Forgiving Your Partner's Past: The Tools
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my wife. She wasn’t like any other girl I had ever met, but I almost didn’t marry her because of her past. I had walked out purity my whole life, but she had started to be sexually active in middle school, and I couldn’t get past the thought of her with all those other guys. Eventually, God brought me to the point where I was able to completely forgive my wife of her past and see her through the lens of what Jesus did on the cross, but it wasn’t the easiest road. Unfortunately in today’s culture, this story is not uncommon. Couples usually have a sexual past with other people before they come together. Statistics show that men will usually have had six different sexual partners and women four or five by the time they get married. Before I continue, I need to stop and say this doesn’t need to be an accepted reality. Moral Revolution is about purity and waiting until marriage. At the same time, we aren’t going to live in a bubble ignoring the reality of most people’s sexual activity.
So for those of you who are dating and considering marriage with your partner, what do you do with the reality of their past? This can be a massive roadblock in a relationship. For many, the idea of their spouse being with other people can be very hard to process. If you haven’t read my previous blog, “Forgiving Your Partner’s Past: The Perspective,” it may help as I share very openly about my own process. An important thing to note is that this is more about forgiveness than it is sharing or not sharing your past. For some couples, sharing may be exactly what is needed. Ask God what is needed for your healing. In this current blog, I want to give some practical steps on how to handle processing your partner’s past if they were sexually active at any level before you were together.
One thing to clarify before we start: I am in no way preaching a message of tolerance towards current, repeated sin. I am talking about moving on from past events that someone has confessed, repented of and are no longer binding the person. Forgiving them doesn’t mean healing isn’t needed both for you and for them. It is important to encourage them to pursue wholeness while accepting that it probably needs to come through someone else.
Here are a few things I found helpful for me:
1. Acknowledge the broken
It is totally okay to acknowledge and need to process the fact that you won’t be their “first.” The key here isn’t ignoring that it hurts. The reason for this pain is because God designed us to have one partner and when we marry, we become each other's. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 helps explain this in a way that sheds light on the “why” behind the hurt. God designed so that a wife's body belongs to her husband and his body belongs to her, so when one or both of them has been with other people, it hurts. The key here is to talk about it in a way that doesn’t pile shame on them.
2. Seek godly counsel
The next thing I would encourage you to do is seek godly counsel. Mentors, spiritual parents, or whatever term you prefer are there to help navigate these things. Oftentimes, God will give a revelation to a leader in your life that will help you experience breakthrough. When navigating challenges, there should be a healthy balance of unpacking it with those involved and then taking it to the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in what to dissect with your partner, what to talk to a mentor about, and what to cover with Him.
3. Find closure
When it comes to the area of someone’s sexual past, uncertainty about how a partner feels about it can create anxiety and fear. In relationships, fear is the enemy of trust and trust is the foundation to a healthy relationship. It’s important to come to a place of closure where you are not holding it against them anymore. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, one aspect of Love that God gives us is, “Keeping no record of wrongs.” If your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse doesn’t know where they stand with you or if you continually bring up past mistakes in current conversations, you will not have a stable relationship. Talk about it as much as needed, but commit to bring the conversation to a place of resolution so that your partner knows it is no longer a roadblock for your relationship. There may be times your pasts come back up throughout the years, but its important that it isn't used in a damaging light. It should never be ammo in an argument or to bring shame. Truly forgiving them will come with compassion and sensitivity in how to treat each other with honor.
4. Learn or relearn the power of the cross
Spend time reading scriptures on forgiveness and what God Himself does with our sin. Over and over we find that He forgets, has compassion, redeems and separates sin as far as the east is from the west. Forgiveness seems to be one of His main relationship pillars with humans. The perspective of how Jesus forgives humanity will empower you to forgive your partner. In this process, ask Him to give you a revelation of what forgiveness is, to remind you of what you have been forgiven of, and show you what He expects of you to give.
5. Speak your forgiveness out loud
I still remember the moment I told my wife I forgave her for her past. Up until that point in our relationship, I was demanding that she tell me about all her past partners. I thought I needed to know everything that happened. Through my process of prayer, God changed my heart to the point I didn’t need that from her anymore. I totally forgave her. The day I told her she didn’t need to tell me everything and that I had forgiven her became a key step in her healing.
6. Keep your heart clean
Make sure to not let your mind and heart wander back to those past thoughts. Since we have been married, I have actually come in contact with people my wife was with before we were together and I can honestly say it had no effect on me. When I forgave her, I was making the commitment to not pick it back up again. I encourage you to do the same. Total forgiveness is as much a commitment to the future as it is forgiving the past.