When to Tell Your Sexual Past

Everyone has a sexual past.

Everyone. Even the most pious, religious, church-going, prudish person has stories to share about his or her sexuality. It’s easy to look at the person who’s never had sex before and dismiss the rest of their sexual history. There is such a value placed on sexual intercourse that anything but that doesn’t constitute as sex. This is faulty thinking that keeps many secrets hidden in committed relationships.

You and your fiancé are sexually active today. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “how much.” How much sexual activity the two of you share together becomes part of your story. The same goes for your previous relationships. All attraction is motivated by desire, and desire comes from our being aroused.

So you have a sexual past and you’re wondering when is the right time to tell about it. The short answer is, now. If you’re wondering about it, and you’re engaged, now is the time to have that conversation. But before you call or text your love to begin, here are some things to think through.

Do you know your sexual history?
Your sexual history is much more than your last serious relationship where you and your boyfriend exerted all your energy *not* having sex, but did everything but. Your history starts when you were a young boy and found your uncles Playboy magazines under the bed. Your history includes being made fun of in middle school because your body wasn’t maturing like the other girls, or in the showers after PE and your friends are comparing sizes.

Our sexual history is about how our sexuality has been developed. In some ways, we have willingly chosen to develop and in other ways someone else has instituted that development upon us.

When my 9 year old son and I were driving home a few weeks ago, I noticed a new billboard alongside the interstate. It was an ad for Coyote Ugly, an urban mashup of Hooters and a Strip Club. On the billboard are three women, suggestively posed in quite revealing clothes. This billboard will become part of his sexual upbringing and he had no choice in the matter.

It’s of the utmost importance that you and your fiancé/spouse discuss both aspects of your sexual history: Your choices and the impact of others choices. Sometimes, it’s more difficult to share about the impact of others choices because of the ambivalence you feel about your own sexual arousal. If this is the case, I’d encourage you to seek out some professional help to address this part of your story.

Sharing about these stories and history before you get married is really important. If you do not share, and most do not willingly share 100%, you risk bringing a “bait and switch” feeling for your spouse. It’s common for couples to not share these things until much later in life together and the nature of hiding these stories has an impact where the other feels like they’ve been tricked.

If you’re afraid about the potential negative impact your stories will have on the other person, I’d suggest you get a third party involved. Ask your pastor or counselor if they will help to facilitate this discussion for the two of you.

Even if you do ask someone for help in this conversation, here are three suggestions and thoughts to guide you through this process:

1. Take a few days (revisit over a couple of weeks) to outline the major components of your story. Do this by looking at your life in 7-year increments (0-7, 8-15, 16-23, etc), and asking yourself the question, “what did I learn or experience about sex?” Writing this out will be helpful for you to learn and see what is your sexual story. It will also help you to deal with the feelings you have about what’s written down. When we name our experiences, we can better see the truth of what they are.

2. Once you’ve done an inventory of your story, write a letter to the other person. Tell them why you are telling your story—not because of what you’ve read here but what your hopes are in telling them. Tell them what you need and want in response. Give them permission to feel what they feel about what you’ll be sharing.

3. Setup an evening to read and share what you’ve written. Give yourselves plenty of time to hear each other and ask any questions that might come up. Make sure you’re in a safe environment (roommates are not around, no alcohol or other substances, etc).

Unfortunately, sex and shame go hand in hand. Having this conversation with your fiancé now will keep the shame from growing and becoming a major hurdle later in life. It may be painful to tell the truth today but this is an area of your relationship that you cannot afford to ignore.

Photo credit: charladury via Photobucket


Samuel Rainey is a professional counselor primarily working with couples, men, and women addressing issues of sexuality, emotional health, relationships, and spirituality. He is the co-Author of So You Want to be a Teenager with Thomas Nelson. He earned his Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in Seattle, Washington. When he is not roasting coffee, tending to his garden, or playing golf, he blogs about life process, parenting, and relationships at SamuelRainey.com. He can also be found on twitter @SamuelRainey. He and his wife reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee with their four children.

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