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Getting Over A Spouse’s Past- Part 2

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Want to know how to make that kind of healing choice?

 
Greg and I came into our marriage with a similar dynamic.  He walked into my world a twenty-six-year-old virgin. As for me, between the ages of fifteen and twenty, I’d had more partners than any woman cares to admit.  I’d forewarned Greg about “what kind of woman” he was interested in before we got engaged.  He seemed undaunted.  I approached him after two years of marriage crying, “There’s no way you could possibly love me if you knew how many men there have been!” yet he remained a rock of stability in my historically unstable world.
 
“I don’t need to know how many, Shannon.  But if you need to tell me, I’m willing to listen,” was Greg’s response. I spent a few days combing my memories and creating a long list. It was longer than I’d realized it would be. I braced myself for a look of disgust and a renunciation of his wedding vows.  As I vocalized the number, I literally choked on the sound of it emitting from my mouth, so broken with shame and self-loathing.
 
“Even if you told me a number one hundred times that, I’m still not going anywhere,” Greg firmly replied.  “Besides, I know that your past isn’t about you and me-it’s about you and your dad.”  Although I didn’t understand that at the time, Greg was absolutely right.  An emotionally distant father left such a gaping hole in my heart that, as a naïve teenager, I went looking for love to fill it. As a result, Greg wasn’t the first man I ever slept with. But as a result of Greg’s unconditional love, I do intend him to be the last.  And isn’t that what matters most? No matter how many sexual partners are in your spouse’s past, take comfort and pride in the fact that although you weren’t their first, you’ll certainly be their last. No one else can ever love them like you can.
 
Greg had never even once thrown that number, or my inappropriate past, up in my face.  I don’t doubt that it’s bothered him at times; I can’t imagine how it couldn’t.  But he’s never turned his concerns into ammunition against me, and his commitment to me hasn’t wavered or waffled.  We’ve each tried to focus on overcoming our own issues and insecurities, sharing our thoughts along the way to build rapport and bring healing, rather than getting angry at each other over situations that simply can’t be erased.  We’ve gradually witnessed God do what only God can do — bring deep healing in each of us.  
 
So my advice to Don, and every other spouse on the planet whose marital partner has a colorful past, “Buck up and be the rock your spouse needs you to be!”  Don’t take your spouse’s sexual mistakes personally.  It was likely never about you.  Be “Jesus with skin on” to him or her.  Let your life and love paint a vivid picture of God’s unconditional love and mercy.  Teach each other that self-worth is not based on a sexual scorecard, but on who we are in Christ.
 
PRAYER:  Lord, teach me how to love my spouse in spite of their past, just as you love me in spite of mine.
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Excerpted from  The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved. Published by W Publishing Group, and imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval. 

Getting Over A Spouse’s Past- Part 1

Recently we were traveling down a two-lane highway when we approached a blockade stretching from one side to the other.  An entire section of the road had collapsed, presumably under the weight of rising floodwaters, and there was no getting over it or going around it. The only option was to back up and find a new route.

 

A similar dynamic applies to marriage. Sometimes we may discover a mental “roadblock” that seems impossible to simply ignore, and we must figure out a new route to our ultimate destination: genuine intimacy and sexual fulfillment. One of the most common mental roadblocks to intimacy is when one person comes into the marriage with some things in his or her past that may grow bothersome to the other.  For example, Don writes via e-mail:

 

My wife and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  Our sex life has been good, except in one area.  I was a virgin when we married.  My wife was not, and I knew this.  It did not bother me . . . until after we said, “I do.”  I began worrying, Am I good enough to make her forget? . . . Will she compare me? . . . Will she have flashbacks when we are making love? Will I meet her expectations?

One day she said, “You’ve never asked me ‘how many?'”  She followed up with a number that didn’t help. It slowly festered, to the point where I began asking questions on my own and I wish I never had!  It only made my fears worse, and even had her remembering things she’d tried to forget!

My question: what do I do when thoughts of her former sex partners come lofting into my mind?  The advice so far has been: stop playing tug-o-war with the devil . . . you can’t win . . . drop “the rope” (the memories of her lovers).  Do you have any extra encouragement or advice?

 

I’m so glad Don asked this question, because I certainly do have some strategies for helping one spouse get past the other’s sexual past.

First, think about human nature. When we focus on what we shouldn’t or can’t or won’t allow ourselves to think about, guess what we naturally do?  We’re all the more tempted to think about those very things.  Instead, focus on what you can or will choose to do.  There is power in remaining positive.  Choose to win your spouse’s trust (believe me, her insecurities are just as significant as yours!), and you’ll win her heart as well.  Choose to become his dream lover, which is far more about tenderness than technique, and I guarantee that all previous lovers will pale in comparison. 

PRAYER:  God, help me remain a positive source of healing in my spouse’s life.

 

continued…

 

Excerpted from The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved. Published by W Publishing Group, and imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.