Do I need to tell my family about my sexual past?
I am a 20-year-old Christian girl who grew up the daughter of a pastor and very conservative. All of my life I was raised to believe in the preciousness of my virginity. My whole world blew apart when I was 16, and my dad admitted to having an affair and left my mom after 35 years of marriage for another woman. That shook my spiritual foundation and left me in a very vulnerable place.
Two years ago I started doing everything that I could to fill the emptiness inside me. I started drinking, smoking, dating, etc. All of this went on while I still maintained the “good church girl” image to my family and friends. I met a great guy who isn’t a Christian, and I started dating him. I gave him my first kiss, and eventually I gave him my virginity.
Most of this can be blamed on me. He told me early on in our relationship that he didn’t want to have sex with me because he deeply regretted having lost his virginity in a previous relationship, and he wanted to stay pure from now on for the woman he married.
I am sad to say I came to a place where I decided that I wanted to have sex, and I used every bit of my charm and looks to convince him to sleep with me. Immediately I was filled with deep guilt and shame and within several weeks broke up with him. Soon after, I found out I was pregnant. I knew the game was up, and I was going to have to come clean with my family about everything. But I kept putting it off because I could never get the courage up to tell them how I had let them, myself, God and my future husband down.
The guy was very supportive of me and wanted me to keep the baby and also wanted to get back together to see if we could make it work. I kept hiding my pregnancy, and before I told my family, I ended up miscarrying when I was four months pregnant.
I was relieved and sad at the same time. I feel guilty for the fact that I didn’t really want the baby, but I was completely unprepared to be a mother. Until now I never understood how connected I would feel after having sex with someone. Despite the fact that I don’t want to be with him, I still feel this deep connection to him.
I have asked God to forgive me for my sin, and I am trying to live right, but I still feel alone, lost, disillusioned, haunted and unable to forgive myself. I know I need to confess these things to my family, but I can’t bear the idea of letting them down.
Several months ago, a guy I have been close friends with since I was 13 started showing interest in me, and our friendship has gotten closer. He met with my mom several days ago to ask her permission to pursue a deeper relationship with me for the purpose of getting to know me better and with the intent of marriage.
I feel trapped because I know no good Christian guy would want me if they knew the truth, and I don’t want to deceive this guy, but I am falling for him, and I don’t want to lose him. So, after all that, here is my question. Do I need to tell my family about this?
I realize that if things continue to get serious between me and this guy, I will need to tell him. I believe I will break my family’s hearts if they realize all that I’ve done, and I can’t bear to do that.
Yours is quite an email — I’m humbled that you feel safe enough to share all of this with us at Boundless. May God guide me as I write this message and guide you as you read it. My heart aches for you. I long to see you walking in the truth; it’s the truth that sets you free (John 8:31-32).
The truth is that Jesus died in your place (and mine), to pay the price of your (and my) sin. He did this for every person who ever has lived and ever will. To receive His forgiveness, we must simply confess our sins and ask. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. When we do, He forgives us and sets us free to go and sin no more.
But even then there is great freedom still to be had in confession to other believers. Listen to what Scripture has to say about confession:
“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin” (Psalm 38:18).
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
It’s good to feel conviction — that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. But it’s not the same thing as guilt. Conviction motivates us to change. Guilt is the tool of the enemy. He uses it to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy would like nothing more than for you to remain right where you are: isolated in your guilt and shame. But God says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
You serve a loving God who is for you. Even the way He motivates us to repent is radical: He uses kindness, not condemnation (Romans 2:4).
When you say you want to know if you should tell your family, do you mean your mom? Your siblings? Your unfaithful dad? Do the people you’re thinking of telling profess a faith in and commitment to Christ? If so, then they are the ones you should be able to run to for help. I pray they will receive you the way the father did his prodigal son.
If you were my daughter, I’d be in agony wondering what was going on with you and in your life. I can’t imagine your family is completely ignorant or unaware that you’ve been suffering. If they too are striving to serve Christ, they will hopefully embrace you, be relieved to finally know the truth, and be encouraged that you are ready for a new start.
No matter how bad your past, if you’re ever going to walk away from it, truly free from it, you’re going to have to confess your sin, repent, and begin living differently. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
If your family fits that description, confess. Then the forgiveness and healing can begin. If they don’t, you should look to your pastor or godly mentors for this. There will be time to tell your family about your sin, after you’ve turned away from it. (You may feel more courageous with a trusted mentor or pastor at your side when you do tell them.)
You’re going to need the support of a strong faith community throughout this process. We all need community, being made in the image of a God who exists in community as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is relational and by design, so are we.
You’ve already realized the power of sex to bond two people. God made it that way to hold husband and wife together; to give them glue to bond them and help them fulfill their vows of marriage. Sex is no less sticky when it’s had outside of marriage. It’s just that often it works to bond two people who shouldn’t be together. Being aware of why you feel so drawn to your ex-boyfriend who isn’t a believer will help you make wise decisions even when you don’t want to.
Added to that are all the emotions and hormones of being pregnant and miscarrying, all the while not wanting to be pregnant. (I’ve experienced that and I know how overwhelming it can be.) You’re going to have lots of powerful feelings screaming at you to make decisions with your heart. You’ll want to go one way, even while you know it’s the wrong way. These are the times that you’re going to need support — the support of your family, of your friends, of your church family. I pray God will surround you with people who are pursuing “righteousness, love, faith and peace,” with pure hearts. You’re really going to need them to come alongside you.
I pray God will prepare your family to hear the truth and fill you with His peace and courage to do what’s necessary for forgiveness and freedom.
Please stay in touch.
Focus on the Family has counselors and care specialists who are available weekdays to talk with you, provide information and encouragement, suggest resources, give referrals and pray with you. If you are struggling and would like to talk with one of them, you can find more information here.
Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.