When the Past Affects Your Marriage
I looked like the perfect bride when, at age eighteen, I walked down the aisle to where John waited. Although outwardly I was adorned in a beautiful gown, inside I wore scars of past hurts. In my hands I carried a fragrant bouquet of roses. In my mind memories of embraces with past lovers—secret intimacies that had fulfilled me for a season.
A smile curled my lips as ruffles trailed behind me, but I didn’t truly understand the impact of those past relationships until years later.
It took years for the layers of pain, doubt, longing, and loss to reveal them from where they’d lain buried. Even though I had a good marriage, memories of past boyfriends surfaced at the oddest times. Sometimes in my dreams. Sometimes due to a song on the radio. And other times they appeared out of nowhere, like scenes from a movie replaying in my mind.
Shame was my first response. Then guilt. How could I let my mind go there? Followed by an honest longing to leave the past . . . in the past.
I’d turn to God. Plead with him to wash away the thoughts and scrub away the layers of longings. But more often than not, I’d discover a toughened skin of memories and emotions beneath the surface of the one peeled away.
I sought forgiveness for many past mistakes, from both God and myself. Losing my virginity in high school. Getting pregnant twice. Having an abortion, and later a child at seventeen. I dealt with each mistake on my knees. And while John was a faithful and caring husband, I believed I could only face these struggles alone. First, because it was my heart that had been wounded. Second, I knew God alone provided the source of true healing. And third, because there were things I didn’t want to admit, even to John. He knew I’d been pregnant twice, but he knew little about those past relationships. He knew I’d been hurt and abandoned, but I knew in order to explain the impact of those circumstances, I’d have to bear my soul. No thanks.
Instead, it felt easier to keep everything hidden away and tucked inside. Easier to simply carry my tears and prayers to God who knew everything and still loved me.
So that’s the way we lived for years. With me holding back and believing John might not love me as much if he “knew the whole truth.” And with John always feeling as if I’d never given him my whole heart.
The fact was I hadn’t.
. . . . .
Telling John wasn’t easy.
John listened. He cried, and he took me in his arms and confessed his love for me. Then he prayed over me. He prayed that God would heal me and help me do the right thing. John prayed for his own strength, too. He prayed for our wounded hearts. He prayed that God would help us face this battle together and come out stronger at the end.
And the truth be told, when I confessed everything to my husband and witnessed intense love in his gaze . . . I have never loved John more. At that moment, I also understood God’s love deeper than I ever had.
Did you start your marriage keeping something from your spouse? Have you told them yet?
Steps You Can Take
- Ask for forgiveness from God.
- Forgive yourself!
- Carve out a time to talk with your spouse.
- Pray! Pray before the talk, and ask your spouse to pray with you after the talk.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of forgiveness. Give me strength as my spouse and I tackle my past together. Give us both patience, forgiveness, and lots of love.
In Jesus’ name, amen.