Is your sexual past still haunting you today? Former sexual health educator Barbara Wilson tells how she found freedom from her sexual past.
Is your sexual past still haunting you today? Former sexual health educator Barbara Wilson tells how she found freedom from her sexual past.
Barbara: My view of sex was so warped from my past. I brought that into my marriage. I thought my husband was like all the other guys who had used me in my past. God had to start showing me those were the wounds that I brought in. I needed reverse with His Truth in healing those wounds. Then when that happened, all of that was gone.
It was like all those negative associations were gone so it totally changed my view of sex—my view of my husband. It has totally changed our marriage. It has totally brought life back into our marriage. It was so awesome to know that, “Okay, I’m not a messed-up person. There was really a reason for this.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, June 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We are going to talk today about how we can renew our minds around the subject of marriage, intimacy, and sexuality.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us. As a part of a project that we are working on here at FamilyLife, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with a number of folks over the last several weeks talking about husbands and wives and their struggle in the area of their relationship as it relates to intimacy. One of the questions I have asked, “Why do you think it is so many couples are struggling in this area?”
Dennis: Talking about sexual intimacy.
Bob: Right. The response I get, almost universally, is when you come to the marriage bed as couples do today with background scars, experience, sin—as a part of that package—you walk into something that you already have to do some repair work on at the moment that you get married. That is the condition in which most people find themselves as they begin their married life together.
Dennis: You are exactly right, Bob. In fact, as I was reading the book we are going to be talking about today, Kiss Me Again by Barbara Wilson, I just thought, “What an age that we live in today that this subject needs to be addressed so thoroughly that it demands a book and several broadcasts.” Unfortunately, it does. It needs a thorough, biblical explanation for how to handle sexual sins of the past, sexual abuse, or perhaps people who have been victimized by just sexual experiences growing up.
I think our guest on today’s broadcast does a great job doing that. In fact, I just want to begin the broadcast with a verse because as Barbara shares in her book, she is quite honest about her own experiences in her own past. I am just grateful that honesty and transparency is there. In
1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am. His grace toward me was not in vain.” Barbara, that really is a great statement of your life, isn’t it?
Dennis: That you made some mistakes growing up, but the grace of God that came to you and the forgiveness that you experienced was not in vain. In fact, you not only experienced that grace, you have passed it on to others as well. I want to welcome you to the broadcast. Thanks for joining us.
Barbara: Thank you so much. It is so great to be back.
Dennis: Barbara is speaker and author of the book Kiss Me Again, as I mentioned earlier. She lives in Sacramento, California. She, along with her husband Eric, has been married since 1981. I just want to begin with a quote from your book, Barbara, and have you comment on it. You say, “When wives say, ‘No’ to sex now, it is because they said, ‘Yes,’ earlier.” Would you explain what you mean to our listeners around that?
Barbara: That was something that God began to show me because sex can be such a struggle in marriage anyway, even if you save sex for marriage. You have to learn and grow. There are all these changing dynamics. It can be complicated.
As God began to show me and teach me about what it means to become one flesh, I began to realize that the bonds I created outside of marriage were what impacted my emotional and physical intimacy in marriage. Even though other things were coming in the way of sexual intimacy in marriage, this was a huge thing. This was the” big elephant in the room” that I was never even aware of. All of a sudden, God began to show me.
Dennis: It took a lot of courage for you to share your own mistakes in the past, but you did that so you could help others.
Barbara: You know, here I was—I was born and raised in a Christian home—my dad was a Baptist pastor. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was seven. I was going to serve Him with my whole life.
When I started making mistakes—at the time—nobody was talking to us about sex. So even though I knew I was supposed to save sex for marriage, I didn’t know how to do it. It kind of snuck up on me. Here I was making choices that I never planned to make. I really thought that God would never be able to use me again.
I knew about forgiveness; but, I think, I really didn’t understand grace until God began to take me through my own healing. The fact that He would love me, forgive me, and be able to use me in spite of, or even because of, all the things that had happened in the past and the choices I had made was beyond amazing to me. I am so grateful to Him.
Bob: When you got married, your husband knew about your sexual past—the fact that you had been sexually active before marriage. You had actually been married a first time. It was a year or two that you were married to your first husband?
Barbara: Yes. It was about two years.
Bob: Did your husband understand what all of that meant in terms of what you were bringing into marriage and into the marriage bed?
Barbara: No. Neither one of us did. I think—here we have had over 40 years of sexual promiscuity—and the only things that you hear about as consequences are, “You might get pregnant and what are you going to...” or, “You might get a STD.” I think that the understanding that we bring all the past with us into marriage was not even a concept to me.
It wasn’t until about seven years ago that God began to take me through the healing. In fact, we were just coming up to our 23rd anniversary when God began to show me that the struggles we were having in our marriage, emotionally and physically, had to do with my past. It was the first thought of this even being possible.
Dennis: As I read your book, I thought, “We have such a sexually promotional culture today...”
Barbara: We sure do.
Dennis: “on these young people.” It was there when I was a young person but nothing like it is today. We are not talking about any of the consequences. Frankly, as I was reading your book, it made me angry as I thought, “We are giving over a generation of young people to the messages of the soaps, of movies, of the internet that are promoting sex without consequences—hooking up—just having sex like it is a handshake or something.
Dennis: It is so promotional. We are really abusing an entire generation.
Barbara: Media totally glamorizes sex and the free market profits from it in every way, but no one is talking about the damage and the wounds that it causes. That is what I get to do now as God has taken me through healing—now being able to offer that healing to countless other women—and, you know, it ripples into the men’s lives in marriages.
Hearing the stories of the wounds, the shame, and the pain that women carry for decades and decades and not understanding, “Why am I still struggling with this?” Women who have been abused or victimized never tell anyone because there is so much shame. They just bury it, and yet they are living with the consequences and struggles every day.
Bob: I was on an airplane recently, and the woman in the seat next to me was reading through the magazine she had brought on the plane. I glanced over, and she was reading the latest issue of Cosmo. I just started reading what was on the cover of that latest issue of Cosmo.
Dennis: That can be dangerous.
Bob: I thought to myself, “This young woman—does she realize what she is feeding on? Is she trying to emulate what the magazine? This magazine is discipling her sexually.” They do it because they know she will buy the magazine if they offer this kind of content. She has no idea what seeds are being sown in her life if she is living out the “Cosmo dream.” Cosmo is certainly not saying, “Here is what you need to be concerned about if you follow our “prescription for happiness.”
Barbara: Right. There is no consequence. There is so much pressure, I think, on men and women in our culture, to live up to what the media says is, “Great sex,” or “How to be sexy,” or “How to be hot.” I was actually speaking at the UN last week. One of the workshops that was put on by...
Bob: Wait—you have to explain. You were speaking at the UN?
Barbara: Not to the main session, the delegation; but I came with a group called Women for Life, NGO, which is a non-governmental organization that comes to help educate the delegates as they are writing policy for their countries.
One of the workshops was put on by Planned Parenthood. They are an organization that is promoting sex amongst young people and trying to sexualize young women. They put out this brochure—they actually had a closed meeting. They wouldn’t allow adults into their meeting; it could only be adolescent girls. They put out this brochure called, “Hot, Healthy, and Happy.” It is all about how to experiment sexually, “Sex is okay at any age. It is all about you.”
The pressure in our culture—we bring that into marriage; and we wonder, “Why are we struggling? Why is this an issue? Why is there so much pain associated with sex?”
9It is not at all what God intended. It perverts our view of what God intended sex to be. We wonder why we are struggling. It is because we are living out of this world view of what sex is. It is so far from what God designed it to be.
Dennis: I want you to give us the essence of how sexual involvement outside of marriage damages us and how it impacts us. Before I do that, I want to read a passage. 1 Corinthians 6:18—Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” Listen carefully to what he warns. He says, “Every other sin a person commit is outside the body, but the sexually-immoral person sins against his own body.” Isn’t that an interesting statement? All other sin, he says, is out there; but this is the sin that you carry internally. That really is true, isn’t it?
Barbara: Right. Not only are you wounding that other person, but the wounds come back on you. When God talks about becoming one, He talks about that in marriage. Then also in
1 Corinthians 6:16 it talks about we become one with a prostitute.
So it is more than just saying, “I do,” at the altar and signing the marriage license. God is saying that sexual union is what creates oneness, not only physically, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Then even chemically as science is, catching up to where God has always been, and finding out that we really create this amazing bond. God designed our brains to release chemicals and hormones—oxytocin in particular—the hormone that creates this relational bond.
Here we are—in a sense in this culture—every time we have sex with someone and move on, we have really just experienced marriage—that one-flesh marriage and now we are divorcing when we break up. No wonder there are so many wounds. With oxytocin, even, some of the signs are showing when you have sex with someone and then move on to someone new, you actually release a little less oxytocin with each relationship.
We are inhibiting our ability to bond in relationships with each successive partner. No wonder when we have had sex in our past, we get married and wonder, “Why am I not feeling as attached to my husband? Why is it creating emotional distance?” It is because we are not releasing as much oxytocin. All of those past bonds have impacted that.
Bob: Your first book which was called The Invisible Bond talks about this process of bonding and how that happens in a sexual relationship. The second book—Kiss Me Again—What was the purpose in following up the first book with this one?
Barbara: The first book came out really as my story as God was teaching me about bonding and the healing journey that He took me through. After that book, the women’s pastor at our church asked me if I would start a Bible study for sexual healing for our women. When I talk about sexual healing, we are looking at not only abuse and trauma as in rape or forced sex, but also in our own choices.
I started this Bible study; I actually wrote the Bible study for that. I began to leads hundreds and hundreds of women through sexual healing the last few years. That is when God began to show me more specifically how sex from the past was impacting sex in marriage.
The common element of these women who were in my study, who were married, had all had sex in their past. It was impacting their emotional and physical intimacy in their marriage—their desire for sex, their desire for their husbands. Many of them hadn’t had sex in years in their marriage. Yet, they loved their husbands. They felt bad that they didn’t enjoy sex more. They didn’t know why they were struggling with this.
Bob: Are you saying literally had not had sex for years?
Dennis: In marriage?
Bob: With a husband they love?
Dennis: There is a new brand of marriage that has been talked about a great deal—called the sexless marriage. How prominent is that, even within Christian circles?
Barbara: Very prominent. I just talked to someone last week who is an amazing woman of God and just sharing their struggles in intimacy. They hadn’t had sex in months and months. Yes, it is very prevalent.
Dennis: Pardon me for interrupting here. You believe it is because of past sexual involvement that couples have brought into the marriage relationship.
Barbara: That is what God has revealed to me, not only in my own life. When I started going through healing, God showed me that, especially my first sexual encounter, and then some of the others that I had, had totally given me a negative association with sex.
My first encounter was with someone I really loved. We were making out for many months. Then all of a sudden, he decides, “It is time to have sex.” We never talked about. It was something—all of a sudden we were having sex and I felt out of control. I felt humiliated. I felt there was this great sense of loss, “I was going to save sex for marriage.” All of a sudden, I had all these negative associations with sex.
God began to show me my view of sex was so warped from my past. I brought that into my marriage. That is how I saw sex in marriage. It was humiliating. I didn’t associate it with love. I thought my husband was like all the other guys who had used me in my past.
God had to start showing me those were the wounds that I brought in. I needed reverse with His Truth in healing those wounds. Then when that happened, all of that was gone. It was like all those negative associations were gone so it totally changed my view of sex—my view of my husband. It made me feel more loved and close to my husband.
It changed my view of sex so that I wasn’t trying to avoid sex all the time in my marriage. It has totally changed our marriage. It has totally brought life back into our marriage. It was so awesome to know that, “Okay, I’m not a messed-up person. There was really a reason for this.”
As I began to learn about the brain in sex—okay, as you are releasing oxytocin, it creates trust in the relationship; it reduces fear and anxiety. If you have had negative experiences in your past, either abuse or your own choices, and you no longer are releasing as much oxytocin, what happens is, it creates more distrust, more fear and more anxiety in relationships. As women, we shut down emotionally.
All of that will impact our ability to be able to give ourselves sexually to our husbands. I was seeing this correlation, not only in my own life, but now in countless other women I have been working with. The same thing was happening.
Dennis: I want to talk more about this, but I want to bring some hope because you just shared that there was a transformation that occurred in you—one of the first places you started to experience the grace of God. That is how we started this broadcast. I said I was reminded of that passage, “I am who I am by the grace of God,” his forgiveness. The shame is put away in those circumstances.
You began with a fierce inventory of all your sexual involvement. That is pretty broad today, given what young women are experiencing.
Dennis: Do you want to comment on that?
Barbara: That was one of the steps that God used in my life. One of the steps in the book is asking God to show you everyone you have created a sexual bond with. What is interesting with that, in our culture today, we think that just intercourse is sex. In fact, I just read this in a survey—95 percent of people think that sex is only intercourse.
I get all these women going, “Well, I haven’t had intercourse. I thought I was a virgin when I got married.” Yet, they have done everything else. It might be with people that you didn’t necessarily have sex all the way with, or mental images, pornography, all of those things that we can create a sexual bond with that we wouldn’t even think.
Dennis: Even romance novels.
Barbara: Exactly. In fact, graphic, explicit romance novels are kind of a women’s pornography, so to speak—images in the mind. I did that. God will bring to mind people, events, faces—it is amazing how we can try to stuff them away; but when we really bring it God, He will bring it to mind.
I just started writing down names if I knew them. If I didn’t know names, I just remembered the events. God led me through a prayer of severing, asking Him to sever that bond. I really believe that the Bible is clear about how God is the One who joins us together and creates this spiritual bond just like when we become one with Him. That is why He says it is such a mystery—this oneness.
We think it is just a physical thing; but it is so much more. I really believe God is the only One who can completely separate those bonds that we have created. That is one of the steps that God used in a significant way to begin my healing. It was part of the healing process, but it was a significant step.
Dennis: One other area I just want to mention because these are areas parents need to be aware of—this whole hooking-up culture that we are in. You actually had a quote from, I believe, a young lady who said that holding hands was more of a public demonstration of love and commitment than private intercourse was.
Barbara: Right. Like having sex with somebody is less intimate. They are more willing to do that than to actually walk sober on campus, holding someone’s hand. That creates a greater sense of commitment and intimacy than just having sex with them the night before. Hooking up means, “I don’t even want to know your name. There is no commitment at all.”
Dennis: Wait a second. They are saying they don’t even want to know your name?
Barbara: Absolutely. That is what hooking up is. It can be any form of sex. Seriously, there is no commitment. Girls think—they are hoping there is going to be some commitment—but basically, you will see that person the next day on campus and they will act like they don’t even know you.
Dennis: Here is what I want the moms and dads to hear as you raise your daughters and your sons. We have moved from a sexual promotional culture to now adding the dimension of sexual abuse at levels we never thought we could ever imagine in this culture. What we have to do with our sons and daughters is—we can’t go somewhere in Montana and live, and just pull the blinds down in the house, and try to run it away from it all.
We are in America; and it is there because of TV, media, internet, etc. We have to do a good job of protecting our children and also educating them of the dangers. Back to what I read in
1 Corinthians 6—this is a sin that you do carry with you the rest of your life—into your marriage. This is really one of the great tragedies that I believe is happening among our youth today.
Bob: Mom and Dad may also be experiencing some challenges of their own in their own relationship with one another that they don’t understand why they have these problems and never thought that they would and don’t know how to talk to anybody about them. They stay silent, suffer, and are frustrated.
I think if they get a copy of your book Kiss Me Again, and start to read it—maybe read it together—although it is probably going to be one person reading it first and then saying, “You know, maybe we ought to go through this together.” Maybe there are issues that involve both of them or maybe they both have a past history. Again, I think you have provided a great help for folks who really want to deal with the issue of past sexual sin once and for all.
The book we are talking about is Kiss Me Again by our guest Barbara Wilson. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of the book. Again, it is FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also have in our FamilyLifeResource Center Barbara’s book called The Invisible Bond that helps people understand why your past sin has power over present relationships. Again, information on both books can be found online at FamilyLifeToday.com. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY (1-800-358-6329). That is 1-800 F as in “Family” L as in “Life” and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us, someone on the team can let you know how you can get either or both of Barbara’s books sent to you.
We need to take a minute and say, “Thank you,” to those folks who not only listen to FamilyLife Today but to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Most of the programs you hear on the station—like FamilyLife Today—we are all listener-supported. When you hear a program, you listen for a while, and God uses that program in your life, we are hoping that you will consider helping support the ministry by making a donation of any amount.
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If you do this month, we would like to send you a copy of a book by Truett Cathy—a book called It Is Better to Build Boys than Mend Men. If you would like to get a copy of that book, as a thank-you gift for your donation, just type the word, “BOYS,” in the key code box on the online donation form or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone and just ask for a copy of the book on building boys. Again, we are happy to send it out to you, and we so much appreciate whatever you are able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We really appreciate you.
We hope you will be back with us tomorrow. Barbara Wilson is going to be here. We are going to continue talking about sexual sin in the past and how we deal with that. Tomorrow we are going to talk about what real repentance looks like and why it is so important. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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