Tips on How to Present Your Sexual History to Your Potential Boyfriend:

Don’t.

Somewhere Christian girls have gotten the idea that boys should know about their sexual history as soon as they start dating (if not before).  Just the other day I got this text from one of my college students, “Is it okay to start something when he knows very little about my past with men?”  My response?  An emphatic, “Yes!” followed by, “He doesn’t need to know about your sexual past.”  And here is why he doesn’t:

It’s going to encourage him to think about you sexually even more than he already does.

So you describe your sexual history.  What’s he thinking about?  Your sexual history.  You, being sexual, with someone else.  Nice.  That’s what you want him thinking about, right?  There is an appropriate time and place to talk about sex and sexuality when you’re dating (more about that later) but talking about your past is going to put it in his mind and that’s not a great way to start a relationship.

If you break up he becomes one more guy who knows the intimate details of your life.

If you tell every guy you date, or almost date, your sexual history, that many more guys are walking around the world with very intimate information about your life.  It is wise to limit access to the intimate details of your life in general and, specifically, to limit access to the sexual details of your life.

He will know you’ve gone that far with other guys so it will be easier to justify going that far with you.

No one wants to think like this.  And if he’s a decent guy he probably won’t consciously be thinking like this, but let’s be honest, human nature is going to help him think like this whether he wants to or not.  Help him not to.  By not telling him in the first place.

Perhaps we should be asking not, “How do I tell?” but, “Who?” and “Why?”

When I ask girls why they want to tell their potential boyfriends about their sexual history, their answer is typically that they want to tell him so he can determine if he wants to date her based on her purity (or lack thereof).   They don’t want to do a bait and switch.  The girls assume that he assumes that because she is a Christian she is pure and inexperienced and that he will be disappointed and reject her if he discovers she’s not.  According to this line of thinking, giving him the option to call it quits before the relationship gets serious (or even begins) protects two things:

1)      A guy’s “right” to have a pure wife, thus girlfriend

2)      A girl’s heart from being broken when he rejects her after finding out who she really is

This breaks my heart for so many reasons.  And I want to go into more detail on them, but I won’t right now, I’m just going to list them

  • Girls are often taught about the value of their purity in a way that emphasizes the value of their “gift” for their future husband rather than the value of her purity for herself.
  • A woman who thinks like this has often already judged and rejected herself.  She believes she is less than what she really is and lives this lesser life.  The world misses our contribution when we live small lives because we believe that we are small people.
  • I’ve noticed a tendency among women to be so afraid of men rejecting them that a woman will try to tell her potential boyfriend or husband things that will make the him reject  her before he has a chance to really get to know her thus saving her the pain of being rejected after he has gotten to know her.  I know this isn’t true for everyone, but for those who live like this, the fear and self-destructive behavior causes us to miss out on so many good things in relationships.
  • There is a cultural emphasis is on the value of the purity of women more than the purity of men.  Though I believe this is, to some degree, changing, it still isn’t good or fair to either women or men.
  • Women who have been sexually abused are particularly vulnerable to feeling like they are “spoiled” or “less than” and it sucks that other people’s terrible choices to violate them make them feel like we are less worthy of love or a good relationship.  It is not true!  Women (and men) who have been abused, you ARE worthy of the same love, respect and honor as those who have not been abused.
  • Rejecting someone because of past choices when there is evidence of appropriate repentance(not just saying I’m sorry but turning from sin toward God and making appropriate changes in ones life), healing and growth is refusing to give the grace to someone else that Christ gave to us.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God’s ideal is that we enter marriage inexperienced and undefiled.  But many of us no longer have that option either because of choices we have made or because of choices that other people have made for us so our philosophy and expectations for entering into marriage with purity has to account for the messiness of reality in addition to Biblical ideology.

That said, I do believe there are appropriate times to talk about sex, sexuality, and sexual history in dating relationships.

It is wise to establish sexual boundaries at the beginning of a relationship.  What do you believe are appropriate sexual boundaries for dating couples?  It can be a rude awakening to discover that your idea of “too far” and his idea of “too far” are dramatically different.   You can ask each other, “How can we help ourselves be successful at avoiding sexual temptation?  What can we do to prevent tempting each other?” or other questions like that.

As your relationship gets deeper and you feel more secure in the relationship you may want to share your past because you want to be open about everything or because you don’t want to have secrets.  This is probably best done when things are pretty serious and probably pre-engagement because it lets you deal with all the emotions that go along with the impact of other people’s choices on your life with a little more freedom.  Waiting until things get very serious also limits the number of guys you end up telling.

It is possible that he’ll feel rejected because he wasn’t the first one.  It’s likely that it will bother him to think about the fact that you’ve been with other men (or women) to whatever extent that you’ve been with them.  That’s to be expected; who wants to think of the person they love with someone else?  But a good man will work through these emotions.  A good man will show you the same grace that he has received from Christ.  Let him prove to you that he is a good man by the way he acts toward you in your dating relationship before you give him the opportunity to show you what a good man he is when you tell him about your sexual past.

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18 thoughts on “Tips on How to Present Your Sexual History to Your Potential Boyfriend:

  1. Laurie J August 2, 2012 / 3:56 am

    Great thoughts here, friend!

    • jmellison August 3, 2012 / 2:11 pm

      Thanks. It’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen many women (and men) get hurt unecessarily over and over by sharing too much too fast.

  2. ytakery August 2, 2012 / 4:46 am

    We men are aware that women lie lots and hide their sexual history because they find it embarassing. The obvious solution is to not believe anything a woman (especially a Christian woman) says about her history and assume the worst.

    “But a good man will work through these emotions. A good man will show you the same grace that he has received from Christ. ”

    And of course, if we have a preference for virgins, the norm in Christ’s time, then we are bad men and bad Christians. And this is with a woman who listened to you and thinks grace and forgiveness is about hiding the intimate details of your sins from other Christians because it’s wrong to ask women to not sin when men aren’t asked to.

    A lot of men see this as a raw deal and aren’t going to want to marry these women after they spent a couple years fooling around and having fun. Even if other Christians tell us to man up.

    • jmellison August 3, 2012 / 2:12 pm

      There is a very important difference between lying and finding the appropriate time to give information to the appropriate people. When you are dating (or almost dating) a person you do not have the right to know everything about them. Relationships are a learning process and as you invest deeper relationally and emotionally it becomes more important and more necessary to share more about who you are. This is a process that doesn’t ever end. This learning process is a privilege, not a right.

      As I mentioned in the post, I believe it’s God’s ideal that we enter into marriage undefiled and inexperienced. I also think it’s God’s ideal that we don’t sin in any way ever. So it makes sense that you, or anyone, would prefer a virgin. But we all have sinned (and many have been sinned against) and fallen short of God’s perfect design, so we’re all working on plan B where things aren’t ideal. If someone has sinned in the past, sexually or in any other way (anger, malice, gluttony, murder, gossip), repented, sought forgiveness and evidences healing and growth it is unChristlike (not just unmanly) to hold the sin against them when God doesn’t even hold that sin against them. You should be more concerned about current sin and character defects than sins in the past that have been forgiven.

      Romans 8:33-34 (NIV) says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”

      What right do you have to condemn people who God has forgiven?

      I’m not expecting that it would be easy to give up the ideal that you hold so tightly to but, to some extent, grace demands it.

      • ytakery August 3, 2012 / 3:06 pm

        “This learning process is a privilege, not a right. ”

        ” If someone has sinned in the past, sexually or in any other way (anger, malice, gluttony, murder, gossip), repented, sought forgiveness and evidences healing and growth it is unChristlike (not just unmanly) to hold the sin against them when God doesn’t even hold that sin against them. ”

        I question their repentence if they view the learning process as a privilege, not a right. People who have sought forgiveness don’t need to hide their sins from other people who could sin with them. People who want to forget about their sin and repeat it tend to do that.

        Also, forgiveness only means you hold no rage against a person. It doesn’t mean forgetting the sin. You can still condemn them and treat them differently. You face the consequences, such as stds and babies of other men, regardless of how much forgiveness has happened.

        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

        If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1.9

        If rather than confessing your sins you hide them from your neighbour your forgiveness is rather weak. They can’t help you stop sinning if you don’t tell them. Faith is supposed to be a public thing. You’re supposed to rely on your fellow Christians to help you.

      • jmellison August 3, 2012 / 4:08 pm

        Confessing our sins to one another is an essential aspect of the Christian faith but it doesn’t mean that we confess all of them to everyone or to everyone who thinks they have a right to know. It would be unwise and unnecessary to tell everyone you know, or even every Christian you know, or everyone you date every sin you’ve committed.

        Fellow Christians are supposed to help us but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to be invited to be a part of that helping process. A few trusted friends, a mentor, a pastor, a small group could easily support most people.

        Perhaps we mean different things when we say, “condemn.” There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The prodigal son was welcomed home with a feast. Paul (Saul) who had persecuted Christians was not a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God after he was converted. The woman at the well was welcomed, not condemned.

        Certainly, we mean different things when we say forgiveness. Sure, maybe trust needs to be rebuilt and maybe it’s not wise to continue to stay in a relationship where someone is continually sinning against you, but forgiveness is more than just withholding rage. Look at the cross. That wasn’t just wrath assuaged. That was relationship restored.

        Choosing whether you’re willing to accept the consequences of someone else’s sin is different than rejecting them because of their sin. STDs, children, emotional baggage, legal consequences all affect a relationship and are valid things to consider when dating someone. But holding someone’s sins against them is not okay, especially if you are following the example of Christ, who doesn’t hold sins against people when they are forgiven.

  3. JRediger August 3, 2012 / 2:54 pm

    Very good, Jen! I appreciate what you had to say. I remember you asking me about this when Vince and I were dating. We started dating with the future in mind (didn’t plan on being a “fling”). I think we started sharing about our pasts generally- like the length of relationships we were in, how serious, what it felt like when we broke up, etc. We definitely didn’t share explicit details as those are not necessary, like you said, “So you describe your sexual history. What’s he thinking about? Your sexual history. You, being sexual, with someone else.” Same went for him telling me about his past. With time we were able to share our sins with each other, not so that we could be forgiven by God (we had already repented and sought forgiveness with Him) but so that we could apologize to each other for giving something to someone else that belonged to the other, whether it was emotional, physical, or both.

    • jmellison August 3, 2012 / 2:58 pm

      I love how you described the progression of sharing. And the idea that we can give things away (both physical and emotional things) to someone who they don’t belong to. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Aworden August 3, 2012 / 6:19 pm

    Jen, I love your blog. So true and to the point. Definitly not lying to the person you are dating. Sexual history is private and personal….and something that you really only need to ask God for forgiveness for and not the person you are in the early stages of dating. That is something that can be brought up much later on. I also love the way JRediger puts it:)

  5. Usko August 17, 2013 / 3:36 pm

    First of all, thank you so much for writing this post. It speaks to my heart. But I have a question though and I hope you can help me.

    I have a long distance friend (a good friend) who has been courting me for more than a year now. We haven’t seen each other since 8 years. But I’ve been rejecting his love proposal because I believe he deserves someone better than me. I have been abused by my ex in the past while he, on the other hand, never had a girlfriend. And I know how much my friend values purity. A few days ago he asked me about my sexual past. I declined to answer his question because.. it’s difficult for me to narrate a shameful past especially over the phone. But now, I do not have peace in my heart. You see, I agree with you when you said about finding the right time for it. But is it not different when he himself asked about it and not me divulging the information from the start? I just have this burden in my heart that I should tell him the truth. 😦

    • jmellison August 20, 2013 / 12:21 am

      Every story is different, so I hesitate to speak definitively. Your past does not define you now. It has shaped you but it does not define you. You are not defined by sin and abuse done to you. You probably have baggage from it and it would be wise to seek healing from God through a competent counselor, mentor, or program like Celebrate Recovery, but it is not something that someone should ever hold against you or judge you for.

      I don’t know at what point you should share with him, but I’ve known enough women who have been abused to know that abuse typically affects subsequent relationships even if the new relationship is a healthy one. Certain types of touch or other actions or words can trigger abuse or fear, so it’s helpful for your partner to be aware that you may be respond to more than just him in any given moment.

      Would it be sufficient to tell him that you have been abused in the past but that you don’t feel comfortable going into details right now because it is still painful? You can assure him that as your relationship grows, if it does grow, that you’ll share more with him as you’re able.

      Just because purity matters to him doesn’t mean he will judge you for your past or look at you differently because of it. Quite often our shame causes us to fear the worst and we are often surprised when the worst doesn’t happen. Still, if you don’t feel safe yet, it’s okay not to tell him. You could even encourage him to read this post and ask what he thinks (if you want me to delete your comment before you have him read that, I can!)

  6. Jess January 15, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    Here’s my situation. I’m in my 40s and divorced with three children. I met my boyfriend online six months ago and we became sexually active two weeks after we started dating. I was already falling in love with him at that point. He showed himself to be a sweet, kind man with a heart for God. He lives over an hour away from me, but he stays with me on the weekends and goes to church with me every Sunday.

    Of course, I have been having feelings of guilt since we started having sex. I finally talked to him about it two weeks ago and told him I no longer wanted to continue having premarital sex. He said he respects my decision and that it doesn’t make him love me any less or make him want to spend any less time with me. He said he will try his hardest to do the right thing and “wait for sex until we get married.” We’re not engaged, though, and we’ve talked very little about marriage. Obviously that statement makes me think that he wants to marry me in the future.

    Here’s some of my background: Until I divorced, I had never had sex with anyone else but my husband. Almost two years ago I had a relationship with a married man. I know…major sin. We had sex once and then I felt extremely guilty about it and ended the relationship, which had been going on…without sex…for about five months. I have beaten myself up about the affair since then. It’s extremely difficult for me to let go of the guilt of what I’ve done. Sometimes I fear that my boyfriend will cheat on me as punishment from God for what I’ve done…and I almost think that I deserve for that to happen, since I deeply sinned against my ex lover’s wife by sleeping with and spending time with her husband. I’ve caused myself major emotional distress by doing this terrible thing.

    So here’s my question. Do I tell my boyfriend about the affair? He knows I’ve had sex with someone else since my divorce, but I haven’t given him any details about it and he hasn’t asked.

    • jmellison January 16, 2014 / 4:31 am

      Jess, I affirm you for choosing to make decision now that line up with what you believe God wants you to do. Obedience can be difficult, especially when there are other people involved.

      I don’t feel comfortable giving advice but here are some questions to think through: What do you have to gain or loose by telling him? What does he have to gain or loose by knowing? What does your relationship have to gain or loose by bringing this information out into the open?

      Shame can be beneficial when it helps us to identify thoughts and behaviors that aren’t okay, but it’s not helpful when it weighs us down or prevents us from living in the fullness of life that God has for us. Generally speaking, when you sin it’s important to repent (acknowledge what you did was sin and have a sincere desire to change), confess (speak truth about what happened to God and probably a trusted friend or mentor or pastor), and take steps necessary to repair damage that you caused (to borrow a phrase from 12 step programs “unless to do so would harm your or others”) and to bring healing in your own life (counseling, growing in your relationship with God, understanding his purpose with sexuality, healing from hurtful relationships, etc.). As you work through these things (and any residual hurt from the divorce or whatever lead up to the divorce and other past relationships) recognize that, as a believer, you are forgiven for the sins that you have committed and God has removed them from you as far as the east is from the west. Jesus took the weight of your sin on the cross. It is no longer your sin, but his. You are forgiven, pure.

      Your boyfriends present faithfulness or cheating is not justified because of your past sinful choices.

      This is a tough topic. Sex, intimacy, and relationships with people and with God can be so connected and complicated. Wrestling through these issues isn’t easy, but it’s important and I applaud you for seeking to honor God in this relationship!

  7. graci williams January 29, 2014 / 10:48 pm

    Great article! But I would like to ask your advice on my situation. I meet this guy during a summer missions project and there was always a little something between us. But we just remained friends and didn’t talk about it. And we remained good fiends for about 6months, infill recently we asked me out on a date. I said I wasn’t ready to just yet 1 because I have just ended my one year no dating and two bc I feared relationships bc of my sexual brokenness from before I became follower of Christ Jesus. I think I am ready to take his offer now and go out with him but bc we have known each other for so long an actually lived
    in the same place for a whole summer, do you think it is inappropriate to want to tell him my history before our date. I feel like it is a hindrance in our relationship bc there is so much about me he doesn’t know. Please just give me an honest answer and don’t sugar coat anything:)

  8. jmellison February 10, 2014 / 1:44 pm

    Graci,
    I guess my question back to you would be why does he need to know now? What benefit will it be to him?
    You mention that there’s so much he doesn’t know about you. That’s what dating is all about. You share things about yourself appropriate to your level of commitment and emotional intimacy. There are LOTS of things he doesn’t know about you yet. Why is it important for him to know this first?
    If it’s simply because it’s really important to you so you want to share it with him because he’s important to you, I’d encourage you to wait a little while until you develop more emotional intimacy and commitment before you share something that is so deep and important to you. But there are a lot of things I don’t know about you or your relationship so, while I have generalizations and opinions, I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice. I’m praying for you though, that God would give you wisdom and courage to do whatever is best for you and your relationship.

  9. petey May 9, 2015 / 3:26 pm

    thanks for ur post jen. i come from a complicated background. after i got born again and filled with the Holy Ghost 10 yrs ago, i didnt know the word of God well enuf so my life continued on a downward spiral till i fell into depression. i ignorantly and helplessly took sex as a way out. to keep it simple i went for call girls. i did it a few times and repented not to go back. that was 4 yrs ago. i am free of depression. my love for God has immensely deepened. i know i have his pardon. im presently not in a relationship cos am seriously intent on dating sb dat loves God. but i have worried, even cried abt dis sordid past. i’m wondering when i meet sb n we get serious how to give my sexual history and how much of it can i give?

  10. petey May 9, 2015 / 3:32 pm

    i’m male btw

  11. Hehehe November 10, 2015 / 2:24 pm

    Men have standards for women and women have standards for men.

    Don’t criminalise a guy and make him look pathetic because he want a chaste girlfriend. Everyone has a right to have a preference in their mate.

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