"Help! My Boyfriend's Not a Virgin and It's Killing Me!"

Dear Dr. Bohlin,

I read your article regarding sexual purity, and I am forever grateful to God that He has given me strength to resist the temptation for 27 years of my life. Boyfriends come and go, yet I still manage to keep that area pure. I am now in a very serious relationship with a guy that I have known for a long time. He is a great person, very smart, and an active member of church. As we discussed the subject of sex, I recently learned that he's not a virgin, as I had suspected from the tears in his eyes. He told me that he had to come clean before we go further in our relationship. It was his biggest mistake that he gave in to temptation, and he withdrew from all church activities and didn't take the holy communion until he felt that God has forgiven him.

The thing is, the fact really tore my heart. I told him that I needed time to get used to this, to re-think about the whole relationship, and to pray to God for strength. I love him very much, and he loves me.

Even though now the sting doesn't hurt me like in the beginning, sometimes my own imagination still tortures me. I never asked him if he slept with anybody else beside that one person. Part of me wants to know more details about his sexual past (all these times, I assume he only slept with one woman), but the other part of me is afraid of the consequences from knowing more details.What should I do? How much details should I know? He has assured me that we will put God first in this relationship, and we will help strengthen and guard each other as we grow closer in the relationship to resist sexual temptations. So far, we've been doing very well.

He's not a player type, everybody knows that. But why did he fall into temptation. . . somehow I don't understand the contradiction. He's not the type that would do such a thing, he even told me that, but somehow, it was like being hypnotized, he gave in to sin. *sigh* Tonight, my imagination is running wild again, the thought of him sharing his body and soul with someone really hurt me. So I decided to write you for advice. Please help me.

Hello ______,

Thank you for writing and I hope I can be of some help to you. I will comment on your situation from a man's perspective, since you are wondering how such a godly man could fall into such a sin. I have asked my wife Sue (below) to comment on your particular predicament dealing with lingering questions and suspicion.

Unfortunately, especially for young men, sexual temptation is very strong. You made no comment about the nature of the relationship that led him onto sin but I would imagine that the woman was not exactly coerced and probably was the instigator of the sexual relationship. Men in general, and introverted men in particular, can be very susceptible to sin if the woman is the one pursuing or pushing it. The physical attraction for sex is much stronger for men than for women. Women are usually searching for greater personal intimacy while men can be very focused on the physical. If the woman is bypassing the personal intimacy for the sexual, the male finds it very difficult to resist. I have thanked the Lord many times that I have never been pursued sexually. In my younger days this would have been an extreme temptation.

Your boyfriend sounds like a wonderful young man who has sinned, repented and seeks to go on with his life. You can help him greatly by truly forgiving him and deciding to trust him. Everything else you told me makes him sound like a very trustworthy man who fell as we all do. Sue has more to say about your turmoil below.

Ray Bohlin

Dear ______,

Ray asked for my input as well to give you the fullest answer possible.

I think the enemy is using your boyfriend's fall to torture you, and he's winning. I also think that knowing more details will only make it worse for you because it will fuel your imagination, not bring healing. You are being tempted to obsess over his sin as if you have never sinned. . . and the only person who has a right to do that is Jesus, and He doesn't even think about it! He paid for your boyfriend's sin, and it cost him not only His life but tremendous torture and suffering first. Since your boyfriend has repented and received forgiveness, for you to hold him and yourself in bondage over this incident is elevating yourself above God. I'm sure you don't mean to do that!

There is a difference between goals and desires, and great trouble happens when we confuse them. We can set goals that we have control over, like graduating from college or learning to rollerblade, but we can't set goals for other people's behavior. . .like a future mate keeping their virginity. It sounds to me like you might have made your future husband's virginity a goal instead of a desire. And when we can't have what we desire, the appropriate response is sadness and then forgiveness, not obsession and anger.

That being said, you have a decision to make. Is marrying a virgin a non-negotiable for you? Is it the most important asset in a potential spouse? Is it so important that you would let go of a long list of positive qualities because they don't count as much as virginity? If so, then stop your relationship right now and acknowledge what it is you want, and tell your boyfriend he can never be good enough for you because he sinned.

On the other hand, if you recognize that you are a sinner as well and you have no right to demand perfection from a husband because you cannot be a perfect wife, then choose to let go of his sin and bury it. And promise both him and yourself to never bring it up again. If you need help forgiving him (and believe me, you haven't forgiven him or you wouldn't be tortured by this), then get Chuck Lynch's excellent book I Should Forgive, But... His chapter "I'm Living With the Memories" will help you, but I can tell you right now that the main point is that you can't change what happened, but you can choose how you will live with what happened:
     --Bitterness and bondage (being out of control) -or-
     --Forgiveness and freedom (being under control)
In order to truly forgive, we need to choose to accept what happened instead of fighting it.

It sounds like this is a wonderful, godly man who fell into temptation and has resolved not to ever do it again. The fact that he was deeply wounded by his sin and has learned from it makes him an even better man. If you are a woman who deserves him, you will take the hurt over his sin to Jesus and turn it over to Him and promise never to take it back so that you can move forward.

As I read back over what I wrote, I realize it sounds waaaaay stronger than I would ordinarily be with someone I don't know and whose trust I haven't earned, but I did sense the Lord leading me as I wrote this answer. I sure wouldn't want you trashing a great relationship because of some perceived notion that you are better than him. Virginity is a wonderful gift to give, but it's only one of many blessings that people can give each other in marriage. A wise woman concentrates on what she has instead of what she doesn't have. . . and I do hope you are a wise woman! <gentle smile>

I hope this helps.

Sue Bohlin