When should I tell a woman about my past?

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Scott Croft

When should I tell a woman about my past?

Dec 23, 2014 |Scott Croft
Question

I'm a former porn addict. Having been exposed to porn and masturbation at the age of 9, I fought them for 20 years almost. I've abstained from masturbation for two years now and am in counselling with my porn addiction. I'm not completely free yet, but the Lord has brought me a long way. As a teen, I had some homosexual experiences for a year or two since the onset of puberty. I had HOCD [obsessions related to one's sexual orientation], but God freed me from that two years ago.

Now that you know where I'm coming from, could you please help me? I've been thinking about courtship, marriage and parenting lately. I dread the day when I tell my future girlfriend that I engaged in those sins. When do I tell her?

No one except my dad knows about my former addictions and homosexual practices. My dad doesn't know about my current counselor whom I've never met in person; he offered to counsel me when I registered on the Every Man's Battle website.

I'm afraid she [my future girlfriend] might break my confidence and reveal such a private matter. Only telling her once we're engaged or married would be dishonest and hurt her more. I would want her to know from the beginning and to love me from the outset despite my deplorable past.

I never had a girlfriend (or boyfriend, just to clarify that) before, and I don't have one yet. But I am interested in a woman whose father is a pastor. I'm afraid she will judge and reject me. I don't care about my reputation so much; I'm afraid my church will gossip and that I will be disfellowshipped.

The reason why I never had a romantic relationship before is because I didn't want to hurt my girlfriend and drag her into the struggle. Do you have any advice for me?

Answer

Thanks for writing. Let me initially offer you some basic encouragement from God's Word. It sounds like the Lord, in His kindness, has brought you through a lot and is growing you in Him and in holiness. Keep fighting the good fight. The Lord is faithful, and He will complete the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).

Keep in mind, too, that we are all not just sinners (Romans 2:23), but sexual sinners, whether in thought, word, deed or all of the above. We are all fallen sexually, but there is grace and healing for all of us in the Gospel. If you are in Christ now, you are "a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you have confessed your past sins to God as a child of His, then He has not only forgiven them but has "cleansed [you] from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9) and has thrown those sins into the sea to remember them no more. God doesn't just forgive; He forgets. When He looks at His children, He delights in us because He sees His perfect Son.

What's more, God calls us to view our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way, and Jesus himself has harsh words and a stark warning for those who are forgiven but cannot forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). I trust that if/when you find a wife she will be wise and mature enough to show you the grace that Christ has shown her. The truth is, many, many people do get past their feelings about their own and/or their spouse's past sexual sin and go on to have godly, Christ-centered, intimate marriages. I will pray that for you.

I have some thoughts on your specific questions as well. First, as a brief aside, you should assess whether your state of progress and victory is such that you are ready to marry. The simple fact that you have struggled with these things in the past certainly does not disqualify you from marrying. Everyone who makes the decision to marry takes on the other person's struggles. That's part of the deal. That said, you are a little unclear in your question about where you are in your struggle with pornography. I praise God that He has brought you as far as He has — however far that is — but in order for you to seriously pursue dating and marriage, you should have pretty significant victory in this area. There's no magic formula for that, but to pursue marriage I generally counsel that periods without using pornography need to run in months or years, not days or weeks.

Assuming you've gotten to that place, and you decide to pursue the woman you referred to (or any other woman for that matter), when should you tell her about your past struggles? While I understand your desire to get it all out there quickly so that obstacle is out of the way and she can "love you from the outset" despite your past, I would not recommend that course. It's not that your past sins are so horrible that you can't reveal them early on when others could. It's that revealing such intimate details of one's past sin early in a relationship generally is not a good idea Revealing such intimate details of one's past sin early in a relationship generally is not a good idea. because (1) it tends to create a level of intimacy that is not appropriate for the early stages of a relationship, and (2) it tends to put an unfair burden on a new relationship by attempting to deal with really difficult things before you really know each other's current character and walk with Christ and affection can build on that solid foundation.

I typically counsel couples to talk through — not in detail but generally — any past sexual sin that they believe they should disclose, at a time before engagement but after the relationship is well-established and seems to be headed toward marriage. As to confidentiality, that is obviously an understandable concern for you (and your potential wife, depending on what she may have to confess), but it's also important that both of you have a trusted couple or more mature believer to help you process and think biblically about what each of you learn. If you are not in a church where you feel you can trust a couple or more mature believer not to gossip about what you seek counsel on, you should consider finding a healthier church.

I also understand your fear of rejection and judgment, but I encourage you to trust the Lord in this. Ultimately, this is an issue of Christian maturity and forgiveness. Assuming that you are coming from a place of faithfulness, character, significant victory and ongoing accountability, a woman who cannot forgive your sin against her (as your wife) and trust the Lord for your ongoing holiness may simply not be the right woman for you. The Lord knows what you need. And again, no healthy biblical church will remove you for past sins of which you are clearly repentant.

I will pray for your continued recovery and victory over the sin and difficulties you have faced, that you will find grace and forgiveness from other forgiven sinners, and that the Lord would someday give you a marriage that would glorify Him.

Blessings,
SCOTT CROFT

Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.

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