Whether you’re the one with the past or the one in love with someone with a past, discussing the sexual past is one of the hardest conversations to have (and keep having) during a discernment process.
On the one side, it’s the fear of rejection, of not being good enough, of being ‘too broken’ or ‘damaged’ to deserve love.
On the other side, it’s the fear of comparisons, of not measuring up, of having to accept that in a way you have had to share the heart and body of the one you love with another.
I recently did an interview with Song on Fire (a great Catholic group in India) on this topic and I was amazed at all of the questions that streamed in. Halfway around the world, and in a culture with different ways of marriage discernment/arrangement, the universality of the heartache that comes from dealing with the sexual past of yourself or the one you love was clear. The questions that came in were the same ones I have asked myself or my friends have asked in their relationships here in the USA.
All of the questions spoke to the fact that the sexual past that we each bring into our relationship is unique, different than the other parts of our past we may share with one another. It has to do with a sacred act that is the culmination of making a gift of oneself to another in marriage. It is meant for your spouse alone so the person who is to be your spouse will often feel the pain as if the action is occurring now; almost like a current infidelity. Whether the acts were with an actual person or a virtual person (in pornography), the pain is deep on both sides.
Since the wounds are connected to our deepest yearning for love and our greatest fear of being unlovable, the process of discussing it as a couple and healing from it can be tricky.
Here are just a couple things to consider when really diving into this topic together as a couple:
● You need to decide together how much of the past needs to be shared and what boundaries need to be set.
○ If you are the one sharing something from your sexual past:
■ Really pray about and discern how much you feel needs to be shared in order for you to feel known, understood, and, therefore, truly loved by the other.
■ Be careful not to accidently “dump” every single detail on the other person, that may be more for spiritual direction or counseling as a part of your healing process.
■ Be aware that you may need to reassure the other person many times of your love and why the other relationships ended and how the one you two share now is different. Pointing out concrete examples of your healing and change can be helpful, especially if the past you are sharing involves something addictive such as pornography.
○ If you are the one learning the sexual past of the one you love:
■ Really pray about and discern how much you need to know in order to help you know the other person better and seek understanding for what the person was going through at that time and where that person is currently at in the healing journey.
■ Be careful you aren’t digging into intimate details or asking questions about ex’s for the sake of comparing yourself to them – it is such a temptation but it simply doesn’t help either of you.
■ Begin praying for the continued healing of not only the one you love, but of all of the ex’s. You may not want to at first but it helps you to go to those places in a loving way and begin to personalize the people instead of holding them up as fantasies you will never live up to.
■ Be honest with your pain, but also be kind and loving because this topic is often very difficult for the other person to share with you.
No matter which side you are on during these conversations and in the time of healing that follows, you each have to turn to the Father to find your worth and healing. Only then can you either vulnerably open up about where you have fallen and where it hurts, or courageously enter into those places with your love and work through the pain together.
Remember, when discerning marriage you aren’t discerning if the other person is perfect or has more or less “baggage” than you, it’s about who are you being called to walk beside on this pilgrimage towards heaven. All crosses are lighter when carried together in love.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
For the full Song on Fire interview: Link
Also, check out Jason Evert’s video “My partner’s sexual past haunts me . . . what can I do?
Kaylin Zumwalt (Koslosky) is a part time high school science teacher and a full-time wife to her best friend/husband and mama to their beautiful little girl (and one more baby due in August 2021). She loves hiking and being outdoors, and is passionate about sharing the beauty of Christ, His Church, and true love with others.