This is part 3 in a series dedicated to dealing with the pain of past sexual experiences. Last week, we talked specifically about the act of forgiveness, and how you cannot forgive your spouse for their past experiences (or yourself for your own past) if you have not yet received forgiveness. While many of you have accepted this forgiveness, you may still believe your current sex life isn’t what you’d like it to be. You may have thoughts such as, “If my spouse hadn’t done this, then maybe we’d have better intimacy.” Or perhaps, “If I hadn’t done what I did in the past, I think I would make myself more available…but my lack of judgment back then still bothers me to the point where I don’t want sex because I don’t want the reminder of what I did.”
The problem with this type of mindset is that it slowly spreads like a cancer to other parts of your marriage and other aspects of your personal life as well. The same emotions you have experienced for years (anger, shame, guilt, embarrassment) you begin experiencing in all aspects of life. It may have begun as emotions regarding your sexual past, but those emotions spread into thoughts on parenting, finances, and continue into every other relationship you have as well.
Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, this is living in unforgiveness. And unforgiveness will keep you from freedom for the rest of your life.
How does the forgiveness process begin?
First and foremost, you must come to acknowledge that forgiveness is a choice. For months, maybe years, you’ve been focusing on the negative feelings and attitudes that come with these emotional scars. When you choose to forgive, you’re choosing to acknowledge that while those scars may be real, they can heal. There may not be a special cream that will make your scars radically disappear. But instead of bringing you emotional torment, they may be used as a positive reminder of what sex is supposed to be, instead of as a reminder of what is has been.
I was recently talking with a friend of mine on this subject of past sexual experiences and he was correct to remind me that before marriage, we’re all tempted to do exactly what we’re not supposed to do. We’re tempted to give in. To have sex. To enjoy it. To do what we should not do. After marriage, sadly, we’re tempted again to do what we’re not supposed to do. We’re tempted to focus on past poor decisions and not current good decisions. We’re tempted to not enjoy sex with our spouse. To think sex is dirty. We’re always tempted to do what’s easy, but not what’s right.
The beginning of the forgiveness process, then, is your choice to do what’s right. It’s taking the emotional initiative to not give in to temptations that you know are continuing to cause you heartache. It’s choosing to remember to love your spouse and yourself in spite of your sexual past. Is this a choice you’re prepared to make?
1) Last week we asked you to identify what emotions you may be experiencing due to past sexual experiences (guilt, shame, anger, etc.) Have you noticed these same emotions in other areas of your life as well? Do you believe there may be a correlation?
2) What makes it so difficult for you to choose to begin the forgiveness process?
Application: One common response to #2 deals with the aspect of confession. At this point in the series, we believe if you truly desire to choose the path of forgiveness, it’s time to have a long conversation with your spouse. Talk with them very specifically about the emotions you’ve been harboring toward them, or yourself. Tell them you believe this has caused some interference with how you view your sex life, and that you’re making a purposeful decision to change. Then – and only then – take the opportunity to enjoy one another intimately. Sometimes, the best reminder of what sex should be is to enjoy it the way it was meant to be.