What Should I Tell My Spouse about Sexual Sin?

Published: September 16, 2012

This October at the CCEF Annual Conference I’ll share some reflections on a vexing question: What should you share with your spouse about sexual sin in your life? If you’ve ever confessed sexual sin to your spouse—and probably even if you haven’t—you understand how loaded this issue can be.

The good news is the answer is simple—or at least the basic principle is simple. You confess your sins and bring them “into the light” (1 John 1 will be our guiding passage). This forges and deepens fellowship. However, you confess in a way that “builds up” the hearer (Eph 4:29), so that you are not dragging your spouse back through every detail of the sin. Taken together though, there can be significant tension. How do you drag something dark and ugly into the light without harming your spouse?

If October sounds far away, listen to David Powlison and Cecelia Bernhardt’s podcast about this topic from last year. A lot of our work at the conference will build on and flesh out the core ideas they discuss (and which I briefly summarize in the paragraph above).

Here’s the basic outline of what we will cover:

a) Confess in a way that “builds up” the one you have harmed.

b) Receive a confession, even a painful one, in a way that gives grace (rather than sweeping the sin under the rug or retaliating).

c) Rebuild trust together after sexual sin has been brought into the light.

I’ll be talking primarily to married couples and couples who are thinking about getting married. But whether you are dating, have been married for 30 years, or do pre-marital or marital counseling, you’ll be sharpened by thinking through this issue. I know I have been.

My hope is that everyone will leave challenged by the call of our Lord to fully repent of and confess our sins (sexual and otherwise). But I want more than that. I want us to leave with hope that the secrets, shame and guilt we instinctively protect with darkness and silence are not the final word in the kingdom of light and freedom.