It’s common for couples to come into marriage with some “baggage” they have to work through. Everyone’s baggage is different, but a situation many engaged couples face involves previous sexual experience. Whether that’s experience with your fiance or an ex, it can add extra emotional weight to your relationship.
It can be upsetting to know that one or both of you has sexual history from a previous relationship. If your fiance was in a relationship involving sexual intimacy, it can create self-doubt, anxiety, sadness, and regret.
Your sexual history (or your fiance’s) is something that will haunt your forever–but only if you let it. The good news is, the two of you can get past this together. Here’s how.
It’s normal to worry about how you’ll measure up to your fiance’s ex once you’re married. Remember not to dwell on the past; but occasionally, there will be times when you need to invite your future spouse’s reassurance. This isn’t about asking them to compare you to their ex. Rather, it’s asking to them to reassure you that you’re everything they need.
When you and your future spouse discuss past experiences, it’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity. You could say something like, “I don’t want this to happen, but sometimes I feel insecure about your past relationship. I know you wouldn’t choose for me to feel this way, but it still bothers me sometimes.”
Ditch the Guilt
When a person has past sexual experience with a person who wasn’t their spouse, those past memories are often accompanied by sadness, personal pain, and a sense of failure. While it’s normal to regret past decisions, the problem with regret is that it turns into guilt if it lingers. And if guilt lingers, it turns into shame.
Guilt and shame are some of the most destructive human emotions we can experience. They’re self-centered emotions that will continually pull you back into your past if you don’t let go of them. Being full of guilt or shame is like having a toothache; you can’t focus on anyone else’s needs until your own pain is resolved.
I (Les) wrote extensively about shame in my book, Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. The main idea is that life is designed to live in the here and now–not the there and then. To let go of shame, you have to rid yourself of as much “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” as possible. That might involve prayer, talking, and journaling, but you can get to a place where guilt and shame are no longer contaminating your relationship.
Clear Up Unfinished Business
Clearing up any unfinished business around past sexual experience can help you let go of guilt and shame. Focus on asking this question: Who have I offended?
Ask for the forgiveness you need from God and your fiance. Make sure to forgive yourself, too. Setting your relationships right will go a long way toward helping you stop punishing yourself. No one should be a hostage to the past, so tie up loose ends and move forward.
Create a “Clean Slate”
You know each other’s history and story. You’re preparing to promise lifelong love and intimacy to one another. You long to have this relationship with one another, regardless of the past–and you’re dreaming of the intimacy you’ll enjoy together in the near future.
Your relationship with your fiance has nothing to do with anyone else. This marriage will be yours and your alone–so it’s important to create a clean slate for yourselves going in. Remind yourselves that your marriage belongs to you will center you both when your focus starts to drift to the past.
How have you and your fiance (or now-spouse) spoken openly about–and moved on from–either of your past experiences? How did you leave the past in the past and move forward? We’d love to hear from you below.