How do I get past my wife’s sexual past?


Hello sir,

I want to thank you for the help you’ve been to me over the last 6 or 7 years via this website as I went from my teens to early adulthood and now marriage. I’m currently in my twenties.

I married my wonderful wife less than a year ago. We’ve, of course, had our ups and downs, especially now when it comes to sex. Our libidos are very mismatched, and my wife frequently gets a urinary tract infection when we have sex. While I could easily have sex twice a day, our typical cadence has been once a week or less. This has led to some frustration. 

Perhaps more concerning for me is that I’ve been having trouble with her sexual history. She was a devout Catholic growing up but then went through a period of atheism in high school and college before eventually turning back to the Lord. We now attend a nondenominational church. In her period of turning away, she was sexually active with several boyfriends and had several “hookups.” I vaguely knew that she had sex before, but it was too painful for me to ever talk to her about it in much detail. Recently we ended up diving deeply into her sexual history and I learned about the number of men and specific incidents (including abuse). Since then, I’ve had hundreds of intrusive thoughts a day about her being with those men and feeling disgusted, unforgiveness, disappointment, and just generally not wanting to live in a world where this history is true. I have a godly therapist who helps me work through this as well as a couple of close friends and mentors. I have some childhood trauma of my own that this knowledge seems to be triggering.

What concerns me is that my wife is extremely repentant to God, me, and herself. She wishes she had never done any of it. However, I’m still having a really hard time letting it go. I find myself thinking about it constantly, despite my best efforts to forgive and forget. I’ve prayed over and over to see her washed in Christ’s grace — and I’ve had glimpses of it — but the intrusive thoughts just keep coming back and cause a lot of pain. 

Perhaps this is too vague, but if you have any wisdom for how to let this go and heal from this, I’d very much appreciate it. 


My usual advice to couples is to not bring up details about past sexual sins when the person has changed. “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Psalms 32:1-2). The idea of sins being “covered” is that they are put away and no longer brought out. It isn’t that they didn’t occur but that they are no longer relevant. Some people claim to forgive sin but continue to bring up the past. That isn’t forgiveness.

Thus, your wife’s past sins aren’t important. You know that it happened, but knowing the details should not matter so why drag them back out in the light? It may be useful to know that some of your wife’s relationships were abusive because it would help clarify why she reacts poorly in certain situations. As her husband, you can strive to minimize the bad memories and replace them with better ones. Unfortunately, she told you all the gory details — things you were better off not knowing. People do that with the mistaken idea that sharing these sorts of things will make their own burdens lighter. What they don’t realize is that they passed the burdens on to another person and they haven’t had years to resolve the issues in their minds.

I’m glad you are getting counsel on how to deal with these burdens. Give yourself time. Understand that despite her bad past, she became the woman you love and admire. Her past is just facts. But your future together is what the two of you shape.

Now, for some of the practical matters. Since your wife suffers from urinary tract infections after you have sex, the first thing that needs to be addressed is whether you are unknowingly passing the infection back to her. A common source is men who are uncircumcised getting a bit of the infection under their foreskin. It doesn’t affect them because it is external to the body, but it affects their wives because it gets delivered into the vaginal area. Thus, talk with your wife’s gynecologist and see if you both need to take medication to kill off the infection. If you are uncircumcised, spend a bit more time making sure you thoroughly wash under your foreskin.

A second possibility is that her bad experiences left scar tissue internally that leaves her more prone to picking up infections. Or, the way you two are going about sex may tend to accidentally introduce bacteria. See The Link Between UTIs and Sex: Causes and How to Prevent Them for ideas on how to minimize infections.

As far as the difference in libido, this is something the two of you need to discuss. It is a hard topic to handle objectively because it is so personal. For instance, if sex isn’t done well and the wife finds it uncomfortable, then it is little wonder she might not have a strong interest in it. If she knows she is likely to get a UTI afterward, that would take a lot of the fun out of it. Thus, one topic of discussion is what you can do as her husband to make sex more fun and more comfortable. “When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5). For women, sex is far more than the action taking place in bed — sex is about the relationship. For example, helping her wash dishes may be more arousing to her than how you kiss her.

If you need to ejaculate more than once a week, then discuss with your wife how it would be best to deal with the situation. Does she prefer to masturbate you on days she is having trouble having sex or does she want you to deal with your needs yourself? Most women don’t realize that men have a physical need to ejaculate, but many women also feel unwanted if they can’t help their husbands relieve themselves. Realize that when your wife does attempt to masturbate you, she may not be good at it because she can’t feel what you feel. You will have to teach her what works and what doesn’t work.