Though God forgives us, there are still consequences for sin. Most people will never fully forget the things they have done or experienced. Our daily walk of faith requires us to choose God’s way at every opportunity, rejecting shame and embracing the purpose He has for our lives. As we walk in this freedom, there will inevitably come a day when we must share our journey with another person. There comes a time when we have to be honest about the past.
I’ve already written about forgiving your partner for a sexual past. But what if you’re the one confessing a history of sin? Let’s talk about what that looks like.
Set a Direction
Sharing a history of sin, sex, and shame is no easy task. It shouldn’t be taken lightly or shared too quickly. That’s why it’s very important to come to this conversation with a vision for what you wish to accomplish. Pray for the right timing and the right words – God promises to give them (Luke 12:12)!
To set a direction for the conversation, take note of the following:
- The stage of your relationship. Sharing too early (before knowing one another’s true intentions) can cause further emotional trauma. Sharing too late (after engagement) can be a deal breaker for some couples.
- What you plan to share. Have an idea of what you will tell your boyfriend and in what order you will tell it. If you know this will be an emotional experience for you, perhaps write it down in letter form.
- Your end goal. What do you hope to accomplish by sharing about your past? Be sure that you are not seeking freedom, healing, or spiritual redemption through the relationship itself. It should also be noted that your boyfriend (or girlfriend) should not be your accountability partner for any sexual struggle. They are too close to you and to the situation. Find someone of the same gender, preferably older and/or more spiritually mature, to fill that role.
Be Honest But Discreet
This is where it gets tricky. We should never begin a relationship in dishonesty – hiding things destroys trust, which in turn prevents intimacy. But there are many details that are better left untold. This requires that we be honest but also discreet. What does that look like, practically speaking?
- Share generalities. If you slept with a previous boyfriend, if you struggle with masturbation, if you had a problem with porn in the past – these are things your boyfriend should know if you are moving toward engagement. Sexual sin is not an “easy fix” and as such often pops back up in a different form, even if you’ve conquered it on the past. If you struggled with lust as a single woman, you may be tempted by lust in your relationship – in fact, I can almost guarantee that. By telling your boyfriend the area of your past struggles, you can join forces to fight against temptation in your relationship.
- Do not share specifics, even if asked. Your boyfriend does not need to know what exactly you did with your last relationship. When we describe the details of sexual sins, we not only resurrect those images in our own minds but implant them into our partner’s. These thoughts and images often result in such insecurity and doubt they destroy many otherwise wonderful relationships.
- Discuss expectations. If you and/or your partner are headed toward marriage, use this opportunity to discuss expectations (this is not a conversation that should be had early in a relationship, as it bonds a couple too soon). Given your respective sexual histories, is there anything about sex that scares you? Is there anything you know would be an issue in marriage? Have you been through counseling for these things? Are you in agreement concerning sexuality? Are you at peace with what you know about one another’s pasts?
This conversation is not easy. I remember when Josh and I had this discussion; I felt horribly awkward, nervous, and scared. But I also knew that God’s grace was over me, and that in Him I had forgiveness. Josh knew that too. We extended to one another the grace that Christ had extended to us, and it strengthened us for the battle against lust we fought throughout our dating relationship. Most importantly, our honesty laid a foundation of trust for our future marriage. Though we continue to pursue purity in our marriage – checking on one another and tending to that trust foundation – we make sure to have people outside of our relationship to offer insight and advice as our journey continues. (Outside accountability and/or counseling is always a good idea.)
Once you’ve had the conversation, it’s time to put that knowledge to use. If you one or both have you have struggled with sexual sin, you will need to be on guard to protect the purity of your relationship (here’s a post by Josh on how guys can help with that). Making rules and setting standards won’t work on their own, because lust is a sin issue, not a sex issue. That’s why we should stop asking “how far is too far?” (read more about that here).
Remember: virginity is not God’s goal – holiness is. Even if your past has left you with scars, remember that scars are a sign of healing. God has done and will continue to do a redemptive work in you, if you walk in His design for sexuality. He is the Protector of relationships, the Redeemer of our pain, and the Hope for the not-so-good girl.
Want more on this topic? Don’t miss my ebook Christian Cosmo: The Sex Talk You Never Had! Sign up in the newsletter box below to find out more!