In our fortnightly column “Great Sexpectations” the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on email@example.com and ask us anything. Here, we tackle; whether or not you have to tell your partner about your sexual history.
I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume anyone asking this is not entering into their relationship as a virgin. I will answer the question properly, but before I do we need to deal with the shame implied in the question.
I’m not going to cover what acts/circumstances could result in this shame. After years of speaking to people in the church about their relationship with sex, it’s clear people draw different boundaries. So, I won’t talk about what you should/shouldn’t have done before your current relationship, just how and if you should broch the topic.
Sex is the great equaliser. Except Jesus, I would be surprised if there was a single person in the world who has never sinned sexually in some way. If you’re concerned about something in your sexual past, you’re not alone.
Except Jesus, I would be surprised if there was a single person in the world who has never sinned sexually in some way.
For starters, you don’t owe anyone anything. Your partner doesn’t deserve to know details of your previous physical intimacy. They don’t need to hear all the worst things you’ve done just so they can evaluate you and whether they’re willing to put up with it and accept you anyway. You don’t need to hear them say it’s ok. Because it is.
If you have done something that you regret in your past or something you’re worried someone else will judge you for, all you need to do is take it to Jesus. Sounds trite, but it’s true. If you confess what you’ve done, apologise and repent (i.e. stop doing that thing), you are forgiven and that sin is struck from the record. In Isiah 43:25, God said: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
That means you no longer need to dwell on linger on anything, once you have taken it to God and it is no longer part of your life. It’s done. Jesus laid down his life to make it that way. You get to move forward with a clean slate. Remember we don’t serve a God of shame, we serve a God who helps us to recognise sin and convicts us that we can do better. Not only that but he walks forward with us giving us all the strength and tools we need to make a positive change. He’ll never leave you to do this on your own.
Then they need to know that you don’t wait until marriage in order to claim the prize of sex with a virgin.
Later down the line it may feel right to discuss your sexual past with your partner. If so, this should be because talking about your experiences will build intimacy between you and help them better understand you and your journey. With a kind, open and understanding partner, this should promote connection.
If however, your partner is annoyed, perhaps the two of you are waiting until marriage for sex and they are displeased that they wouldn’t be your first partner. Then they need to know that you don’t wait until marriage in order to claim the prize of sex with a virgin. You do it because when sexual intimacy increases in line with commitment levels, everyone is far more likely to have a healthy dating experience.
If your partner does berate, judge of put you down after the conversation, just remember that Jesus says you have a clean slate. So, who is he to disagree? If you’re with someone who thinks that their opinion is more important that God’s word, then you really have an issue. You don’t want a megalomaniac like that anyway.
Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel.