Women often ask me about how much of your past is healthy to share in intimate relationships. How much does a potential husband need to know about your sexual experiences and struggles? How much should he tell you?
This is one of those issues that relationship coaches and counselors often disagree about. Some give counsel that complete honesty is always the best policy—meaning that you should share everything with someone in an intimate relationship. After all, intimacy is about being truthful, right?
We live in a society that values raw honesty, calling it authenticity. A woman may feel that she is being dishonest to not share the most vulnerable details of her life by the third date. He needs to know who I am, right? The good, the bad, and the ugly?
Often when we share raw details of our lives, we do so for our own sake, not for the best interest of the other person. Sometimes, it just feels good to confess our past transgressions to others, just to relieve our guilt. I’ve also met women who quickly air their dirty laundry because they fear rejection. “I’d rather him know and reject me now before I get attached.”
I’m certainly not suggesting that you should be deceptive or dishonest in any relationship. Any form of deceit or manipulation is a violation of trust. The person you are with wants to know you—not some sanitized version of you. A dating relationship or courtship provides the opportunity to always present your best—to project the person you think he wants to see. After marriage, the masks inevitably come off sometimes with grave consequences.
I never knew he had a problem with porn. Why didn’t he tell me before we got married?
I was afraid to tell him about the abortion I had as a teen. Now that we can’t get pregnant, I have this secret guilt that it’s God punishing me. He still doesn’t know the truth!
Honesty and integrity are character traits that are central to a follower of Christ. However, our truth is always to be “measured” by love and discretion. In other words, for a man or woman to project themselves to be someone they are not is dishonest. If you have sexual sin or trauma in your past, don’t pretend that you have it all together in that department. As a relationship progresses into deeper levels of intimacy and commitment, the details of your life should also be shared with increasing vulnerability. However, that doesn’t mean that you ever get to the point where you disclose without discretion.
Scripture tells us to “speak the truth in love.” There are some things that may never be loving to share—even with your future husband. Most often, this type of sharing includes revealing the raw details of past indiscretions or traumas.
At some point along the road toward marriage, you should share basic facts, like acknowledging you were sexually active with other men before this relationship. However, certain details of who, what, where, when, and how may actually create a foothold of jealousy and anger.
The same is true for couples who are recovering from an infidelity. In an effort to rebuild trust, a husband or wife may insist on knowing exactly what happened—what positions and what acts. In my experience, this level of sharing is never helpful. It plants mental images in the mind and heart that haunt the relationship for years to come.
If you are struggling through questions of what to ask and how much to share, please seek wisdom and counsel. I’ve seen too many couples, in the rawness of the night, share details that hurt rather than help.
Sometimes complete honesty is not the best policy. Instead, let us ask the Lord what “speaking the truth in love” looks like in our most intimate relationships.