How do I recover from pre-marital sex?


I was reading your articles about waiting for marriage and why sex outside of marriage is wrong. Your advice is something I wish I had understood sooner. Unfortunately, I have already sinned sexually. Now I am trying to discern God's will so that I may do what is right in His eyes.

I have a girlfriend of a number of years with whom I have been sexually active. We were both virgins prior to knowing each other. Alas, she is not a Christian. We have spoken about Christ, and she has decided that she is 100% an atheist. As I mentioned, I want to turn away from my sin and do what is right in God's eyes. I know this means repenting of my sexual sin and fleeing from it. In my circumstance, what does the Bible advise?

Both Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 would seem to suggest that we should get married. Of course, that also brings up the question of what to do if she won't get married but wants to remain together and sexually active.

On the other hand, II Corinthians 6:14 warns believers not to be yoked with non-believers. I Corinthians 6:18 also says that we should flee from all sexual immorality. Thus, Paul seems to say that I should leave the relationship at once so as to avoid sexual immorality.

Please help me to understand what I should do. Thank you.


While we can and do go back to the Old Law for advice (Romans 15:4) and to see how God handled certain situations, you must keep in mind that we are not under that law. Even under that law, while marriage was urged between a couple engaging in sex, it was not forced. "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins" (Exodus 22:16-17). The father of woman had the right to reject the marriage if he thought it was unsuitable. The man still had to pay the dowry as if he was going to marry her -- in other words, he took responsibility for his misconduct and paid a fine directly to the woman he used for his own pleasure.

If you would permit, allow me to function as your father in this case. I want you to step back emotionally from the situation for a moment. It will be extremely hard because sex creates deep ties between two people -- especially between you and the first person you've had sex with (see "Marriage's Glue"). We can't erase the past, but we can analyze where we go from here into the future. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). So for the moment, regardless of the past, I want you to think a bit about the future.

Would you want this woman, who denies that God even exists, at your side for the rest of your life? Do you want her raising your children and instilling her values on their lives? Will being with her make you a stronger or weaker Christian? Will you and your descendants be more or less likely to reach heaven because of her? Since she doesn't have respect for God's laws, how certain are you that if you do marry that she will remain faithful to her vows and to you?

I hope you realize that each time you crawl into bed with her, there is a risk that a child will be conceived. Depending on the precautions you take, it might be small, but the risk will always be there. Each time you risk having this woman being a part of the rest of your life through the shared responsibility for a child, regardless of what you decide. Worse might be that she decides to kill an innocent child through abortion because she doesn't want it. I don't wish for such things to be hanging over your life.

There are many questions I can think of to ask you about the relationship as it currently stands, but all I have to go on at the moment are a few hints. If I understand you correctly, while you know you are sinning, you are continuing to have sex with this woman. While your heart isn't completely in it, she insists and you aren't able to resist and you don't want to face the consequences of saying "no." It also seems that you are even sure that she is interested in being your wife. She enjoys your body, but you aren't certain that she wants you as a lifelong companion. It appears to me that you don't have much of a foundation for a marriage. I might be wrong, and you're welcome to tell me what I've misunderstood, but this is what I've seen in your note.

But the big question is what should you do right now.

First off, now that you realize you have been sinning, it is long past time to stop it. That means put your pants back on. If you are living together, move out. You aren't going to engage in sex or even sexual touching until you are married. And likely for a while it is going to be struggle because habits are hard to break, especially sexual habits. This is called repentance -- a complete change in the way you behave. "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:9-11). A change so radical that people who meet you in the future would never guess that you were once like your old self.

It is very likely that your relationship with this woman will not survive such a change. She will likely accuse you of not loving her any more because you won't have sex with her. She may even accuse you of having sex with someone else. I'm mentioning these things so you are prepared.

Second, I'm assuming that you are more than just a Christian in name -- that is, that you've fully done what God requires to become a child of God. If so, you next need to admit to God that you were wrong. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:9-10).

Third, I want you to start learning how to properly treat women and how to look for a wife and not a sexual toy. That will take time and study from God's Word, which I hope you are willing to invest.