I looked out the window and watched the pedestrians walk by. My eyes widened when I spotted a woman with long hair in a black coat. I did a double take and turned to my husband in the driver’s seat. Recognition registered on his face as well and he remarked in surprise, “I think that’s…”
“Uh, yeah, I know who that is,” I spat out.
As the light turned green, I caught one more glimpse of my husband’s ex-girlfriend out of the corner of my eye. Our car accelerated, as did my heart rate, and I found myself starting to fume.
Of all the people we could bump into, we had to see her! I thought.
In my head, I knew my husband’s history was just that, history. That day’s sighting of his ex-girlfriend was certainly a random one. We had been married three times longer than the length of time he had dated her. We had a good marriage, one that had grown stronger over the years. Yet, seeing her had conjured up a whirlwind of emotions that I thought I had put past me long ago.
That incident certainly served as a wake-up call for me to re-evaluate what God has taught me about my husband’s past. The fact that I reacted so strongly to seeing “that other woman” showed me I still needed to submit this part of our marriage to God. These are three areas God reminded me to continue working on.
1. Accept. When my husband (then boyfriend) first told me about his past, I felt angry and resentful that he had shared himself, physically and emotionally, with other women. It was particularly hard for me to accept his history because I had never dated anyone else prior to him. I realized, however, that the longer I held onto my resentment, the more I was allowing a wedge to come between us. There was no way I could change the decisions he had made; I could only accept them.
God helped me let go of my anger, so I did not hold onto it as ammunition to use against my husband. I grieved over any ideals and assumptions I previously held about my future spouse. Once I had dealt with these messy emotions, I was able to wholeheartedly accept my husband as the best marriage partner for me.
2. Give Grace. I know God sees us as a work in progress; He is continually working in our lives to make us more like Him. Along the way however we do stray, but God’s grace is big enough to cover all our mistakes. In accepting my husband’s past, I also acknowledged my own sinfulness. Though our dating histories are different, I am certainly not any more righteous than my husband; we are both in desperate need of God’s grace.
Along with giving grace to my husband, I also needed to extend grace to the women from his past. It took me a while to acknowledge the truth that God loves them just as much as He loves me. Even though I may not (or possibly may!) cross paths with them, it is God’s desire that I let go of any hard feelings I may hold against them.
3. Protect. It is crucial that both husband and wife work to protect their relationship from temptation, particularly with ex’s in the picture. Each couple needs to agree on how much contact they should have, if any, with an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. My husband and I openly communicate with each other about who we keep in touch with. We also maintain trust by having access to one another’s social media and email accounts.
Care should be taken to not compare your spouse with someone from your past, privately or publicly. Doing so only opens the door to discontentment and curiosity, both of which could put your relationship at great risk. Why jeopardize your marriage for someone you put out of your mind long ago? Let the past be the past and focus your heart and thoughts on the one whom you are blessed to be with now.
Accept your spouse’s history, extend God’s grace and work to protect your marriage, so you can make a clean break from the past. History is there for us to learn and grow from, but the present is best lived appreciating the loved ones we have.