This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.
How long is reasonable for my fiancé to get over my sexual past?
This is a good question, but one that is hard to provide a specific, or even a principled, answer. There are so many variables that could play into a given relationship. I will begin by providing a list of influences that could determine the length of time that would be “reasonable” to “get over” a fiancé’s sexual past. Then I will provide some helpful “next steps” for a couple struggling in this area.
- Was your sexual past during or before your current courtship?
- What ongoing consequences exist from your sexual past (i.e., child, legal action, STD, etc…)?
- Was your sexual past confessed or found out?
- Were you completely honest about your sexual past once the conversation began?
- Have you been defensive about or justifying of your sexual past?
- Was your sexual past a onetime event or a pattern/addiction?
- Have aspects of your sexual past been repeated in this relationship?
- How have sexual events shaped your fiancé’s family of origin or past relationships?
- Has your fiancé ever experienced sexual abuse of any kind?
- How much time has passed since your fiancé learned of your sexual past?
- What steps have you taken to protect against a repetition of your sexual past?
- Who else is aware of your sexual past that might create ongoing social awkwardness for your fiancé?
These questions impact what a “normal recovery time” would be in a relationship. It is important to remember that you are asking for more than (but not less) forgiveness. You are asking for trust. More than temporary trust, you are asking for the level of trust necessary to commit to a lifelong covenant and the establishment of a family.
If your answers to these questions reveal that you have compounded the impact of your sexual past with how you have responded to your fiancé, then you need to take those responses as seriously as your sexual past. You are establishing now how the two of you will respond to difficult circumstances. It is your obligation as her protector to ensure that such conversations are had without defensiveness, anger, deceit, denial, minimizing, blame-shifting, or other unhealthy patterns.
When this is a struggle within an engagement it is wise to seek counseling in addition to standard pre-marital counseling. Just because you realize some of the variables that would cause it to “take longer” for her to “get over” your past, does not mean the two of you are equipped to navigate that alone. An important way you can show your fiancé your commitment to a healthy marriage is to seek advice on how to proceed.
If you or your fiancé are unwilling to seek counseling because you do not want to be embarrassed or for other people to “know your business,” this is major red flag. It reveals a tendency to deal with powerfully disruptive matters on your own out of fear or pride. It means that the struggles that the two of you do face will have a strong propensity to compound and fester rather than being resolved effectively.
Hopefully as you go through the process, the goal becomes larger than you fiancé “getting over” your sexual past. The larger goal should be to establish a relationship based upon integrity and trust while establishing a pattern of dealing with sin through honesty, repentance, and forgiveness. If this is accomplished then God will use these painful events (your sexual past and the restoration process) to bless the marriage and prepare it to succeed.
One final note, do not feel like you should rush through this process. In the end there are no “bonus points” for how quickly you navigate this journey. Guilt, shame, and embarrassment often accelerate the pace at which we try to put things behind us. Your patience with your fiancé will be richly rewarded as you lovingly walk with her in this process even at the sacrifice of your own awkwardness and pain. As with every challenge of life in marriage (or preparation for marriage), this is an opportunity to love her as Christ loves the church. Begin now training yourself not to lose sight of that.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.