If you have a checkered sexual past it can be humbling and scary to talk about it with your spouse or future spouse. No one wants to share intimate details about their life that are painful or paint them as less than perfect, especially with someone who may have had a pain and drama-free past. Yet, sharing your story with the love of your life can be me the most freeing thing you do.
Even non-sexual and non-traumatic experiences will impact the way we react. When those experiences were painful, stressful, and traumatic, they often trigger negative responses. Have you ever heard a song that took you back twenty years? Maybe a smell from a decade ago sent your head into a tailspin? Past sexual experiences, willful or forced, often cause seeds of shame, guilt, condemnation, fear and bitterness to grow roots in our hearts. The seeds lie dormant until triggered to grow. And rest assured, until they are pulled out, they will continue to grow.
In Restoring the Lost Petal, I share how my past lay dormant for months until it blossomed into an ugly weed in our marriage. It was so bad my husband thought I was having an affair. I didn't know what the problem was so I couldn't be honest until I got to the root of the issue. It would have been easier if I could have been open with him about my feelings and what was causing me so much pain.
You can avoid this by starting out with the mindset that you'll be honest with your spouse or future spouse. Honesty is a funny thing. It's part of that deep yada knowing God desires in a marriage. It's also one of the scariest things we'll face. The Bible tells us darkness must flee in the light. When your past is brought into the light is will lose the false power it has over your life.
Why Honesty Is Important
Every one of us processes things through the filters we subconsciously set based on past experiences. Smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and events can trigger memories that lead us to an emotional state that may seem like overreacting to those around us.
Several years ago we took my mother in law to visit her aunt in a nursing home. In one of the common eating rooms, my eyes met those of a dear old woman a foot shorter than and 50 pounds lighter. She smiled as if she knew me and I struck up a general conversation with her only to have it quickly turn into a very emotional nightmare for me. She really did think she knew me. She thought I was a daughter or granddaughter, I can't remember. She went on about how it had been so long since anyone has visited her and how she was lonely. She wanted to know about “the kids”, how long I could stay and when I'd be back to take her home.
Moments felt like hours and I felt like I was suffocating. My heart began to race and I had to leave. In tear, I ran past my husband out of that room and toward the nearest exit. You see, being there with her took me to a time when my grandfather was sick in the hospital. It was my Junior year of high school. I had taken on the (false) weight of responsibility on my shoulders to be sure that Pap was visited every day. I fought my mom to sleep there with him and I was disgusted at the thought of us leaving him there alone.
All those emotions came back to me and had me in a tailspin some eight years later. It's times like this when we need to be able to share our emotions and past experiences with our spouses so we can grow closer together.
Honesty is about intimacy. Not the sexual kind but the kind that draws us close to another person: to know and be known wholly. When we filter things through our past and our reactions seem over the top, its good to be able to let our spouse in on what's going on in our head.
Be Honest But….
Honestly with your spouse or future spouse must be handled tactfully, gracefully and with wisdom. There's no need to share every sexual detail with them. You're not sharing with them to weigh them down with ugly details or so they will pity you. You're sharing for authenticity, disclosure, and intimacy. Often times, sharing will come in stages when you and your loved one are ready for more.
In other words, you must disclose with discretion. Keep in mind:
- Your spouse may have questions, don't avoid them
- You need to give your spouse time and space to process
- If you don't share your past you should be honest about that. “I have much in my past I can't tell you right now.”
- Sharing your healing journey, or your desire to walk free from your past
- Make it clear that you're sharing for intimacy and understanding, not for guilt
Remember too, men are fixers. When they don't know how to fix something (and they cannot fix your past) they can often feel overwhelmed and (false) feelings of failure. Be sure to check in with him and make sure he's processing truthfully and not holding on to what happened to you as his responsibility. He can walk with you on your healing journey but he cannot undo what happened in your past.
Honesty is scary, especially when you've done things you wish you hadn't done in younger years. But part of the healing journey is being honest with yourself and your spouse. If you're looking to move forward in your healing journey I encourage you to pick p a copy of Restoring the Lost Petal and learn how to heal and live restored from your past. The memories hiding in the basement of your mind need not be a scary, unrelenting tormentor.