YOUR SEXUAL PAST: Fighting Flashbacks
A sexual track record tends to follow us. Some people have so much baggage tattered to their psychological and sexual self, so many little name tags that have never been completely torn off, that it gets very difficult not to compare this man or woman you deeply love and respect to someone you slept with many a night years ago.
Since this has, unfortunately, become so prevalent in our society, let’s talk more about dealing with your sexual past.
I wish I could say that if you’ve been sexually active, don’t worry —you can be just like a virgin again. But if I said that, I’d be lying. God will forgive you, your spouse can accept you. But it’s far healthier to be realistic if you’ve had previous sexual experience. A recycled virgin still brings more baggage to the marriage bed than a true virgin. There’s a reason God tells us to save sex until marriage, and there are consequences if we step over that line.
For starters, you may have flashbacks. Sexual memories are a natural phenomenon if you’ve had other lovers in your life. Unfortunately, these flashbacks can interfere with a health marital sex life. I’ve had several patients confide that flashbacks were a significant problem, particularly those who had a strict upbringing and who didn’t live up to it. For women, the guilt can feel almost overwhelming at times. They’re making love to their husband when suddenly ex-boyfriend Richard comes to mind. Since sex is such an emotional experience for women, a flashback robs them of the meaning and the moment.
Men, on the other hand, tend to compare the physical reactions, and their flashbacks are more likely based on comparison. What if a former girlfriend knew how to touch you in a particularly satisfying way? And what if your wife is worried that she’ll never be able to compete? And when she asks you about it, she can tell that, so far, she hasn’t come close to pleasing you like that other woman used to? The pain of such a realization cuts very deeply. Men who have previous sexual experiences may also have a hard time valuing the emotional connection of married sex since they’re focused more specifically on physical pleasure.
It’s not easy, but you’ve got to start anew, and that means letting your spouse start anew as well. Remember what we talked about in the previous section: Once you’ve asked for forgiveness, God has forgiven you. I realize it’s easy to accept it emotionally. If I knew how to keep the thoughts away, I wouldn’t be a psychologist; I’d be a magician! The things we want to repress and not think about are usually the things that pop up in our minds during the most inappropriate times.
Here’s a little trick: As soon as you get that memory, start talking to your husband, saying how much you love him, how much you want to please him, what he means to you, or how aroused you feel. If the latter isn’t true, take his hands and help him please you so that all of your conscious thoughts and words are focused on him instead of thinking of another.
In other words, your assignment is to relearn how to have the best sex possible with our spouse. Whenever any memories intrude on your current sex life, try to make your present sex life that much more satisfying. You get rid of the old by focusing on the new. This is a conscious choice: I’m not going to dwell on that memory; instead, I’m going to daydream about how to make my spouse cry out with pleasure.
How well this works will depend in part on how much damage has been done. You can get away with not brushing your teeth once in a while, but if you neglect your teeth for months or years on end, you’re going to get gum disease. If, at the first onset of that disease, you suddenly decide to become the best flosser in the neighborhood and start brushing your teeth after every meal, you may be able to prevent further infection, but you’re still going to have to recover from the previous damage.
It’s like a smoker who quits. As a former smoker myself, I know I’m much healthier now that I haven’t lit up in over 35 years. But while I’m much healthier for quitting, I’d still be better off if I had never smoked a single cigarette in the first place.
The article featured above can be found in this revealing book entitled, Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage -written by psychologist Dr Kevin Leman published by Tyndale House Publishers. This book “isn’t intended to make you feel guilty for what you have or haven’t done, but rather to help you pinpoint what goes on in your brain and in your relationship with your spouse so you can have a fulfilling sex life.” It’s a really good book that we highly recommend that you read.
Below are additional interesting articles, which are posted at different web sites that might give you further help in this area of your life:
You can visit the web site for the ministry of Barbara Wilson Barbarawilson.org to listen to her audio testimony on “how to heal from your sexual past, whether it’s from your own choice, or someone else’s choice forced on you, as in abuse or rape….” As Barbara testifies, “Maybe you’re one of the causalities of casual sex. I was. And then God healed me. The great news is… He wants to do the same for you.” You just may find healing help waiting for you by visiting her web site.