Luisa’s husband pursued her sexually with great passion during their first year of marriage, but that changed. Ramon began getting up at night and sleeping on the couch. He explained that his back was giving him problems and that sleeping on the couch was more comfortable. Past sexual experiences caused Luisa to fear that his sexual interest in her was diminishing. “It’s like he’s leaving me on purpose,” she shared. “He’s been initiating sex less often, and I think it’s because he is not happy with our sex life.”
Luisa’s first and second husband both left her for other women; her fear ghost believed Ramon would as well. Even though Ramon explained that his behavior was related to back pain, Luisa’s fears caused her to judge his motives in a negative way; she believed that his sleeping on the couch was a sign that his desire for her was waning.
Caught in the Past
When asked about their partner’s previous sexual relationships, 90 percent of healthy couples in a large national study of blended family couples agreed that there was nothing to be worried about. However, in 42 percent of less healthy couples, at least one partner showed concern about their partner’s previous sexual experiences. Deal, R.L. & Olson, D.H., National Survey of Couples Creating Stepfamilies. Visit Smart Stepfamilies for details.
In addition, unhappy couples were twice as likely as moderately satisfied couples, and four times as likely as strong couples, to report feeling concerned about the previous sexual experiences of their partner. Luisa’s fears are one example of what seems to cause couples difficulty; how previous sexual experiences compare to the current sexual relationship is another.
It’s very important you move beyond these concerns so they don’t hide below the surface of your relationship. Discuss any concerns you might have with your mate; be careful not to compare the current sexual relationship with the past, but express your desire for how you would like to see your relationship improve.
Tips for Creating Positive Sexual Experience
- Don’t make comparisons in your mind…or out loud! “Why can’t you touch me the way John did?” isn’t going to breed confidence in your partner. Keep your comparisons to yourself! Nor should you linger on comparisons in your own mind. Doing so keeps you looking back instead of connecting to the moment at hand.
- Stay open to new preferences. Your new spouse’s sexual preferences may vary from their previous spouse. Don’t think that what “worked” previously will work again. Listen to verbal and nonverbal messages telling you your spouse’s preferences.
- Calm your insecurities. If you were sexually rejected or traumatized in the past, be careful not to let your insecurities or anxiety run ahead of you.
- Give yourself time to develop a couple groove. Learning how to read one another, when to respond with a specific touch or what your couple sexual style is will take time. Learn as you go, and share what you learn.
- Confront your sexual ghosts. Don’t be quick to make negative assumptions about your spouse’s motivations or behavior. When fearful, try to take small risks to increase your willingness to trust.
- Don’t ignore sexual problems or overreact. It’s normal for couples to have a sexual complaint of some kind. Don’t panic if you encounter difficulty, especially if you are aware that your spouse had a good sex life formerly. Remember, it’s only a comparison if you make it one. Talk it through, and, if necessary, find a Christian marriage therapist experienced in dealing with sexual issues.
- If you are stuck worrying about your spouse’s former sexual experiences, strive to accept being “second.” In my experience, people who get stuck are struggling with not being their mates “first and only” sexual partner. Accepting that your spouse has had other sexual experiences does not mean your sex life can’t be wonderful. If you are “exclusive in their heart” now, then strive to rest in that assurance.
With intentional effort, Luisa and Ramon were able to overcome their sexual frustrations. First, they worked together to create opportunities for positive sexual experiences. Given Ramon’s back problems, the couple had to be more intentional and rely less on night-time spontaneity to present them with opportunities to engage in sex. They began periodically meeting at home for lunch while the kids were at school, and they planned other opportune times to connect sexually.
Second, Luisa began to work on how her fear ghost was influencing her to misjudge her husband’s heart. She made a list of triggers (behaviors, words and feelings) that activated her fear and what actions she took when upset. She and Ramon then worked together over time to help her reduce the ghost’s influence on their marriage. Eventually, her fears decreased significantly. As their relational and sexual communication increased over time, a strong sexual intimacy developed.