In working towards the best possible sex in our relationships, our minds and our past can sometimes work against us.
If you’ve lived any length of time on this earth, chances are you’ve made a few mistakes in some area or another. Repentance and the Atonement is a wonderful blessing, and we in the Church are in the best position to know what to do with these tools.
But repentance doesn’t always remove the consequences of sin, particularly sexual sin. There are some very specific consequences that can come back to haunt us in the bedroom.
We often talk about the repentance process for premarital sex, and what that involves (asking the Lord for forgiveness, talking to our priesthood leaders, etc.)
If we are adult converts to the church, these would be reconciled through the baptismal process and decision to enter the strait and narrow path.
But how do our current actions affect our future spouses? If we’re single, this consequence can be easy to overlook – but it can come up at some point and in different ways, if premarital sex is in our past. Repentance won’t necessarily change this.
If we joined the Church as an adult, after living in a worldly way (especially if no one told us this was wrong), there isn’t the same level of culpability for sin. Maybe the impact on our spouse will be less, yet our sexual past can still affect us and our spouse.
Are we comparing our spouse to past partners? Fantasizing about them during sex? Or perhaps our spouse might be doing this? Are we finding a need to fantasize about or re-enact our first sexual experiences to get aroused? Are we finding it harder not to flirt or be attracted with those other than our spouse and find ourselves falling into old habits?
Sexually Transmitted Disease
This consequence can be hidden – most sexually active people are not tested for all STDs during the course of a regular doctor’s visit. These tests must be deliberately sought out. Some tests are more expensive and therefore skipped in the regular battery of tests during a routine visit. And those who are unaware can still infect others.
Some STDs are silent, but can leave reproductive system scarring and damage that can leave you sterile or with dangerous gestation problems, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea[i]. Even if you used a condom, you can still get these infections from sexual contact.
Getting infected or infecting our spouse can put a real damper on sexual relations.
Children from Other Sexual Partners
If children resulted from premarital sexual encounters, it’s less likely these days that you won’t know about it. Mothers are required to list a father’s name, and fathers will be approached for parental support.[ii]
A child that’s adopted away could return later in life, depending on the determination of the child to find birth parents. This can lead to uncomfortable discussions if these haven’t already happened.
Sometimes, in the cases of rape or sexual/emotional abuse, we may feel fine about ourselves, and have done everything we can to put our past behind us. Marriage is a natural growth system however, and trauma or abuse is like an onion – there can be lots of continuing layers to process throughout our life, and new situations can bring up another layer.[iii]
Our subconscious is more powerful than our conscious mind. Our subconscious will also emotionally steer us away from those things it associates with pain, trauma, danger or discomfort and toward those things it associates with pleasure. Even if that “pleasure” is the feeling of safety in moving away from those things it associates with pain.
If a woman was sexually abused and especially if it was traumatic for her, her subconscious may associate anything sexual with pain. This can affect having the best possible sex because her brain could be associating anything you do with her sexually as meaning “pain – stay away”.
Re-training the subconscious is possible, but it may require counseling or even hypnosis by a qualified NLP practitioner. These are things that a Bishop is unprepared for and the atonement can only help with so far – but faith miracles do happen and are possible.
Not Living the Life We Dream Of
Perhaps the regret isn’t a sin at all, but something we feel strongly about doing or trying. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of some artistic endeavor, but you feel your spouse wouldn’t be supportive, and you keep that hidden away inside. Perhaps you want to go back to school, or change careers, or we’ve always wanted to buy a motorcycle and travel the country. This affects your spouse as well, and needs to come out.
Who we are as people can change a lot over the course of a lifetime. We meet new people, try new things, find new fascinations and desires. If we’re afraid of sharing that with our spouse, something such as this can also come between us during intimate times. Resentment can shut down arousal very quickly.
Secrets Divide Us
As I’ve written about previously in my article about secrets[iv], they don’t help with overcoming past regrets. The repentance process involves confession – and sometimes it’s not the bishop that needs to hear the confession. It’s our spouses.
But if we’ve repented, shouldn’t we be able to just forget about it? Aren’t we supposed to do that?
“I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness.When morning came, they learned this:“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.””[v] Boyd K Packer (1995)
Many have interpreted this to mean that once we have repented we should never speak of it again to anyone, not even ourselves, but they forget that “restitution” is still part of the repentance process. This includes making restitution with our spouse or future spouse.
The Lord says He will remember our sins no more, but do we totally forget our sins? Alma defined his own experience further when he says:
“I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.”[vi]
When we repent, the Lord blesses us with freedom from the crushing weight of sin and helps our energy return, which we can use for other purposes. We may go for long periods of time without thinking of them anymore. But Alma did not totally forget his sins, nor did he never mention them again. In fact, this scripture was written years and years after the moment of forgiveness actually happened – he was telling his son what happened to him after he repented.[vii]
There’s a good reason to remember past sins or regrets – to learn from them, and avoid future mistakes, and to teach others to do the same.
So what if we find ourselves in a situation where past regrets are coming between our spouse and us in the bedroom? How can we obtain the best possible sex?
Feel the fear, and…
If we think we can bury a part of ourselves or our history and our spouse will never find out, we are only kidding ourselves. To try and do so is to subject ourselves to a shallow relationship that won’t progress or satisfy either party.
Obtaining the best possible sex requires complete and full fidelity. It requires being intimately connected on the deepest level and having the kind of complete trust that allows us to feel safe to open and abandon ourselves to our spouses completely. This is what it means to be “one”. We can’t do or have this if we are holding things back from each other. If we are always afraid of our spouse “finding out.”
As I talk about in my article “The 4 Marriage Killers – Secrets” there is a difference between keeping a confidence and keeping a secret. I’m not talking about not telling your spouse what their birthday present is, because eventually that will be revealed anyway. I’m referring to those intimate items that keep our spouse from knowing and supporting us completely.
Talking out such things is a necessary component of intimacy. If that feels too scary, why is that? What are we afraid will happen? We may wish to talk to someone else first – a discreet family member or friend, a bishop, or a counselor or coach to warm up for the real thing, but eventually our spouse will have to know.
Think about the secret from our spouse’s point of view. How would we feel if our spouse was hiding something for fear of our reaction? How would you feel if you found out your perception of your relationship was all wrong? When a spouse feels they’re not getting the whole story, it can cause great anxiety and distress. Sometimes a secret, even a painful one, feels better to know than not.
Is it possible our spouse might do something drastic, like leave us? It depends on our spouse and the nature of the issue. And, if this is truly a concern, your marriage has deeper issues that will not survive the test of eternity unless they are addressed anyway. Anything is possible, but kindly speaking the truth will go a long way towards improving the odds that all levels of intimacy will increase.
If our current spouse does decide to leave, then becoming a person who speaks the truth and is honest with everyone, even in the painful things, will give you the greatest chance of creating another relationship with a better chance of survival.
A Dam holds things back. Holding things back from your spouse damns your relationship. Having the trust to confide in your spouse everything not only allows your relationship to progress, but enables the best possible sex and isn’t that what we all want?
We want a marriage where we help each other progress, not continuously damn each other.
Love thy neighbor as…who?
Perhaps our regrets may not involve others as much as it involves personal embarrassment or disappointment in some way. Sometimes the only cure for this is patience and time:
“Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.Then “the peace of God, which passeth … understanding” comes into your life once again. …How will you know? You will know!”[viii] ~ Boyd K Packer (1995)
Join us next time as we discuss how infidelity affects the best possible sex.
[iii] Some good general counsel in this regard comes from Duncan, Kevin R. “The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness.” Ensign. April 2016. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/the-healing-ointment-of-forgiveness?lang=eng
[iv] Link to secrets blog here
[v] Packer, Boyd K. “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness”. Ensign. Nov 1995. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/11/the-brilliant-morning-of-forgiveness.p1?lang=eng
[vi] Ibid. Underlining added for emphasis.
[vii] Alma 36: 19-20 – counsel given to Alma’s son Helaman, who may not even have been born yet at the time Alma saw the angel and repented of his sins
[viii] Packer, Boyd K. “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness.” Ensign. Nov 1995. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/11/the-brilliant-morning-of-forgiveness.p1?lang=eng#footnote8-95911_000_010