Sexual Experience Before Marriage: Talking With Your Fiance

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.

Invite Reassurance

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.

9 Comments

  • Kathy Triebwasser says:

    Good clarification of past sexual experience for couples of all stages of their marriage.

  • Nicolai says:

    The quote “People don’t fall out of love, people fall out of forgiveness” is a true statement when it comes to this idea. If we are to love like God, then we have to forgive like God. We are an adulterous people, just like Hosea’s wife, when it comes to our relationship with God. God not only forgives us of our adultery, but He actively seeks us out to win us back over to him, paying the price for our sins as our ransom. So true when it comes to loving our spouse and dealing with adultery, the physical act that some are guilty of or the mental act that all of us are guilty of. All of us fall short and commit adultery. If you are willing to forgive your spouse for their past (and possibly very recent) sins, then your marriage will make it. If you aren’t willing to forgive them, then the relationship is doomed to not work out. God, who has forgiven all of us for our abundance of adulterous thoughts, desires for us to forgive our spouse as well. Forgive your spouse, aim to love like God, and even when your spouse falls short and misses the mark, the relationship will be restored to be greater than before.

    • Tim H says:

      BEAUTIFUL… Thank you!

    • Phil says:

      There is a problem in the forgiveness and continuing marriage. When the bad actor spouse uses lies
      to “protect you from the truth”. They are not protecting you so you will not feel the pain of their betrayal,
      they are protecting themselves from the shame they will feel every time you look at them knowing
      you know who they are .
      Truth– simple truth can cleanse and even purify a tainted relationship. You did it , you lived it, you even
      loved it knowing you were betraying your spouse and your own vows to God. Now it is time to come clean
      let your partner know what kind of person you really are, give them the opportunity to make their choice
      base on your facts, the ones they did not know because you hide it. You deceived, you took their right to
      protect themselves by keeping the truth from them. You did not do it out of “love”.
      It was was for the most selfish of reasons, time to let truth and honesty wash over, you take the pain of your shame
      and expose your secrets to the light. Make it all known and then start inconveniencing yourself to help them trust
      again. Let them see your emails, texts, calls to assure you are where you said, boring nights at home being with them.
      Let the monster you created starve to death in the bondage of trust building. Be patient with the process, they will
      want to test you a little, let them. It will be a time to prove your new truth to both of you.
      Truth is reality . Your lies do not change your truth.

  • Christy says:

    My husband and I are coming up on a year of marriage. I was married years ago and made some mistakes, mostly marrying a man I didn’t truly love, and withholding sex which I should not have done. My husband now, who I do dearly love, had some intimacy past but he was still a virgin when we married. Interestingly, I think I worry more than he does. It’s weird but I worry he might think I’m comparing him to my ex, when I’m totally not. Regardless, we communicate pretty well so it’s never been a huge issue for us. I made it a point to be very open and honest with him from the beginning.

  • Adam says:

    I have been told that “science” proves that sexual intimacy before marriage is fundamentally important for future marriage success. Thus, the argument contends, living together and experiencing intimacy with multiple partners (serial monogamy) is important for future strength and bonding. Christians argue the opposite. What psycho-social research support or deny either argument?

    • Nicolai says:

      Morning Adam, I am a science teacher. First, I’d like to say that science doesn’t prove anything since a core idea of science is that it is ever subject to change. Consider the model of the atom, if you would read a science book from the late 1800’s, there would be no mention of protons, neutrons, or electrons. Consider the model of the cell, we didn’t even have DNA until 1950’s, biology books before 1980 wouldn’t have genetics (as we know it). Most modern medicines didn’t exist 50 years ago, the MRI, that useful tool, has been around for just a couple decades.
      With that said, throwing science to the wind, let’s consider what sex outside of marriage / having multiple partners will do to your future marriage. Every relationship at its root requires a high level of trust. That person you are going to marry is going to be sharing their life, money, children, emotional, and physical self with you. If you do not trust your partner to be faithful in what you share with them, that marriage is going to suffer, it will be very difficult to have intimacy at a physical and emotional level with no trust. The logical conclusion of having sex outside of marriage is that being married is not a pre-requisite to having sex. Therefore, your spouse will have a hard time trusting that you are sexually faithful to them since you do not believe that you need to be married to have sex with that person. Also, and I tell my students this often, humans have excellent visual memory. Is it healthy to have sexual images of a person not your spouse in your head? Do those images improve the trust you have with your spouse or do they hurt it? I’m guessing that if you were daydreaming about a former sexual encounter with a different person and told your spouse that you had been daydreaming about it, that is probably not putting the two of you on the fast track for sexual intimacy in the next few moments, unless of course you are confessing your sins and letting your partner know that you are struggling with sexual sins of the past.
      Adam, lastly consider this: Are you hoping to marry a girl who has had sex with lots of people, and when they think of sex they are thinking about others, remembering how intimately close she was to another guy, or……… are you hoping that the only sexual thoughts and intimate moments she has are about you? No psycho-social research is needed. The answer is, who do you want your spouse thinking about and being intimate with? I’m hoping your answer is you. And I’m hoping your spouse also when they marry you gets a guy that only thinks about her and has memories of her. God’s peace

      • Amanda says:

        The idea of “sexual compatibility” is overworked and quite frankly foolish. If there’s a man, and a woman, you are sexually compatible. All it takes it time, communication, and mutual trust and respect to make it wonderful. Your spouse can learn to become sexually adept with you or that can happen with someone else. You can grow in that experience together, or you can pick up where some other guy left off.. Either one is a viable option. However, I suggest that your preference be thoroughly thought over.

  • Bryan says:

    I was previously married, my ex wife and I both had engaged in extra marital sex, we had gotten into the “swinging” or partner swapping lifestyle, and it caused all kinds of problems, for the both of us. I found out towards the end of my marriage that she had affairs with other men I didn’t know about, and was comparing me to others, often times putting me down. It’s a pain that I have forgiven her for, but that pain is so hard to let go. My fiancé is a wonderful woman who loves me with all of her heart and I her as well, and I’m so thankful that she’s here for me to listen, I know she won’t but at times I feel like I’m not going to satisfy her needs, much like I felt in my previous marriage.

    I have to give her a ton of credit, she’s always reassuring me saying that she wants nobody other than me and backs up her words by her actions. It’s just difficult to let go of so much pain from such a long period of time that was inflicted in my previous marriage.

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