpected pregnancy is now comfortable to deal with. Yes God forgives the repentant believer but dealing with the consequences is different. Thank you for writing this article. I believe many men and women deal with such issues in there relationship. We so often listen to about 20-30% of what God asks of us in our relationships and then pray for him to bless it. Are you kidding?!?!? He will be there when “we” come to him.

    Don’t you wish a “True” Christian would have pulled us aside during our youth and set us straight before we made our mistakes? We probably would not have believed them . . . but I bet we do now.

    Thanks again!

  20. Do not be deceived. No matter how “trained” our kids are, Satan hits Christian kids HARD. They will still make mistakes, including sexual sin. We need to have real solutions to help girls/women accept God’s forgiveness and how they should move on.

    1. Lori,

      No one is deceived. And I didn’t mention “training” in this post. And yes, I KNOW Satan hits our children hard. Which is all the more reason for us to do our part to raise them with truth and practical strategies for warding off the attacks of Satan (like Paul mentioned).

      This is little about training and lots about imparting wisdom to our kids about God’s design. Only He can preserve them. But our part is to lead them in the way that makes that the most possible. Remember that even Eli was rebuked and commanded by God to confront his ADULT son’s sexual sin, and because he refused, he was punished and so were they. It is not to be taken lightly.

  21. Friends,

    As a pure bride with only one romantic relationship (my ex-husband), I believed that courting one man would equal a healthy, long marriage. I just would like to encourage us to seek to help our children have healthy, God-honoring relationships with everyone male and female. We need to teach them to flee temptation not to avoid the opposite sex. We need to give them the relationship tools that they will need forever.

    ~ abandoned homeschool mom

    1. Ella,

      I’m so sorry for the pain you must feel. I agree; certainly I’m not advocating teaching our children to avoid the opposite sex, but, as you said, to see what God’s word has to say and avoid sexual immorality.

  22. I have suffered from my past sexual sins and never knew how much it affects my marriage relationship with my husband. When I was young girl in college I started dating my husband we had a very intimate relationship before we got married. In fact we got pregnant before marriage when caused a heap of trouble with my family. I was only 19 at the time and my husband was 25. At first my family was not okay with me dating him because of his age, but then they started to like him and gave the okay to date him. I when to a christian church but had not knowledge or guidance to how to have a true relationship with someone. I did what every college girl did had a little fun, but didn’t expect a long term relationship. I was living in sexual sin, and I started to get comfortable in my sin. My husband at the time also had sexual sins of the past and at the time it didn’t affect us, but when we go married it seems that both our sins of the past were affecting us. I am a Christian now and have seek Christ’s forgiveness for those sins. I know now the importance of teaching your children about dating and encourage them to have God-honoring relationships with someone. I wish I knew what I know now about waiting before marriage and finding someone who is also waiting for marriage. I know now the importance of praying for the spouse God wants to to be with and saving yourself for that person. It has taken my husband and I ten years to finally love each other. In the beginning of our marriage we hated each other and didn’t want to be together. We stayed together because we got pregnant before marriage. I know most marriages like mine don’t last long because of the situation, but we have turned to Christ to teach us how to love one each other.

  23. For 13 years, I’ve referred to the list of consequences you listed in your post as “a wall” in my heart between my husband and I. I knew it was part of a spiritual battle. This post helped me recognize the foundation of that wall, why it was there! I would love to hear more about what to do about this?

  24. Sadly, I too can relate to this. And the Lord not only convicted me of this sin itself, but also the pride I had for thinking I was better than other women because, hey, at least I didn’t actually “go all the way.” When I read verses like Song of Solomon 2:7, I Corinthians 7:1, and I Thessalonians 5:22, it’s clear that “touching” is to be reserved for marriage alone. It isn’t a light thing to God to engage in it as an unmarried woman and He will chastise His children for it. Repentance is necessary, and forgiveness is available, but scars remain.

  25. Another “technical virgin” bride here. And like Lady Virtue said, I was prideful too that I didn’t do *that* before the wedding. Never mind that I engaged in virtually everything leading up to it.
    It’s sad that the most powerful memory of intimacy I have is the first time I shared a bed with a man. The one who would become my husband, but not until a long ways down the road. I hardly remember my wedding night.
    My friend calls it robbery. She is right. Intimacy without marriage robs the couple of the joy of first time sexual discovery within the bonds of holy matrimony, a priceless gift that can’t be reclaimed.
    But with repentance there is hope for healing. satan taunts but God forgives. Victory is through Christ. Romans 8:1. Psalm 103:12.

  26. Thank you so much for your words. Wonderful truth that is often not addressed because those of us who experience it are embarrassed, assuming we’re the only ones. Only the anointing of the Holy Spirit can bring healing. So thankful for Jesus!

  27. Does anyone have a good book(s) to recommend on the things mentioned in the article or even the posts? Thanks for your help. Just to share a little I’m on the verge of divorce because of these issues.

  28. I think this article is so on point! I was intimate (not “all the way”) with SO many men before my husband, and with my husband as well before marriage. I have often pondered why I thought that kind of intimacy was okay… my father is a Christian pastor (and I have remained Christian into my adulthood) and I had every intention of, and did, “save myself” until marriage… except that my definition of virginity was all wrong. I now realize that, though I knew knew knew that sex outside of marriage was sinful, no adult ever defined “sex” for me in a way that included all aspects of intimacy. It is because of this failure that I made up my own, incredibly limited, definition of “sex” and I justified my behaviour by clinging to that definition. I urge all mothers and fathers (and pastors for that matter!) to go the extra, awkward, step and define for our pre-teens/ teens/ young adults what we mean by sex– in terms that leave no questions unanswered. How this could have saved me such heartache then and now!

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