“I’m sure he’s having an affair and I’m leaving him.”
“Everyone he works with is young and pretty.”
“I should’ve known he’d be unfaithful when he had so many girlfriends before we were married.”
“She lived with someone. She probably wishes she had stayed with him.”
You’ve probably heard laments like the ones above from friends or family… or maybe you’ve made similar comments yourself. Marital mistrust and jealousy often emanates from a culture that accepts, and expects, sex outside of marriage. Today, few couples walk down the aisle sexually pure. In past generations, a white wedding dress and veil symbolized virginity, but no longer.
Our culture ridicules men and women who vow celibacy until their wedding night. Rampant casual sex—hook ups, dating sex, friends with benefits, living together—reduces sex to lust, not love. The world asks, “What’s love got to do with sex?” Even many Christians choose to be a part of the world rather than set apart for God. “So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 20:7 (NLT)
Married couples who have had premarital sex—with each other or with others—know how easy sanctioned premarital sex is today. So the unspoken question lingers between them: Would my spouse ever cheat sexually, like he or she cheated before we were married?
Yes, I called premarital sex cheating because it robs a future spouse of one of the greatest joys and mysteries that God gifted to humans: experiencing sex as virgins on their wedding night. Does that sound old-fashioned? Not to God, the originator of sex and marriage:
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24
Notice it doesn’t say a man sleeps around before he finds a wife, who has already been with other men. No, the couple in Genesis 2:24 unite in marriage, then they have sex—“become one flesh.”
A husband or wife, who had premarital sex with others, became one flesh with those sex partners who now—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually— join the couple in their marriage bed.
Or maybe the couple had premarital sex with each other—cheating themselves of wedding night anticipation and discovery. They’ve already opened God’s precious, unifying gift of sex.
Premarital sex has become so commonplace that most couples never make the connection between premarital sex and marital problems, but there is a direct correlation. Often marital jealousy or suspicious allegations stem from worrying about a spouse making comparisons with previous sexual partners, thinking about them sexually, or feeling guilt over sexually sinning.
Without complete trust, there is no unity.
We Had Premarital Sex: What Now?
Maybe I’ve just described you and you’re currently having—or fear impending—marital problems. One of you, or both, was sexually active before marriage. Is there any hope? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
God is a God of second chances. He tells us to come to Him and ask forgiveness with a repentant heart and He will wipe the slate clean.
Step One: Admit the sin of having premarital sex, repent from sexual immorality, and ask God’s forgiveness.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10
Step Two: Ask your spouse to forgive you for having premarital sex and pray that she or he will grant you grace, mercy, and forgiveness, just as God forgives.
Couples ask each other for forgiveness the same way they ask God for forgiveness: Confess, repent, ask for forgiveness, and assure your spouse of promised faithfulness.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
But what if the husband and wife had premarital sex with each other? The same process applies. First, the husband, who is to be the spiritual leader of the family, apologizes to the wife for letting their relationship turn sexual before they were married. He takes responsibility for the sin, even though consensual, and asks his wife for forgiveness and she grants that forgiveness.
But wait, the wife has some confessing to do too. She went along with the sexual encounters, so she also needs to ask her husband’s forgiveness for being a consensual partner, and he grants her forgiveness.
After these frank confession and forgiveness sessions, just like God doesn’t revisit forgiven sins, neither does the couple. No talking about the past in the heat of an argument.
Here’s how a forgiveness conversation might go:
Husband to wife: I’m so sorry that I didn’t save myself sexually for you. I’ve asked God for forgiveness for my past sexual sins, and now, I’m asking your forgiveness. I love and cherish you and promise my faithfulness to our marriage vows.
Wife to husband: I do forgive you, and I’m ready for a fresh start in our marriage.
Then if the wife had premarital sex, she would ask her husband for forgiveness in the same way.
Remember, this forgiveness conversation is necessary even if the premarital sex was only with each other.
Less is More
Caution: This does not mean you offer details about the previous sexual encounters or partners. That would only cause more problems and hurt. Likewise, trying to hide previous sexual sin creates anxiety and a bigger problem when, inevitably, God chooses to expose it. A secret always possesses damaging power that erodes trust. However, if this is the first time you’ve revealed to your spouse that you were sexually active before marriage, you’ll also need to ask forgiveness for concealing this information. It may be a longer process for this spouse to be ready to forgive.
Trust and forgiveness with God, and your spouse, is the foundation of a healthy, peaceful marriage.
Does Forgiveness Work?
I know a couple where the wife accused the husband of having an affair that he adamantly denied. Both were Christians, but their impasse ended in divorce.
In discussing with a pastor my sadness for this couple, he asked if either had been sexually active before marriage. The husband had, but the wife had not.
Next, he asked a key question: Before they were married, did the husband ask the wife to forgive him for his past sexual relationships, and did she grant that forgiveness?
I was sure this had not transpired because the wife had commented that she should have known there would be problems later in their marriage because the husband had girlfriends he was intimate with before meeting her.
The pastor then shared that a couple came to him ready for divorce and angrily sat at opposite ends of the couch. He asked them, “Did either of you have sex before you were married?” They both answered, “Yes.” He led them in a prayer asking God’s forgiveness for past sexual sins, and then told them he was going to step out of the room while they asked each other for forgiveness.
When he returned, they were holding hands and sitting next to each other.
Rededicate Your Sexual Life
I recently heard a celebrity couple tell their story of being sexually active before they met. Both became Christians and agreed to remain celibate until they were married. They used the term “born-again virgins.” Even though they were not virgins physically, they became virgins spiritually when they gave their life to Christ and He forgave their past sins. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Cor. 5:17
As a new creation in Christ, the bride proudly wore a white wedding dress:
“‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’” Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)
There’s nothing God won’t forgive if we ask Him. God says we are to extend that same forgiveness to others. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matt. 6:14-15
Rededicate your marriage to God. Let Him wipe away any past sexual sins and restore trust, purity, and sexual oneness in your marriage. You’ll feel like newlyweds again!
“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”—Ruth Bell Graham
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 18 books including her new release, Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man, Dear God They Say It’s Cancer, and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. She is also the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries.
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Publication date: February 19, 2016