top of page

It is important to acknowledge that essentially all of us will enter marriage with some misconceptions and/or past wounds related to sex. The following guide covers some of the most common areas of concern and advice for how you can begin to heal prior to your marriage. 


While it will not be easy to talk about these topics, it is important that both partners process through these individually and then discuss them together (see discussion guide here).

A self-reflection guide

For engaged persons preparing for sex
Unrealistic expectations

Common Misconceptions

Possible concerns:

  • I think that my spouse will “complete” me.

  • Once I am married, I will never feel alone.

  • Our sex life will always be amazing.

  • Our sex life will always feel like a direct connection to the Trinity.

  • Sex is just something to be tolerated - I shouldn't enjoy it.

  • Children will only come when we are ready for them.

  • Pregnancy will definitely be easy to achieve.

  • Our past wounds won’t impact our marriage.


How this may impact your spousal union:

Depending on who you heard sex & marriage talks from (a parent, a chastity talk, a TOB presentation, Hollywood, Cosmo) you have some ideas about what sex is. The reality will likely be different, especially at the beginning. Your spouse will not complete you, nor will your spouse be able to fully satisfy you. Only God can fulfill all our needs. If you place this burden on your spouse, you will both be quickly frustrated.


Learning how to give yourself fully to your spouse in marriage will take time and healing. Sex will not always feel amazing and holy. Sometimes things may feel awkward or clumsy. These are realities all couples face! Setting unrealistic expectations can make you feel like a failure (you're not!). It can place unnecessary blame and hurt on you and/or your spouse.


Children are a great gift of marriage. It can be easy to expect full control over planning your family. If you are not prepared for an unanticipated pregnancy or the possibility of infertility, stress and confusion can quickly set in.



Begin to heal:

There is a difference between knowing that your expectations are unrealistic and actually letting go of your expectations. However, knowledge is the first important step toward healing.


If possible, try to talk with married friends about any of these idealistic expectations you have. You should definitely bring your expectations to God in prayer. Talk about your expectations and help your partner see where you are coming from. It is natural for us to want to rely on another human being to fix and solve all of our problems, but we ultimately must remember that Christ will be our only true source of fulfillment and healing.

A specific list of discussion questions about can be found here.

Past Partners

Past partners

Possible concerns:

  • I have shared intimate emotional moments with past dating partner(s).

  • I have been physically intimate with past dating partner(s).

  • I have had sex with past dating partner(s).

  • I have been sexually active with my spouse-to-be.


How this may impact your spousal union:

Past relationships often come with wounds, especially if they included deep emotional or physical experiences. These wounds may make it difficult for a person to be fully open to and vulnerable with his/her spouse. One spouse may unintentionally hold back physically or emotionally. Thoughts of past partners may creep into your mind during marital intimacy. You may feel jealousy and/or grief when thinking about your spouse’s past partners.


Note on medical concerns: If a person has been sexually active with any past partners (including oral sex, intimate physical touching), doctors highly encourage he or she be tested for sexually transmitted infections or diseases. Because men cannot be tested for HPV, it may be recommended the woman receive an annual exam with her GYN. Talk to your doctor about these concerns in more detail.


Begin to heal:

Communication with your spouse-to-be is crucial. Conversation about previous relationships may be difficult, especially as you love one another and are preparing to spend your lives together. In this conversation, explicit details do not need to be shared, as this can cause unnecessary hurt. Ultimately, forgiveness is also an important step in healing. You may need to forgive your betrothed and/or yourself.


The Sacrament of Confession can play an important role in forgiveness and healing.



Possible concerns:

  • I have viewed pornographic images and/or films.

  • I have read books or magazines featuring detailed sex scenes.

  • I find it difficult to stop watching or reading these scenes, even when I try to.

  • I struggle with personal masturbation (with or without pornography).


How this may impact your spousal union:

Pornography portrays unrealistic views of sex. Some of these myths include: the woman is instantly aroused, the man will automatically be in tune and attentive to all the woman’s needs, sex is meant for self-serving pleasure, and physical violence is attractive. If you enter your marriage believing any of these myths to be true, you will become quickly frustrated and likely cause harm to your relationship.


Many men who watch pornography have reported an inability to become aroused when being intimate with their wives. Studies have been finding a direct correlation between erectile dysfunction (and/or low libido) and viewing pornography.


There will likely be feelings of confusion, hurt, and guilt. One or both partners may ask “Am I not enough for you?”

Begin to heal:

For the partner of someone struggling with pornography: Be willing to have forgiveness and compassion for your beloved. The pornography industry targets, baits, and traps many individuals at young ages and your partner was unfortunately one of its many victims. Make it clear to your partner that he or she needs to stop. If it is an addiction, they will need a plan. You can direct them to resources, but it should not be your job to be directly involved. Understand that, because of the addictive nature, he or she cannot stop purely out of love for you. 

For the individual struggling with pornography and/or masturbation:
Make it an immediate goal to address these issues. If an addiction has been developed, you will need outside resources. Many experts recommend your partner does not get actively involved in helping you. This can create tension. It is important, however, to be clear with your partner where you are at and explain your plans for healing. You do not want this to be a surprise to your spouse after marriage. 

The Sacrament of Confession can play an instrumental role in healing. It is recommended that the same priest be visited on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the situation). If there has been a prolonged habit, Confession is unlikely to solve all problems. The following resources have been developed to aid in recovering from addiction. 
•    Integrity Restored
•    Fight the New Drug (including their app, Fortify)
•    Covenant Eyes
•    Accountable to You

It may be most prudent to delay your marriage until pornography and masturbation issues are resolved.

Sexual abuse

Sexual Abuse

Possible concerns:

  • I have been sexually abused and/or raped

  • I have witnessed sexual abuse in a close relationship (parent, friend) 

How this may impact your spousal union:

Many victims have feelings of shame or guilt, as they have often been told it is “their” fault. Many abuse victims have found it difficult to separate their past negative experiences with sex from the experience of their spousal union.


Especially if the abuse occurred at a young age, some have suppressed these past memories and may have forgotten about the abuse altogether. Be aware that these memories may surface upon becoming sexually active with one’s spouse.

Begin to heal:

True healing may only fully occur through professional counseling. It may feel daunting to find someone qualified to help you. Many Catholic dioceses in the United States have a Family Ministries office that can help direct you to counseling resources.


The spouse of someone who has experienced sexual abuse will need to have much patience and love.


Specific resources may be more or less helpful, depending on the person’s individual circumstances. A professional counselor can typically direct to the best resources for an individual's needs. The following book may be a helpful start:


My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints  by Dawn Eden

bottom of page