How do I keep my desires from getting out of control?



My fiancee told me that she'd sent a question to you about me, and showed me your response today. Her email wasn't exactly truthful, so I decided to email you myself and hope for advice about my situation.

Sex was never a problem for me; I was in my early twenties when I did it, after dating her for just over half a year. I'd had offers before, but I ran from those completely. I cut those people out of my life.

Like she said, it's a long distance relationship.  I've visited her three times, totalling about three months there. And since her family refuse to let me pay to stay in a hotel, I stayed at her house. When her parents went out to work, that gave us a lot of time alone. And worse was when we were at her sister's house and stayed there because we had to sleep in the same room.

After a few weeks of that situation we gave in to sex. We regretted every time. We prayed. We didn't want it to happen again. But then the next day we'd be alone again, and one of us would accidentally make the other aroused and then it would happen again.

Luckily we can't do it anymore because of the distance. Since then we've done things on webcam a few times, and had inappropriate conversations. I do find it harder to stop than her, and I've been trying to improve that. I've learned how to stop dirty thoughts more often in order to stop myself from becoming aroused, but when I already am, I find it very difficult to stop thinking.

It can be innocent things that start it; for example, she doesn't wear big clothes. It's way too hot there.
Sometimes on webcam I can only see the small straps of her blouse, her breasts being off the webcam, but her chest is bare, and that sparks a thought. Or she makes a "sexy voice" which she claims is a joke, but I find that difficult too. I know there's similar odd things for her, like, if I ate a banana on webcam she'd have a dirty thought, mainly because "banana" is a slang word for penis in her country.

She said that she's changed her ways and become a "real Christian" now, but the changes she claims aren't there. I think we've done things on webcam four times since I returned here, and three of those were fairly recent, one was last week. She loved God before, and hated sin in the same way she does now. This is the second time she's just decided "OK, now I'm a Christian; I wasn't really before."

I don't know how to deal with this. I don't know how to stop my thoughts when I'm aroused. And it drives me mad because as soon as I have an orgasm it all goes away, leaving me feeling stupid and full of regret. She can deal with it. When she's aroused she can stop her thoughts almost easily. I don't understand why I find it so difficult. I've tried listening to Christian music, but that just reminds me more of what I shouldn't be thinking about it, so I end up thinking about what I shouldn't be thinking about.

I've tried just going offline when I start to get aroused, but I can only do that when it starts. When I tell her that I'm going, she usually asks me to stay. Then after a while I'll get more aroused, and when it becomes too obvious to her she tells me, "OK, go now," but at that point it's too late.

I've tried to talk to her about things that look sexy to me, for example her blouses showing the top of her chest. But she thinks that's silly, and doesn't want to change it. I don't think I can stop finding things about her "sexy," but I think we could both avoid those triggers better.

About my attitude to sin: I try my best not to sin.  I've always tried my best to be honest and be slow to get angry. I try to tell the truth even if it causes problems for me because I really hate lying. Most of all I hate cheating. It's lying, selfishness, betrayal. I've cut friends out of my life who've cheated because I couldn't look at them knowing they'd done such a thing and didn't feel the slightest bit of remorse.  To add to this, I'm not attracted to other women, no matter how "pretty" aspects of them are. I don't want them. I prefer what my girlfriend has. And I'm not talking about sexual parts in that last sentence. I just have no idea how else to word it, I'm not great at using words right.

When I think of marriage, I see it as a great opportunity to honor God. To care for and support the person I love most, that would be incredible. But at the moment I'm not making good progress at that if I can't stop myself from being aroused. At times I wonder if there's a problem with me.  I mean should it be so hard to stop once it gets that far? I'm so confused. I want to be better for God and for her, but I lose control when I get too aroused. A few years ago I used to drink socially with friends I had, and sometimes drank quite a lot, but never lost control like that.

Am I tackling this the wrong way entirely? I've made some progress, in that it's easier for me to dismiss thoughts and so I'm less easily aroused, but it's not enough. I know there's not going to be an easy way to stop any of it.

While writing I realized that I should refuse to stay when she asks me to. I'd feel rude doing it but I guess when the temptation arises I should literally run like Joseph from Potiphar's wife.


Thank you for let me know about your struggles. I hope you understand that most of the time I get just one person's side of the story. I often suspect there is more going on that what I'm being told, but I'm often forced to stick with what I'm told. "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). My general theme was that she was the one who had to judge your sincerity since I didn't know you. Now that I've heard your side, I can see better the issues with which both of you are struggling.

A big part of the problem is that you two are playing with sexual fire and are surprised that it burns.

"Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent" (Proverbs 6:27-29).

Both of you have been making a lot of foolish mistakes. If I may, I would like to detail some of them for your sake. You are struggling now, but it is going to remain a struggle throughout your life if you don't realize what is happening. Don't take this as coming down hard on you. I'm going to try to lay out the problems so you can see the solution easier. It is an application of what Paul stated, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:11-16).

What I detect from both of you is a desire to be a Christian, but neither of you seem to have strong training in what that exactly means. You roughly understand that some things are right and some are wrong, but the "why" behind the commands is missing. I see both of you growing, but stumbling on the way.

Let's start out with a fundamental point: being a Christian is more than just avoiding sin; yet, I think that is what both of you are focused on doing. You are like the man who cleaned his spiritual house: "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation" (Matthew 12:43-45). Focusing only on avoiding sin is like creating a vacuum -- it creates pressure to be filled with something, and sin is the most readily available thing around.

Being a Christian is a life-long commitment to serve God no matter how you feel at the moment or what the circumstances are around you. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"" (Matthew 16:24-26). Being a Christian is like being in a marriage (Ephesians 5:23-27). It isn't something you just decide, "OK, now I'm going to be a real Christian." That would be like a spouse waking up one morning and saying, "OK, now I'm really going to be married to you." The very statement admits you know you haven't been doing all you should. Though both of you think of yourselves as Christians, I want you to seriously read the following. I think you are going to find several things lacking in your commitment to Christ that needs to be fixed first.

I haven't forgotten your questions. Let's start looking at them now.

Men and women are not made the same, in regards to sex, so it shouldn't be surprising that they don't find the same things arousing. The problem is that people have a hard time seeing things from the other gender's point of view. If I don't find it arousing, then surely the other person is just making it up.

I'm sure you've gone to one of those movies that are labeled a "chick-flick." Most guys cringe at the thought of seeing one because they don't get it. Worse, all the women seem to be swooning over things being said on the screen; and that's just it! Nothing is happening, it's just talk, but the women are all moon-eyed over it. But that is because women are more verbal than men. What is said and the way it is said impacts them more deeply than men and the mere words can be arousing. It is even mentioned in the Bible. The man expresses what he wants to do that she finds most stimulating, "You who dwell in the gardens, the companions listen for your voice - let me hear it!" (Song of Solomon 8:13) -- it's talk! You know that, you bring up things in conversation that you know get her turned on. Your example of the banana and her "sexy voice" are just mild examples, I'm sure.

Men are more visually oriented, so seeing her scantily clad is arousing to you. Because the web-cam chops off the lower parts of the image, your imagination fills in the rest. Even when you know she is clothed, because what you see is only the skin, your imagination extends what you see, not what you know. She, however, thinks you are nuts because her mind doesn't work that way. Thus, the miscommunication between both of you.

Another thing about men is that we tend to be action oriented. Again, this is seen in Song of Solomon when she expresses what he finds most arousing, "Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices" (Song of Solomon 8:14). Neither of you mentioned it, but I'm positive you two spent a lot of time sexually touching each other. It drove you bonkers, while she liked it but could stop at most any time. She then accused you of being nothing but an animal and thinking of nothing but sex because it affected you differently than it affected her.

As I point out to young men, no one has to teach you how to have sex. To be really good at sex is something to be learned, but the basics of having sex is instinctively built into people. I assume that is what you meant when you said, "Sex was never a problem for me," and that it wasn't a comment on the morality of having sex without being married. One aspect of sexual arousal for men is that it impacts the section of our brains involved in making moral judgments and risk assessments. Worse, that section of the brain is one of the last to fully develop in a male. It doesn't fully function until a man is in his mid-twenties -- that is why car insurance is higher for young men, they tend to take too many risks without fully thinking things through. When you get sexually aroused, your judgment centers go offline while your sexual organs come online. Since you are not thinking clearly, your instincts take over and you really do start behaving more like an animal than a human. Again, this is mentioned in the Bible. The harlot snags a young man by getting him sexually aroused. "With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter" (Proverbs 7:21-22). If you ever seen a farmer lead a bull by pulling on his nose, you'd understand. It doesn't matter that the bull is bigger than the farmer and would normally not go anywhere near a slaughter house. Once he's hooked, he'll go anywhere the farmer wants him to go. That is why after you have your orgasm, you suddenly have remorse over your behavior. Once sexual arousal is over, your judgment center comes back online and you realize how dumb you were behaving.

I'm disappointed with her family. I get the impression they expected and wanted you to have sex with her. It should be obvious that leaving two young adults who love each other alone with nothing particular to do and no one watching would lead to sexual behavior. Worse was putting you two in a bedroom together for several nights with the flimsy excuse that there was nowhere else for you to sleep. Since you originally didn't intend to have sex, I would assume that nothing was done to prevent pregnancy. My only conclusion is that her family was hoping you would get her pregnant so that the marriage would either be assured or sped up. Instead of protecting their young woman, they appear to have used her as bait.

This isn't to excuse your behavior by either one of you. As the man, you are responsible for where you put your penis. I suspect you were manipulated, but no one forced either of you into having sex. It is clear that both of you did so willingly, even though you knew it was wrong. Nor have either of you done much to avoid dangerous situations.

You asked if you have been going about dealing with your sexual desire in the wrong way. The plain answer is yes. If I told you not to get hungry, could you prevent it just by merely deciding you won't be hungry any more? God designed your body to desire sex -- it is that desire which drives you to find a mate. It can't be turned of by merely deciding you don't want it anymore.

Let's talk about the physical aspects of it from the male's point of view for a moment. You have two glands next to your bladder which produce semen. The rate of production depends on how often and how strongly you get aroused. The more you are aroused, the more your body decides it needs to prepare for an eventual ejaculation. The seminal vesicles never stop production. Soon they get full and the semen has to go some where. The reason for this design is that semen has a limited "shelf-life." The older material has to be replaced regularly with fresher batches. As your seminal vesicles fill up, you feel it as an increase in your sexual desire. As the urge increases, it takes less to tip you over into sex mode. In many ways it works similar to your bladder getting full. As it fills, the "demand" on your mind that you have to get to a restroom becomes more demanding. You can't ignore it or think it away. Soon it constantly intrudes on your thoughts and even affects your behavior. The same thing happens with the seminal vesicles, but on a slower scale. You can put it off for a while, but thoughts about sex start intruding into your brain, which just speeds up the production of semen by the way. Eventually it feels like you've lost control of your thoughts and all you can think about is sex.

Somewhere along the way, your body learns to get rid of the excess semen. Most men, if they don't ejaculate for other reasons, will have a wet dream once or twice a month. Most men usually don't wait that long. They discover that masturbation is not only pleasurable, but also makes them feel more normal. A few obsess over masturbation, but that is a different problem. Most end up using masturbation as tool to keep the sexual desire under control.

Women function differently. Their desire for sex is a part of their monthly cycle. It peaks each month at the time they ovulate -- which makes sense since sex is designed to produce children.

Once again the difference causes misunderstanding between men and women. Each assumes the other is like themselves.

It is typical for people to come up with all sorts of schemes for controlling temptation. They usually don't work because they focus on the wrong issue. Paul talked about the made up religious rules which are supposed to make people more holy, but they don't work. "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23). Think about it for a moment. In trying to manage your thoughts you try distracting yourself with religious music. Not only did it not work (After all what does music have to do with your seminal vesicles getting full?), but, worse, thoughts of sex still intrude into your mind and you end up connecting sex with religious music -- not a good combination. It sounded good and wise on the surface, but it had no value in controlling your body's desire.

The place to begin tackling this problem is on the input side, this sexual play that both of you are engaging in. Sure it feels good, but it is triggering desires that should not be fulfilled until after marriage. Quit trying to skirt the edges of what is proper and stay only on proper subjects. Your fiancee needs to face the fact that you crave her body and dress appropriately. So what if it is hot? She can put on a blouse for the time she is on the webcam with you for your sake. If she loves you, she would be concerned about not tempting you with lust. Love "thinks no evil" (I Corinthians 13:5). The same goes for you. No stripping down. Dress properly like you were going to school or meet her parents.

One thing that might help put a damper on your behavior is to realize that anything going over a webcam can be recorded and saved. Think about what others would say if this session started making the rounds on the Internet. I know you think you are having a private session, but you need to realize that nothing on the Internet is truly private. It may get out.

When you get together again, you need to make plans in advance that will limit the opportunities for you to strip down. No more staying in the same house, let alone the same bedroom. If arrangements can't be made, you either stay in a hotel or just not come. You'll have to be firm about it. Her family is not protecting her reputation, so it is up to you to give her more respect than they. You don't want her pregnant and unmarried. You know that you are capable of causing it, so be cautious. Don't spend time alone in the same house, or even the same room, with her when no one else is around. Neither of you should sexually touch the other. Don't trust yourself, and in doing so give her honor.

When things start to get out of hand, you are right, you have to behave like Joseph. It doesn't matter if she likes it at the moment or not. You have to remember that she's just as aroused as you are and so isn't thinking clearly either. Hopefully, when things calm back down she'll appreciate what you did to protect both of you. If she doesn't, then you need to ask yourself if she is the right woman for you for the rest of your life. If you do decide she is the one you want as your companion through life and you continue to find that the temptation for sex is hard to resist, then before you take your pants off again, you two need to get married. "If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9). I know the timing won't be perfect and you won't have a big fancy wedding, but it will be far better than this continual sin.

Thanks for the quick and extremely detailed response. You've helped us understand each other a little better. :)

To clarify what I meant when I said "Sex was never a problem for me," I just wasn't bothered about it.  I had no knowledge of it, and there were no girls that I wanted to do it with.  I dated a girl when I was younger who kept asking for it, and my response was always "No, I'm OK."  I just didn't want to.

Things changed with my fiancee. More so after the first time with her. Perhaps it's because the majority of the time I'm so far away, or because I grew up seeing sex as a great sign of love between two people.

I long to be close to her, not just sexually.  But when I think of being affectionate, I only know how to do it physically.  I even found that a well-timed hug and kiss on the forehead can explain my thoughts to her more than I can with words. I've improved with practice at explaining myself, but it still seems to me that using words is very indirect when it comes to feelings.

My big worry now, though, is I Corinthians 7:9.  When Paul said "If they cannot", did he mean that some people really can't, or when people won't or don't? I'm worried that I won't be able to make improvements, even if I try.

We've begun making changes, but those have been so obvious that it's like they're there to say "stop thinking about it," which only reinforces the temptation to think. My brain seems to have a habit of seeing innuendos where obviously none are intended. It seems like I'm so guarded against it that the thoughts are already there in my mind waiting to be triggered. Because she can see my response in facial expressions (I have a habit of biting my lip, and she says I roll my eyes at times) that adds temptation for her. Which makes me feel that I'm not being good enough for her.

In I Corinthians 7, Paul is dealing with the problem that was fast approaching for Christians. God had warned there would be major persecutions of the church. "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress -- that it is good for a man to remain as he is" (I Corinthians 7:26). Paul had listed a number of good reason why it would be better for single Christians to remain single for the time being. However, he wanted people to understand that this wasn't a command; it was the picking of the better of two options. If a person could not control his sexual desire -- meaning that the temptation to sin was too great for that person -- he should marry. It was better to get married, even when it wasn't convenient, than to fan the flames of lust, which would lead to sin. So, in answer to your question, it really doesn't matter why the person isn't exercising self-control. The point is that to taunt yourself with sin is far worse than going ahead and getting married.

Now I have a serious question for you, which might sound strange: Why are you avoiding sex right now? I know you've given in numerous times, but what is your motivation for not having sex or being sensual with your fiancee?

When you can explain that one, I then would like you to think back to the first time and tell me what was your justification to yourself to go ahead and compromise your principles for that one time.

And so I can understand, why is marriage in the near term not an option?

I don't want to cause or help her to sin. I want to build a good and strong relationship that honors God. I want to do it the way God intended - and not misuse my sexual desire.

The problem with marriage now is that I'm unemployed. I'm trying to get a job, but it's a struggle - most places aren't hiring at the moment. I can't even afford the costs of living at the moment, I'm having to live with my parents. I don't have anywhere near enough to pay for marriage.

The first time we did it, I'm not sure what I was thinking. We were lying on a bed together at her sister's house, and passion took over. It was silly of us to allow ourselves to be in that situation in the first place.

After that, we tried to stop, and again I'm not sure why we gave in. I guess it was new, it felt good, we just didn't rationalize it. Well, I can't speak for her. I know that when I did it, I didn't consider the good or the bad of it. I always felt bad afterwards though, always prayed for help, and we both said to each other "OK. Tomorrow we won't do it;" that never worked.

There has been a vast difference in my thoughts today. I can't say why.  I've been praying for help as has my girlfriend. But I think the reason my mind changed was my outlook on it. I was viewing sex before marriage as a disgusting and dirty act. I felt so terrible for my actions, that I labeled myself as horrible, and kind of gave up in the moment while not thinking clearly. Last night I thought a lot about it, and did some reading. I noticed that it was always the sex itself I thought was dirty. But last night, I came to the perhaps incorrect conclusion, but it seemed to make more sense with what I know, that it's not the sex that is dirty - it's the misuse of sex that is wrong.  Sex was created as an act of love within a marriage, a gift from God to married couples. I don't want to misuse that gift. I don't want to help her misuse that gift.

But still, I can't even be sure of my reason for feeling so different today, I'm just glad for it. I hope I can maintain it.

I would still like to marry her as early as possible though. At the moment I'm starting a new business venture, and though it's not long term, I hope to earn enough to start putting together a future with her.

Your conclusion that the problem is the misuse of sex is correct.

The reason I'm poking at this because the problem is continuing. If you can face the reason why you have done it and why you shouldn't do it, then it will be easier to deal with the problem. Here is what I've learned from you so far:

Since you see sex as the ultimate expression of love between two people, you had no problems rejecting offers of sex in the past because you knew you weren't really in love with those people. That changed when you asked your fiancee to marry you. The barrier to sex before marriage was dropped. While you knew you shouldn't do it until after you got married, you had a strong desire to prove how much you love her -- a proof that you see requires sexual expression.

It isn't that the sex just happened. It is that you didn't take steps to keep it from happening. While you don't like seeing sin in other people, you have a hard time looking at yourself and seeing your potential to sin. You don't like thinking of yourself as a sinner, so you avoid the topic. Hence, you didn't think about the fact that being alone in a bedroom with your fiancee could lead to fornication. You were more focused on proving how much you loved her, so you used your hands to light her sexual fire. Even while lying on a bed with a girl to whom you weren't married, you still avoided thinking that this could lead to sexual sin. After it happened, you were ashamed of your sin, but warring with that was the pleasure of the act and your belief that you proved to her how much you loved her.

Each day you intended not to sin because you don't see yourself as a sinner. But each day it was easy to repeat your proof that you love her, even though that proof naturally led to sex. That drive to prove your love continues even though you are separated. In fact, in some ways it is stronger because you can't touch her, so you fall back to games of arousing passion in each other and watching it played out on webcam.

What seems to be missing is an understanding of why God said sex belongs solely in marriage. It isn't that God was being arbitrary. The laws God gives have solid reasons behind them, which can be summed up simply: keeping God's laws keeps you out of trouble. I want you to read something I wrote a while back to explain the role sex has in love: "Marriage's Glue." Though you have every intention of marrying this young woman, you are trying to strengthen your relationship with sex. Yet, without the solid joining of marriage that binding is not going to be strong enough.

But there is more at stake here than a rocky start to a marriage. Because you are allowing sex to happen when you are with her, you ran a very high risk of getting her pregnant. Yet, while you are excited about orgasms, you avoid thinking about what comes of it: babies. You don't even make enough to support yourself and here you were attempting to get a woman you say you love pregnant? I know, that wasn't your intention, but that is what you were doing. Sperm and eggs don't pay attention to intentions. You are a man. You have to be responsible. Where would you be today if she did end up pregnant? What would your life be like? What would her life be like? What would your child's life be like? Were you really treating her with love?

Because you chose to have sex without marrying the woman you love, those acts of sex weren't the expressions of love that you intended. You put the happiness of your lives at risk for momentary pleasure. Love causes no harm, but your acts of sex caused harm. Think about how it has undermined your relationship recently, making both of you have nagging doubts about whether the two of you are right for each other. That doesn't happen when sex is done within a marriage, but it does happen a lot when it is done outside of marriage. Your continuing fooling around on webcam isn't improving the situation. Among many other things, it is making it so that you will drop your pants that much faster the next time you see her.

Right now, you don't like what you have become. You are working at making changes. I want those changes to stick. You and she sinned, but you don't have to stay sinners.

Thanks Jeff, that article was very helpful.

When my fiancee and I have had arguments, she doesn't like to talk about things. Her instinct is to hide from unpleasant situations. Even if it's something small, she'll hide. My approach has always been to talk openly so that the underlying problems can be solved and put in the past because I find that ignoring problems just makes them come back even bigger at a later date.

She has opened up more gradually through the relationship.  I was perhaps a little relentless at trying to convince her to be more open. I didn't know much biblically to go off, and although it wasn't referring to this, I thought the two builders parable was a good illustration of why a solid foundation in marriage is important too.

Recently she's explained some things from a long time ago that were never solved, so I guess that's a good sign, and already after those I feel closer to her for her honesty.

I'll show her your Marriage's Glue article and hopefully it will help her to better understand the importance of a solid foundation. Is there anything else you can think of in the Bible to help her with this? I'm not sure what to make of Ephesians 5:11, if that extends to this or not.

Also, I want to thank you for all you've said and taught us about sex. I'm aware now that though my desire to have sex with her stems from my love for her, it's not a loving act. If anything it hurts her to do it outside of its proper place. And for both of us, we now know that we are sexual in different ways, and rather than make the situation manageable only for ourselves and expect that to be good enough for the other, we've been working more to help each other. 

Thanks Jeff.

You're welcome. I really appreciate the "thank you."

In regards to being open with each other, James 5:16 is the verse that you want: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." When I need a friend to lean on, it helps to know that someone else is aware of my struggles and wants me to succeed. That is particularly important in a marriage when the two are each others best friends.

But remember that even openness has boundaries. Just a few verses later, James says, "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). When someone shares his struggles with me, and I help turn him back, the matter is between the two of us alone. I don't openly share the details with third-parties. I help my friend bury the resolved sins of the past to help him get past the shame of what he did.

Paul, in Ephesians, is addressing the other side of the problem. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light" (Ephesians 5:11-13). You don't bury unresolved sins; they don't get fixed that way. In essence, that is the mistake the Corinthians made when they had a fornicator worshiping with them (I Corinthians 5). I imagine they were telling themselves, "Well, at least he is going to worship." But the problem was that the sin wasn't being addressed, and by not mentioning it, though they knew it was continuing, they indicated their approval of the sin.

One of the hard things about a relationship that is leading toward marriage is being honest about who you are. Most have done things in the past that they are ashamed of. There is a fear that if the other person knows, he will stop loving you and leave. But if something is so terrible that you think another person would never accept you if he knows about it, is it fair to wait until after marriage to reveal the problem? Then the person is bound by his covenant and feels trapped. Better is to expose the problem in advance so you know the person is making an honest and willing acceptance of you.

In the Song of Solomon there is a very important statement: "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes" (Song of Solomon 2:15). When grapes first blossom, they are delicate and are easily damaged. Fox cubs tend to be playful and can knock the blossoms off. In the Song of Solomon, blossoming vines are a representation of developing love. The advice is to catch problems (the little foxes) early while they are still small before they damage love permanently.

But everything does not need to be revealed. If issues have been resolved though repentance, then they are best buried. A man doesn't have to list out every sexual partner he had if he has truly repented of his sins and that life is over and done with. But if there is a possibility of consequences, such as a child showing up ten years later or an old girlfriend looking him up, then his partner needs to know because those past sins are going to impact their future together. It is a delicate balance that is sometimes hard to judge.

One thing I recommend is that, if it is reasonable, tell about past problems in general terms and not get into details. I also tell the partner that as curious as you might be, don't dig for details -- it won't make you feel any better. Using the example of a man who had committed fornication of which he has since repented: He ought to tell his wife that he had a bad past that included sex and explain how he has changed. She on her part should not press him for how many times, or the names of the girls, or exactly what the two of them did; instead, she ought to help him bury the past. And it will be hard. She's going to have to work past nagging issues, such as "Were they better at sex than I am?", that will haunt her at times after they are married. But for the marriage sake, she'll have to bury the past along with her husband. Here the husband can help. If the issue comes up, he can point out that he left them, but he is staying with her.

Now get busy proving your love in the proper way. Study I Corinthians 13:4-8 and work on your weak areas. That will give both of you lasting benefits. See: The Greatest Gift is Love for a good study on the matter.