Relationship Connection: Do I need to reveal my sexual history to my husband?

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Question

I grew up religiously conservative and never imagined myself doing anything sexual before marriage.

About three years before getting married, someone I thought I could trust sexually assaulted me. After this had happened, I felt ashamed and believed it was my fault. My counselor warned me that it’s common after being sexually assaulted that I could potentially be sexually active in hopes of changing my “mental experience” of the event.

I started to feel comfortable again with men and myself, and soon I had a boyfriend. After months of dating we began having a sexual relationship. I felt horrible, broke up with him, and went through a spiritual repentance process. I promised I would never do this again. Unfortunately, I found another boyfriend and did the exact same thing again. I went through a repentance process a second time and felt forgiven by God.

When I began dating my husband, I told him about the sexual assault and what I had done with the first boyfriend. However, I didn’t tell him about anything about the second boyfriend. He really struggled with the information about the first boyfriend and it haunted him for a while. We had a lot of problems come up because he kept asking me about it.

To this day, he still doesn’t know about this second boyfriend. Even though I feel good about my spiritual process, I feel awful that my husband doesn’t know this. Is it wrong that I didn’t tell him? I guess you can say I haven’t fully forgiven myself. It’s one thing to make one mistake, but it feels pathetic to make the same mistake twice. I hope you have some advice for me.

Answer

I’m terribly sorry this sexual assault happened to you. The abuse is not your fault. And even though you’ve worked to be accountable for your own behaviors in the months and years following the assault, please know that abuse can make personal accountability confusing.

The trauma of sexual assault creates confusion, self-blame and other reactions that can last for years. I will work to help you sort out what to do with your current confusion around disclosing to your husband and working toward self-forgiveness.

Unfortunately, it’s common for abuse victims to blame themselves, feel a strong push to take control over their bodies and engage in behaviors that leave them feeling more powerless. I hope you will have compassion for yourself as you work to heal from the effects of abuse, including the ways you’ve coped.

Your willingness to take personal responsibility for your own behaviors will help you stay out of a passive and powerless mindset as you continue to heal.

My guess is that you didn’t share the second boyfriend experience with your husband because you felt humiliated for your past mistakes and worried how he might view you. And obviously he had a tough time with you sharing your story about the first boyfriend.

Even though you received forgiveness and healing for those mistakes and this relationship happened before you met your husband, it still feels like you owe your husband a disclosure of your past. My opinion is that you’ll feel much better once you are open with him about the full story.

Yes, he will be shocked and feel hurt by your decision to initially hide this from him. At the same time, you can’t fully heal while you hold onto shame, secrecy, and fear. You have nothing to feel ashamed of anymore. You faced the truth about your situation and went through a process to spiritually heal. If your husband can’t allow you to have that healing from the past, then that’s his own process to work through.

Even though you owe your husband an apology about lying about your past when he asked about it, you don’t owe your husband an apology for what you did with this second boyfriend. This wasn’t a betrayal against him but a time in your life when you were trying to regain your emotional and spiritual balance. Your current work is to heal from the self-blame and shame you feel for those past mistakes.

You don’t need to go through every single detail of that previous relationship with your husband. You can let him know that you didn’t tell him the truth about your relationship history and you don’t want to live in shame and fear any longer. Tell him that you don’t want any secrets between the two of you any longer. Allow him time to feel hurt and sad with this new information. You don’t need to make excuses or blame anyone.

The strength you feel from your previous healing process can give you the courage and strength to let your husband know the truth of your history. You have nothing to hide from him and nothing to be ashamed of anymore. Yes, you made some mistakes that have been resolved and do not define who you are now.

Keeping this hidden from your husband only keeps you afraid of your husband and feeling more shame for something that has been resolved. I recommend you work closely with a professional therapist who can help you and your husband sort through the delicate details from a disclosure like this. You’ll want support from a therapist who can help educate your husband on the nature of abuse and trauma.

Your husband will also need support as he works to reconcile what he was told in the past and what he has learned about you. If he struggles to accept your story, then a therapist can work to help him resolve his own personal challenges with these things.

You don’t have to be held hostage by your past any longer. When you share your entire story with your husband and both of you begin healing together, then you will truly know what it’s like to be one with your husband.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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17 Comments

  • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Writing to St George news is one way for you to tell him without directly telling him. Maybe he will stumble across this article and put it all together. And not only will he know, but we all know too.

    I dont think you needed to tell him anything. But since you’ve told people (like us) it would be a betrayal to not be open with him.

    If my spouse told a news article, the public, or friends and didnt tell me, I would feel betrayed. Perhaps, you telling a bunch of people but not him is going to be a new struggle for you.

    • Badshitzoo June 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Does that mean your husband knows about us Laidybug? 🙂

      • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 2:59 pm

        Lol, I tell him everything!

        • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 3:13 pm

          Were you on of the one night stands? Sorry about that haha! I do owe so many an apology, I was quite the heartbreaker 💔

          • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 3:35 pm

            Hey b&f there was a time I had zero morals so I’ve evolved (I used that word, just for you) and developed some over the years. 😂 just think how I’ll be in 10 years will I progress or regress? To be continued……

        • Badshitzoo June 20, 2018 at 7:01 pm

          Oh good, I wouldn’t want to be the only one “telling him everything.” Wait, he tells you “Everything” right?

          • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 7:18 pm

            I’m not listening half the time, I just nod my head like I am and say uh uh while I’m commenting on st George news 😁

  • PatriotLiberal June 20, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Honestly, there’s more here then just the sex stuff. You and your husband have some trust issues you need to work out. Speaking as a married person, I could not care less about who my spouse dated or had sex with in the past. It doesn’t matter to me. The fact that your husband was “haunted” by the fact that you dated another dude before him is concerning; it means that he views it as some kind of betrayal and he doesn’t trust you to not “betray” him again.

    • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Good point. I agree with you

  • Kace45 June 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    I so disagree with this advice! You do not need to “disclose” everything about your prior life to your husband. It sounds like he already has trust issues and would not respond well to additional information. Do not put your current relationship in jeopardy to try to correct past wrongs — that won’t work. Just forgive yourself, move forward, and don’t let your past haunt you.

    • PatriotLiberal June 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Agree completely. I hate to generalize here but Geoff is one of those Mormons who think everyone should know everything about you at all times. Unless it involves an STD or other disease that could effect him, let it be.

  • Striker4 June 20, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Kace45….excellent comment …kudos. !

    • Real Life June 20, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      Speaking of an STD, what’s up “striker”?

      • comments June 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm

        no kidding, our dear little striker (aka Dump) is kinda the STD of stgnews. 😉

  • beacon June 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Not unless it involves an STD. Other than that, one’s sexual history should be one’s own to share or not.

  • comments June 21, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Woah Geoff, I gotta say I quite disagree with this advice. This may be the worst advice I’ve ever seen him give. Some secrets are best to be left as secrets. The only way she should disclose this stuff about BF#2 is if someone else is likely to tell the husband about it anyway at some point. Otherwise, leave that skeleton in the closet. Mormons have some weird hangups about sex. They (we) are taught that the thing to do is marry a pure-as-the-driven-snow virgin. Hubby here is already bothered about this sexual assault with BF#1, and it might drive him absolutely nuts to find out she was having a full-on freaky sexual relationship with this BF#2. She can repent to Jesus all she wants about all this sex with BF#2. I’m not sure how much Jesus or HEAVENLY FATHER are bothered by certain sexual encounters. But she already had all this sex, and what’s done is done, so why would you bother to “repent” for it anyways? As a current LDS member who is also an “atheist” I do get it, trust me. And I’ll leave with some advice for my dear fellow LDS breathren: I don’t know if this woman writing is here would qualify as promiscuous, 1 rape and 1 sex friend before marriage I don’t believe qualifies as promiscuous. But my LDS breathren should be weary of any promicuous woman. Best to turn and run away. Habits that certain females develop in their teens and 20s are with them for life (almost always), so once a promiscuous woman always a promiscuous woman. The # of lifetime sexual partners makes an enormous impact in a relationship. I’m not going to go into great deal explaining it, but it is what it is…

  • comments June 21, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    And just another note to add: If I wasn’t so old and wanted a career change I’d go back to school and become a primate biologist. AND THEN I’D STUDY MONKEYS! Honest to God(HEAVENLY FATHER) monkey sexual behavior is EXACTLY the same as people’s. And the more I learn about these monkeys the more I feel like they basically are just another kind of people. Their psychology is almost exactly the same as people’s. IT’S JUST AMAZING REALLY.

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